The Doctor encounters one of the most notorious characters
from the past, Richard III, as he journeys through time to
solve one of the great historical mysteries: who killed the
Princes in the Tower? Peri and Erimem also meet a suspicious
time traveller, someone from the Doctor's own past, someone
who shouldn't really be there at all...
I had been intrigued by the prospect of this audio adventure,
penned by Dead Ringers co-writer Nev Fountain, ever
since I saw it listed as a forthcoming title on Big Finish's
website. For the Kingmaker was the name of a mystical Gallifreyan
character in the controversial Doctor Who webcast Death
Comes to Time, on which writer Fountain served
as script editor. Could it be, I thought, that Big Finish
has decided to embrace DCTT into its own continuity?
no... though there is plenty to enjoy in this double CD, and
plenty to raise many a fans' eyebrows.
Kingmaker is almost as full of fanciful ideas as DCTT.
These include preposterous theories about what became of the
Princes in the Tower, the true character of the notorious
Richard III, the Doctor's uneasy friendship with William Shakespeare,
and a publisher's robot chasing the Time Lord for delivery
of his manuscript for the latest book in the Doctor Who
Fortunately, this story doesn't take itself too seriously.
That much is evident from the cover design, in which the Doctor
(Peter Davison) can be seen clutching a copy of his latest
work, Doctor Who Discovers Historical Mysteries - a
perfect mock-up of the old Target Books series, courtesy of
illustrator Stuart Manning.
a distinct flavour of Hitchhiker's
as the Doctor explains to his companions Peri (Nicola Bryant)
and Erimem (Caroline Morris), how writers frequently miss
deadlines because there's tea to be drunk or baths to be had
(he could be talking about Douglas Adams himself here) and
how, over time, all the publishers in the known universe were
bought out by a single company, which then proceeded to send
robotic agents back in time to "remind" those lazy authors
to complete their commissions. He also describes how he came
to write a series of books under the pen name of Doctor Who
(though in my opinion no explanation is necessary, since the
character was billed as such on the end credits of all the
'60s and '70s television episodes, and was also identified
as such at least once within the context of the show... but
that's a debate for another time).
Even more cheekily, Jon Culshaw, who also takes on the roles
of Earl Rivers and Richard Burbage, lends his famous impersonation
of Tom Baker when the Fifth Doctor plays back some tape-recorded
notes from a regeneration ago. Producer/director Gary Russell
once said that he'd never allow an impersonator to stand in
for Baker (who has so far refused to participate in any Big
Finish productions), but I guess the tone of these brief scenes
managed to persuade him otherwise.
talking of soundalikes, Stephen Beckett, who plays Richard
III, sounds eerily like Christopher Eccleston, especially
when he utters the word "fantastic". Maybe he could play the
Ninth Doctor (who is also mentioned in passing) in some audio
dramas one day, if Eccleston himself cannot be lured back
to the part.
writer has a few serious points to make in among all the tomfoolery,
including a debate about free will versus fate. As with his
he messes around with notions of dramatised history, comparing
and contrasting real historical figures with Elizabethan players'
interpretations of them.
to all this a delightful turn by comedian Arthur Smith as
the low-life landlord Clarrie, some Blackadder-style
deliberate anachronisms, such as a "press conference" with
local gossip-mongers, and some genuinely surprising plot twists,
and we have a most enjoyable production.
did occasionally have trouble telling the flashbacks from
the "present" events, but in other respects The Kingmaker
is 'king brilliant.
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