Doctor Who Audio Review: The Church and the Crown
Written by: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Directed by: Gary Russell
Featured Doctor: Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)
Featured Companions: Peri (Nicola Bryant) and Erimem (Caroline Morris)
Other Characters: King Louis (Andrew MacKay), Cardinal Richelieu (Michael Shallard), The Duke of Buckingham (Marcus Hutton), Delmarre (Peter John) and François Rouffet (Andy Coleman)
Well, the Quarantine continues in with little sign of slowing and a lot of people are still starving for entertainment. Fortunately, Big Finish have come to the rescue with a big sale on their first 50 releases and so I took the opportunity to buy up a couple of audios I otherwise might not have heard, specifically Fifth Doctor ones.
I have never quite gelled with the Fifth Doctor. Something about his acting or personality has never quite worked with me in the show, and the same has applied to the Big Finish stuff I’ve heard from him. So, will this play about French Royalty work for me in any way? First, the plot.
The Doctor, Peri and their new Egyptian Princess friend, Erimem, have landed in 17th Century Paris at a time of great turmoil. King Louis XIII has gotten himself in a feud with Cardinal Richelieu, Musketeers and Church Guards duel in the streets and there are plots and conspiracies abound. Add to that a curious similarity between Peri and a certain figure of power and you have the makings of a real mess. Can The Doctor and Co. make it through without being entangled in all this drama? Or are they a bigger part of history than they think?
This story comes from the early days of Big Finish, when one of the experiments they tried was bringing back the “Pure Historical”. When Doctor Who first started, the stories set in the past would be totally devoid of sci-fi elements, apart from The Doctor, The TARDIS and the Companions. But, as the show went on, they decided to focus more on the sci-fi elements rather than on the education history stuff, so the historicals ended up getting a nice dose of aliens, laser weapons, etc.
For my money, I think the Pure Historicals are a lot of fun when done well. If you pick an interesting enough period and time and you actually use it to full effect, you can come out the other side with something really entertaining, like this story.
Despite this story being a Pure Historical it kind of twists things slightly by making every character very big, personality wise. King Louis is a whiny man child who wants everything to go his way; Richelieu plots and mocks; the Duke of Buckingham is a snob that delights in scheming; the list goes on. This “bigness” ends up giving the audio the feel of a big adventure story, which fits considering this is a sort of sequel to the real events that inspired “The Three Musketeers”.
In case you don’t know, “The Three Musketeers” is kind of based on stories that may or may not have happened (and it’s likely they didn’t) regarding a real musketeer and his faithful friends. “The Church and The Crown” seems to follow from the “actual” events… kind of? It’s weird, because there are only two musketeers, but they make reference to the plot of the book regarding the necklace… I don’t know what to tell you, but if you’re familiar with The Three Musketeers, you’ll at least get a kick out of some of the references.
Despite that bit of confusion, I will say this play really captures the spirit of fun you want out of this kind of story. It’s very adventurous, with plots, betrayals, scandals and even some sword fights! It seems to be a type of story that fits the Fifth Doctor’s heroic personality well, since it involves a lot of running around and hijinks.
Speaking of, I bought these stories to give this Doctor more of a chance, and while I enjoyed him a lot more here, I can’t say I’ve been won over. He’s charming and funny, he’s got a really good sarcastic sense of humor and he seems to be playing it a bit looser when it comes to his plans as opposed to the more controlling or planning Doctors, like 7. Peter Davison is not bad in the role, I think it’s just the problem of his attributes not really lining up with what I want from The Doctor.
As for his Companions, Nicola Bryant is as great as ever as Peri (even if she’s more suited for old Sixie), but she also gets to play the role of an historical character and like in “Peri and the Piscon Paradox”, you never doubt that she’s two different people. I’ve had little experience with Caroline Morris’ Emirem, but so far she’s been a very fun addition to the team, being a believable badass, while also bringing her cultural beliefs and standards as a neat third voice to the usual Doctor/ Modern Girl setup.
In conclusion, this was just very fun. It’s not exactly deep and there might be some better stuff out there, but for the price it’s currently at, it’s hard to refuse. “The Church and The Crown” is a likeable and swashbuckling little tale, with fun, over the top characters wrapped in a neat conspiracy plot. It’s not groundbreaking but if you’re looking to have fun with Doctor Who and especially if you like the Fifth Doctor, I highly recommend it.