The Church and the Crown (2002)
Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Big Finish #38
Starring: Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant, Caroline Morris
One of the refreshing aspects of Doctor Who is the ability of the format to adapt to any type of story – so that one week we can have hard science fiction, the next a monster story, the next something else. The something else in this tale is that it contains no monsters, no science fiction (other than the time travel the characters undertake to arrive in 17th France) – it is simply a historical romp, a story of doubles, cardinals, musketeers, and monarchs: how very Dumas (who warrants a wonderful deconstruction from the Doctor). We are in Richelieu’s time, and an English duke, Buckingham, is beginning his invasion of France by kidnapping Queen Anne – only Peri is Anne’s double, and the men grab the wrong woman, and a comedy of errors begins.
As the first story to feature Erimem as a companion – following her leaving ancient Egypt at the end of The Eye of the Scorpion – this story has a lot to pack in: its dramatic storyline, but seeing how Erimem copes with finding herself in a new time, a new place, far from home. It is in these first stories that we see how a companion will handle themselves travelling with the Doctor – from the outset Erimem is taking charge, blagging her way into the Royal Court and pretending to be a princess of a foreign land (which, I suppose, she was). She handles herself well in battle. She is a confident young woman. I suspect this confidence will dismount her at some point in a future story, but for now Erimem is kick-ass and wonderful.
The story, by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, the duo behind the atmospheric Project: Twilight, rips along, full of some witty one lines, and a question the Doctor cannot answer: “Exactly how does one swash ones buckle?” There are moments here when it does appear somewhat slight – perhaps where the comedy should be highlighted more and is not – but overall The Church and the Crown holds up as a fun adventure – though the huge number of anachronistic words almost takes you out of the narrative.