Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, the two who gave us one of my favorite Big Finish audios with Project: Twilight, are back with The Church and the Crown. This time, we leave the land of Vampires behind in favor of a look at The Three Musketeers. Can these two pull off another winner?
The simple answer is no. The complex answer is that Project: Twilight is just too good and there are a number of things wrong with this one, but that does not mean I did not like this. In fact, Davison, Bryant and Morris are absolutely fantastic together. But that brings me to my first complaint. From the start of the story, picking up shortly after the events in Egypt in The Eye of the Scorpion, the Doctor is taking Erimem to another planet to drop her off. Why? Since when does the Doctor take someone from their own time only to drop them off somewhere they don’t belong? I mean, yeah, sure it happens, but it’s never his intent from the start!
The Doctor also is quick to dismiss Peri’s suggestions about history. Gone are the days of Hartnell’s “you can’t alter history! Not one line!” No, no! Now, the 5th Doctor has to convince Peri that they are part of history and always will be so let’s ignore that our involvement might cause harm and assume it’s what was supposed to happen to begin with. Um… really? I don’t know; seems like a cop out to me, but I’m not a renegade Gallifreyan. Speaking of complaining about the Doctor, what did I say last week about companions without an IQ? Yes, it’s the Doctor’s turn to have no idea what to do when Erimem is bluffing. I wonder if this is what drove Americans to dumping all that tea in the harbor? Don’t you understand a bloody bluff, you silly English K-nights????
However, Erimem proves to be fantastic in this story, and a worthy addition to the TARDIS crew no matter what the Doctor was thinking. I love how she’s clueless to what an explosion is, claiming she was attacked by some kind of noise. That’s brilliant. And her shock at seeing glass where a window should be is just the sort of subtle touch I love. But the real victory of the story goes to Nicola Bryant playing Peri and Queen Anne. As Peri, even I got goosebumps when she said that she gets goosebumps every time the TARDIS takes off. But she plays her two parts so differently and so deftly flipping between her American accent and her native British, I think, maybe we should all go back to the tea drinking after all.
And while this story is supposed to be a pseudo-historical look at Paris in 1626 complete with Musketeers, what it really does is shows a neat political drama driving home why separation of Church and State is so important. If we don’t keep them apart, we end up like the French, and who wants that? No, I’m being facetious. I’m just not a fan of fries. Clearly this is a good reason why we don’t discuss religion and politics in polite society.
While far from a favorite for me, it’s a good story with a stellar cast. There are two things that I look for in my enjoyment of fiction: character and world-building. While Doctor Who will never get the world-building down, as it typically treads on its own timey wimey tail, at least it can nail the characters, and Erimem and Peri are home runs in this story. I’m looking forward to more with this crew. ML