Big Finish Productions
The Kingmaker

Written by Nev Fountain Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2006
Continuity Between Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani

Starring Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant and Caroline Morris

Synopsis: The Doctor becomes mixed up with Richard the third himself, as he tries to unravel the perplexing problem of who exactly killed the Princes in the Tower. Peri and Erimem also encounter a suspicious time traveller. Someone from the Doctor's own past. Someone who shouldn't really be there at all. So who did murder the Princes in the Tower? Perhaps it's best not to ask a question like that. You might not like the answer...


Too Clever By Half! by Joe Ford 7/1/07

Imaginative, brilliant in places, so funny it hurts and with enough plot to stretch out its 140 minutes, The Kingmaker is plagued by one fatal flaw: it's just too clever for its own good. Clearly the script has had a lot of work put into it; it has one of those insane twists-driven plots which never stops surprising which is amazing for episodes one and two, pleasing for episode three but a little wearying come the final instalment. Frankly, I had forgotten all about the performances and the direction and was concentrating solely on what the next surprise would be, just so I could keep up. A script should never detract from what I feel is the most important part of audio work, the performers (who have to convince us this is all real!) but come episode four this could have been played by a bunch of trained monkeys as far as I was concerned, so intent was I on trying to keep up with and outwit the storytelling. Compiled by the some of the most talented members of the Dead Ringers team (a show which I adore with every fibre of my being), it has all the biting wit and sharpness you would expect, but considering they started out on audio they should have remembered that the actors need to be centre stage, backed up by the gags and the plotting.

What a shame, because so much of The Kingmaker works a treat and it has been written by a guy who has explicit knowledge of the show and knows how to get us rolling in the aisles. There were so many little touches that delighted me, things like how utterly stupid Peri was throughout (but Erimem actually commenting on how bafflingly annoying it is!), the great cheat that the villain is called Mr Satan, has a evil pointed beard and a murderous expression, Jon Culshaw's hilarious pisstake out of the fourth Doctor, the Doctor's alcoholic reaction to Ginger Pop, the Dalek, Cybermen and Sontaran nick-knacks that Shakespeare nicks from the TARDIS, the Doctor finally getting his comeuppance as Richard threatens to crush moral tirade and change history... have no doubt about it, this is one for the fans. But saying that, there is enough humour, excitement and joy for any old git to listen. If you manage to get through the entire 2 hours 20 minutes without cracking a smile then you have no soul.

I haven't really commented much on the every widening gap that is forming between Planet of Fire and Caves of Androzani featuring Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant and Caroline Morris. I will say that, judging by the evidence on the television, it is clear there isn't room for these stories. The simple fact is the reason the Doctor's regeneration affects Peri so strongly is because she hasn't known him very long and she felt very attracted to the Doctor she did meet. But I also say canon be damned! The simple fact is Big Finish took a gamble assembling this team and it is a gamble that has paid off in spades. Davison, Bryant and Morris make a sparkling team, also a delight to listen to (unless the story is called Nekromanteia) and I don't give a figgy pudding about continuity or what fits where when honestly I am being entertained this much by these regulars. I'll leave that to those anally retarded fans who feel the need to have every fit over the expense of the storytelling and performances. I think these three are fab, end of story. Works for me.

What has happened to Peter Davison? When he began these audios he was getting most of the drab stories and you could tell he was only half interested in what was going on. In the past three years the fifth Doctor's audio fortunes have reversed, being treated to stories of the calibre of The Council of Nicaea, The Game, Singularity and The Axis of Insanity. Davison's performances have never been better and for the first time in my life I can see why everybody loves this Doctor so much. Full of energy, always ready with a witty retort and taking good care of his friends, this is a man I would like to travel time and space with!

The Kingmaker sees Davison (and the fifth Doctor) at his height and clearly loving every second of his excellent material. There are far too many favourite moments to point out: his reaction to losing the girls and discovering they have written him a letter through time, his chat with the Chief Kosher, his moral rant at Richard and his horror when he realises the tables have been turned, his simple admission that he knows who the two boys in the tower are, his embarrassed reaction at Peri's rant about the Master... oh, I could go on all day. However, my all-time favourite moments are his scenes with the robot (who would make a brilliant companion!); the Doctor trying to outwit a publishing deadline, genius!

And how well do Peri and Erimem work these days, now those awkward days of the actors and characters getting used to each other are over. They share a very natural, lively chemistry that makes their scenes together a real joy to listen to. The fact that they come from such different backgrounds (one is a bossy US teen and the other is a battle-hardened Egyptian Pharaoh), but act like a squabbling sisters is hilarious, especially here where they are abandoned in the past and forced to work as serving wenches! Erimem's constant: "We are just stupid women" to appease the men is gut-wrenchingly funny and how she rips the piss out of Peri's all-time stupidest ideas ("We could save him!") make me want to kiss her all over. Nicola Bryant is dazzling in this story, willing to be ribbed, plucky and sounding as though she is having a ball. The best moment these two have comes in episode three where Erimem is willing to kill the pair of them to restore history to its rightful path and Peri's terrified reaction leads her to pretend she was faking the whole thing. Brilliantly, we later discover she was genuine and she only made it seem like a joke to appease her friend. Excellent stuff.

There are other wonderful scenes dotted around that I feel compelled to mention. The whole letter-swapping escapade in episode two is a treat, with the ninth Doctor dropping off some letter for Peri and Erimem to find (and the barman suddenly remembering there is another letter, just when the plot needs it!). The scenes of Peri and Erimem playing tennis intercut with the Doctor and Richard discussing their deaths is both hilarious and really intense, not an easy balance to achieve. And what about the motive behind William Shakespeare's time meddling? Love for his Queen, an excellent spiel of dialogue for Michael Feyton Stevens. The story is beautifully illustrated with such scenes that stand out and would pop up on any fan's "top ten best moments on audio" list.

The twists are good, don't get me wrong but there are simply too many of the buggers. The last episode isn't drama, it isn't comedy, it's just hopping about from one location, one time zone to another and throwing about explanations about the whole crazy story. Rather than this haphazard climax I was expecting something a little more... skilful. It's so garbled that flashbacks to earlier scenes are necessary! I only listened to this half an hour ago but I really have no idea what happened at the end. Maybe I'm too much of a simpleton to get it, but then I did understand Warriors' Gate and The Last Resort so I dunno.

The direction and musical score are both good, but it is neither Gary Russell's or Gareth Jenkins' best. I fear this may come down to the script again, giving both the director and musician too much to do. We don't really get to dip our feet into this period of history so Russell doesn't get much of a chance to show off the local colour (unlike his earlier Marian Conspiracy which was extremely atmospheric). With perhaps more control over proceedings we might have had a more balanced final episode but his jagged cross cutting of scenes leaves the audience a bit whiplashed. Saying that, he gets the comedy element perfect, especially with the regulars who he has worked with many times before and there is clearly a very relaxed atmosphere as he gets them to loosen up like they never have before! The same with the music; there are stings that are powerful and fun, but on the whole it is swamped by what is going on. Music should complement drama, not be overwhelmed by it.

So there you have it, The Kingmaker. A story which has a script so good it delights and bedazzles the audience but unfortunately has a script so good that it marches all over the performances, direction and music. I enjoyed this story a great deal but I think I would have enjoyed it even more if the writer had got his head out of the arse of Doctor Who fans and thought a little more about his conclusion.

Your Mind is Gender Bent by Jacob Licklider 23/5/21

Sometimes a story just can feel out of place in its own era of stories. The Kingmaker is one of those stories that is a lighthearted comedy near the end of the Fifth Doctor's era, which was most famous for being hard science fiction, as John Nathan-Turner had thought Doctor Who should always be serious drama. The tonal shift in stories isn't always a bad thing, especially since The Kingmaker has the comedic writings of Nev Fountain who is a writer who knows just how to write the Doctor Who characters in a way that keeps them shining through the tonal differences, which is essential to keeping up with a good story. He writes an extremely entrancing setting for the characters and the audience to explore, so The Kingmaker works well as a story.

The plot sees the Doctor be loan sharked into completing the final novel in the Doctor Who Discovers... series, which he wrote to earn money during his exile, which was to be Doctor Who Discovers Historical Mysteries. When in his Fourth incarnation he began writing about Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, and of course the Fifth Doctor, Peri and Erimem have to investigate. They get themselves separated to add another time-travel element to a story that really could have made for a great representation of the Hartnell historical, but of course it really doesn't make it into that story type; there isn't an alien threat, but Mr. Seyton is a time traveler and there is massive amounts of time travelling featured. It really is difficult to describe what should really just be a straightforward storyline, and honestly I love it. It cannot be explained, but Nev Fountain makes the simple into complex and the complex into the simple in a way that just doesn't feel contrived.

Big Finish of course use a lot of talent on the acting in this release with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy alumni Michael Fenton Stevens playing the dastardly Mr. Setyon, who is just a joy to listen to, especially when it is revealed who exactly he is. The twists involving just how he can be there is also quite hilarious. The play also guest stars Jon Culshaw; while Earl Rivers, the main character he plays, is completely bland, Big Finish uses his impressionist skills to play the Fourth Doctor in a recorded message, which really is just what he's in this story for. It's a great cameo considering that Tom Baker refused to return to the audios until over ten years after they began production. It's not like he's a bad actor, it's just that Culshaw is a bit wasted on this story, as he is a great comedic actor. It's really the only problem in the story, with the exception of Peter Davison who doesn't do anything wrong as the Doctor, but doesn't have as much to do.

Nicola Bryant's Peri and Caroline Morris' Erimem is really where the story shines as their relationship is one of the funniest. Erimem is a woman who will take none of anyone's shit. She breaks the arms of people who try to touch her royal behind and is completely up to sacrificing someone's life if it will save the web of time. Of course, Peri is the one who is opposed to violence and is almost at odds with Erimem as they come from completely different times, yet they act very much like two halves to the same whole, as they have to survive in a period unfamiliar to both of them. They know that the Doctor is going to come and get them, but they just don't know when so are waiting. The two actresses pull the roles and situations off extremely well and just carry the entire story which is great.

To summarize, The Kingmaker is a great story that takes a spin on the Hartnell historical with ease from the brilliant Nev Fountain. 90/100