The Kingmaker, by Nev Fountain
In which the Doctor, under contract to the educational publishing department of what appears to be an Angry Robot, attempts to discover what happened to the princes in the tower. Peri and Erimem meanwhile, stranded in the last years of the War of the Roses, discover that a time traveller is meddling with history, giving Richard of Gloucester glimpses into the future. Is this the Doctor? Or the Master? Or… somebody else?
This is a funny one. And I mean that in all senses of the word. While listening to it, I found myself completely unable to decide whether or not I liked it. Only after it finished could I sit back and try to make some sort of sense of it. Like The Church & The Crown, there’s a fair amount of post-modern, anachronistic humour present (gossiping fishwives substituted for tabloids, dialogue revolving around job satisfaction, Python references too numerous to list). With both Arthur Smith and John Culshaw in the cast, it’s no real surprise that the tone veers to humour in places. (At one point I was convinced one character was voiced by David Mitchell, such was the unctuous tone of the scene, but it actually turned out to be Chris Neill doing what seems to be a rather decent Mitchell impression) The plot, in turn, expands and spins off in quite random directions to accommodate the odd comedy and the sheer weight of ideas behind the story, and as a result much of the last episode is concerned with snipping off all the loose ends.
And there’s a fair few ideas in the story. Not only the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, but the idea of the 4th Doctor dictating notes for a series of childrens books, the whole fixation on the Shakespearian version of Richard III, and the over-arching concept that though the story changes the ending always stays the same… I’d say more, but that would mean spoilers…
Some parts definitely don’t work. The realtionship between Peri and Erimem in this story is a carbon copy of that between Tegan & Nyssa, and somehow the Kingmaker could have worked just as well with that pairing in support instead. Erimem’s personality changes to suit the story, as far as I can tell. Richard III is played too blunt, while “Mr Seyton” is given too light a touch for a character who is pivotal to say the least. But it’s easy enough to look past these small faults to find a play that despite a confused beginning quickly becomes an excellent romp through medieval history and literature.