The Church & The Crown, by Cavan Scott & Mark Wright
Aiming to deliver Erimem to the Braxiatel Collection to continue her education, the Doctor arrives instead in 17th Century Paris – and immediately falls into a conspiracy against the reigning King. With Peri (bearing far too close a resemblance to Queen Anne) abducted as part of the conspirators’ plans and the Doctor himself judged to be little more than a court jester, it’s going to be down to Erimem to get Cardinal Richelieu to listen to reason. Mon Dieu…
Following on from last week’s pseudo-historical adventures in Egypt (brain-stealing aliens!) this straight-bat historical play is very welcome indeed. No aliens here, guv. Not one. Instead Scott & Wright riff on the original Dumas adventures, with Musketeers locking swords with the Cardinal’s Guards, lots of dashing about through the streets of Paris, mustache-twirling evilness courtesy of the dastardly Buckingham, and a large-scale battle for the second play in a row (though I ain’t complaining about that). There’s even time for a few knowing nudges towards D’Artagnan and his mates, yet they don’t feel terribly forced or out of place (nobody ever laughs at the Doctor’s jokes, after all…).
The humour is actually underplayed, and a good thing too. It could have all gone horribly wrong if the writers had decided to play this story for outright laughs – especially if it had been done with faux-French accents. Allo Allo was bad enough, y’see… But thankfully the play never stoops to farce and is kept running at full steam by a Boys’ Own sense of adventure.
Erimem comes out of this rather well – she adapts far more quickly to the Parisian court than you might expect, and clearly enjoys bossing the troops about in the latter half of the story. Peri is absent more than usual, though that is easily explained by the fact that Nicola Bryant is playing a dual role. The absence of alien technobabble means we have to be more interested in the plot (and the Plot) and the characters, so the supporting cast do a very good job in making the French royal court larger than life. For me, it’s a good fun play and I hope to see more of these straight-forward historical adventures down the line.