I’m not saying ‘The Kingmaker’ is typical of the Doctor Who Big Finish audio dramas. Nor is it, perhaps, the best introduction to Peri and Erimem if you’re unfamiliar with either. But if you have a couple of hours to spare, and the iPod playlist is looking stale, you could do a lot worse. I haven’t laughed quite so much in a long time. The anachronisms come thick and fast – there are gags about spoilers, concussion and commemorative mugs. Davison is clearly enjoying himself, while Caroline Morris gets to serve drinks in Tudor England and break a publican’s arm. Arthur Smith turns in an amusing guest turn, and Peri, in particular, has some wonderful scenes (which should surprise no one, give that her husband wrote them).
One particularly amusing sequence in ‘The Kingmaker’ sees the Doctor communicate with his companions – stranded two years in the past – with a series of letters, each one designed to be opened “directly after the last one”. The whole thing is rather like that scene in ‘Curse of Fatal Death’ where the Doctor and the Master travel further and further back in time in order to bribe the architect of the building in which they’re standing, an unfortunate series of events which culminates in the Master spending over nine hundred years in a sewer. Curiously, however, said notes were delivered by someone who was clearly supposed to be to the Ninth Doctor – a character that Fountain wasn’t told that he had to leave out – with no one noticing the inclusion until the thing had been shipped.
If you’re wondering why I’ve mentioned this, you should know that Big Finish are barred from dealing with certain plot lines or characters, or entrance and exits stories – which is why, nearly thirty years after ‘Terror of the Vervoids’, we still don’t know how the Sixth Doctor met Melanie. They’re also barred from talking about anything post 2005, in case it messes with the series continuity. (Continuity is still a relatively recent thing, in the grand scheme of things. “We didn’t have a series Bible,” Terrance Dicks is fond of saying, proving that if there were no Ian Levine it would be necessary to invent him, and then lose him before rediscovering him and then bitching about it on Twitter.)
Of course, if challenged, it’s possible to contest that the “Northern chap with big ears” was actually the Eighth Doctor, given that he carries a trace of a Liverpool twang (unlike Tom Baker, who does not). Or perhaps – oh, I don’t know…
(If this strikes you as ridiculous, I feel it my duty to make you aware that there is fan fiction that features the Second Doctor meeting up with Noddy and the gang, before helping to find Bumpy Dog by playing his recorder.)
You have to feel a bit sorry for the Eighth – and for Big Finish in general, come to that. There they were, gearing up for the end of the Time War, by having the Doctor lament that he was about to do something terrible. He even got the leather jacket. The next thing you know, John Hurt is running around Gallifrey, blasting holes in the Arcadian walls and trying not to eat the cornbread. Presumably the jacket went back in the wardrobe, and the “terrible thing” turned out to be a re-recording of ‘Doctor in Distress’.
Luckily, the jacket is not mentioned, otherwise you’d have a potential continuity error, and we all know what happens when jackets turn up where they’re not wanted.
“The thing with Moffat,” says Gareth, “is that I couldn’t tell whether he did that, turning continuity errors into plot points, or did it deliberately as an important “clue” for later on, but which is so minor as to be pathetic. He often seemed to make a big thing out of tiny “clues”, while at the same time ignoring massive foreshadowing because the build up and suspense was more exciting than the resolution.”
I think that one was almost certainly deliberate, but if it wasn’t, the conversation would have gone something like this –
“Steven? Here are the rushes for scene 37.”
“Shit. He’s still wearing his jacket.”
“Oh dear. I’m surprised no one noticed that.”
“How did it happen?”
“We’ve got this intern production assistant.”
“Memo for the next meeting: no more interns.”
“She’s the exec’s niece.”
“She could be the Queen of bloody Sheba for all I care; I can’t have cock-ups like this on my watch.”
“How are we going to fix this one, Steven?”
“…Hang on, it’s just given me an idea.”
Anyway, Gareth and I have spoken on various occasions – and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here – about that scene in ‘Parting of the Ways’ where the Doctor is on the floor of Satellite 5, frantically assembling things out of cables and bits of circuits. I like it because, for just about the first and only time that series, Eccleston really felt like the Doctor. And perhaps with that in mind, I did this for Emily’s birthday card.
Yes, Emily is in a pram. Except it’s a shopping trolley. I got the legs wrong and damage control was needed. I’m a rubbish artist, but it’s quite fun being a loving husband.