2017 saw Big Finish go big. Over the course of last year, we were treated to the return of Rose Tyler, entered the Time War proper, Derek Jacobi’s Master, the continuation of Torchwood with Aliens Among Us and a whole host of Big Finish original stories and tales. It was an exciting time to be a customer of theirs, though our wallets might not agree!
Kingdom of Lies kicked the Doctor Who releases off this year in a return to the quieter, more quaint tales, something akin to the television series proper. Kingdom of Lies feels a lot like The Androids of Tara with its fairy-tale quality. And it is a cracking good story too!
The Ravelli Conspiracy was a story that topped the polls in 2016, from authors, Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky. Like Kingdom of Lies, The Ravelli Conspiracy was a little story full of courtly intrigue. Behind the scenes, there had been a slight reshuffle with Alan Barnes stepping down from being the range script editor for a few months. Guy Adams stated that he wanted a different feel for the Fifth Doctor. And that different feel is very evident from the off.
This is a story that has many different elements, it is farcical, Shakespearian, takes a satirical look at the Royal Family, is a comedy and has a lot of hidden nuances. As well as The Androids of Tara, it is a story that would have fit in perfectly with those mid-Hartnell, historical, The Romans or The Myth Makers spring to mind.
The TARDIS brings the Fifth Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan to the planet of Cicero Prime and the gang discover this is a land divided, both literally and metaphorically. They find themselves on either side of a dividing line. Adric and Tegan find themselves prisoners of Duchess Miranda and the Doctor and Nyssa are prisoners of the Duke of Cardenas. The Duke and Duchess are having marital problems of infinite proportions and they have both taken matters into their own hands when it comes to solving them. They have both hired assassins to kill one another. The Duke hired the well-known Galactic Assassin, The Scorpion and unfortunately, the Duke mistakes the Doctor for the Scorpion. Nyssa decides to pose as his assistant, Nyssa, The Destroyer, someone who kills for the fun of it!
Adric and Tegan fare no better, both of them find themselves having to pretend to be people they aren’t. This brings us to my next point about this story, it pairs its characters well. Given how much time the Doctor and the majority of his companions spend apart, it needed to pair characters who complemented each other well. It is interesting then that this is the first time that Tegan and Adric’s pairing actually touched on the sibling rivalry that the pair always had. In fact, if you look at the group, the Doctor is obviously the father and mother figure rolled into one, Tegan is the older sister, Adric the younger brother and Nyssa is the middle child with elements of the mother figure. Tegan and Adric, when they aren’t arguing actually work pretty well together, something that Kingdom of Lies uses brilliantly.
The Doctor and Nyssa aren’t a new pairing. Going right the way back to Land of the Dead, the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa have had adventures situated in between Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity. But they are still superb together here, Nyssa the Destroyer is hilarious and Sarah Sutton delivers every line in this story with a little bit of trepidation, showing us that the peace-loving Nyssa, isn’t comfortable pretending to be a killer. It’s brilliant!
The idea of this play being something of a Shakespearian farce plays out through the first three episodes, with each assassination attempt failing spectacularly. The whole tone of the piece changes come the fourth episode though, with the arrival of a homicidal Patsy Kensit, the real Scorpion. The fun and stupidity of the first three episodes are moved aside to show the real threat of the piece that has been lurking below the surface all along.
A lot more than one first imagines goes on in this story, it is extremely multi-layered and proves that the Doctor doesn’t have to resort to violence to solve a problem. Something that the television series has forgotten since its reboot is that the Doctor only has to be the cleverest person in a room to solve a problem. He certainly is here by a long shot.
Kingdom of Lies also allows Peter Davison to go back to his comedy roots, something he obviously enjoys as you can practically hear him devouring the script. And when he is coupled with Nyssa, the least bloodthirsty person in the universe, you’ve got a recipe for fun.
I’ve no doubt this story will stand up to repeated listens as there are enough elements going on that you will need multiple listens just to pick up new things each time! The plotting from Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky is incredibly tight and well paced. It is fantastic.
Kingdom of Lies kicks the Doctor Who corner of Big Finish off brilliantly for 2018, not by telling some space epic, but going back to the show’s roots and telling us a quiet, story, reminding us that Doctor Who doesn’t need to be grand and epic to tell a really good story. Sometimes it is okay to take things slower, sometimes its fine to let your actors kick back and some real fun. And sometimes its important to remember that the simplest stories can be the best. This is a pure delight…
On the planet Cicero Prime, the kingdom of Cardenas is divided, with the whole population forced to swear allegiance to either the effete Duke or the fiery, hard-edged Duchess. This is a situation both parties have grown tired of. What use is half a kingdom when, thanks to a carefully engineered murder, you could have it all?
Surely, neither of them would be rash enough to summon the deadly off-world assassin The Scorpion to help with their problem? And surely, this terrifying figure wouldn’t arrive wearing a long cream coat and striped trousers…?
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Jonathan Firth (Sebastian, Duke of Cardenas), Charlotte Lucas (Duchess Miranda), Harriet Thorpe (Amelia), Tim Bentinck (Lord Crozion), Richenda Carey (Lady Crozion), Piotr Hatherer (Tomek), Patsy Kensit (Mercenary), Harry Smith (Additional Voices). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Written By: Robert Khan & Tom Salinsky
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Guy Adams
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs