Death and the Queen is the third and final Big Finish audio in the first season of the Tenth Doctor Adventures, featuring David Tennant and Catherine Tate reprising their television roles as the Doctor and Donna.
And what a firecracker of a story for the series to go out on! Donna Noble is in fine form as she is swept off her feet by a handsome prince in the 1700’s, agreeing eventually to marry him and live our her fairy-tale dream as a the queen to the mysterious European nation of Goritania. Of course, there is a lot more to Goritania than meets the eye, which quickly becomes apparent when a giant cloud full of skeletons surrounds the palace demanding that the price must be paid!
The script is very witty, giving both David Tennant and Catherine Tate lots to do, and covering a lot of ground. It feels very much like a “modern era” story, beginning as it does in media res with the Doctor desperately outracing (on a horse) some impending doom in order to see the Queen of a castle, who is revealed to be Donna. We then get a modern-Who-style montage, where we hear Donna’s romance with the Prince in a flashback series of quick romantic vignettes, each one interrupted by the Doctor trying to bring up his concerns about the situation. It’s exactly the sort of thing that shouldn’t work in audio, but still does thanks to a good script by James Goss, effective production design and quality performances.
Tennant and Tate are both in fine form in this adventure, bringing both the absurdity and the heart of the situation to life in equal measures. It’s particularly a story about Donna, starting her on an exciting adventure of a different kind, taking her through a deep personal sacrifice–being willing to allow the embodiment of Death to destroy her in order to save the Kingdom–before ending on a rousing Doctor Who-style triumph. At the same time, there are some weaknesses to the story, mostly in some of the underlying concepts not really being explained or developed (ie. Why does trying to consume Donna while she’s wearing undergarments sewn out of a legal contract cause Death to lose all his energy? What does it mean for Death to absorb a “soul” anyway?), and also in the fact that Alice Krige’s “Queen Mum” character is sort of one-note and tiresome.
But in the end, these problems must be regarded as nothing more than nitpicks in what is otherwise a funny, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable episode.