After a gap of many moons, I’m finally in possession of another run of Big Finish’s “Monthly Adventures” range of Doctor Who stories. In particular, I’ve just enjoyed The Church and the Crown, a Fifth Doctor story starring Peter Davison, and featuring Nicola Bryant as Peri and Caroline Morris as original-to-audio companion Erimem. The story was released back in November 2002, so I’m only about 19 years behind the times, but better late then never I guess.
(Daily Doctor Who #219)
The Church and the Crown is #38 in the now defunct “Monthly Adventures” range of Doctor Who audios, and is the second to include Egyptian Pharaoh Erimem as a member of the TARDIS crew. In this story, she is still just out for a single ride, but we know better–and by the end of the tale she’s invited to stay. In this story, the TARDIS takes her and her new friends to 17th century France, and roughly to the era of the Three Musketeers. Historical figures such as Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII appear and become well-developed parts of an exciting story about military tension and political intrigue.
Of particular interest is King Louis’ wife Queen Anne, who is said to be a complete double of Peri, and is also played by Nicola Bryant. There’s no explanation for this–it’s really just a device to get Peri kidnapped by mistake. But it makes for some fun running around and it gives Nicola Bryant a chance to play a double role–she proves quite adept at making Anne a distinct character from Peri. (There is precedence for Peri having a double out there–companions Nyssa and Romana also bumped into exact duplicates in their time aboard the TARDIS. I guess the Doctor Who universe is just a bit like that).
The Church and the Crown is what’s now often referred to as a “pure historical story”–a tale set in earth’s past, often involving famous people or events, with no science fiction elements in it aside from the Doctor, his companions and the TARDIS. These were a regular part of the show’s format in the earliest days of the series but basically fell out of favor by the late 1960’s. They’ve cropped up again from time to time in the context of Big Finish, who have been able to work with the limitations to tell exciting tales that are gripping and full of interesting characters, even without spaceships or monsters. It’s one of the nice things about Big Finish’s massive output that there is so much room to play around with the style and format.
The Church and the Crown is a great example of this–a historical story that is just as enjoyable as a science fiction one, full of high stakes political drama and enough tongue-in-cheek humor to keep things from getting too dour. it took me a little while to get used to identifying all the voices for the various characters, but once I got that locked down I was on board for a fun, swashbuckling adventure.
And, like all of Big Finish’s early Doctor Who stories, it’s available quite cheaply from their website, or even free on Spotify.