Doctor Who – “Death and the Queen”

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures # 1.3
Written by: James Goss
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Alice Krige, Alan Cox & Blake Ritson
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-78575-234-6
Chronology Placement: Set during “Season Four” and after “Time Reaver

Synopsis: Donna Noble has never been lucky in love. So when, one day, her Prince does come, she is thrilled to have the wedding of all weddings to look forward to. Though the Doctor isn’t holding his breath for an invitation. And her future mother-in-law is certainly not amused. But on the big day itself, Donna finds her castle under siege from the darkest of forces, marching at the head of a skeleton army. When it looks like even the Doctor can’t save the day, what will Queen Donna do to save her people from Death itself?

The third and final audio adventure in this initial Tenth Doctor Adventures trilogy sends the Doctor and Donna back in time for an historical adventure filled with queens, castles, armies and death. Leaping straight into the midst of the action with a surprising cold open, James Goss fills his tale with plenty of flashbacks that illustrate just how the Doctor and Donna ended up in their latest predicament. As with his work on the Torchwood adventure “Fall to Earth”, Goss enjoys playing with the audio format, creating a narrative that feels energetic and eclectic compared to the previous two stories in the range.

While the ominous looking cover artwork for this release might give the impression that the story is dark and brooding, the opposite is true as Goss injects plenty of humour into the tale as the Doctor and Donna banter their way through adversity. As such, this story feels very authentic to the Season 4 era of the show with two best-friends travelling through time and space and having a laugh. There are few moments of gravity in the tale, particularly when Donna pleads for her potential husband to prevent a senseless massacre from happening. There’s a scene where the Doctor says goodbye to Donna thinking that she might be leaving him for good, although the tone seems slightly off and it feels somewhat derivative of the miscommunication in “The Sontaran Stratagem”, where he also thinks she’s leaving.

With Donna Noble pushed to the forefront in this storyline, Catherine Tate gets the chance to shine and showcase her depth with another romantic sub-plot. It’s interesting how many love interests she has had in the series, and I wonder whether she consummates her relationship here with Prince Rudolph – bit awkward, if she did! I did enjoy how James Goss made frequent reference to her previous failed wedding in “The Runaway Bride” and how the Doctor has been present at all three of her weddings. David Tennant continues to bring his evocative performance to the audio arena, delivering his lines with such energy that you can visualise his physical mannerisms. Tennant and Tate are both fantastic performers, and nothing is lost by the lack of visuals. Even the incidental music and sound effects are on-point, accurately recreating that classic era of the show.

Goss has fun with the main antagonist for this adventure, pulling the rug out from under the listener multiple times to deliver surprise after surprise. I have a soft spot for the “base under siege” style of Doctor Who stories, and having a castle surrounded by an undead army is a brilliant visual, evoking memories of the climactic scenes from Evil Dead: Army of Darkness. As a Donna-focused story, the Doctor is pushed to the side-lines slightly, relegated to exposition and action sequences whilst his companion gets the chance to make the big decisions. In fact, the Doctor seems a bit lost in this story without Donna by his side, which goes to show how well the pair work as a team and foreshadows his uncharacteristic behaviour whilst travelling alone in the 2008-2010 Specials.

Overall, this is a spellbinding historical romp that revisits some of the recurring themes from Donna’s entire story-arc, whilst showcasing how much she has developed during her time with the Doctor. Goss develops her character really nicely here, and with another failed engagement behind her, it makes her eventual happy marriage in “The End of Time” seem all the more poignant. The production value on this set of adventures has been consistently high, as one would expect from Big Finish, and all three audio adventures fit seamlessly into the established continuity and tone of the series. For those fans who clamour for David Tennant to return to the role again, this is the closest you’re going to get until the next (hopefully inevitable) multi-Doctor episode! But until that happens, Big Finish need to get Matt Smith and Karen Gillan into a recording studio ASAP!

Score – ★★★★

Doctor Who: Death and the Queen is available from Big Finish on physical CD or digital download. It can also be found on Amazon UK in the physical format.

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