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< 80. Time Works
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81. The Kingmaker

Rating Votes
10
49%
62
9
20%
25
8
16%
20
7
4%
5
6
6%
7
5
2%
2
4
2%
2
3
0%
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2
3%
4
1
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Average Rating
8.7
Votes
127

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Reviewed By: Stephen PoppittReview Date: 7/15/16 4:57 am
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

Before reviewing this audio production, I should say that, in my opinion, this is the best "Doctor Who" historical drama ever written, and I don't exclude even the television serials written by John Lucarotti (or Douglas Adams).

Starring Peter Davison, "The Kingmaker" is written by professional scriptwriter Nev Fountain, best known as writer of the radio comedy series "Dead Ringers" for BBC Radio 4. Not entirely by coincidence, the principal guest in this story is the star of "Dead Ringers", impressionist Jon Culshaw.

This is a historical serial in four episodes, concerning the murder by King Richard III of the Princes in the Tower, set mainly in the year 1485.

The Doctor is investigating the death of the Princes, a genuine historical mystery. He visits Shakespeare, in the 16th century, to learn as much background as he can from the author of the most famous play based on the life of Richard III, before taking the more dangerous step of a landing in 1485.

The serial contains many surprise twists - in fact, nothing but surprise twists.

He does solve the mystery, and without violating any of the known facts about Richard's reign. And the solution is both inventive and, frequently, humorous.

There is a superb performance from the actor playing King Richard, Stephen Beckett (who played Dr Matt Ramsden in "Coronation Street" on tv). And there is a strong supporting cast, including the comedian Arthur Smith (whose lugubrious, deadpan humour is a riot). And lots of cliff-hanger endings.

The serial runs 2 hours. But unlike some longer Doctor Who serials, I honestly noticed no padding: it was genuinely an edge-of-your-seat thriller all the way through.

While played perfectly straight, as a genuine drama, it is nevertheless the funniest Doctor Who serial I've ever heard: genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. The fact that the script is by a professional comedy writer is used to the very best advantage.

It has some elements which spoof "The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" (there is a robot which evokes memories of Marvin, the Paranoid Android); it has William Shakespeare (complete with authentic cod-Birmingham accent); and it has King Richard himself (both the character in Shakespeare's play, and the actual king in 1485).

It also has Jon Culshaw doing, at one point, his famous impression of Tom Baker, to bring in some all-too-brief dialogue from the 4th Doctor. Culshaw also gives a first rate dramatic performance as one of King Richard's key advisers. I think Machiavellian is the term that springs to mind in best describing Culshaw's excellent characterisation as Earl Rivers.

The serial spirals backwards and forwards through time, in one of the most complex time-travel plots you will ever come across, but without ever losing track of the key elements of the story. Indeed, although based in part, at least in its humour, on an inspired paraody of the Michael J Fox "Back to the Future" movies, it manages to keep the audience aware at all times of where - and when - the characters are, and the reasons why.

By some feat of scriptwriter's magic, Nev Fountain manages to write a Tragedy, in which it is traditional for all the characters to perish in the final Act, while nevertheless achieving the traditional happy ending required by a Comedy. Against the odds, the Doctor and his companions do manage to survive: perhaps this is not completely unexpected. But, oddly, the anticipated high body-count doesn't quite materialise either, due to a resolution with more twists and turns in it than the average corkscrew.

Peter Davison is never less than completely authentic in his recreation of the 5th Doctor, in any Big Finish production. And here he also revels in a rare opportunity to expand the character, playing some humorous scenes.

Companion Nicola Bryant, who has a much bigger role here than was usual on television, is very much at the centre of the action, and handles the role with great aplomb: it must be quite difficult to convey smouldering sex-appeal without the obvious advantages of television, but she manages it!

Big Finish companion Erimem has, as ever, all the advantages of Caroline Morris's beautiful speaking voice: a big, big advantage in an audio play.

This production is conceived and executed on an enormous scale, hurtling back and forth across the centuries, meeting gigantic historical figures in very authentic settings, with a script that would have been worthy of Douglas Adams himself. This story is on a par with "City of Death".

Indeed, if scriptwriter Nev Fountain ever tires of topical comedy in "Dead Ringers", he has a great future in science fiction as the new Douglas Adams.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: NewWorldreviewsReview Date: 1/20/16 8:21 am
2 out of 3 found this review helpful.

The Kingmaker is the most balmy, crazy and wacko Doctor Who audio ever. Forget The Scorchies, Doctor Who And The Pirates, The Ultimate Adventure and all the rest. This is the wackiest Doctor Who story of all time, with some frankly silly ideas, which, were they to be taken by most writers, would come across as a complete mess. But this story is written by Nev Fountain, and he manages to take all of these disparate elements, and weave them together into something that not only is a coherent, well plotted story, but also one of the funniest pieces of Doctor Who fiction ever. The basic premise of the story is that the Doctor is writing a book about Richard III and whether he killed the princes in the tower. But rather than just exploring that idea, Fountain subverts everything to an absurd degree, and mines it for as much humour as possible, which results in something truly unique. For example, Fountain brings in the real world fact of Target having written books called Doctor Who Discovers, and gives an in-universe explanation as to why that is there. I didn't need to be done, but trying to push such a ludicrous idea into the Doctor Who universe is funny and helps set the general tone for this adventure. I say general tone, because while it is, for the most part, a light-hearted romp, there are quite a few dark moments that do indeed reinforce the danger that the 15th century was. There are some brutal moments of torture, which are pretty gruesome, and there is also a bit of talk about the nature of foreknowledge, and the morality of nipping back and observing a famous killer at work, and where that would leave a person. I loved the scenes between the Doctor and Richard here, with some very interesting ideas brought up. However, as I said earlier, the story's main focus is on comedy, and mocking historical truths, and I loved the way this came together. The main revelations are downright silly, but that's half the fun with this script: hearing what ludicrous twist is going to come up next. And the end is possibly one of the most stupid, illogical, continuity breaking twists ever. And it is so utterly fantastic. Fountain throws caution to the wind and just creates a humdinger of an ending that ties up all the loose threads, but does so in the most extraordinary way. And provides the best answer ever as to who killed the princes in the tower. While you could argue that the characters were merely caricatures, and merely there to provide a focus for the comedy, Fountain still creates such outlandish characters. The idea of making Richard III sound like Christopher Eccleston is inspired (as is the cheeky reference to a chap with 'big ears'), and Jon Culshaw also gets to put his Tom Baker impression into work in a dramatic sense. All were fabulously over the top, but it never seemed like the actors were hamming it up. Everyone, like Arthur Smith and Stephen Beckett, maintain the straightness of the characters throughout, much to my delight. That's not to say they weren't having fun: Chris Neill pitched Tyrall as a 15th century version of Julian Clary, and it was clear that Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant and Caroline Morris were enjoying themselves too. Peter especially, seen as he doesn't have as many overtly comic stories as the other Doctors, bar Tom and John. Gary Russell's direction was also superb, making sure the story remained straight throughout. Gareth Jenkins and Andy Hardwick's sound design and music was also amazing, with some great music in particular. It was occasionally a little hard to tell if the action had shifted into a different time or not, but it was only a really tiny niggle, and barely detracted from the story at all. Overall, The Kingmaker is a standout main range release that had me doubling up in stiches. Certainly, if you like your Doctor Who to stick to the version of history were familiar with, you'll hate this. But, if you're prepared to let Nev Fountain play loose and fast with history and you're perception of it, than you'll find yourself in for a killer of a ride. One of my all time favourite Big Finish's.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: traves8853Review Date: 11/25/15 5:35 am
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

The Kingmaker: Nev Fountain has written one of the most complex and detailed stories that's packed full of great ideas. It's not strictly a pure historical; it's not exactly a pseudo-historical, but it does have a strong vein of comedy running through it, yet conversely, I didn't find it all that amusing but did appreciate the lightheartedness of it all. This is as close to 'Blackadder' as 'Doctor Who' will ever get.

The Doctor has a publishing deal agreed but hasn't delivered on his promise of a manuscript. He decides to investigate King Richard the Third and the Princes in the tower. The story continually manages to wrong-foot you in the most ingenious and inventive ways.

This audio should get a ten just for the performance of Stephen Beckett as, 'King Richard the Third' alone. His unique blend of cunning scheming insouciant intimidation is just probably the best performance in Big Finish ever. There are lots of great characters in this and the interplay between Peri and Erimem is fantastic. This is partly because the perspective of the story keeps changing and showing events from their perspective rather than just having them disappear when they are not with the Doctor.

I did find it a bit hard to keep at times as there was so much going on and some of the voices were a little too similar, and there are lots of characters. Thankfully, a second listen is more of a bonus than a hindrance.
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Reviewed By: YorickReview Date: 2/25/15 11:22 am
0 out of 1 found this review helpful.

Didn't love it as much as the majority did but that's not to say it isn't very good as I enjoyed listening to it, despite the writer stealing a couple of gags from Blackadder II
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