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< 80. Time Works
82. The Settling >

81. The Kingmaker

Rating Votes
10
48%
66
9
20%
28
8
17%
24
7
4%
5
6
5%
7
5
1%
2
4
1%
2
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0%
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2
3%
4
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0%
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Average Rating
8.7
Votes
138
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Reviewed By: Drew VogelReview Date: 9/10/17 1:19 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

This is the story that finally convinced me to stop worrying about continuity. I used to one of those people who was terribly concerned that all of the stories should fit together at least reasonably well, and that it was very important for Big Finish to respect established continuity. After hearing this story, that was simply no longer tenable. After all, "The Caves of Androzani" clearly happens right after "Planet of Fire". There is no gap there. So additional stories featuring the fifth Doctor and Peri were already on shaky ground. But this story has Peri living for two years in the 15th century. There is no way that Peri traveled with the Doctor for well over two years (and counting) between her first and second story. And what about Shakespeare? Are we really supposed to believe that he swapped places with Richard III in 1597? So that guy in "The Shakespeare Code" (set in 1599) was actually Richard III? No. I refuse to believe any of that.

So forget about continuity. It can be useful when it adds dimension to a story, but the moment it gets in the way, just forget about it completely.

I don't even know what else to say about this story. It's extraordinarily good. The comedy is actually funny, and even when you think it should break the illusion (the "press conference", for example), somehow it doesn't. And the comedy is only the beginning. This is a very funny story that doesn't take it self very seriously, and yet it also explores some extremely serious themes. It raises unsettling questions about the Doctor's relationship to history, gives the Doctor an easy way out, and then admits to having given the Doctor an easy way out. The unsettling questions remain.

The plot is complicated, but surprisingly easy to follow (even with events happening "simultaneously" in two different time periods), and one of the great joys of returning to this story is having a chance to puzzle out the intricate little details you may have missed the first time through. And like all the best "Doctor Who" historicals, it leaves you wanting to learn more about the events depicted.

If you wanted to give a non-fan a taste of what a Big Finish "Doctor Who" story is like, or what "Doctor Who" is like in general, this is not the story for that. But if you want an example of just how far the concept can stretch without breaking, this is a perfect story.
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Reviewed By: adamelijahReview Date: 8/13/17 1:57 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

This production examining what what truly happened to the nephews of Richard III. Shakespeare had Richard III kill them, modern scholars play the family of Elizabeth I.

The script is brilliantly effective. It mixes uproarious comedy with many deeper more reflective moments and explores how time travelers can impact history. It has some great surprises, none of which is more pronounced than the revelation of the villain at the end of Episode 3. There's also a little bit of an exploration of Erimem as someone who comes from a culture very different for Peri's and how that plays out. Stephen Beckett's performance as Richard is one of the best guest performance in Doctor Who.

Overall, a wonderfully done, often hilarious story which still has some serious points to make.

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Reviewed By: Stephen PoppittReview Date: 7/15/16 8:57 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.
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Reviewed By: traves8853Review Date: 11/25/15 10:35 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.