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Ever since her debut in 2006's The Runaway Bride, Donna has always been unlucky in love. First there was Lance, then Lee in Silence In The Library/Forest of the Dead. Now she has a new love to add to that list: Prince Rudolph. And no, it's not third time lucky (she does get fourth time lucky in The End of Time though).
Death and the Queen by James Goss is basically one of those fun RTD era romps you would get halfway through a series. It brings to mind series 4's The Unicorn and the Wasp, as a mad caper with plenty of banter from the Doctor and Donna Noble. There are some truly classic Doctor and Donna moments in this tale, such as Donna's moaning that she can never have a wedding that goes to plan with the Doctor around and her frustration at her servants as future Queen doing everything for her including helping her get dressed. My absolute favourite are the early scenes where the Doctor keeps interrupting Donna and Prince Rudolph when they're trying to have romantic moments together. So Donna has finally met her prince and she's about to get married; I bet you're wondering what goes wrong this time...
Well, you see, Death has an army coming for the fairytale kingdom as it is revealed a deal was made between the people of the fairytale land and Death. James Goss plays expertly with creating atmosphere here, with Death at first being obscured by cloud making for a very mysterious and unearthly appearance for the audio's antagonist. It allows for a very powerful performance from Catherine Tate too when she delivers the line 'Death is staring me in the face'. It's a very chilling line and one that works best on audio than it probably would on TV.
Now let's talk about Death: Death is...well, obviously the personification of death as a character and is a very creepy one, especially when his true motives are revealed. The reason behind Donna's marriage is truly shocking and like something from the Philip Hinchcliffe era of Doctor Who. As you can probably tell by what I have said in earlier 10th Doctor audio reviews there's a real 4th Doctor feel going on in these three stories which seem fitting for the best Doctor of the new series. This tale in particular whilst basically as said earlier an RTD-style romp has a very gothic feel to it with some of its ideas and themes. It sort of similar to if you combined a Tim Burton film with an Edgar Wright one.
One of my favourite things about this story is Alice Krige as the Queen Mum. She's wonderfully unlikeable, more determined to hold the wedding than to even batter an eyelid at all the people dying at the hands of Death's army. She even takes a dislike to Donna and that's just not on. The Queen Mum is a brilliant villianess for David Tennant's Doctor to argue with; he, of course, is just perfect as the 10th Doctor as usual and brilliantly portrays the Doctor's desperation at wanting Donna back as a companion. Of course, she rejoins him in the end because Donna's exit doesn't take place until Journey's End and these audios take place between series four but you really feel for the Doctor when he just wants his best friend back.
Overall, Death and the Queen is a fantastic conclusion to the first Tenth Doctor Adventures box set and represents the 10th Doctor and Donna Noble at their best. Here's hoping for a volume two with Bernard Cribbins returning as loveable granddad Wilfred Mott.