Monday, June 9, 2014
The Church and the Crown
So, we have the TARDIS team arriving in 17th century France (by accident, of course) where they all quickly get embroiled in a dastardly scheme. Much like the historical stories of the Hartnell era, a companion (Peri) is pretty quickly separated and kidnapped fairly early on, and thus begins the Doctor's and Erimem's quest to rescue her. I admit to not having a ton of knowledge about the Three Musketeers, never having read Alexandre Dumas. For the most part this story has most of the real people from history who appeared in Dumas' story - the Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis XIII, Queen Anne, and George Villiers the Duke of Buckingham. Instead of three musketeers we have two, Delmarre and Roufett, who are such an amusing double act, you could almost believe Robert Holmes dreamed them up. Amidst Peri's kidnapping, there is tension between the Cardinal and the King, and a dastardly scheme by the Duke of Buckingham. Much hilarity and swashbuckling ensues.
Nicola Bryant deserves praise here for her lovely double act of portraying Peri and Queen Anne. I could groan at the contrivance of Peri being a doppelganger for Queen Anne, but Bryant's terrific performance has me blindly accepting it. Andrew McKay deserves praise for his amusing portrayal of the fool of a King Louis. But, most of my praise goes to Peter Davision. He seems generally engaged by the script here, and seems to put a bit more oomph into this than some of his other performances. In fact, the whole cast seems to be enjoying the material as there is a ton of energy and delight in all of the performances.
Perhaps most significantly, this story really establishes a new dynamic and chemistry for this TARDIS team (in spite of Peri and Erimem not having many scenes together). Peri and Erimem fairly quickly fall into the roles of older and younger sister. It's a very interesting dynamic since Peri is a bit of a mentor to Erimem, but Erimem is probably the more "useful" of the two companions with her experience both in leadership and combat. That's particularly true in this story. But, the dynamic really works and establishes them as the scheming sisters plotting at ways to manipulate the Doctor who comes off as an exasperated, but affectionate father figure. It's really a lovely team, that works so much better than the other multitudes of combinations the poor 5th Doctor was stuck with for companions.
So, this is really just a lot of fun really. Writers Cavan Scott and Mark Wright poured a lot of humor and fun into this script. To say it strikes a different tone than their magnificent "Project Twilight" is an understatement. I kept waiting for the "All for one, and one for all" line to be delivered, and they didn't disappoint as it's a hysterical scene. Despite there being deadly explosions and even a scene where the Doctor is tortured, there's no real sense of peril or dread, since it's all just a lot of jocularity. With a quick paced story and energetic performances, this romp works very well, and is a great indicator of great things to come from this new TARDIS team.