The Doctor Who main range begins 2018 with a bang, as Kingdom of Lies is a blast to listen too. We return to the new (to Big Finish) quartet of The Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan, and once again the bigger cast is handled well and the story in general is a good laugh with some fun twists and turns. Let’s take a closer look!
On the planet Cicero Prime, the kingdom of Cardenas is divided, with the whole population forced to swear allegiance to either the effete Duke or the fiery, hard-edged Duchess. This is a situation both parties have grown tired of. What use is half a kingdom when, thanks to a carefully engineered murder, you could have it all?
Surely, neither of them would be rash enough to summon the deadly off-world assassin The Scorpion to help with their problem? And surely, this terrifying figure wouldn’t arrive wearing a long cream coat and striped trousers…?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Peter Davison) – The Doctor is taking a time out to try and teach Adric how to use the TARDIS, something that he’s sure won’t go wrong. It’s not like trying to teach Tegan, who’d probably thump the console and send them God knows where…
Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) – Adric is a young mathematical genius from another universe, but even he is finding it tricky to learn the ways of piloting a TARDIS! He’s still determined to learn, though…
Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) – Nyssa should feel alone, her whole planet and people destroyed, but with friends like The Doctor, Adric and Tegan around, who needs home planets? Am I right?
Tegan (Janet Fielding) – Tegan just wants to get back to her job at Heathrow, but travelling around the universe and seeing the sights isn’t too bad as an alternate… not that she’d ever say that out loud…
Duchess Miranda (Charlotte Lucas) – Miranda is only concerned with one thing: herself. So when her public marriage to Duke Sebastian became fragile (to say the least) her thoughts soon turned to “how do I keep my position of power?”
Duke Sebastian (Jonathan Firth) – The Duke is still the leader… he thinks. His people love… his wife, who he personally now dislikes… and would actually rather be killed, say, by a top-class assassin?
Amelia and Tomek (Harriet Thorpe and Piotr Hatherer) – The right hand of the Duke and Duchess respectively, they help guide their respective leaders… Maybe in one solitary direction…
The Scorpion (Patsy Kensit) – A feared mercenary and assassin, but one shrouded in so much mystery that you could mistake her for a foppish man in an old cricket outfit, apparently…
Another great cover, especially given all the main “enemies” are humans.
Despite dealing with marital strife, assassinations and potential war between nations, the tone of this story is kept light for the most part, and it serves it well. There is some genuinely funny dialogue exchanges, not just between the Duke and Duchess (who for the record are a rather blatant parody of Charles and Diana, but I’ll let it go for at least being funny with it, rather than just a heavy handed agenda), but from the lead cast as well.
The main crux of the first three episodes is that, after being separated on either side of the Kingdom’s divide, The Doctor and Nyssa pretend to be cold blooded assassin The Scorpion and his understudy “Nyssa the Destroyer”, hired by the Duke to take out the Duchess, while Adric and Tegan pretend to be assassins hired to take out the Duke’s assassins! It’s a crazy set up that reaches its peak when The Doctor and Nyssa take their place to “assassinate” the Duchess, and Adric and Tegan join them, pretending to play their part after the Duchess is seemingly killed for real (when actually The Doctor had set up a hologram) Seriously, tie in the exaggerated marital arguments and the first two, two and a half episodes were properly fun.
The Duchess’ parents, Lord and Lady Crozion, are even more comic book, over-the-top caricatures, but they’re still good for a laugh. They don’t take away from the story, anyway. The advisors are fine, with the twist that they’re actually the same person using hologram technology being quite fun (though nothing really comes from this revelation), though I will say Tomek’s accent was … grating. It sounded like a really bad impression of … whatever accent it was, even if given the actor’s name it could well have been his natural one!
Episode 4, which features the actual Scorpion arriving and trying to kill her contracted target of the Duchess, is alright, it’s not all bad (there is a good scene of “will he/won’t he” with The Doctor having The Scorpion at his mercy, even if we all know he won’t!) but after the enjoyable run around from the previous parts, this feels like a bit of a let down. A lot of running from gunfire, a lot of twists and turns that don’t all work, and in the end everyone lives (which does match the tone of the story, at least) It’s just not the ending I would have liked given the fun feel of the rest of the story.
Nothing in this story connects it to any other, really. There wasn’t even an on-the-nose reference of Adric’s up-coming death!
Kingdom of Lies is a really solid start to Doctor Who audios in 2018, and continues the Doctor / Adric / Tegan / Nyssa audio drama’s high score rate. It lets itself down a bit with its run-and-gun and not always unpredictable twist-fest final part, but the rest of the story is so fun it doesn’t damage it too much.