Review: “Moon Man”, Peter Capaldi Charity Zine

It’s review time again! Today we’re covering…something a little different!

After my recent review of the Defending Earth charity anthology, I received an email from Ginger Hoesly, the host of a charity ‘zine (do we still use the apostrophe? Or is it just “zine” these days?) titled Moon Man, focusing on everyone’s favorite (twelfth) Time Lord, the esteemed Peter Capaldi. Ginger asked me if I would be willing to review the project, which is on sale now (see below for a link!). This corner of the fandom is really something with which I have no experience, and so—partly for the cause, and partly for my own curiosity—I gladly agreed. And, here we are!

Moon Man 1 cover

Moon Man Cover Art by Rhiannon McGuiness

This zine (we’ll go with that spelling—take that, punctuation!) is, as I said, focused on Peter Capaldi rather than the Twelfth Doctor. However, the prose portion of the zine is a unique Twelfth Doctor story, and so it fits with the theme of this site. The story is accompanied by forty-one illustrations of various roles from Peter’s career, submitted by many artists in a variety of styles—I’ll be featuring a few as we go. All proceeds from the sale of Moon Man will go to the Glasgow School of Art, Peter Capaldi’s alma mater; sales are open until 29 April, and can be accessed at the link below.

As always when I cover charity projects, there will be spoilers ahead! My reason for including more spoilers in this type of review is that charity projects, unlike licensed work, don’t get the kind of long-term availability, or documentation, that licensed works get. To a very real degree, once it’s over, it’s over. I believe, though, that many charity stories are rich contributions to the greater Whoniverse, and deserve to be recorded in some way—and so I document them here as I can. But, don’t be fooled—no summary is a substitute for actually purchasing and reading the material. Check it out!

Moon Man 2 Local Hero

Danny Oldsen from Local Hero, art by Arianna Climaci

When I sit down to summarize the plot of a story, it’s a straightforward—if sometimes tedious—affair. You start at the beginning, point A, and work through points B and C, all the way to point Z, the end. I can’t do that today, though; because the story contained in Moon Man is something different: if I may borrow the term, it’s a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. (I’m sure that term is copyrighted, so let me say that it’s me using it to make a comparison; the term isn’t used anywhere in the zine.) Over the course of about a dozen possible selections, the story builds through various scenes at the discretion of the reader. In the first scene, a quick trip to the shops turns into a disaster in the making for Clara Oswald and the Twelfth Doctor, as the TARDIS tries to pull itself apart. The ship is attempting to land in at least a dozen places and times, all at once! The Doctor is able to narrow it to two, but Clara is forced to make a snap decision as to which they will visit. In each of the scenes that follow, the TARDIS shuts down and refuses to budge—in one case, locking them out—until they do…something. What they must do, remains to be seen.

Moon Man 3 The Hour

Randall Brown from The Hour, art by Emma J. Goddard

In one scene, the TARDIS takes them to the Happer Institute, a combined sky-and-sea observatory—but it lands them in the past, shortly before the construction of the observatory, where Clara briefly encounters an oddly familiar young man. In another, while the Doctor constructs a micro-artron detector to help them track their progress, Clara encounters a late-evening office worker named Randall Brown, who has no time for her at all. A third takes them to 1992 Scotland, where the TARDIS promptly locks them out—until they help a stranded motorist named Gavin Bellini. Clara starts to see a pattern in their stops, and snaps a picture of Gavin with the strangely-oblivious Doctor…

Moon Man 4 Soft Top Hard Shoulder

Gavin Bellini from Soft Top Hard Shoulder, art by Valentina Mozzo

Cardiff, 2013: The zombie apocalypse is on, despite the Doctor’s dour insistence that he’s never done this before (a lie, I might add—see my recent review for White Darkness). The TARDIS lands at a World Health Organization facility, where a few survivors wait. The Doctor ultimately leaves Clara secured in the TARDIS while he impersonates a more traditional doctor—a WHO Doctor, one might say (though Clara is having none of that!). Another place, but not far off in time: Windsor Gardens, 2017, the Doctor impersonates a Mr. Curry to get close to a strange, anthropomorphic bear…which is decidedly not of alien origin. A surge of guilt, courtesy of Clara, makes him rethink his plan, and the duo withdraw. Back to Derbyshire, 1988, where they are accosted by a young man in traditional Scottish garb, desperately seeking a set of bagpipes, much to the Doctor’s disgust—and Clara’s astonishment that the young man’s face is not familiar to the Doctor.

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WHO Doctor from World War Z, art by Sochika

The TARDIS seems to be growing tired—if that is possible—as it takes them to Paris, the 1600s. And yet it’s not Paris outside when the door opens; rather, it’s Prague, 2013—but with a rather large number of people in 1600s period dress. Perhaps the TARDIS is confused? As it turns out, it’s a film shoot, for a new version of The Three Musketeers. Clara is distracted by the filming as the Doctor encounters the actor who plays Cardinal Richelieu…and criticizes his appearance. Doctor to the end! But at any rate, the TARDIS pulls itself together for another trip. This time, it travels to Rome, 1st Century A.D., where it lands in a rather colorful villa. The Doctor stays inside to work on the TARDIS while Clara has a look around; but she is stunned to see a man with not only an approximation of the Doctor’s face and voice, but exactly the same face and voice! As soon as she is free, she races back to the TARDIS, but before she can take the Doctor to look, the TARDIS lurches into motion again.

Moon Man 6 Torchwood

John Frobisher from Torchwood: Children of Earth, art by Sirlsplayland

2010 London finds the Doctor sitting in the office of a man who looks just like him…a spin doctor named Malcolm Tucker. He plays the role reasonably well, just oddly enough to confuse Malcolm’s coworkers as he quizzes them on events of the last two weeks. Not coincidentally, that’s how long the TARDIS has been present; but it is not the only alien presence in the area—and why is everyone getting strange headaches? Why are there new security updates on every computer first thing each morning? Still, he only has a little time to work here, as Clara keeps the real (and rather abrasive) Malcolm Tucker busy. He’s nearly successful; but he is found out by one of the coworkers, Sam, who recognizes him for his profound lackof swearing—did I mention that Malcolm could be abrasive? He confides in her that the government—perhaps all the way up to Downing Street, where there is currently an unusually high concentration of artron energy—has a virus, and not only the computers, but the individuals, are being affected. As he prepares to wage war on the virus, Sam throws in her lot with him.

Moon Man 7 Paddington

Mr. Curry from Paddington, art by Sophie Iles

Fans of Capaldi’s long and storied career will have no doubt caught on long ago to what is happening in this story. I was not so lucky; I grew up in the US, and never heard of Peter Capaldi until he was selected to be the Twelfth Doctor. I still am unfamiliar with most of his work (though I’ve picked up a bit of The Thick of It, which is remarkable and fun and too vulgar to watch with the kids, meaning I don’t get to watch it often). As a consequence it took me about three or four scenes to realize what was happening. That’s not a complaint about the presentation; it’s more a lament about my own lack of foreknowledge.

Moon Man 8 The Lair of the White Worm

Angus Flint from The Lair of the White Worm, art by Tousle

I’ve presented the scenes in a certain order above; but that’s only a concession to the summary format, and it is almost certainly the wrong order. Each “path” through the story is about four scenes long, and some endings can be reached in different ways. Because this story is a tribute to various roles, none of the scenes dig deep in terms of plot; they pass quickly. Likewise, none of the endings seem like traditional endings; rather, every scene and ending feels like the jumping-off point for a new adventure. Indeed, I’d be thrilled to see fanfiction writers (or professional writers, for that matter, in other charity projects) pick up these threads and run with them; some of them, especially the scene with Malcolm Tucker and the “zombie apocalypse” scene, seem especially promising, and I’d love to see where they go!

Moon Man 9 The Musketeers

Cardinal Richelieu from The Musketeers, art by Melissa Dow

But, none of that is necessary here, because this is a tribute rather than a single story—and a great tribute it is, as well. The story serves as a tribute not only to the various roles, but also and especially to the Twelfth Doctor. The characterization and dialogue are spot on; Clara, especially, is as witty as ever, the Doctor as socially awkward and overbearing as ever. I’ve been uncharitable to Clara in the past; but this is early-stage Clara (the story, based on descriptions, seems to fit best in early Series 8), when she’s still very likeable, before tragedy strikes in the form of the doomed Danny Pink.

Moon Man 10 The Thick of It

Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It, art by Raine Szramski

What stands out most of all, though, is the artwork. The range of styles is impressive; the sheer number of artist contributors caught me off guard. I’ve included a few—those connected to the story, and those most relevant to Doctor Who, but the zine is worth picking up simply for the art. (I don’t have room to credit every artist here individually, but I have tried to do so with the selections I’ve featured here.)

Moon Man 11 The Fires of Pompeii

Lobus Caecilius from Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii, art by Jose Rod Mota

Overall: I didn’t know what to expect, this being my first experience with this type of work. I was pleasantly surprised. Moon Man is an entertaining story, accompanied by a phenomenal set of illustrations, and it’s worth adding to anyone’s collection. Check it out!

Moon Man, a charity zine tribute to Peter Capaldi, may be purchased here. All proceeds go to support the Glasgow School of Art. Thanks to Ginger Hoesly and her talented group of artists for putting this project together!

Audio Drama Review: The Church and the Crown

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to Main Range #38, The Church and the Crown. Written by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, and directed by Gary Russell, this 2002 release features the Fifth Doctor, Peri, and Erimem. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

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In 1626 Paris, a skirmish takes place between the personal guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, led by Captain Morand, and the king’s Musketeers, Rouffet and Delmarre. The fight, which began with an insult by Morand against Queen Anne, ends with a wound for Delmarre, and death for Morand’s lieutenant.  Meanwhile Richelieu and King Louis play chess in the palace, oblivious to the fight, which is only the latest in a growing line of such encounters.  Richelieu, subtly drawing a parallel with the relationship of the Church to the Crown, checkmates the king.  Elsewhere, in the TARDIS, the Doctor seeks to take Erimem to the Braxiatel Collection for further education.  It seems the TARDIS and Erimem’s cat are conspiring against him, preventing him from landing there; and the TARDIS materialises instead in 17th-century Paris.  Dressing in period-appropriate clothing, the group goes outside.

Marie de Chevreuse, lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne, is having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham. She meets with him, and he gives her a letter to pass on.  She is not thrilled with the plot they are enacting, but he reassures her; and she is unaware that he is only using her.  Meanwhile, Richelieu is preparing to leave, when Morand arrives with Rouffet and Delmarre.  He accuses them of murder, but they claim they were defending the queen’s honor; Louis dismisses the charges.  Richelieu and Morand storm out of the palace; the king gives a sovereign to each Musketeer, then sends them on the way.  He sets about preparing for a state ball, to be conducted later—although his queen is curiously not present.  In the city, the Doctor explains that Richelieu is not the villain that Alexandre Dumas famously portrayed him to be, but plans to unite France.  Meanwhile, Peri feels she is being watched, and Erimem is taken with the city.  The Doctor takes Erimem to see the Louvre—which in this century is still the palace, not a museum—while Peri, against the Doctor’s better judgment, strikes out on her own.

In his carriage, the angry Richelieu is distracted when he sees a woman walking in the street; he orders Morand to follow the woman and report back. Rouffet and Delmarre go to an alehouse, passing Madame de Chevreuse as she enters the palace.  De Chevreuse finds the King instead of the Queen; when he realizes that she has a letter from one of the Queen’s suitors, he demands it, informing her that the Queen has not yet returned from Lyon.  He is distracted by a footman, and de Chevreuse leaves him—but can’t deliver the letter, either.

On the street, Peri is accosted by the Duke of Buckingham, who acts as though he knows her—intimately, it seems. While she tries to get away from him, men dressed in the uniforms of Richelieu’s guards kidnap her, wounding Buckingham in the process.  Morand and his men—the real guards—try to rescue her, but are driven off by the attackers, who escape with Peri.  The Doctor and Erimem hear the commotion, and rush to help, but only catch a glimpse of the kidnappers.  The Doctor accidentally bumps into Delmarre, knocking him down; Delmarre takes it as an insult, and challenges him to a duel.  However, they are interrupted by fanfare and a passing carriage—with Peri inside!  Or so it appears—and the Doctor realizes with dismay that Peri is an exact double of Queen Anne.

The Doctor and Erimem try to slip away. The Doctor recognizes the uniforms, but can’t imagine why the Cardinal would kidnap the Queen—although he realizes they captured Peri by mistake.  Delmarre chases him down to continue the duel, but Erimem changes his course by challenging him, on his honour as a Musketeer, to get them an audience with the King.  The Musketeers agree, happy to prove themselves to a lady.  Meanwhile Peri’s captors take her to an empty chateau outside Paris.  She tries to escape, but is caught by Buckingham, who reveals that the men are his, and his wound was faked.  He refers to her as “your Majesty”, and has his men lock her up before disposing of their uniforms; he implies that they have had a relationship in the past, and treats her accent as a joke.  They lock her in a cell in the dungeon.  Meanwhile, the real Anne arrives at the palace, and argues with Louis over the upcoming ball, as well as over the true power in France.  She claims that Richelieu retains power; Louis counters by claiming that Anne is still having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham.  In the midst of this, Delmarre and Rouffet arrive with the Doctor and Erimem.  Erimem again buys them entrance by announcing herself as the Princess Erimem of Karnak, and the Doctor as her vizier.  The Doctor explains their situation; in the middle of his conversation, Richelieu arrives, having heard Morand’s report of the kidnapping.  Richelieu is surprised to find Anne unharmed, but reveals that he saw her—Peri, actually—in the company of the Duke, sparking another argument with Louis.  The Doctor hastily explains to Erimem about the rumors of a past affair between the Queen and the Duke, who is also the Prime Minister of England.  More worrisome is the ball tonight; the timing of the kidnapping attempt could not be a coincidence.

Richelieu claims that the Musketeers are after his guards, having quickly heard of the kidnapping. The King, already bored with the situation, authorizes the Doctor to investigate.  At his word, Rouffet and Delmarre take the Doctor and Erimem to meet an informant, “Blind Maurice”, a beggar who is not truly blind—he’s simply cornered a market on sympathy.  The Doctor pays him in gold dust, and he reveals the location of the chateau, which has harbored some suspicious doings of late.  The Doctor sends Erimem back to the palace, in part to manage appearances, but also to keep an eye on Louis, and he goes with the Musketeers to the chateau.  Meanwhile Buckingham receives a message from Marie, stating that his captive is not the Queen.  He goes to confront Peri, but finds she has smashed a window and escaped.  At the same time, the Doctor and the Musketeers arrive, but the Doctor makes a mistake and is captured; the grounds are swarming with armed men.  He is taken for questioning; meanwhile the Musketeers hide and look for an opportunity to rescue both the Doctor and Peri.  At the Palace, Marie suggests to the Queen that she should eliminate Louis and then deal directly with Richelieu.  Anne sends Marie out, then asks Erimem’s opinion.  During the conversation, Erimem shocks Anne by admitting she genuinely trusts the Doctor; Anne trusts no one, not even Marie.  Indeed, she keeps Marie close so as to watch her, and to obtain gossip she would not otherwise hear.  And yet, she trusts Richelieu even less; and Erimem, remembering corrupt priests in her homeland, begins to suspect Richelieu might actually be involved with the kidnapping.

Richelieu, meanwhile, is arguing with the King again, wanting him to cancel the ball and stabilise the now-chaotic city. When the Queen arrives, Richelieu says that the King is threatening the unity of the country; Louis insists this ball will bring the nobility together and unify the country—in the name of the King, not the Church.  Richelieu returns to his own palace, and Erimem follows.  Meanwhile Peri encounters Delmarre and Rouffet in the chateau’s stables; they explain that the Doctor has been captured.  The Doctor is brought to Buckingham, who reveals he is aware of the Musketeers that came with him.  He intends to torture the Doctor to learn why he is there.  Meanwhile Richelieu orders Morand to arm all of his guards; they must protect themselves in the absence of help from the King.  He then discovers Erimem, and demands to know why she is spying on him.  At that time, Morand opens the palace door—and it explodes in his face.

Erimem has never seen an explosion before. She soon recovers, but Morand is dead and several guards are injured.  The Cardinal attributes the bomb to the Musketeers, and returns to the Louvre, taking Erimem with him; he still doesn’t know her identity, but he accepts that she is honorable.  As they travel, they see Musketeers fighting with his guards in the streets.  Meanwhile Peri insists on rescuing the Doctor; Delmarre and Rouffet reluctantly agree.  They find all the chateau entrances guarded, but manage to overpower three of Buckingham’s men, and take their uniforms.  They head for the chateau, but the size of the force here is intimidating—and disconcerting, when so close to Paris.  Inside, Buckingham tortures the Doctor, believing him to be a spy for another government that plans to invade England.  He does not gain any useful information, but leaves the Doctor to die.

Louis and Richelieu cannot come to an agreement; Richelieu demands justice, but the King refuses to credit his guards with the bomb. He also refuses to cancel the ball, believing it would send the wrong message to the visiting dignitaries.  He leaves to change for the ball, and tells Richelieu to do the same, ignoring the blood on Richelieu’s robes—blood from his guards.  He begs Anne to sway the King’s mind; Marie scoffs at this, sending him into a rage, and Anne sends her out.  However, she cannot change the King’s mind—he has not forgiven her for her affair, or her inability to give him an heir.

Marie helps Erimem to dress for the ball, and gossips while she does so; she claims the Cardinal desires the Queen, and that the dream of a united France is foolish. Erimem silences her.  When she rejoins the others, she discovers that Richelieu is now threatening to excommunicate the King if he does not call off the ball and arrest the Musketeers.  Louis has the Cardinal arrested and locked up, spurning the idea that this may lead to religious war.  Anne grows angry at Louis, and retreats to her quarters, taking Erimem with her.

Peri and the Musketeers see Buckingham leaving, and make their move on the chateau. The Musketeers are confronted by a guard captain, and engage him in combat while Peri slips inside.  She finds the wounded Doctor and frees him.  He is recovering, albeit slowly; and in the dining room, he finds racks of well-maintained weapons.  They flee, meeting up with Delmarre and Rouffet, and are forced to fight their way free.  Buckingham responds by moving up the timetable of his attack—he orders his captain to attack at once.  The Duke, it seems, is invading France—and his army is pursuing the Doctor and his friends toward Paris.

Louis forces his way into Anne’s rooms to order her to attend the ball with him. She loses her temper and sends him out.  Their childish behaviour is a shock to Erimem, who confronts them about it; Anne accepts her words, but Louis declares that after the ball, Erimem will be escorted out, and exiled from France.  He then tells Anne that if she does not attend, she will join the Cardinal in a cell.  Reluctantly, Anne agrees; and Erimem goes to find the Doctor.  The Doctor and his friends, at that time, are arriving in Paris, where bodies lie in the streets.  Buckingham’s plan—to set the factions at war by kidnapping the Queen—is working despite Anne’s continued freedom; the English army will face little opposition.  Erimem finds him, and exchanges stories with him.  He then sends her with Delmarre and Rouffet to rouse the French soldiers, while he and Peri go to warn Louis and Richelieu.

The ball is underway, and Anne is telling the guests that the Cardinal is ill. Louis’s plan for unity seems to be working, and he gloats about it to Anne, who realizes that all along he has been trying to impress her with strength.  However, they remain unaware of the approaching army.  The Doctor could tell them, but without Erimem, he can’t convince the guards to admit him; and so he and Peri sneak in through the storm drains.  Peri questions their work, insisting that history shows that Buckingham fails; but the Doctor explains that they must play their part in order to guarantee that outcome.  Arriving in the dungeons, they free Richelieu, who wants revenge; they then go to confront the King.

Erimem and the Musketeers can’t do much by themselves, but Erimem recalls the explosion. Delmarre and Rouffet retrieve explosives from the armory, and set them off, not to harm anyone, but to draw attention.  Erimem then addresses the crowd, chastising both sides for falling for this distraction; chastened, they vow to fight for their city along with her, in the name of both the Church and the Crown.  They manage to assemble a defense in time to surround Buckingham’s army as it reaches the gates; and Buckingham, with too much invested to surrender, joins battle.  Inside, the Doctor, Peri, and the Cardinal confront the King in the midst of the ball.  He can no longer ignore their warnings; and with the entire nobility gathered here, the entire leadership of France could fall at once.  Louis tries to focus on the smaller situation, believing that Buckingham has come for Anne, but the Doctor refuses to allow his jealousy to trump his judgment.  If Buckingham wins here, England may rule the entire continent soon enough.  At last, the King orders the ball cancelled and the palace sealed off.

Erimem leads the French troops into battle, routing the English army. Buckingham tries to personally take her hostage, but is unable to do so; instead, he rushes off.  Erimem, Delmarre, and Rouffet follow; a word from Blind Maurice reveals that Buckingham is heading for the palace.  Indeed, he kills the gate guard and slips inside.  Meanwhile, Richelieu and Louis try to calm the nobles, and Anne plans to return to her quarters; but at Marie’s urging, she stays.  The Doctor, meanwhile, is concerned for Erimem’s safety.  Buckingham bursts in, and takes the King hostage, holding a gun to his head.  Richelieu tries to save the King, but Marie draws a gun on him, revealing her part in the plot.  The Doctor distracts Marie by throwing a sword at Buckingham; Peri knocks the gun from Marie’s hand.  Buckingham tries to kill the Doctor; Louis tosses the Doctor a sword, and the two duel.  As Erimem and the Musketeers arrive, the Doctor pins Buckingham to the wall—not harming him, but pinning his clothes, as a butterfly’s wings—prompting Delmarre to admit he is glad that he didn’t duel with the Doctor after all.

As the army is mopped up, the Doctor reveals what he found in the chateau: A letter which detailed Buckingham’s plans.  Richelieu tears up the letter, choosing to cover the scandal and avoid the war with England that would result.  Erimem wants Buckingham executed, but Richelieu recommends exile instead, and suggests allowing King Charles of England to determine his fate.  Louis also expels Marie from the palace; and Buckingham rejects her as well, leaving her without recourse.  Peri is upset at Buckingham’s easy fate, but the Doctor assures her that history records that he will be killed in a few years.

The next day, the King and the Cardinal press the Doctor to accept honorary commissions in both the Musketeers and the Cardinal’s guards. Delmarre and Rouffet then escort the Doctor and his friends to the TARDIS.  Delmarre apologizes to the Doctor for his initial rudeness; the Doctor accepts the apology, but is unable to inspire the catchphrase “All for one and one for all!”.  In the TARDIS, the Doctor offers Erimem a new course: instead of going to the Braxiatel Collection now, she can stay if she likes, and see what adventures await them.  She accepts at once.  The only hitch, in the Doctor’s view, is her wretched cat, whom she names Antranak in memory of her former mentor.

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In the past, I’ve been critical of historical stories; but I have to say that I greatly enjoyed this one. This is in no small part due to the characters of the Musketeers, Delmarre and Rouffet. They make an unintentional, but quite humorous, comedy duo, especially when having the Doctor’s soft-spoken formality to play against. I’m most reminded of the character of Richard Mace, seen in The Visitation, about whom I’ve spoken enthusiastically on several occasions; if he had had someone similar to him against whom to react, it would have resulted in a story very much like this one. None of that is to say that this story is the same as The Visitation; that story was not a pure historical—it concerned real events from history, but included science-fiction elements in the form of the Terileptils. This story is a pure historical, and for once it’s a great experience. I will confess that my European history has suffered since high school, but there’s not a lot one needs to know to appreciate this story; the characters don’t require much knowledge in order to understand their motivations, and most of what is needed is spelled out here, courtesy of Erimem, who knows less than the audience does. The Doctor’s info-dumps for Erimem’s benefit are short and hasty, but tell us all we really need to know.

Nicola Bryant gets a double billing here; she plays Peri, as usual, but also plays Queen Anne, as Peri has the dubious honor of looking identical to the Queen. That’s not so unusual; many actors have played two or more parts in the same production, and the audio format lends itself especially well to such doubling up. (One would think that the Doctor would not be taken by surprise in this regard; he admits to having met an older version of Louis XIII before.) The remarkable part here is the voice work. Peri and Queen Anne sound nothing alike. I realize that Peri’s American accent is fake—my wife, who never watched the classic series and only knows Peri from the audios, insists she sounds like a CGI Disney channel cartoon character—but I never realized just how different it was from her normal voice, or from any other voice she may choose to use. I’ve never had a bad opinion of her, but my opinion certainly improved with this performance; she’s more versatile than she seems at first.

At the outset of this story, which serves as a sequel to The Eye of the Scorpion, the Doctor does not intend for Erimem to remain aboard the TARDIS. Instead, he intends to take her to the Braxiatel Collection to further her education. I’ve read enough to have some idea of the nature of the Braxiatel Collection and its founder, but not enough as yet to speak at length about it, so we’ll leave that discussion for another time, especially as we never actually arrive there. However, this is the story where Erimem becomes a full-time companion, as the Doctor asks her to stay. It’s worth noting that the audio drama No Place Like Home, which I have already covered, should properly come immediately after this story; as it’s a bonus release and not part of the Main Range, it’s not clearly stated, but logically fits in that spot. It can’t come earlier, as Erimem doesn’t name her cat, Antranak, until this story, but the cat’s name appears in No Place Like Home.

I will admit that I’ve never read The Three Musketeers, to which this story clearly owes inspiration; I’ve only seen a few film versions. I don’t think it’s necessary to have done so in order to appreciate this story, however. The Musketeers as portrayed here are far from being buffoons, but they do work best in comic mode, and they stand quite well on their own, without the support of Dumas’ book. There is, however, a gag near the end that serves as an homage; the Doctor tries, and fails, to persuade the Musketeers to take up the famous slogan, “One for all, and all for one!” Maybe next time, Doctor.

Some continuity references: The Doctor makes reference to K9 (The Invisible Enemy; last seen on television in Warrior’s Gate), commenting that he needs him when dealing with Erimem’s cat. He again mentions Houdini, as he has done on many occasions in several lifetimes (Planet of the Spiders, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Wrath of the Iceni, and notably, earlier in the same lifetime in Smoke and Mirrors). His companions have met doubles of themselves before (The Androids of Tara, Black Orchid, with the latter occurring in the same regeneration). Erimem names her cat Antranak, after her mentor in The Eye of the Scorpion. The Doctor carries gold dust; this is a reference to several Cyberman stories, although he never seems to have it when he actually needs it. (Gold dust will later appear in the TV movie in another context, when the Master gives it to Chang Lee, and the Doctor later allows him to keep it.) The Braxiatel Collection was first mentioned in City of Death, and first seen in Theatre of War. It’s worth noting that the Doctor’s reference to Buckingham as the Prime Minister of England is a misnomer; the position did not exist at this time, although he could have been the chief minister to King Charles.

Overall: A well-rounded, funny entry. After the Eighth Doctor’s recent lengthy stay in the main range, it’s nice to see the Fifth Doctor return with something as entertaining as this. While some people have stated that they don’t care for the Five/Peri/Erimem adventures because they cheapen his sacrifice in The Caves of Androzani (which is a valid point, I admit), I am pleased to see that on their own, they’re standing up quite well so far. There’s not a lot to complain about here, and much to enjoy.

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Next time: I inadvertently had to take a week off from the Main Range, so I am not sure if I’ll get back to it this week or not. If we do, we’ll be listening to Bang-Bang-a-Boom!, featuring the Seventh Doctor and Mel. As well, on Thursday, we’ll wrap up series one of the Fourth Doctor Adventures with The Oseidon Adventure! See you there.

All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this story’s purchase page is linked below.  This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

The Church and the Crown