23 May 2016

Audio Review: Doctor Who - Death and the Queen

Words by Ryan Wigley

So here we are, a week after the release of Big Finish’s highly anticipated reunion of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble. They’re widely known as one of the definitive TARDIS teams to grace our beloved show and, quite frankly, they’re *my* TARDIS team. So how do the three new stories stack up? Do Tennant and Tate still have it? Is it Saturday evening in 2008 once more? Allons-y!

The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume 1 | Part 3: Death and the Queen

“Right, just popping outside for a minute with my mate Rudy here. Donna - don’t marry anyone! Death - don’t eat Donna!”

Finishing off this introductory trilogy is James Goss’ Death and the Queen. As we all know from the events of The Runaway Bride and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Donna has never really been lucky in love. That is until Prince Rudolph of Goritania comes along. The prince sweeps Donna off her feet and soon proposes to her, to which Ms Noble gleefully accepts. On the wedding day itself, Queen Donna finds her castle under siege by Death himself and his skeleton army. Soon everything becomes clear and the Doctor can’t do anything about it...

The story begins in a pleasantly unconventional way, told through a series of flashbacks between the two leads. The Doctor states something that happens, Donna replies and then we see the true events occur. It’s a lot of fun and very well executed way of experimenting with the story structure. It’s a great example of Big Finish showing what they are capable of, particularly to new listeners.

As you may have guessed, this story gives Catherine Tate a proper chance to shine as Donna Noble, emphasising the caring and compassionate qualities of her character, but showcasing everything we love about Donna. Donna puts up with the stereotypical fairytale wicked stepmother (even worse than her own!), is kind to her maids and teaches them important literacy skills and is eventually the one who figures out how to defeat Death and his skeleton army. It really does showcase how far Donna has come since The Runaway Bride as this is probably only just over halfway through her tenure as companion, with this trilogy being set between The Unicorn and the Wasp and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. Throughout, Donna is concerned for her people and vows to protect them, always them before herself. This changed Donna realises what she must do and what she must give up in order to save the day and carry on with her travels with the Doctor. It’s an excellent character piece.

It’s an absolutely lovely story. It’s completely mad and out there, but Goss knows this and gets Tennant and Tate to point it out as their characters, with some wonderfully dry and deadpan humour. Death and the Queen is funny, it’s touching and absolutely everyone shines in this, the obvious highlight being Catherine Tate.

The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume 1 Overview

Big Finish have set a very high standard with this set. They have produced three high quality stories that are completely different from one another, yet still form a brilliant trilogy that also perfectly slots into the 2008 series it’s replicating. The Doctor and Donna team are beloved, but have always been short changed with expanded universe content, so it’s brilliant to get three new stories (and a linked novel!) from them recently, particularly to hear David Tennant and Catherine Tate reprise their roles so effortlessly. The whole trilogy of adventures has been a joy to listen to and I cannot wait for the inevitable second volume, whenever that may be.

I’d also like to congratulate Big Finish, artist Tom Webster, photographer Tony Whitmore and designer Mark Plastow on the top quality limited edition book. I own a few of these limited edition packages from Big Finish now, but this one is easily the best they’ve done. There’s a real glossy and consistent look about the package, with a fair share of artwork, photographs and notes from the cast and crew. It really is something to cherish.


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