Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Kingdom Of Lies

It's a changing of the guard for the first three releases of Big Finish's 2018 Doctor Who main range. Stepping into the first adventure is Peter Davison the Fifth Doctor, reunited with original companions Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka, Sarah Sutton  as Nyssa and Matthew Waterhouse as Adric.

Kingdom of Lies has been written by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky and directed by Barnaby Edwards. It is available for download at the Big Finish site here and goes on general release on February 28th 2018.

Here's the synopsis for Kingdom of Lies...

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…?

As usual, I'll be joined by my son Ben to review this latest release. Spoilers of course if you haven't listened to it yet...

The Review...

Baz Greenland (aged 36)

With a new year, we get another TARDIS team for the next three Doctor Who main range releases for Big Finish, and this time it is the loud, tumultuous and very fun combination of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Adric and Tegan. This audio jumps straight into this new dynamic, with a chaotic opening scene that sees each character shouting over each other as they attempt to fly the TARDIS. It's a nice little reintroduction to this TARDIS team, before they land on Cicero Prime and get caught up in the political shenanigans of the kingdom of Cardenas.

Kingdom of Lies is a very fun story for these characters to stumble into. In the midst of the real world's fascination with the latest upcoming royal wedding and the prying eyes of the media on the inner workings of the Windsor family, writers Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky poke fun as these frenzied fascination. The 'royals', Jonathan Firth's Sebastian, Duke of Cardenas and Charlotte Lucas' Duchess Miranda are obsessed with fame and adoration of the masses. They take this presumed god-like worship of them to extreme levels as they pit themselves against each other in desperate bid to gain greater popularity over each other.

It is not a story that can be taken seriously and nor should it be. Kingdom of Lies is a melodramatic, satirical comedy, full of wonderfully over the top lines and one ludicrous situation after another. Lucas in particular is fantastic in her droll delivery and it hard to see where her love for her husband ends and her hatred-fuelled passion of adoration begins. It rarely feels as if they actually want the other dead; this is a game of popularity that the masses of Cardenas have no idea they are involved in and in which the Doctor and his companions have found themselves trapped.

And if anything, the story is so gradeoise and the characters so colourful, that the main cast do feel a little lost at times. Davison rises to the occasion, attempting to manipulate the duke after he is presumed the hired Scorpion and it was hilarious to see Nyssa 'play' his ruthless assistant, but Adric and Tegan don't make too much of an impact. That being said, the actors are all on fine form and obviously enjoying this Big Finish reunion, even if an adult Matthew Waterhouse is obviously forcing a high pitched tone to recapture the youthful (and yes, still a little irritating) Adric.

There is a lot going on in this story and Khan and Salinsky's script is directed with flair by Barnaby Edwards. Its a rolicking blast from beginning to end, with dramatic cliffhangers and over the top characters - Patsy Kensit's Scorpion in the final part being a particularly ruthless foe. But it is also so tongue in cheek and fun that you can't help but enjoy the pompous buffoonery. Kingdom of Lies is fun, fun, fun and will leave a smile on your face from beginning to end.

Ben Greenland (aged 11)

The first release of 2018, Kingdom of Lies, was superb. At first, I thought a feud between royalty would be dull, but all it took to convince me was the addition of assassins into the storyline.

Peter Davison was the perfect Doctor for a story, a good Doctor playing at being the big bad; it was enjoyable to see him taking on the persona of the Scorpion. It was fun to see the feud unfold gradually, and as it progressed I began to suspect that the ‘loyal advisor’ was the villain. Naturally it was a bit disappointing when the Doctor gave up the act in part three, but I soon understood why it happened then. I think it was important that the real Scorpion did show up, so we could see the extent of the hate between the duke and duchess. I loved the idea of a split palace of colours as well.

It is also the first time I have heard this line up of companions in an audio production. Overall a nice way to start the year and I am looking forward to what Big Finish's main range bring us in 2018.

The Extras...

Between parts two and three we have the Kingdom of Lies Music Suite. Quite often, the scores for Doctor Who Big Finish audios are more incidental, capturing the feel of the period in which the particular Doctor's original stories were set. However, this suite does that and more; creating a sweeping, epic piece of music that feels at times as appropriately melodramatic as the story itself. It's an accomplished track in its own right.

After December's spooky Static, it seems as if we're getting another scarily supernatural tale in Ghost Walk, and the trailer for February's main range release, featuring the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Adric and Tegan once more looks to be a treat.

Finally, this release has the usual high standard of behind the scenes interviews with the cast and crew; there is great enthusiasm form everyone involved, particularly Patsy Kensit's delight at playing the Scorpion, and Charlotte Lucas in her role as Miranda. Sarah Sutton too, seems to relish playing 'bad Nyssa' even if her character's attempts at playing against sort fail spectacularly!

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