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Recap / Big Finish Doctor Who 081 The Kingmaker

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Peri and Erimem attend the first performance of William Shakespeare's Richard III in the 16th century, where the bad acting and the even worse audience make Erimem feel like a real Fish out of Water. She also breaks a man's arm for trying to touch her bum, earning her a bit of a What the Hell, Hero? from Peri. Meanwhile, the Fifth Doctor goes off to a have a few stern words with Shakespeare about artistic liberties taken. Well, actually, a few beers. Well, more than a few. Then a giant robot appears in the TARDIS. Still somewhat tipsy, he explains to his companions that in the far future, all publishing corporations will have been taken over by a single big one. With a tendency of sending giant laser robots through time and space to remind authors throughout history of missed deadlines and contracts that were never honored. Since the Fourth Doctor rather accidentally committed to writing a series of historical kids' books (it was that or a novelty cookbook), Five finds himself with a serious lack of actual knowledge on why Richard III murdered everyone around him, and Shakespeare isn't exactly the most reliable source he can find. So, he vworps the TARDIS over to 1485 to see what actually happened.


While the Doctor strides into the 15th century, Peri and Erimem dive into the TARDIS wardrobe to actually change clothes for the occasion, and get stranded in 1483 instead. The TARDIS promptly vworps off. After a few days, they finally make it to the London pub where the Doctor agreed to meet them, and manage to communicate with him in 1485 through a very convoluted series of letters (and a bit of help from the Ninth Doctor). Unfortunately, the pub's owner — Clarrie — tells Five that the two young wenches spent six months working at his filthy hole of a pub (before he had to fire them to give his two nieces a job instead). Even more unfortunately, he has no idea what happened to them after that. And unfortunately for him, as soon as the 1483 version of him offers them said job (after he hears them talking about it when they read the letter stating it) and starts to lech on Erimem, she breaks his arm on the spot.


Through a series of flashbacks, Peri and Erimem consider what they went through before ending up at the pub: they rescued a teenaged boy and discovered he was one of the princes who should have been murdered by Richard III, according to history. More worryingly, the boy was obviously a robot — a bit of him even came off in Peri's hands. And on top of that, Richard III, who was not in the mood for any nonsense, had hired a mysterious time-travelling advisor named Mr. Seyton. Apart from being really very Obviously Evil, Seyton is dressed in all black and has a pointy beard and a TARDIS and a copy of Shakespeare's Richard III, so Peri has a pretty decent idea of just who he is.

When the Fifth Doctor and Richard III eventually meet in 1485, Richard wearily explains that he's sick and tired of time travellers by now. Little blue men and assorted other time/space tourists have been visiting him since he was 12, and constantly ask him why he killed his nephews. He's also perfectly aware that he'll die a very gruesome death on the battlefield someday, and has simply resigned himself to that fate. He knows full well who the Doctor is (little blue men have a tendency of mentioning him and cowering in fear), and isn't impressed at all by seeing him in person. He does lead the Doctor to the place where his two nephews are being kept. Even though they shouldn't be alive at all in 1485. For the past year and a half, they've been kept mostly hidden and heavily guarded... and have been played by Peri and Erimem, who were forced into a life as prisoners ever since Clarrie fired them. Erimem has become suicidal in the meantime. No, just kidding! They're fine. Both are delighted to finally be reunited with the Doctor, and Peri explains that Mr. Seyton is the Master.

Except he's not.

As it turns out, William Shakespeare was quite horrified by what the Doctor told him — how his incomplete history of Richard III's massacre would eventually cast doubt on his royal family and blacken the name of the relatives of Queen Elisabeth, his most beloved patron. So he got the Doctor supremely drunk on ginger beer, snuck into the TARDIS, befriended Richard III in 1483 and attempted to change history despite all the Doctor's warnings. He's promptly shot in the leg with his own ray-gun (pilfered from the TARDIS). Richard III explains that no, he didn't murder anyone at all, and he wasn't planning to. He just re-located the people he was supposed to get rid of. The Duke of Clarence was given a filthy tavern where he could quietly drink himself to death as "Clarrie". And the two boys... were never two boys to begin with, but girls, who now live undercover as tavern wenches. Which is why Peri and Erimem, accidental witnesses who also needed to be hidden away, were the perfect candidates to impersonate them. (The "robot" bit that fell off? A codpiece.)

Shakespeare is deposited in the middle of the first performance of Richard III. The real Richard III is really fucking annoyed when he sees the caricature of a cripple he'll become in fiction, and decides to murder Shakespeare on the spot. The Doctor tricks Shakespeare into mistaking an electric toothbrush for a Sontaran gun, and Peri tricks Erimem into breaking Shakespeare's arm, after which the publishing robot has a thing or two to discuss with Shakespeare about missed deadlines and neglected contracts. Richard III had kindly requested the Doctor to drop him off on the battlefield of Battle of Bosworth Field, so he could finally end his life and just get it all over with, and Shakespeare rushes out of the TARDIS into said battlefield — half-crippled, with a broken arm and chased by a giant laser robot — where he gets mistaken for Richard III and promptly dies a very undignified death.

In the aftermath, the Doctor gives Richard III (who's luckily had a good education) a few pointers on how to be a playwright, wishes the two nieces a long and happy life as "Shakespeare's daughters", and explains that the TARDIS's random teleportation was an unfortunate psychic side-effect of him having been drugged with ginger beer. (Put less eloquently, she had the hiccups.) The Doctor is glad the whole thing is finally over with. All's well that ends well, except Erimem admits that her suicidal moment was really not a joke after all — and she's horrified at having pretended to Peri that she was fine.


  • Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: The robot that confronts the Doctor, complete with Robo Speak.
  • The Alcoholic: Clarrie, George, duke of Clarence. Counts as Historical In-Joke, see below.
  • Anachronic Order: Big time. The majority of the story not only takes place in two different time periods (1483 and 1485), meaning that the plot jumps back and forth between the two years, but large portions of the story are told via flashback.
  • Anachronism Stew: Shakespeare with ray guns!
  • Apologetic Attacker
  • Artistic Licence – History/Dated History: Richard's portrayal is, for dramatic reasons, closer to Shakespeare's black-haired hunchback than real life. And since the story predated the discovery of the real Richard's body by six years, some elements like the extent of his scoliosis have been contradicted.
  • Author Appeal: Author Nev Fountain is the boyfriend of Nicola Bryant, who plays Peri.
  • Badass Normal: Erimem, who's quite capable of breaking a grown man's arm instantly.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Erimem's a bit miffed at times not to have her royal torturers around to protect her. So she does the job herself. Frequently and without hesitation.
  • Black Comedy: The episode's atmosphere is extremely similar to Blackadder.
  • Buffy Speak: "Large shiny man" refers to a robot.
  • Call-Back: The Fast Return Switch, uh, returns. It seems to be a Big Finish favourite.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Shakespeare says the Doctor can't handle his.
    • ...but subverted (as noted above). It's not that the Doctor has a problem with alcohol: he has a problem with the ginger ale that Shakespeare spiked his (alcoholic) ale with.
  • Catchphrase: The Fifth Doctor's "Brave heart" in written form.
  • Celebrity Impersonator: Jon Culshaw provides the Fourth Doctor's voice when the Fifth plays back some notes he recorded for himself while researching the book he was supposed to have written. Stephen Beckett plays Richard with a voice and accent that sounds very similar to Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor.
  • Changed My Jumper: The Doctor, as per usual.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Richard III is a bit of a dick, sure, but at one point when he starts inducing Cold-Blooded Torture, we all know the Foregone Conclusion.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Erimem's habit of breaking men's arms when they touch her bum.
  • Clarke's Third Law
  • Close-Enough Timeline: Lampshaded throughout the episode, and eventually played straight as Richard III and Bill Shakespeare trade places forever.
  • Continuity Nod: The Doctor explains that his time with UNIT accidentally made him a bit famous in some circles. It might have started around the time the Loch Ness Monster swam up the Thames.
  • Continuity Snarl: Shakespeare appears a few more times in Doctor Who stories set after this where he's clearly not actually Richard but the real deal, most obviously in "The Shakespeare Code". Let's just say Will got swapped back in at some stage in between.
  • Designated Villain: In-Universe, Richard's not too pleased with history depicting him as a murderous tyrant (especially after Shakespeare's play Richard III) so he decides to Screw Destiny and not have anyone put to death if their deaths were attributed to him.)
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The Fourth Doctor (temporarily played by John Culshaw) makes a small appearance in this story, predating his first full appearance by 6 years.
  • Evil Uncle: Played with by Richard. He knows that history knows him as this, but it turns out he deposed his nephews after finding out they were nieces to avoid chaos and hid them at a tavern.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Shakespeare notices the supposed "serving wenches" haven't brought any food. They claim they're starving the prisoners and he lets them go.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Richard is very much the responsible sibling to Edward and George.
  • Genre Shift: As an experiment in style, the episode isn't written like Doctor Who at all, but instead like a Brit Com. It worked, and managed to become one of the most popular episodes in the entire Big Finish canon.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Deliberately invoked for laughs when Buckingham notes if he was accused of being a warlock, before he knew it he'd be knee-deep in faggots. He of course means he'd be burned at the stake, not that being a warlock is pretty sexy.
  • Historical Domain Character: Richard III, Earl Rivers, William Shakespeare, James Tyrell.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • The Doctor encourages Richard III as the new Shakespeare to write Henry IV (the next one "due") and memorialise his brother George Clarence the way he remembers the real man... essentially as Falstaff.
    • Clarry, aka Clarence being a drunk. Popular culture claims he was drowned in Malmsey wine. Apparently, in reality he had a reputation for drinking heavily.
    • Marcus Hutton plays the Duke of Buckingham, just like he did in "The Church And The Crown"... and the joke seems to be that not only are they not the same Duke of Buckingham, they're not even related, but end up identical strangers.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Played for Drama - Richard's spent his entire life finding time travellers coming to see the great, evil Richard III, and he wonders if he can ever do anything to avoid the role he seems irrevocably destined for.
  • I Am Spartacus
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Peri mentions that the tape the Doctor made, done by the Fourth Doctor (as played by Jon Culshaw), the Doctor says tapes always makes one's voice wonky.
  • Lighter and Softer: The story borders on Panto... apart from the bit where Erimem admits she really was nearly Driven to Suicide.
    • For all the ridiculousness of his plight, Richard III seems legitimately tortured by being universally pegged as a monster decades before he had the opportunity to do any of the horrible things he's supposed to have done. Amidst all the comedic romping about, the production treats his anguish as real and heartbreaking.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Richard III.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Richard III laments that his staff didn't understand him, and just released Mr. Seyton.
  • Mega-Corp: In the future, there are robots that travel back in time in the name of a Mega-Corp to enforce writers to keep writing according to their Mega-Corp contract. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Mistaken Identity: Peri mistakes William Shakespeare for The Master, and it's clear the listener is meant to do the same, given how he's described by others.
  • Mood Whiplash: Most of the serial is a very funny comedy. But then the scenes come along where Richard and the Doctor debate the nature of predestination and the morality of the Doctor's attempts to preserve the known history where Richard kills his entire family and dies pathetically.
  • Mythology Gag: At one time, Richard (who's played similarly to the Ninth Doctor already) let's out a very Ninth Doctorish "Fantastic!". Before the story, a letter from the Fifth Doctor is dropped off in advance of Peri and Erimem by a "Northern chap with big ears."
    • Peri is extremely amused that the robot refers to the Doctor as "Doctor Who". He explains that his novels' titles were supposed to start with "The Doctor, Who..." but lazy publishers misread it. The Doctor Who Target books traditionally have titles that start with "Doctor Who and...", which this episode gleefully makes fun of. Five also mentions that it was educational fiction (as Doctor Who was originally envisioned) or a novelty cookbook — an actual Doctor Who novelty cookbook exists.
      • The Doctor Who Discovers books are real, and the titles mentioned in the story were actually published in 1977-78. The Historical Mysteries title was created for this story, though: there were three other installments planned (The Miners, Inventors, and Pirates) but cancelled due to low sales.
    • One of the soldiers describing the king's death quotes Brotodac from "Meglos", of all stories.
    • And the publisher robot says at one point "Contract has been made", a reference to the Swarm in "The Invisible Enemy".
    • One of the nicknamed pub-goers is named "Pleasant, open-faced Pete." Peter Davison's Doctor was often described as having a "pleasant open face" in classic novelizations.
  • Named After the Injury: The publican that the Doctor consults for information on the missing Peri and Erimem is known only as "One-Armed Clarrie," despite being in possession of two working arms. Turns out that Clarrie made the mistake of grabbing Erimem's backside back when they first met, prompting her to break his arm; even now that Clarrie has fully recovered, the nickname is too popular to get rid of.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: For added effect, Richard says "The ball is in the Doctor's court", and Peri and Erimem are playing tennis.
  • Oop North: Richard III, among others.
  • The Other Darrin: Famous impersonator Jon Culshaw does the voice for the Fourth Doctor's recorded notes on Richard III.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: Peri finds a disclaimer scroll stuck to a wall saying all the characters depicted in Richard III are fictional, etc. and is quite confused.
  • Punny Name: A double dose. Shakespeare uses the pseudonym "Mr. Seyton" when advising Richard III. The name is taken from Macbeth, so it's a Shout-Out to Shakespeare. It also sounds like "Satan" when spoken, leading to the impression that the meddlesome traveler who stole the TARDIS and is attempting to influence Richard is named "Mr. Satan".
  • Red Herring: Mr. Seyton isn't the Master, despite what Peri says.
  • Running Gag: Erimem breaking arms. Also a cross-media example when Shakespeare exclaims "What the Chaucer?!", following on from the TV series' gag of Dickens saying "What the Shakespeare?!" as a substitute for the phrase "What the Dickens?"
  • Screw Destiny: Richard III has known since childhood that he's destined to became one of history's most infamous monsters... and he absolutely refuses to live down to that expectation, in particular railing against the people (Shakespeare and the Doctor) who would impose that role on him.
  • Sequelitis: In-Universe lampshade done by Peri, about how "Richard VI" wasn't as good as the previous ones.
  • Shakespeare in Fiction: Starts off the episode getting blind drunk with the Doctor, and subsequently turns out to be the Big Bad before dying a very undignified death.
  • Shout-Out: To Back to the Future with Write Back to the Future.
  • Spoiler: Peri provides some, for the theatre folk.
  • Spy Speak: Lamp Shaded.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Peri and Erimem are forced to impersonate the princes. For a year and a half. Because the princes are actually princesses.
  • The Slow Path: Peri and Erimem spend two years in the 15th century.
  • Stable Time Loop: The remark of the Fifth Doctor in a letter from the future suggesting Peri and Erimem were fine waitresses in The Kingmaker pub makes them ask for any potential vacancies.
    • That, and Richard III's portrayal in Shakespearian times is because how pathetic Shakespeare dies, with a hump, and a limp arm.
  • Suppressed Mammaries: Peri mentions having to do this when doubling as a one of the princes.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Peri and Erimem communicate with two different Doctors through a series of letters, in a rather hilarious sequence spanning two years and involving a missing TARDIS. The Doctor's letter starting with "Dear Peri and Erimem. Oh dear." gives them a hell of an Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Title Drop: The robot refers to the Doctor as Doctor Who.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: A good audio adventure which emphasizes the differences between Peri and Erimem.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Shakespeare being chased by a man with a sword.
  • Write Back to the Future: Then write back to the past, have your future self deliver it to the past and immediately get handed a reply from your friends who wrote back to the future again. Twice.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Peri and Erimem get a letter delivered from a Northern chap with big ears.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: With a dash of Tricked Out Time. Everything appears to happen as it's always remembered. Richard will go down in history as a villain until proper historians start rehabilitating his image four hundred years later. But nearly all his evil acts have been successfully cheated, and Richard gets to enjoy a retirement as...
  • You Will Be Beethoven: William Shakespeare! While Shakespeare gets to take over for Richard on Bosworth Field. Ouch.