Released May 2016
The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume One wraps up with James Goss’s ‘Death and the Queen,’ providing easily the most creatively satisfying and unique story of the three. In the late 1700s, Goritanian Prince Rudolph has asked Donna to marry him. Though knowledge of the television series precludes the fairy tale from actually unfolding as Donna hopes, the Doctor is instantly intrigued by the fact that he has not heard of Goritania, a land that has supposedly enjoyed 500 years of uninterrupted peace and that proudly displays a flag with small print that even the Doctor can’t translate as a testament to that fact.
Of course, being Doctor Who and knowing Donna’s past troubles with marriages, these quickly take an expectedly unexpected turn for the worse. Goritania is soon surrounded by a dark cloud that completely prevents anyone from getting into or out of the kingdom. Having been at peace for so long, the meager army members that the prince commands are left to ineffectively shoot arrows at the cloud, gaining admiration from the Queen mother- even as she cannot stand to actually watch the slaughter- but accomplishing nothing but quickly meeting their end. The visual of ominous death is helped by the presence of skeleton creatures standing guard as well.
With Donna in line to become queen, she gets some standout scenes to prominently display what a worthy and compassionate leader she could be in normal circumstances, ushering everyone from the kingdom into the castle and to safety while also pleading with her prince not to send his army to its certain death. And though it should come as no surprise that Prince Rudolph isn’t as genuinely nice as he first seems, the actual revelation at the heart of the story is quite shockingly cold, and Blake Ritson does an admirable job in portraying such extremes in one character as the story progresses. Beth Chalmers as Rudolph’s maid Hortense also deserves praise as yet another strong would-be companion in this set.
The actual wedding between Donna and Rudolph is actually quite rushed and awkward, though it makes sense given the more important issues the story has to handle. Fortunately, it does take the time to slow down for some very poignant character-driven moments, notably with the Doctor admitting to Donna that he’s not ready for her to leave even though he knows that everyone must leave him at some point. Even with making Donna so focally prominent in this story, Goss still also manages to give the Doctor a grand speech to Death itself after he finally discovers the bitter truth behind Goritania and its peace. The actual conclusion is bit off-kilter and bizarre, but it serves its purpose and ends events on a rather neutral note after such shock and despair earlier in the tale.
‘Death and the Queen’ is another story that perfectly blends humour and drama together and fits in perfectly with the tone of Tennant and Tate’s time together on screen. The story actually delves into some rather dark and bleak territory, both in terms of plot developments and even the Doctor when he secretly admits that some people almost aren’t worth saving, but the unique spin on conventions, strong direction and sound design, as well as some stellar cast interactions make this an incredibly satisfying conclusion to Big Finish’s first foray into full-cast modern Doctor Who adventures.