Death And The Queen

Doctor WhoIt’s Donna Noble’s luckiest day. A seemingly uneventful stop along the French Riviera puts Donna in the path of a foreign prince, and it seems – at least for a while – that she’s found true love. The sitting Queen is less than impressed with Donna, but grudgingly tolerates her. Neither the Queen nor the future Queen-to-be are overjoyed when the Doctor comes to call on Donna’s wedding day, but a wayward time traveler suddenly seems like less of a problem when a cloud appears outside the castle, declaring in a booming voice that death has come to the kingdom. Prince Rudolph sends his men into battle, and into the maw of certain death, and suddenly his future bride is uncertain about their future together…especially when she learns that becoming engaged to the Prince means being married to Death itself. Once again, Donna’s life depends on the Doctor ruining her wedding day…

written by James Goss
directed by Nicholas Briggs
music by Howard Carter

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna), Blake Ritson (Rudolph), Alice Krige (Queen Mum), Beth Chalmers (Hortense), Alan Cox (Death)

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: The best stories from Donna’s solitary season with the tenth Doctor on television were those that elevated her, taking a character that everyone (including her own mother) though of as unextraordinary – or, perhaps, extremely, extremely ordinary – and pointing out that she had more to bring to the table than anyone thought. And the most heartbreaking stories from Donna’s brief tenure were those that seemed to put love on a plate before her and then snatched it away (I’m looking at you, Forest Of The Dead). Death And The Queen does both, but in sharp contrast to The Runaway Bride, this is a story that shows Donna capable of independence (even from the Doctor himself) and capable of adapting to a fast-changing situation, even in matters of the heart.

The cast here is fun, with Alice Krige – whose primary genre credit seems to be that of Star Trek’s Borg Queen, a role she has played precisely twice – providing a deliciously acidic Queen to root against. The Doctor’s remark to here that, every so often in his travels, he runs across someone who isn’t worth saving, is well-earned by the Queen. The same could apply equally to Prince Rudolph, probably a decent fellow deep down, who has been beaten down until he’s little more than a spineless male version of his mother. That the end of the story leaves the Prince and Queen stuck with each other, in a country that may be moments away from throwing them both into whatever happens to be that nation’s equivalent of the Tower of London, is satisfying on so many levels.

Catherine Tate owns this story; Tennant is almost reduced to the second banana here. Donna is subjected to a wide gamut of emotions here and, just as she did on TV, Tate proves that she can handle that range without breaking a sweat. As the Doctor and Donna barely squeak out of yet another crisis with their skins intact, Donna reminds him that she’s still “your highness”. Considering how central (and how magnificent) she is in this story, you bet she is. The concluding chapter of this inaugural trilogy of tenth Doctor adventures with Big Finish proves that all of the Doctors can life forever in audio form (everybody lives!), that the writers are fully capable of evoking the ethos of Russell T. Davies’ era…and proves that I really miss this era of the series. I suspect I’m not the only one.