Another historical by Marc Platt? After the great successes of the Companion Chronicle The Flames of Cadiz and the recent Fourth Doctor story The Devil’s Armada, my expectations of this story were very high, and they were met. While the title might give a clue to at least one of the people involved, this isn’t the “Doctor meets Geoffrey Chaucer and gives him the idea for all of his tales” story that it could easily have become. Instead, this is more of a companion piece to The Crusade, with the same TARDIS team caught between a rock and a hard place, knowing the course that history has to take, but finding it very difficult not to have to alter things to save their own lives.
Richard’s death, his widow Lady Isabella’s behaviour thereafter, and her incarceration at Sonning are all a matter of (sometimes differing) historical records, and Platt has extrapolated a convincing narrative from this, into which the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki are woven. The Epiphany Plot actually happened, and Thomas Arundel’s actions in this story are, if anything, less unpleasant than the man himself!
For the second time in two plays, the Doctor and Barbara are removed from the action for part of the time; while I understand the logic of this – William Russell and Maureen O’Brien are better associated with Ian and Vicki, and the structure of the early serials means that this is less noticeable than it might be in a later story – it does seem to negate the point of “recasting” the parts to create a full-cast audio. The news that Jemma Powell is joining as Barbara should solve this problem!
Ken Bentley has assembled a strong cast as ever; John Banks’ Thomas Arundel is one of the nastier human villains to appear in a Big Finish audio – made all the worse because he genuinely believes he is right, even when lying to his King (something the real Arundel apparently also did to the previous monarch) – while Alice Haig’s Isabella channels the real madness that was part of the French girl’s family heritage. Gareth Armstrong as Chaucer and Joseph Kloska’s Sir Thomas are likewise distinctive, and both Russell and O’Brien give sterling service in their multiple roles. A note of congratulation too to Toby Hrycek-Robinson’s score which uses choral music when appropriate but never to excess.
Verdict: Another success that maintains the standard set by Andrew Smith’s Domain of the Voord. 9/10