Review: Erimem: 1: The Last Pharaoh

The Last PharaohBy Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett

Thebes Publishing, out now

Pharaoh Erimem finds herself in 21st century London – the target of some rather unsavoury characters…

Erimemushinteperem was one of the first “new” companions introduced to the Big Finish Doctor Who range, joining the Fifth Doctor and Peri for 13 adventures set between Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani (What do you mean, there isn’t a gap there? Of course there is… if you squint a bit) between 2001 and 2008. Her creator Iain McLaughlin co-wrote a prequel novel with Claire Bartlett detailing her life in Egypt before her first audio story, which Big Finish released in 2005, and she turned up in a few short stories as well. Barnaby Edwards penned her final audio, marrying her off to the King of Peladon…

…who is (perhaps not surprisingly) conspicuous by his absence in this first story, which uses the standard “amnesia” trope as introduction so we get the physical description out the way quickly, and her resemblance to a relatively unknown Pharaoh established. She then gets her version of the Eighth Doctor’s dancing round the park when her memory returns, or at least her identity – she doesn’t recall everything about her travels, but the fact that she has flitted around time and space is definitely part of her past. In McLaughlin and Bartlett’s hands, the character is re-established quickly, and you can, should you choose, hear Caroline Morris playing the part easily enough. Erimem’s royal ways and out of synch attitudes to certain activities (killing her enemies etc.) are maintained, and for the majority of the story she’s caught up with three people of around her own age, and one a little older.

The series establishes its own version of time travel quickly, and a large part of the story is spent back in the period of Cleopatra, as Erimem and her friends find themselves embroiled in the politics of the time as well as trying to avoid those who seem intent on capturing the former Pharaoh. It’s a time of battle, murder and sudden death, and no one escapes unscathed to a greater or lesser extent. The period details are sprinkled into the descriptions as required, and the juxtaposition of twenty-first century time travellers is handled well.

There are a few plotlines set up in the novel which are deliberately left in air at the end, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here.

Verdict: A very assured start. 9/10

Paul Simpson

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