TOP 50 REVIEWERon 22 March 2016
This is the twenty-fourth story in the Main Range series by Big Finish, first released in 2001. Written by Iain McLaughlin, this story features the Fifth Doctor, played by Peter Davison, travelling with Peri, played by Nicola Bryant. This is, I think, the only BF Main Range story that the writer has provided, but he created the character of Erimem, who appears first in this story, and has written a number of stories featuring Erimem since.
The Tardis suffers a mid-flight fault, and materialises – the Doctor believes they are on Earth, in Egypt, around the year 1400 BC. A young woman on a chariot is being chased across the desert, and the Doctor leaps into action to save her. To his surprise, he finds that she is Erimemushintepem, who is due to be crowned the next Pharaoh of Egypt. As far as the Doctor knows, there is no Pharaoh, or female Pharaoh by the name. What has happened to established history? The Doctor soon finds that there is more of a mystery at the Pharaoh’s court than he had first realised, and sets about putting things right.
I was not particularly impressed with this story. I have heard it once before, and couldn’t really remember anything about it before listening to it again now. And I can see why I didn’t really remember it; I didn’t really find it memorable. It is, of course, perfectly acceptable and even welcomed, in a Doctor Who historical story to have fictional characters created and presented within the historical context of that story. Such stories have been done remarkably well, both in the classic tv series (for example, The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve) and in BF audios (for example, The Marian Conspiracy). But this story, historical in context, felt as though the writer had created the character of Erimem, and then shoehorned her into an historical setting, where she sat, to my mind, very uncomfortably. The character was not well developed, and her role in this story never really felt in any way ‘true’ or ‘real’ to the time and the place. While Erimem was well portrayed by Caroline Morris, the character itself lacked definition and realism.
The idea of the threat that the Doctor must counter in the story is credible, but the way in which he went about it seemed a real cop-out to me. The setting in which he chose to confront the threat again felt like an idea the writer had, which then had to be shoehorned into the story to make it work – there were nods and winks to Doctor Who references with Atlantis, and Elvis (Peri), and it really didn’t work.
Peri and the Doctor were not particularly well written in the story, with Peri referring on several occasions to completely anachronistic things, which she would not really normally do, having travelled with the Doctor sufficiently long to know better than to mess about with time lines. The Doctor apparently regaled Erimem with stories of his struggles against the Daleks, which seems rather unlikely, again given his propensity to not introduce anachronistic elements to historical contexts. The resolution to the cliffhanger at the end of episode two, resolved at the beginning of episode three, seemed quite out of the character for the Doctor.
The supporting characters were again rather cardboard cut-out creations, with the loyal guard captain, the earnest and honest priest, the dishonest and covetous High priest, the brutal mercenary leader (played with manic over-acting by Harry Myers). It all felt a bit by-the-numbers, and the story never really dragged me into it – I didn’t buy it, and the only thing I really think the story is worth, is for the introduction of the recurring character companion, Erimem.
A rather disappointing story, given the exotic location and the opportunities for writing a great tale set in Ancient Egypt.