“You mean this is the play…they bought out a huge building and turned the whole thing into a stage reflecting London of the 1930’s – royal apartments, servants quarters, even a nightclub. You wander around and explore anywhere you want…for most of it you’re pretty much on your own, so you get all these little interactive encounters to yourself…meanwhile the story goes on around you.
…only in this version, there’s murders.”
The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa arrive in an odd interactive theater performance. But events turn stranger yet when they discover the influence of an extradimensional hive mind, one burning with vengeance…
“You shouldn’t be here. You have to get out, now…leave the theater before it’s too late.”
Another quick vignette done Companion Chronicles style, The King of the Dead comes with a far more claustrophobic feel and weighty atmospherics than evinced in 3/4 of prior installments in the current Short Trips line.*
* last month’s Ghost Trap marked a sudden turn towards the better in this respect.
With hints of a more Pertwee-era orientation in the presence of UNIT operatives herein, relatively new Big Finish author Ian Atkins (previously responsible for two earlier-series Short Trips installments) puts in a good turn here with a tightly scripted bit of business that speaks to filial devotion, loss and the drive to live up to parental expectations while tagging in a more malevolent, sci-fi twist.
Sarah Sutton delivers her usual standard of performance, nailing the mannerisms of the Peter Davison Doctor and even a touch of Janet Fielding’s Tegan in the course of this one woman audiobook-style recitation.
“The man who killed my father…yes, there was a time when I wanted to murder him, so much. But you see, I had to forgive him. Not for what it would do for the murderer…but for what it would do for me.”
Those who’ve lost a parent at a relatively young age can’t help but empathize with our flawed antagonist and his very externalized struggle with some intense emotions and feelings of betrayal by an unjust world. Most of us have lived on and come to some measure of peace with it, if not personal growth therefrom.
And for better or worse, this is the journey Atkins asks the listener to join him in, and the stages of grief and acceptance Nyssa and the ostensible villain of the piece are given to represent.