Something about this story just feels the slightest bit off. This may be due to the fact that Project: Twilight was such a dark story and The Church and the Crown while not being comedy by any means, it does have a much lighter tone than Scott and Wright’s last efforts to Doctor Who. It could also be due to the fact that there are several moments in this story where it feels like it was meant for the Sixth Doctor. I mean it isn’t completely out of character but the Doctor is called the court jester and he acts much more arrogantly in several actions. It feels like this story was rewritten and well done except for those telltale signs that there was something it was meant to be in an earlier draft of the story that was just never really taken out of the script. I have really no problems with its plot as it is a historical story which I like but it feels almost like The Reign of Terror or The Highlanders, good stories, but nothing with an actual purpose except to explore the time period. Heck it blatantly rips off plot points from Black Orchid which works a lot better here because the characters aren’t used as damsels in distress to move the plot along as the plot is already pretty thick.
The story sees the Doctor and Peri land in France with Erimem during the time of Louis XIV and Cardinal Richelieu. The musketeers and cardinal’s guards are almost at war with each other with duels happening every day in the streets while Queen Ann has arrived and looks just like Peri and the Duke of Buckingham is getting ready to invade all while Louis is holding a masquerade ball. Again see quite a few similarities with Black Orchid especially with Peri being mistaken for the Queen and being captured for portions of the story. This is still the weakest of the aspects of the story, but it is by no means bad. I can only describe it as average and if it wasn’t for the atmosphere of the story along with some fine acting we could be looking at a failure of a story.
The atmosphere however is nothing bad as every second outside the TARDIS, be it down to the music playing in the background or just some of the sound effects just pulls you into the idea that this is France. The masquerade scenes feel like a masquerade and you can imagine the beautiful costuming in this story. Gareth Jenkin’s sound design for exterior scenes sounds like an Enlightenment era score and Russell Stone’s music points this out completely with a lot of strings. Gary Russell is also great at directing the story which I actually quite like unlike his direction in The Sandman which just felt a bit too flat for my tastes.
The acting in this story is also a joy with Nicola Bryant working her hardest as Peri and Queen Ann, switching accents between lines of dialogue and still contributing to the story. Here we flesh out her relationship with Erimem as they can now laugh at each other as they get into all sorts of trouble. Caroline Morris is great as the naïve Erimem. She wants to learn about the universe as she has the world opening her eyes, but she is still a brilliant diplomat as she name drops like hell and gets her and the Doctor in good with Louis who is really just incompetent and pompous. I also have to make note to mention Maurice the beggar who is there for a little bit of comedy, but it is some of the funniest lines that I have heard and it had me in stitches.
To summarize, The Church and the Crown is good, really good, just not great. The plot is a bit thin, but I love all the characters and the acting and atmosphere can really suck you into the idea of being in France during this time. 70/100