She’s the queen’s friend, the cardinal’s enemy, the Duke of Buckingham’s co-conspirator and romantic enabler and oh yes, she has romantic/sexual ties to two of the Three Musketeers. Fair enough that most movies don’t include her in the adaptation since Dumas never let her appear in person in the novel. But she’s SO IMPORTANT.
Ahem. My point is, she’s not commonly found in Musketeer adaptations. So imagine my surprise on relistening to Big Finish’s Doctor Who/Musketeer adventure, “The Church and the Crown,” to discover that this particular story features Chevreuse, but none of the actual named Musketeers from Dumas’ story.
It’s not an adaptation of The Three Musketeers at all, in other words, but a Doctor Who story set in the time period that inspired the book. The main historical characters from Real History™ – King Louis, Queen Anne of Austria, Madame de Chevreuse, the Duke of Buckingham and Cardinal Richelieu – are all in play, but even the real life Musketeers who supposedly inspired our boys: Auteville, Aramitz & Du Vallon, are absent.
The Church and the Crown (Big Finish Main Range 38)
Written By: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Directed By: Gary Russell
There are Musketeers in the story, and they are indeed involved in the traditional duels-and-fisticuffs against the Red Guard, but their names are Rouffet and Delmarre.
Being a Musketeer story but not that Musketeer story does not mean that Dumas’s classic text is ignored – indeed, the script is littered with in-jokes and tidbits that acknowledge that most people’s awareness of this era comes from a single literary source:
1) There’s a tavern called Planchet’s.
2) When Peri casually assumes Richelieu is a villain, the Doctor gives her a lecture on how he was actually one of the best things that happened to Paris, and Dumas “had a lot to answer for” in immortalising the Cardinal as an antagonist. He also notes that Dumas took no notice at all of the Doctor’s notes on his original manuscript…
3) Later on, our actual ‘real life’ Musketeers, Rouffet and Delmarre, make reference to the Matter of the Queen’s Diamonds as a past adventure, noting that all the credit for it went to some Gascon peasant and “those thugs” which suggests that Athos, Aramis, Porthos and D’Artagnan do at least have some existence in this reality.
4) Most of all, there’s the giant Dumas-shaped elephant in the room, which is that the main plot revolves around how Peri (Nicola Bryant), the Doctor’s companion, looks and sounds exactly like the Queen of France (also played by Nicola Bryant).
This is clever in several respects. There’s a long history of casual dopplegangers in Doctor Who, with multiple stories featuring a character (sometimes villain, sometimes not) who happens to look exactly like the Doctor or one of his companions and is played by the same actor for maximum narrative effect. Notably, in The Massacre (1965), the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companion Steven Taylor landed in France in time to witness the Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve (only a generation earlier than the reign of King Louis XIII), and the Doctor turned out to be a dead ringer for the Abbot of Amboise, a Richelieu-style figure.
It’s also clever, of course, because Dumas is well known for the ‘looks exactly like that other fellow’ trope, thanks to the Musketeer sequel story The Man in the Iron Mask.
So if “The Church and the Crown” (2002) doesn’t have Musketeers – or at least, not our Musketeers, then what does it have? Everything else, really. The Doctor, Peri and their new companion (former Egyptian pharaoh) Erimem, get to experience the sights, smells and sounds of 1626 Paris street life as well as the French Court.
Nicola Bryant’s Queen Anne is older and more world-weary than most film versions of the character – taking a leaf out of Catherine Deneuve’s book, which is nice to see. The tensions between Anne and Louis come across strongly, with references to a past affair between the Queen and the Duke of Buckingham which the King cannot forgive. Louis himself is a complex figure – spoiled and childish at times, and constantly feeling he needs to reassert his status. I enjoyed Andrew MacKay’s performance which reminded me a lot of Ryan Gage’s take on the character in the recent BBC series.
Cardinal Richelieu comes across as a more complex character than Dumas or the various media adaptions usually allow for, and I found it particularly interesting that he and Queen Anne are portrayed as closer allies with each other than with the King – the part where Louis imprisons Richelieu and Anne punishes him thoroughly because of the sheer stupidity of his action is very enjoyable, not only because it sets us up for a wonderful scene later in which former-Pharoah Erimem loses her temper and lectures both monarchs on appropriate royal behaviour.
It’s also clear that Buckingham is the viler of the villainous choices, which is far more entertaining than when we are (usually) expected to sympathise with him.
All in all, there’s a lot to like about this Musketeery romp, as a Doctor Who audio play and as a love letter to the era that created The Three Musketeers, even if there is a tragic lack of Athos. As for Chevreuse… well, I didn’t love where the character went, as there was far too much focus on her romantic interest in Buckingham (ugh) than her political machinations. But I did enjoy that there were several scenes with multiple women talking about the plot, not just frocks and feelings.
This Musketeer Media Monday post was brought to you by the paid sponsors of Musketeer Space, all 80+ of them. You guys rule! Previous posts in this series include:
Musketeers in an Exciting Adventure With Airships (2011)
Musketeers Are All For Love (1993)
Looks Good in Leather: BBC Musketeer Edition Part I (2014)
You Can Leave Your Hat On: BBC Musketeer Edition Part II (2014)
It’s Raining Musketeers: BBC Musketeer Edition Part III (2014)
Mickey Mouse the Musketeer (2004)
Musketeers Crack Me Up Seventies Style (1973)
Musketeer in Pink (2009)
Musketeers Break My Heart Seventies Style (1974)
Musketeers in Technicolor (1948)
Musketeer on Mars (2008, 2012)
Bat’Magnan and the Mean Musketeers (2001)
Russian Musketeers Own My Soul (1979)
All the Musketeer Ladies (2015)
K-Drama Musketeers Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (2014)
Dogtanian’s War on Moustaches (1981)