Historical queens! Oddly enough, while the historical was an essential staple of very early 1960’s Who, and continued to be a feature in quite a few later stories even though the ‘true’ historical went the way of the Dodo (written out halfway through never to be seen again) very quickly, it’s only in New Who that the Celebrity Historical episode has become a true tradition.
Classic Who does have a few gratuitous historical figures, it must be said, and even more are name-dropped by the Doctor in his more grandiose moments, but many of its historicals are more about the time period than the famous faces.
But I wanted to write about Queens in particular, because I’m rather fond of them as a species, and it certainly seems from New Who that they have opinions about the Doctor too… though, spoilers, not as many want to snog him as you may think!
[Spoilers for assorted TV stories and Big Finish plays below, but not for the very recent Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, unless you didn’t want to know that Queen Nefertiti is in it, in which case… oops? It was in the trailer?]
QUEEN: Liz10, “The Beast Below” (2010) and briefly “The Pandorica Opens,” 2010
OF: The Starship UK, somewhere in the distant future of humanity
QUOTABLE QUOTE: “I’m the bloody queen! Basically, I rule.”
The memory-wiped black Cockney queen of a struggling British colony in space, Liz 10 is half action hero, half politician, a woman smart enough to break her brain conditioning over and over, and yet submitting to the selective amnesia every time she gets to the end of the process and is told the horrible truth about her world, by a far more aristocratic version of herself. She’s a complex character, a sharp shooter, and a really great queen. The future is in safe and stylish hands… even if she can’t stop River Song from stealing her favourite painting.
QUEEN: Elizabeth II, “Silver Nemesis” (1988) & Voyage of the Damned (2007)
OF: Great Britain again, pretty much in 1988 and 2007, though I have heard tell she was Queen in other years too.
QUOTABLE QUOTE: The Seventh Doctor: “Act as if you own the place” as a certain familiar figure came around the corner, corgis at her ankle…
Okay, she didn’t do much in either story. Does anyone know if the same Queen impersonator played her both times? In Silver Nemesis she almost catches the Seventh Doctor in a bit of trespassing in the private section of Windsor Castle, and in Voyage of the Damned she is the only Londoner to stay put (well, her and Wilfred Mott) and thus to be in danger from the crashing Titanic. We see her waving and thanking the Tenth Doctor at the end… and according to Liz 10, the two of them had been known to meet for tea and scones. I like to thank that this was the Second Doctor, at least once.
QUEEN: Thalira, “Monster of Peladon” (1974)
OF: Peladon, a planet peopled mostly with miners, unionists and alien ambassadors
QUOTABLE QUOTE: Thalira: “It would be different if I was a man, but I’m only a girl.”
Sarah: “Now just a minute! There’s nothing ‘only’ about being a girl, Your Majesty. Never mind why they made you a queen, the fact is you are the queen, so… just you jolly well let them know it.”
Okay, Thalira isn’t the best example of feminist icon, being rather wet and swamped in a patriarchy even more oppressive than Earth’s 1970’s, but her general hand-wringing and inferiority complex is the beginning of her journey, not the end, and thanks to some serious encouragement by our own Sarah Jane Smith, she has a much firmer grip on politics and her planet by the time the Third Doctor’s TARDIS dematerialises… and he wasn’t the one who taught her the lesson! Ahh, Sarah Jane, spreading feminist ideas across time and space. There’s a reason we loved you.
Can’t you just see her leaving discreet copies of The Female Eunuch in every spaceport and historical manor? “Can we just pop by the French Revolution, Doctor? I’ve got some Marie Stopes pamphlets that I really want to share with the working class mothers about their contraception options…”
QUEEN: Delta, “Delta and the Bannermen” (1987)
OF: the Chimeron, an alien race which produces stunning blonde women and little green men
QUOTABLE QUOTE: “Billy’s just changing.”
Who survives the destruction of her homeworld by carnivorous Bannermen with the last fertile egg of her race, and decides that the best escape plan is to leap on board a space bus of tourists bound for a romp in Earth’s fabulous 1950’s? DELTA, that’s who! Not only that, but while she is highly stressed, hatching a baby in her handbag and about to become a single mother, she still finds time to put on an adorable polka dotted dress and catch the eye of a sweet-singing Welsh boy in a leather jacket.
Race: saved! Job done, all with a Nifty Fifties musical track playing alongside.
QUEEN: Victoria, “Tooth and Claw” (2006) and a few other references here and there.
OF: The British Empire, for most of the 19th century
QUOTABLE QUOTE: Queen Victoria: “The correct form of address is Your Majesty.” [she shoots]
Okay, we get it, Rose. You did not amuse her Majesty! And neither did the werewolf. An exciting adventure across the Scottish highlands with timorous beasties, ninja priests and yes, a stonking great werewolf, inspired her Majesty to knight the Doctor (Rose got to be a Dame of the Powell Estate!) and then banish him from her realm. She founded Torchwood purely because she didn’t trust the Doctor and his sneaky, world saving ways, and managed to infuse such paranoia in them as an organisation that they managed to stay under the radar of UNIT for decades, despite them having a very similar brief. On the other hand, I like to think that she took a personal interest in the hiring of Jack Harkness…
Then of course there was the big reveal at the end of the episode that Queen Vic might possibly have ended up a werewolf herself, no thanks to the Doctor. Oops! There goes the Windsor bloodline…
QUEEN: Elizabeth I, “The Shakespeare Code” (2008) and many other references since.
OF: England during the 16th & early 17th centuries
QUOTABLE QUOTES: The Dream Lord (Amy’s Choice): “Loves a redhead, our naughty Doctor. Has he told you about Elizabeth I? Well, she thought she was the first…”
The Doctor has ducked in and out of Elizabeth’s court almost as often as he visited the Powell Estate. The Sixth Doctor took his professor companion Evelyn along there (eventually), allowing her to experience her academic specialty first-hand, while the Eighth Doctor went with Samson and Gemma, according to Big Finish play “Terror Firma.” But it turned out he had done more than casual visiting when in The Shakespeare Code an elderly Elizabeth I took one look at the Tenth Doctor and declared him her sworn enemy. “Off with his head!”
The plot thickened when Ten confessed to a random Ood that he might very well have married Good Queen Bess and made her rather less of a Virgin Queen… something confirmed more solidly by his own subconscious in Amy’s Choice, though the Eleventh Doctor claimed later to have left her in a glade waiting for him to make his vows. Our old friend Liz 10 certainly believed there was some saucy truth in the rumours, having read her family files. But what went wrong for the happy couple? Did he drive her up the wall moping about Rose like he did to Martha?
QUEEN: Mary I, “The Marian Conspiracy” (Big Finish 2000)
OF: England too! Shortly before her sister Elizabeth, in the 16th century… though in this story her reign was a wee bit longer than intended.
QUOTABLE QUOTES: “This country will be Catholic before my death Doctor and no man will stand in my way. I will wipe the Protestant scourge from every corner of England!”
One of the earliest of the Big Finish plays and still an absolute classic, the Sixth Doctor picks up elderly academic Evelyn Smythe while investigating a time nexus point… and when she learns his next stop is Elizabethan England, her pet subject, she insists on getting to come along. Only, as she realises as she toasts Good Queen Bess in a tavern and it all goes deathly quiet, maybe she doesn’t know as much about this era as she thinks…
Good Queen Mary is on the throne, still, and pregnant. Something is wrong with time. And more to the point, a historical figure who has been vilified in English history and pop culture pretty much since the moment she died, is going to be given a chance to state her case. The Queen Mary of this play is deeply sympathetic and convincing, despite the biases of both the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn, based on what they think they know of her. It’s a lovely example of how history can be twisted in your head simply because you LIKE someone. Also the play is a marvellous introduction to a really good and thoroughly original Doctor Who companion, Evelyn herself.
Boudica, Queen of the Britons in Big Finish play “The Wrath of the Iceni” (2012) who proved herself a worthy hero in Leela’s eyes, but that doesn’t mean that the warrior queen and the savage of the Sevateem would agree on everything…
Galleia, Queen of Atlantis in “The Time Monster” (1972) played by the legendary Ingrid Pitt – Galleia got smoochy with Roger Delgado’s Master in 1500 BCE, and presided over one of the three different depictions of the destruction of Atlantis in Doctor Who.
Erimem (Erimemushinteperem), circa 1400 BCE. When the Fifth Doctor and Peri met her in Big Finish Play “The Eye of the Scorpion,” (2001) Erimem was the not-quite-crowned Pharoah of Egypt, and the Doctor was troubled that he had never heard of her – which rather suggested her life expectancy was slim to none. He found a way around the problem by giving her a lift in the TARDIS. She and Peri had great fun adventuring together, doing each other’s hair, and learning from each other’s very different perspectives on life. Sometimes they let the Doctor even get a word in edgewise. And once she was done with exploring the universe, Erimem found another Queen-related job going begging… on PELADON! I haven’t listened to that one yet, but she’d have to be a better bet than Queen Thalira.
No ‘nothing only about being a girl’ speech needed for our Pharoah, thank you very much!
PS: I thought Nefertiti was awesomesauce too.
[Crossposted at Doctor Her.]