King and Country, the third installment of Cosmic Hobo’s audio drama The Scarifyers, is set in 1937 just before the coronation of George VI. Charlatan, Sir Harry Price, re-awakens ghosts from the English Civil War with terrifying consequences. This cleverly-plotted story features amongst others Oliver Cromwell, Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, the Archbishop of Canterbury and pioneering BBC reporter Leslie Mitchell. The drama is well-paced and very accessible, especially for fans of Doctor Who, drawn in by the prospect of the talents behind the Brigadier, Davros and Sutekh working together.
Nicholas Courtney plays Detective Lionheart with a grumpy detachment, imagine the Brigadier on a bad day. Terry Molloy’s Professor Dunning is as likeable as Davros was contemptible, though at times the character borders on the twee side. Guest star Gabriel “Sutekh” Woolf brings his scary tones to notorious Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins and the wonderfully named Inspector Natterjack. Woolf’s delicate diction gives Hopkins an impressive malevolence.
David Benson who plays Sir Harry Price and a number of supporting roles, rose to fame as arguably, this country’s foremost Kenneth Williams’ sound-alike. Policeman Duff is particularly reminiscent of the late Carry On star. His characterisation of eccentric Professor Penfold seems to have the voice of medieval magician Catweazle as played by Geoffrey Bayldon. Benson’s Oliver Cromwell is perhaps the stand-out performance, by turns funny and refreshingly foul-mouthed.
There is perhaps an over-reliance on eccentrics. A medium with the voice of Lady Bracknell is followed by an accident-prone woman named Ethel Blunder. The latter was part of an idea about a village and its inhabitants cursed by bad luck. Despite this interesting concept, the eccentricity is laboured and the conceit is lost.
The sound design is excellent throughout. The recreation of a pub is particularly effective. It’s a tribute to Cosmic Hobo that they’ve put together such an entertaining product with such high production values. The “making of” bonus material at the end of the second disc emphasizes that many of the characters were based on real people. Whilst disconcerting this only adds to the power of the drama. The premise for the next adventure is a moment to savour for Doctor Who fans of a certain age.