Big Finish: The Worlds of Doctor Who THE LONE CENTURION Vol 2: CAMELOT Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: The Worlds of Doctor Who THE LONE CENTURION Vol 2: CAMELOT Review

Sir Tony joins the Knights of the Round Table.
Few series at Big Finish are played quite as fundamentally for laughs as The Lone Centurion. Telling the adventures of Rory Williams during his time guarding the Pandorica with Amy Pond inside, while he himself is a plastic Auton duplicate, immune to most things, with the notable exception of fire, the series both takes up a couple of thousand years of human history and is inserted within the scope of an episode of the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures. Because wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, that’s why – and yes, we apologise to those who thought they’d left that phrase behind forever.

The first set of Lone Centurion adventures took Rory’s disguise at face value and pitched him into Roman history, in a kind of ‘pocket of imperial time’ lost to established history, where he went from a usually short-lived career as a gladiator, to become an unusually unkillable assassin, and ultimately rose to the imperial laurels himself for a little while.

The second set takes us on a while, to the next obvious location in mytho-history where he might logically be assumed to be – Camelot. King Arthur, Merlin, knights, quests, sorcerors, all that gubbins. Perfect for a plastic man with a magic box, no?

Absolutely, yes.

Before we start, it’s worth pointing out to the Doctor Who purists that this is standard Earth Camelot, not Ben Aaronovitch, Morgaine, Battlefield Camelot. That’s pretty much always been established as a Camelot from a dimension or two to the side. For these audio adventures, think Monty Python, rather than Ben Aaronovitch, and don’t @ us.

When we join Rory in this set, in The Once And Future Nurse by Alfie Shore, he’s a lowly apprentice to one of Camelot’s lesser-known figures, the physician, Malthus (Barnaby Edwards) – and Merlin (Richard Clifford) is, perhaps thankfully, out of town. When Sir Actual Pigging Lancelot (Hugh Skinner) is wounded on a quest by an indeterminate number of wyvern (which number strongly includes a zero), it’s as much as Rory can do to save him, both from the wound and from Malthus’ almost monomaniac obsession with amputating the feckless knight’s leg – or legs.

When Merlin returns, it should be no surprise to anyone that he knows about the Pandorica and its guardian, and factions spring up. Merlin believes Rory is the Lone Centurion, and is prepared to torture him to learn its secrets. Meanwhile, an unfortunate love…erm…quadrangle has sprung up. While Arthur (Sam Stafford) is, if we’re honest, a bit of a numpty, Guinevere (Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo) is both the power behind the throne, and emotionally caught between two men – the one to whom she’s married in law, and the one to whom her heart belongs – Your Actual Sir Lancelot.

Unnnfortunately, Lancelot has a heavy and fairly unshakeable crush on someone else – the new medic in town who saved his legs, our own, our very own, Rory Williams (Arthur Darville). Who in turn, of course, loves only the girl in the box, his own, his very own Amy Pond.


But it does mean that while Rory’s faking his paingasms on the rack, under the ministrations of the castle’s torturer – nice guy, very solicitous – there are friends and allies prepared to put his case, and when Rory finds himself doing The Bravery Thing again, he’s seen as a good and protective presence in Camelot. Even Merlin, slightly outmanoeuvred and prepared to play the longer game, adds his voice to the elevation of Rory the servant into Sir Rory – Knight of the Round Table!

As an opener, Alfie Shore’s tale gives us lots of what we knew we wanted from Rory in Camelot, plus a bunch of extra nods and winks that just sprinkle the whole story with comedy – both character-based and situational. It’s a story that bounces along, touching everything from the likelihood of knights to embellish their adventures, and the even greater likelihood of crowds to inflate their deeds even further, to torture as a service industry like any other, and gracing it all with the consistent tone of pure… erm… Roryness that sets this range apart.

The Glowing Warrior, by Tim Foley, is an actual Arthurian quest. If you’ve ever read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, you’ll probably get an extra hoot out of this one, but the fact is, it reeeeally should have been called CSI: Camelot – and no, that’s not us being flippant, that’s one of the gems from inside the story.

In fairness, CSI: Camelot is how the tale starts – a green warrior turns up in the banqueting hall, mutters some enigmatic words, and then collapses, dead as a garden gnome. No, we’re not in Ice Warrior invasion territory here, he’s glowing green because he’s had some horrifying and deadly chemistry applied to him. As the noblest physician to hand, it’s Rory who starts the investigation into his death, being unsatisfied with the prevailing idea that he just died… of death.

When it emerges that he has a map in his boot and that his urine tastes of lead (don’t ask, it was a different age), one thing becomes clear – the messenger could have been sent as a threat, which means a fearless knight is needed to go a-questing, to find the sender of the message and defeat them in single combat if necessary or even vaguely possible.

While Rory has business at home in Camelot – namely protecting the Pandorica from Merlin’s sticky fingers, Arthur and his knights are all agreed. He made the quest his own by his initial investigation, it is his to see through to the end.

Lancelot commits to acting as Rory’s squire on the quest, and together they rescue a passive aggressive noblewoman who tells them of a mysterious bunch of medieval gits called The Order Of The Green Fire. They’re the ones who sent the chemically impregnated warrior to Camelot, as well as imprisoning the Lady Lynn (played with a glorious absence of awe by Rosie Baker, of whom, more please, Big Finish bosses!).

The three go questing on, picking up possibly history’s most useless minstrel, Beau (Harley Viveash), along the way, and together they face perils like… erm… Boggy Ground! *Gasp!* Nipple-Poppingly Cold Water! *Gulp* The Medieval Riddler! *Wait, What?* The Entirely Too Flammable Door! *Now You’re Just Being Silly!*

All of which, as Rory rightly points out, are a bit… naff. But then of course, there is the Green Dragon to contend with.

So that’s alright. Proper questy stuff, a green dragon. Lancelot, naturally is delighted.

What’s really going on is both appallingly logical and relatively pedestrian, and Rory is frankly bloomin’ furious when he finally works it out. Not furious enough to ignore his nursing training and fail to heal even a laughing loon who (to quote Terry Pratchett) probably thinks in exclamation-marks. But quite furious enough to be certain that when he gets back to Camelot, his most important job, top of his To-Do List, is to kill that meddling wizard!

The Glowing Warrior is pure green joy from start to finish – the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is gloriously plundered, conventions subverted for unrestrained comedy, and Rory is allowed to be entirely Rory, while also doing his best as a Knight of the Round Table on a quest designed to be pointless, but which actually helps someone suffering from poisoning, and reunites a family. Of the three, it’s the freest to just have as much Camelot-coloured fun as humanly imaginable, having neither to set the tone of the world nor bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Tim Foley plays in the medieval hay here, and the result is that you’ll laugh your stinky questing socks off while you listen to it. If you’re not lucky enough to have stinky questing socks of your own, talk to Lancelot, he’s dishing them out as Christmas gifts in this story. Seriously, The Glowing Warrior is the gift that keeps on giving.

You remember we said that in episode 3 of the first box set of Lone Centurion stories, Rory was made Emperor of Rome?

Yyyyeah, it’s as well to keep that in mind in the third instalment of Camelot, The Last King Of Camelot, by Kate Thorman. Because when Rory gets back to Camelot, determined to deal with Merlin once and for all… things are not what they have been. Zombified soldiers, intoning their loyalty to the ‘one true king’ weren’t there before, for one thing. Arthur, Guinevere and the Round Tablers have been ousted by the meddlesome wizard and his dark arts. So Camelot is at war with itself, and Rory finds himself caught up on the front line.

Ironically, he finds is easier to perform triage on an army – getting the troops in line, ordering their attack, and even battling a wizard himself, than it is getting Arthur to allow him near a royal wound.

We won’t spoil the ins and outs of this one for you, but by the end of the episode, Rory and his Pandorica are on the move again, because Camelot has changed absolutely. Changed for the better, almost undoubtedly, although Merlin disappears in a way that suggests there could be more for Rory to do in this time period.

Rory’s parting from Lancelot is a tender moment, for all the nice-but-dim knight still hopes his love for Rory may be reciprocated. But no, explains Rory. His heart belongs to the mysterious Lady of the Box.

And so it does, then, now, and always.

The second set of Lone Centurion tales takes the essential comedic energy of the first set and amps it up so that there’s a slightly different flavour to the romping this time round, but stays true to the ethos of the Lone Centurion’s journey.

The thing about that journey is that it has a tightrope to walk – it can’t be overly earnest, because Rory when Amy eventually emerges from the Pandorica still has to BE Rory – the Rory she loves, modern, and practical, and silly, and fun. But along the way, he also has to undergo the change that he explained to the Doctor – he has to learn how to be human, rather than to be an Auton duplicate just going through the motions. That means there has to be emotional connection to people, there has to be character development along the way, while Rory still remains fundamentally Rory.

That’s a thing the second set achieves in spades. If you like Rory – and who doesn’t? – you’ll thrill here at quite how much the essential character shines through the setting. When Lancelot is trying to tell him how he feels about him, for instance, all talk of a loss of focus, of his burning heart, and so on, Rory interprets it as a set of medical symptoms – he’s so locked into nurse mode at that point, determined to keep as many people alive and whole as possible that he misses what should be blindingly obvious. This is Rory, Lone Centurion, Rory, Knight of the Round Table, sure – and in the second of the three stories, he proves himself with a noble quest, destined to go down in literary history. But more than anything, it’s Rory Williams, Nurse of Leadworth, betrothed and beloved of Amy Pond, for whom he’s waiting, and for whom no sacrifice is too much.

That’s a knightly spirit, right enough, and in Camelot, besides an absolute Pandorica full of laughs, that’s what shines through – the character of Rory Williams, true to his fundamental principles, but honed by history like a blade that’s worthy of the knights of Camelot.

Go on, treat yourself. Get The Lone Centurion Volume 2, have a brilliant laugh, and ponder where the Lone Centurion might appear next.

Our money’s on England in the time of King John, for fun and games with Maid Marian and the gang. If Volume 2 was akin to the Lone Centurion and the Holy Grail, what could possibly come next? Lone Centurion, Volume 3 – Rory In Tights?

Meanwhile, The Lone Centurion Volume 2 is a joy both for its comedic and its character value, and in a world full of pandemic plague, political duplicity, climate change and galloping inflation, it’s the antidote to reality you need. Plenty of swash and buckle, bucketloads of pin-sharp comedy, and the doing-the-best-he-can Brigadiering spirit of Rory Williams to lighten your darkest day.

The Lone Centurion Volume 02: Camelot is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 30 April 2022, and on general sale after this date.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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