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You think I'm capable of killing a couple of kids? Murdering them in cold blood, snuffing out a couple of young lives before they've even begun? Well? Do you? [...] You're right. I am. Eminently capable. If it was necessary, I'd do it without a second thought.
~ Richard, discussing his role in the murder of the Princes

Richard III is a major villain and historical figure in the Doctor Who Big Finish audio drama The Kingmaker.

Widely regarded as a villain by later generations thanks to his role in William Shakespeare's famous play, his reign is shrouded in speculation and mysteries, the most prominent of which is the role he played in the deaths of his nephews, Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury (also known as the Princes in the Tower).

Having been tasked with uncovering famous mysteries for a children's book series, the Doctor sets out to discover the truth for himself... only to end up on the receiving end of Richard's paranoia.

He is voiced by Stephen Beckett.

History

Knee High To A Peasant

As with established history, Richard was born as the twelfth son of Richard Plantagenet, Third Duke of York, on the 2nd of October 1452. At the time, the Wars of the Roses had just broken out over England, leaving young Richard's upbringing tumultuous to say the least; with his Yorkist father engaged in open war with the Lancastrians, he and his younger brother George were often required to be moved across the country at short notice to avoid becoming targets.

However, during his childhood, Richard found himself being unexpectedly visited by time travelers from the future, some of them human, others distinctly alien: regardless of their species and native time period, these temporal tourists all wanted to know why Richard had murdered his nephews. Not having nephews at the time, he had no idea what they were talking about, but unfortunately the travelers refused to leave him alone and continued pestering him with unwanted details of the future. As such, ever since he was "knee high to a peasant," Richard was burdened with the knowledge that he was to become one of the most infamous villains in history.

One evening, Richard was staying in the same castle as his father for the first time in some months, the elder Richard having been wounded in battle. While a physician tended to his father's injuries, the younger Richard found himself visited by yet another time traveler wanting to know all about the murder of the Princes in the Tower; however, the screams from his father's ongoing operation drew the alien's attention, and when young Richard explained that it was "the doctor taking care of things," the time traveler panicked and left immediately. With the flow of temporal tourists refusing to abate, Richard soon realized that his unwanted guests were all afraid of individual known as the Doctor: in the end, all had to do was explain that the doctor was around, and they'd flee. Though grateful to be left alone, the identity of the Doctor still eluded him, and the knowledge of his future reputation as a villain left him bitter, resentful - but above all else determined to resist the fate established for him.

Richard steadily became more cynical as the years went by, not merely because of continued interference from time travelers, but often simply from events in established history: assorted childhood illnesses left him with a crooked back and a withered arm, resulting in considerable mockery from other noblemen; his father and many of his older siblings died in battle; adult responsibilities were thrust upon Richard with his sudden ascension to the role of Duke of Gloucester and Commissioner of Array; eventually, he took to the battlefield himself in defense of his family. Over time, these hardships gradually transformed Richard into a grim, humorless individual, stoic in demeanor, fiercely pragmatic in wartime, and easily provoked to anger by even the slightest references to his deformity.

Eventually, the Lancastrians were defeated and Richard's older brother Edward was crowned King of England, bringing peace to the country - for a time.

The Royal Protector

Despite his ruthlessness, Richard was loyal to his family above all else: he served Edward faithfully in times of both prosperity and conflict - even when he disagreed with the King's decisions and the amount of influence the Queen's family, the Woodvilles, had on royal decision-making. However, he also ensured the safety of his beloved younger brother; George was always dimwitted and reckless, even when he became Duke of Clarence, and Richard felt the need to protect him from the consequences of his actions on a regular basis. This protectiveness reached its apex when George staged a rebellion against the crown in an act of spectacularly poor decision-making that ultimately ended in him being imprisoned and condemned to death; discontented with the Woodville-ordered sentence and unwilling to see his brother die, Richard smuggled the Duke of Clarence out of the Tower and provided him with a new identity, having a body double executed in his place. Reinventing George as the publican Clarrie, he gave him ownership of the Kingmaker Pub and allowed him to spend the rest of his days getting drunk in obscurity. By sharp contrast, William Shakespeare's play later claimed that Richard had drowned his brother in a cask of wine.

Edward IV died in 1483, and the peace he'd maintained for the last twelve years seemed in danger of fracturing: with his son and heir Edward V barely twelve years of age, the Woodvilles hoped to maintain their influence over the throne by turning the prince into a puppet king; officially, Richard had been appointed Royal Protector until Edward came of age, but the Woodvilles had managed to partly revoke this station and replace him with a Council dominated by members of the Woodville family and their allies. The Queen's brother, Earl Rivers, had been sent to retrieve the young prince and bring him back to London - closely accompanied by a heavily-armed escort. Richard, seeing an opportunity to secure his nephew before he ended up under Woodville control, ventured out to intercept Rivers and his army on the road to London.

It is here that the play chronologically begins, with Richard and Henry Stafford (2nd Duke of Buckingham AKA Bucko) catching up with Edward's escort at Stony Stratford: with several veiled threats, they are able to convince Rivers to stop for the night at a nearby tavern and discuss the possibility of them aiding his journey to London; in reality, they intend to delay him until Richard's troops catch up with them, allowing them to kill Rivers and place Edward in protective custody. However, as their troops slowly assemble outside the tavern, the TARDIS unexpectedly materializes nearby: the man who emerges introduces himself as Mr. Seyton, a time-travelling soothsayer from the future arrived on the scene advise Richard.

By this point, Richard scarcely bats an eyelid at any mention of time-travel, but sees an opportunity to learn as much as possible about future history and the Doctor, so he decides to string Seyton along for the time being. After once again dropping the Doctor's name - and claiming that he was referring to Dr John Morton when Seyton naturally panics - he allows the soothsayer to explain the future. Seyton claims that if the Royal Protect allows Edward to live, he will be manipulated by the Woodvilles into having Richard imprisoned on false charges and executed, resulting in a chain of events that ends with the French destroying the monarchy and seizing control of England. Unwilling to harm his nephew and unwilling to play along with the history he'd learned from the earlier time-travelers, Richard continues stringing Seyton along by allowing him to serve as his adviser, instructing his men to secure the TARDIS for transportation to London

Unfortunately, Edward takes this opportunity to escape the tavern in a fit of panic, much to Richard's horror. Fortunately, at this point the Doctor's companions, Peri and Erimem, emerge from the TARDIS: having joined in with the Doctor's attempts to discover the truth behind the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, they have been separated from him via a ginger beer-induced mishap with the TARDIS's circuits and have arrived in England two years earlier than intended. For good measure, they have no idea that Seyton has been travelling as a stowaway aboard the TARDIS, emerging too late to notice the "soothsayer's" departure and initial meeting with Richard.

However, they do arrive just in time to find Edward passed out under a tree, having crashed into it at high speed during his escape and knocked himself unconscious; unaware of his true identity, they carry the future King into the tavern, where they are promptly met by an extremely relieved Richard and tasked with tending to Edward's wounds in exchange for a royal boon.

Belatedly recognizing Richard and his nephew, Peri and Erimem immediately get into an argument over whether or not to save Edward from what they believe to be his inevitable death. However, while helping the unconscious prince to undress, Peri accidentally removes a specially-made codpiece from his clothes, and mistakes it for a mechanical appendage; believing that the Prince is actually a robot, Peri and a distinctly unconvinced Erimem leave via the bedroom window.

Taking their sudden departure as proof that the two "wenches" were Woodville spies sent to help the prince escape, Richard hurries to investigate; though initially relieved to discover that Edward is still in bed, he stumbles over the codpiece left on the floor and - upon seeing his nephew up close without it - realizes the truth.

Edward and his brother are actually princesses, having been born female; with England still fresh from the Wars of the Roses, their father had been unwilling to risk another disastrous conflict by letting it be known that he hadn't produced a male heir, and decided to claim that his two daughters were actually sons, keeping up the pretense until his death. Only a handful of people had known the truth, and to his frustration, Richard hadn't been one of them. Worse still, the lie can no longer be maintained with Edward now an adolescent and becoming more obviously female, but revealing the scandalous truth will almost certainly end with the destruction of the monarchy.

In that moment, Richard realizes he is doomed: no matter what he does next, people are guaranteed to regard it with the deepest suspicion, and there is nothing he can do to escape being judged as a villain by history.

Claiming The Crown

Despite his despair, Richard decides to carry on for the sake of stability: placing "Edward" in custody as planned, he then begins taking drastic steps to ensure that their secret remains hidden. As soon as he arrives in London, he begins seeking out anyone who might have been privy to the secret of the Princes, arresting and interrogating them to learn the true extent of their knowledge: the more ignorant or trustworthy of them are released immediately; those who know too much and can't be trusted to keep their silence are executed, as is the case with William Hastings. Because Richard can't afford to explain himself without revealing the scandal, many of his fellow nobleman begin to regard him as mentally unstable; Buckingham in particular views his increasingly desperate activities with suspicion, even while hoping to profit from Richard's original plan to use "Edward" as a puppet king.

In the end, Richard has no choice but to declare the Prince and his brother bastards, stripping them of their royal inheritance, having them imprisoned in the Tower of London - where they can avoid further scrutiny until the next stage of his plan is ready. Ironically, his strongest supporter in this venture is none other than Elizabeth Woodville, his brother's wife and the mother to the two princes: having been privy to the secret of their gender from the moment of their birth, Richard's one-time rival for influence over the King now aids him in concealing the truth, having no overwhelming desire to see the country plunged into civil war; she has her marriage to Edward IV declared null and void, has her children proclaimed bastards and gives Richard her blessing to imprison them in the Tower - in exchange for a pension. Unaware of the Princes' secret and firmly under the impression that the ongoing political turmoil was due to his advice, Mr Seyton is pleased, and urges his patron to kill the Princes in the Tower in order to solidify his hold on the country - a suggestion that Richard pointedly ignores.

Soon after, Richard declares himself King, prompting unrest throughout England, particularly from Buckingham. For good measure, he also has Buckingham (accompanied by Sir James Tyrell) seek out Peri and Erimem under the pretext of hiring them as maidservants to the Princes: in reality, he intends to have them assassinated as soon as they arrive at the tower in order to erase the last potential witnesses to the Princes' gender. Ironically, they're found working at the Kingmaker pub as serving girls in the care of Clarrie.

Unfortunately, Buckingham has become discontented with the current state of affairs, believing that Mr Seyton is leading the country to ruin and Richard can no longer be reasoned with: intending to start an uprising against the King, he press-gangs Peri and Erimem into poisoning the two Princes in the hope that their deaths will turn the Woodvilles against Richard.

On the way to the Tower, they run into Seyton, who wants to make an alliance with Buckingham in order to ensure that Richard is directly involved in the deaths of the Princes - though it will require the deaths of the two companions. With Peri having mistaken Seyton for the Master and now under the impression that they've stumbled upon a plot to replace historical figures with robots, the two companions beat a hasty retreat, and eventually find themselves at the Princes' cell - where they unexpectedly find themselves face to face with Richard.

As per his original plan, Richard intends to have the pair murdered so as to prevent any knowledge of the Princes' secret from reaching the public. However, when Peri blurts out her theory on the princes being robots, Richard realizes that the two companions know absolutely nothing, and, laughing for probably the first time in years, decides to spare their lives - in part because he's found another use for them in the meantime.

The Story Changes...

By now aware of the attempted murder and framing planned by Buckingham, Richard is aware that the Princes are no longer safe, either from discovery or from assassination attempts: so, rather than expose his nieces to any further risk, he releases them from the Tower and allows them to start new lives as commoners - officially renaming them Susan and Judith and leaving them in the care of their Uncle Clarrie at the Kingmaker. However, he still needs someone in their place to ensure that the Princes are believed to be alive and well within the Tower, so he hires Peri and Erimem to act as body doubles, having them dress in men's clothes and regularly exercise in the Tower's gardens in full view of the public. By now having almost given up on figuring out what's really going on, the two reluctantly comply, unaware that the princes they tried so hard to find have ended up taking their vacant positions at the tavern.

With Buckingham's rebellion foiled and the disgraced duke soon to be arrested, Richard also goes so far as to cleanse his ranks of unwanted troublemakers: having learned all he can of Mr Seyton in open conversation, he has the soothsayer arrested and interrogated at length. Over the course of a prolonged torture session, Seyton reveals everything he knows about the Doctor and his activities across time and space - and the recent interest he's taken in Richard III's reign. Intrigued and more than a little infuriated at yet another interference in his life, Richard decides to set a trap for the Doctor: aware that Peri and Erimem have sent letters to the Doctor and received replies from one of his future incarnations (both via Clarrie), he uses this correspondence to lure the Time Lord to the Kingmaker when he finally arrives in 1485.

When the ginger beer-induced piloting error finally deposits the Doctor in London, he seeks out information at the Kingmaker, meeting Susan, Judith and Clarrie along the way; after deciding to stay at the Kingmaker to work out what went wrong, he is lured outside by Clarrie, knocked unconscious by the Royal Concussor (AKA Sir James Tyrell), and taken to the Tower of London. For good measure, he's deposited in the same cell as Buckingham. Though the Duke is badly malnourished and missing most of his fingernails, he is able to explain much of the story behind Richard's apparent descent into madness - though the Doctor is clearly started to see Buckingham still alive more than eighteen months after the date of his execution.

Richard himself then enters. By this point in history, his wife and child have both died, and with public having turned against him throughout England, Richard is more resentful than ever: enraged by what he sees as another time traveler barging into his life to judge him and disgusted at being forced to play along with his role in established history for the sake of the Web of Time, he gives the Doctor a demonstration of what kind of a person he is by torturing Buckingham almost to death with a red-hot poker, venting his long-buried frustrations as he does so.

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Richard venting his frustrations at the Doctor

Then, in an attempt to make the Doctor feel as trapped as he has ever since he became aware of his destiny, he challenges him to save Buckingham's life - knowing that the Time Lord will hesitate at the prospect at altering established history.

After ranting for a while about the role time travelers have played in his life, he decides to put another challenge to his prisoner. Releasing him from his shackles, he grants the Doctor the chance to ensure that history follows its established course by empowering him to give one of two possible orders to Tyrell: kill the Princes in the Tower and thereby guarantee the stability of the Web of Time; or risk everything by letting them leave alive. However, the Doctor finally realizes the truth and asks that Peri and Erimem be released from the tower. Though annoyed, Richard keeps his word and permits their safe return.

Shortly after, Susan and Judith arrive in the dungeons with Clarrie in tow, having taken a shine to the Doctor and decided to rescue him. However, Richard allows the Doctor to leave with his blessing, promising not to use his knowledge of the future to change things - after all, by this stage in history he couldn't do so even if he wanted to. Furthermore, with his reign almost over, he asks to be given a lift to the Battle of Bosworth where he can die an honorable death.

...But The Ending Stays The Same

Unfortunately, Mr Seyton chooses this moment to barge into the cells with Peri and Erimem in tow; Richard had ordered the soothsayer's execution early, but due to wording it as "get rid of him," the literal-minded guards decided to simply release him from captivity. As such, Seyton has been able to arm himself with the future technology he pillaged from the TARDIS and take the Doctor's companions hostage.

Seeing the soothsayer for the first time, the Doctor immediately recognizes him as none other than William Shakespeare: having learned that future historians might suspect that Richard wasn't to blame for the deaths of the princes and that suspicion might fall upon Henry Tudor, the patriotic playwright sought a means of preventing such shame from falling upon the lineage of his beloved Queen Elizabeth I; as such, stowing away on the TARDIS and ingratiating himself with the King has all been part of a plan to ensure that the Princes die by Richard's hands.

After explaining himself to the bewildered onlookers, Shakespeare escorts them into the TARDIS at gunpoint, now intent on delivering Richard to the court of Elizabeth I and having him put on trial for his crimes. Fortunately, Susan, Judith and Clarrie are able to pass themselves off as servants, and are allowed to leave without Shakespeare suspecting anything; unfortunately, Clarrie is recognized by Tyrell on the way out of the Tower and killed while buying time for his nieces to escape.

Meanwhile, Shakespeare starts demanding the exact location of the Princes' bodies, and Richard is finally able to reveal the truth, knowing that Susan and Judith are already out of the playwright's reach. The outraged "soothsayer" naturally demands that they return the TARDIS to 1485 to retrieve "those wenches," only for the TARDIS to land in 1597 just as he'd originally ordered... right on the stage of the Globe Theater, in the middle of a performance of Richard III.

While Shakespeare hurries out of the TARDIS to stop its sudden appearance from ruining the play, Richard decides to look on via the scanner and notices exactly how he's portrayed over the course of the production, growing steadily angrier with each over-exaggerated deformity he observes - until he finally storms out on stage. Following an argument with Richard Burbage and most of the audience over who happens to be the real Richard III, he borrows a prop sword and attacks Shakespeare in a fit of pique; with his cyber-rifle out of ammo, the terrified playwright has no choice but to flee, resulting in an extended chase through the streets of London.

Eventually, Shakespeare is able to lose Richard and makes his way back to the TARDIS: after his attempt at taking them back to the Tower in 1485 ends with him having his arm broken by Erimem and a publisher's robot from the future menacing him with demands for a second draft of The Tempest, Shakespeare flees through the doors of the TARDIS, only to find that Richard's demand to be allowed to die a noble death have sent them straight to the Battle of Bosworth. Thanks to his broken arm and the injuries caused by his earlier torture, Shakespeare is mistaken for Richard III and promptly killed.

Embarrassed by this turn of events, the Doctor decides to abide by the ancient Time Lord motto of "The Story Changes But The Ending Stays The Same," and fill Shakespeare's vacant position in history with the only person capable of taking his place: Richard III.

Though once again resentful of how little choice he had in the events that took place and clearly grieving for Clarrie, the former king agrees to take Shakespeare's place with Susan and Judith now posing as his daughters - both of whom are historically known to outlive the new Shakespeare by several decades. After a bit of encouragement, Richard begins work on a new play with a role inspired by Clarrie, intending to give his dead brother the immortality history couldn't. Wishing him the best of luck, the Doctor leaves him to it - but not before suggesting that he look up Francis Bacon if he has any difficulty with the language.

Trivia

  • Stephen Beckett portrays Richard with a distinct Northern English accent, making him sound remarkably similar to Christopher Eccleston, who played the Doctor's 9th incarnation. In another reference to Eccelston's version of the Doctor, Clarrie recalls that the Doctor's eventual replies to Peri's letters were delivered by "a Northen chappy with big ears."