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This is not the sort of rebellion I was expecting. What usually happens is a glorious attack on the Emperor, followed by humiliating defeat by his guards - none of this talk about new messiahs! Basic treachery isn't as simple as it was in my father's day...
~ Clovis, having misgivings about Childeric's plans

Clovis is the High Priest to Emperor Pepin VII and a minor antagonist in the Doctor Who Big Finish audio drama The Holy Terror. The latest in a long line of High Priests serving the royal family, Clovis presides over much of the rituals that dominate the castle's citizenry, including the coronation, the assassination attempt, and the failed rebellion; past High Priests have always followed tradition in betraying the Emperors they served in order to join forces with the Emperor's half-brother, and all of them have followed tradition in being executed for their treachery.

Having seen both his father and grandfather die in their respective betrayals, Clovis is reluctant to follow in their footsteps, but when the current Emperor's half-brother Childeric recruits him as per tradition, he offers little resistance. However, the attempted rebellion is soon revealed to be far more drastic than any in the castle's history...

He is voiced by Peter Sowerbutts, who also voiced Davros' tutor Magrantine in the audio drama I, Davros.

Biography

A Life Of Ritual

As with all the inhabitants of the castle, Clovis was born to fill a very specific role and bound by tradition to act according to the well-established laws of both society and reality: like his father, grandfather and all other ancestors before him, Clovis was to be the high priest and direct the worship of the people towards the Emperor, who would be proclaimed a deity until the time of his death, whereupon Clovis was to crown his successor and declare him a god as well. In order to prove his new master's divinity, Clovis was to provide the people with a miracle evidencing the ruling monarch's omnipotence, and demonstrate the Emperor's invincibility by having the current Guard Captain shoot him three times in the chest with a handgun over the course of a ritual assassination attempt; in reality, the "miracle" would invariably be a simple conjuring trick, and the assassination attempt was always conducted with blanks (though the ritual required the very real deaths of the Emperor's current bodyguards). Eventually, he would join forces with the new Emperor's bastard half-brother and conduct a rebellion against the throne - one that would traditionally fail. By tradition, the High Priest's life would end in ritual execution, with his son already being groomed to replace him and eventually meet the same fate.

However, though he was careful to avoid diverging from tradition lest he fall victim to the same anti-heresy laws that he helped to enforce, Clovis was subtly different from most High Priests: unlike others, who reveled in their treachery and "burned with the passion of their faith," he found himself troubled by the instinctive urge to follow tradition even if it would eventually lead to his downfall, and came to believe that his father and grandfather had secretly felt the same way.

Though cowardice was demanded of him by the role, his self-preservation instinct was great enough for him to seriously consider ways of avoiding execution. As Childeric himself later noticed, Clovis had far too many scruples for a High Priest, for though he readily arranged the murders and executions required of him by tradition, the notion of bloodshed troubled him very deeply - though he never let anyone become aware of this.

Much of Clovis' life was spent in the service of Emperor Pepin VI: having witnessed his father crowning Pepin the elder and consecrating his deification with a great miracle (pulling a rabbit out of a hat), he was assigned the role of High Priest immediately after his predecessor's execution. From then on, he presided over every official ceremony and commanded almost every single member of the Imperial retinue not under the Emperor's direct command, from the court scribe to the guards. In the end, Pepin VI died an ignominious death by drowning, having fallen asleep in the bath; soon after, his son Pepin VII was declared the new Emperor and god, thus setting the stage for the events of the audio play.

Broken Traditions

Clovis is immediately exasperated with the current state of the soon-to-be-crowned Emperor, finding him even more neurotic than his father. As expected, Childeric soon approaches him with offers of an alliance, but to the High Priest's confusion, the bastard brother seems unusually conscious of the fact that the rituals of coronation are a farce and that Pepin will never become a god; within the castle's society, such facts are always on the verge of being realized by the citizenry and the clergy have never truly believed in the gods they crowned, but the prospect of such a thing being said out loud bewilders Clovis. Disturbed, he leaves to consider the approach.

Shortly afterwards, the coronation goes almost entirely according to plan apart from a slight wobble of Pepin's crown, with Clovis successfully demonstrating the new Emperor's divinity with a simple card trick. However, during his inaugural address, Pepin suffers a nervous breakdown and confesses to all and sundry that he is not a god, guaranteeing his immediate execution for heresy; in a further breach of tradition, Childeric uses this as an opportunity to seize the throne, rallying the crowds against his half-brother in an attempt to conduct a successful rebellion. However, Pepin is given one last chance to produce a miracle befitting a god, and in that moment, the TARDIS arrives in that throne room. The Doctor and Frobisher are immediately hailed as angels, and despite the Emperor's best efforts to let the truth be known, Pepin is spared a horrible death and declared a true god. Seemingly accepting this fact, Clovis allows his new god and his "angels" to leave with the chief scribe, Eugene Tacitus - but not before entrusting Guard Captain Sejeanus with the ritual of the assassination attempt.

While Pepin successfully concludes the rituals proving his "immortality" and the Doctor studies Eugene's library of past bibles, Clovis secretly ventures into the castle vaults to discuss matters of alliance with Childeric. Though Childeric readily mocks the High Priest's scruples and poor attempts at elevating his predecessors' corruption, he ultimately accepts Clovis' offer on the condition that he use his authority to abduct Eugene. However, the Doctor is still in the scribe's apartment, and to ensure that the "angel" doesn't raise the alarm, Clovis is forced to bring him with them - much to Childeric's annoyance. Nonetheless, he explains his plan to the three of them: having come to believe that true godhood can only be obtained by separation from humanity, Childeric has fathered a child and has left him in the care of tongueless servants in the lowest levels of the catacombs from the moment of his birth, all in the hopes that it will transform him into a god that he can eventually share the secrets of immortality with - a revelation that leaves Clovis effectively shell-shocked.

Unfortunately, though the experiment has been a success, Childeric's son has attained divinity a little too early, and the combined death of Pepin VI and the failed coup has left the royal bastard on unsteady ground. As such, he needs Eugene Tacitus to study the child in detail so as to learn the precise details of his powers and begin writing the bible for the first true god in the castle's history - in preparation for the day when Childeric and his son take the throne. However, because the child is not allowed to hear human speech until his development is complete, Eugene's tongue is to be removed; for good measure, the scribe will then be imprisoned in the same cell as the child for the next twelve years. Meanwhile, being surplus to requirements, the Doctor will have his heart cut out instead. To Clovis' immediate dissatisfaction, the mutilation and murder is entrusted to him.

Despite being uncomfortable with the shockingly unorthodox tone of Childeric's rebellion and reluctant to bloody his hands, Clovis descends into the holding cell where Eugene and the Doctor are being held, and prepares to remove the scribe's tongue. Though the Doctor almost manages to convince the High Priest to put down the knife, Clovis still finds himself comfortable with following orders, no matter how untraditional they may be. Fortunately, Childeric interrupts before he can begin. As it happens, Pepin's wife Livilla has joined his faction in a desperate attempt to avoid being executed for heresy when her husband next tries to deny his godhood, and has brought grave news: Pepin VII has abdicated the throne and declared Frobisher his successor. With this new, unknown element on the throne, Childeric can no longer afford to be cautious, and now plans to release his son from captivity.

Death

Some time later, Childeric, Clovis, Livilla, Eugene and the Doctor gather to observe the child being released from his cell. To the horror of everyone except Childeric, his son is indeed an all-powerful deity - a fact he proves by regressing Livilla to infancy and killing her - and when the young god throws a temper-tantrum over not being allowed to kill anyone, the resulting psychic explosion is enough to send most of the group fleeing for safety. Only the Doctor returns to the catacombs, just in time to witness the Child tearing Childeric to pieces, having realized that the royal bastard is not his real father. After telepathically interrogating the Doctor at length, the Child departs in a fury, determined to find his father by any means necessary.

While trying to follow the Child through the catacombs, the Doctor unexpectedly runs into Clovis, who suggests an alliance that will allow them to defeat the rampaging deity; in reality, the High Priest's plan is to turn him over to the Child in exchange for his own life, treachery being traditionally instinctive to his role. However, the Doctor realizes this plan almost immediately, and refuses the offer as soon as it's given.

Bewildered by his instinctive compliance with tradition, Clovis asks why he continuously falls back on ritual despite his misgivings; the Doctor finally reveals that the castle is nothing more than a fiction, and the people within it are little more than broad stereotypes concocted by a hopelessly unimaginative author with a very little interest in providing any depth to characterization. Clovis can't resist the urge to act as the stereotypical villainous adviser because he was written to be as such.

Stunned by the pointlessness of everything in his life, Clovis decides to remain behind and buy the Doctor some time in a desperate attempt to defy his established characterization. Unfortunately, the Child arrives on the scene shortly afterwards. Despite his best efforts to act against his nature, the High Priest caves in almost immediately, begging for his life and offering up the Doctor's whereabouts in a desperate attempt to save himself. However, the Child decides to take the information directly from his brain instead and psychically devours Clovis alive - finding him a much easier mind to digest.

Personality

On the face of things, Clovis is every inch the stereotypical treacherous adviser: sarcastic, condescending and almost comically duplicitous, he acts only in strict accordance with the traditional character traits demanded of his role, demonstrating haughty superiority in times of success and shameless cowardice when faced with death.

A dyed-in-the-wool backstabber, he has been preparing to betray Pepin VII ever since he was made high priest as per tradition; over the course of the audio play, Clovis also allows Childeric to lead an angry mob against Pepin, then takes his side when public faith in him is restored, betrays the Emperor again as soon as the coronation ceremony is over, considers betraying Childeric after growing uncomfortable with his new role, deserts Childeric during the Child's temper-tantrum, and would have betrayed the Doctor had he not recognized the attempt for what it was.

For good measure, Clovis balks at the notion of sullying his own hands, preferring instead to delegate responsibility to an underling: the task of cutting out Eugene's tongue proves so against his nature that he is almost willing to break character just to avoid it - despite having ordered the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of innocent people over the course of his duties as high priest.

However, as Eugene's writing begins to break down, Clovis begins showing signs of unexpected character depth as his personality begins to deviate from the broad stereotype he was based on: though he cannot stop himself from indulging in treacherous behavior and cowardice, he nonetheless feels reluctant to continue and struggles against the urge to betray, finally admitting that he secretly wants to be a good man - even though he knows that this is impossible for him. Tragically, the last few moments before his death are spent alternatively begging for mercy and screaming that he hasn't found a way to be noble yet.

Trivia

  • Ironically, Clovis wouldn't have been able to hurt Eugene or the Doctor even if he wanted to: the fictional inhabitants of the castle can't harm real people, as Frobisher discovers after being shot at point-blank range by Sejeanus.
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