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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Burning Prince


Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 019 0
Available 30 September 2012

The Drashani Empire: a galaxy-spanning civilisation, the glory of Rome set among the stars. But for decades now, the Royal Houses of Gadarel and Sorsha have been at war, each claiming the Imperial throne. The wedding of Prince Kylo and Princess Aliona was meant to change all that - a blessed union between the Houses, a new hope for the Empire... until Aliona’s wedding galley crash-landed on the planet Sharnax, and all contact was lost. The TARDIS lands aboard the ship carrying the fiery Kylo in search of his lost princess - but with a sabre-toothed monster roaming its corridors, the Doctor soon discovers that he is not the only alien presence aboard...

Oi, John Dorney! I thought you were too busy to write the latest Zoe Companion Chronicle, but you evidently had time to write this, a two-disc Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) release. All right then, I’ll let you off, since this story is so darned exciting! The pace of the first episode, in which a solo Doctor, travelling back to Amsterdam following the events of Omega, arrives instead aboard a spaceship that is rushing to the scene of a previous crash-landing, has great urgency to it - and the drama only escalates from that point on.

When I first noticed the upcoming schedule of monthly releases, I thought for a moment that Big Finish had stopped doing trilogies, as next month’s The Acheron Pulse stars Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor. In fact, The Burning Prince marks the beginning of a trio of stories featuring a different incarnation of the Doctor in each one, very much like the Excelis saga of a decade ago. However, this adventure also works as a standalone tale in its own right. How much these events will impact upon the next two releases, we shall have to wait and see...

Dorney has certainly set up an intriguing alien civilisation for the Doctor to revisit. Like Tara in The Androids of Tara, the Drashani Empire is a curious blend of ancient and modern, a space-faring feudal society with bow-and-arrow-based energy weapons. Another similarity to the Key to Time series is that the writer builds a real-life ailment of the lead actor into the plot. In The Pirate Planet, Tom Baker’s dog-bitten lip became an injury sustained against the TARDIS console. Here, the bunged-up sound of Peter Davison with a cold (but nevertheless at his sardonic best) is explained away as the result of the Time Lord being bopped on the nose by an irate crewmember, who, as usual, believes the Doctor to be a spy or saboteur.

Despite a faster pace than was typical of the show in the early 1980s, The Burning Prince does not seem at all out of place as a Fifth Doctor story. A further similarity to television Who from around this time is the presence of the frustrated heir of a powerful leader, the titular Prince Kylo (a versatile performance from George Rainsford), whose role reminded me somewhat of Lon, the Federator’s son in Snakedance. There’s a bleakness to the ending that is also very much of the period.

I was a little confused at first by the precise nature of the vicious Igris that stalks the decks, which I initially imagined as being a sort of big cat rather than a bipedal being, but otherwise sound designer Martin Montague and director Ken Bentley communicate the story very effectively.

All in all, The Burning Prince has left me with a burning desire to return to the Drashani Empire as soon as possible.


Richard McGinlay

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