Doctor Who
Son of the Dragon

Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 181 7
Available 07 September 2007

The Doctor, Peri and Erimem arrive in 15th-century Romania, in the middle of a conflict between two brothers, Radu cel Frumos and Prince Vlad III, sons of Vlad the Great. Prince Vlad is the sovereign and ruler of Ungro-Walachia and the duchies of Amlas and Fagaras, but he is better known to Peri by other names. He is Vlad the Impaler. He is Dracula...

Perhaps with new listeners in mind, Big Finish has until now avoided using any non-television companions in its Doctor Who audio dramas since it revamped the series with new-style covers. Now at last Erimem (Caroline Morris) returns, for the first time since The Kingmaker, well over a year ago. And what a return it is. This historical story suits her character down to the ground. The decisions she is forced to make and the hardships she is prepared to endure are entirely in keeping with a former Pharaoh who is well acquainted with political expediencies and marriages of convenience. Furthermore, because she isn’t a companion from the television series, there is a very real possibility that she might not rejoin the Doctor (Peter Davison) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) at the end of the adventure.

Before I get too carried away with singing the praises of Son of the Dragon, I should point out that in many respects the plot is typical of its author, Steve Lyons. Once again (as in the novel The Witch Hunters and the audio drama The Fires of Vulcan), the Doctor and his friends are ensnared by the circumstances of recorded history. Is one of his companions doomed to suffer a tragic fate, or will the Doctor be able to defy history and the Laws of Time? So far, so familiar.

However, Lyons also gives a fascinating and educational insight into the real-life Dracula (which means “son of the dragon”), Prince Vlad III, exploring how some of the mythology built up around him. The author cannot deny the existence of vampires in the Doctor Who universe, because the creatures have appeared in State of Decay and numerous pieces of licensed fiction, so the Doctor briefly alludes to them while explaining how Bram Stoker took the name, but very little else, from Prince Dracula when he created his seminal character.

The warring brothers are brought vividly to life by a couple of star players, James Purefoy (as Prince Vlad) and Douglas Hodge (as Radu cel Frumos, Radu the Handsome). Hodge recently appeared in Urban Myths, together with his Son of the Dragon co-stars Steven Wickham and Nicola Lloyd, recorded as part of the same studio block.

The story structure is unusual. Each episode is prefaced by a pre-credits sequence, akin to those of the new series, but without recaps from previous episodes. There is a distinct passage of time between each instalment, creating an overall sense of duration reminiscent of the historical stories of the early Hartnell era.

Extra features on this double CD include interviews (the ones at the end of Disc One are very general and spoiler-free) and a couple of deleted scenes involving Peri and Vlad’s trusted aide John Dobrin (Barry McCarthy).

Though Dracula proves not to be a vampire, this audio drama certainly doesn’t lack bite.

Richard McGinlay

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