Released by Big Finish Productions
“I am Prince Vlad III – son of Vlad The Great and ruler of Ungro-Wallachia and the duchies of Amlasand Fagaras.
But since my father’s murder, I have had another name.
I am Dracula.”
By now those of you who’ve read my reviews will have heard my effusive praise of Big Finish as a company. Not just for their Doctor Who work but in their entirety. Case in point my several previous reviews of some of their works (DW: All Consuming Fire, Cicero, DW: Spare Parts et al.) Even when Doctor Who as a television institution may not be living up to its legacy debatably in the mind of the viewer and listener? There are twenty years of auditory travels in time and space to choose from. However which of their works am I putting ‘inkwell to parchment’ for today?
Son Of The Dragon by Steve Lyons is one of those rare joys in Doctor Who: A well written ‘pure historical.’ For context a historical is one of those stories where The Doctor and companions travel back in time and can come in two main flavours: The ‘modern historical’ where The Doctor and companions encounter an alien presence and have to get rid of the evil to set time and history back on the correct course. Examples include the classic TV episodes The Time Warrior and The Talons of Weng-Chiang. And the ‘pure historical’ where the only science fiction elements are the TARDIS and the Doctor and crew themselves. Examples include classics like The Aztecs and the audio story The Peterloo Massacre. Historicals are more common than they used to be but still aren’t exactly raining from the sky. But…what about Son Of The Dragon?
The Doctor in their fifth incarnation as played by Peter Davison, joined by his companions Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant) – an American botany student from the 1980s – and audio only travelling companion Erimem (Caroline Morris) – a female Pharaoh wiped from history thanks to ‘family issues’ to put it kindly – have landed in modern day Romania…only to be picked up by the invading army of Sultan Mehmed II – known to history as Mehmed the Conquerer – and his most able commander Radu the Handsome (Douglas Hodge) who is immediately taken with the three strangers. They attempt to make an escape late that night…only to be caught in the centre of one of the most famous attacks by the opposing army. The opposing army in this case? Led by Prince Vlad Dracula III, Voivode of Wallachia. (James Purefoy). One of the inspirations for the ubiquitous Count Dracula. Only Prince Vlad decides to take Erimem to his camp. Will The Doctor and Peri be able to reunite with Erimem and rescue her from Wallachia’s most infamous ruler? Will Erimem’s presence have some effect on the Prince? Will they be able to make their way back to the TARDIS? And just what effect does your childhood and how you view it have on your choices? Is Radu really that different?
The cast performs their parts with talent and skill. The contrast in outlooks between the modern Peri and the more classical Erimem is used to great effect with Caroline Morris seeming to relish the part she’s been given. Her emotion – be it sadness, regal formality, or something else – is clear in her vocal tones. She is integral to this audio drama but she isn’t the only performer of note. Peri’s indignation and fury is also wonderfully acted, her American modern viewpoint ably defended by Nicola’s years in the part. Davison’s more worldly – or is that timely – view of events is much calmer…but also sadder. The main trio aren’t the only notable performances. James Purefoy as Prince Vlad is absolutely perfect! I swear to you I mean PERFECT. His voice is simultaneously smooth and persuasive when it has to be. Not to mention surprisingly kind when the Prince tries. However when Dracula awakens his fury? His rage is gloriously intense. I’d be more than happy to hear his voice again in other pieces. Radu the ‘Handsome’, is ably acted by Douglas Hodge. The warrior commander is much more a reasonable figure in comparison to his opposition with quite the understanding mindset…despite the situation. On the other hand? Is that how things will stay? The contrast between the two is a rather excellent focus and between the regulars, The Son Of The Dragon, and the Wallachian noble? The listener will often find themselves gripped by events.
The writing is also expertly done by Steve Lyons. Lyons is a prolific Who writer with credits going as far back as the mid 1990s Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures book range and several credits in the Big Finish audios apart from Son Of The Dragon. Highly thought of examples including The Fires Of Vulcan, The Architects Of History and Blood Of The Daleks. Lyons is also known for his Warhammer work such as Dead Men Walking and Ice Guard. In the case of Son Of The Dragon he certainly knows how to hook his listeners with a narrative that won’t let go. I can swear by experience that a first time listener – should they have to interrupt the story for worldly reasons – can find their mind eating away at them until they finish the story. Another positive is that outside of one small allusion to a previous encounter with vampires, there aren’t any elements in the story which would confuse those who aren’t aware of every part of Doctor Who’s extensive history.
In short I highly recommend Son Of The Dragon. For those Doctor Who fans who enjoy the classic historical stories more common in the show’s early years it feels like a refreshing return. For those who want to give the series or the audios a chance? It makes a great listen with all the information you need in the story itself. For those who haven’t experienced many historicals and want to give them a chance? Jump in! For those who are curious there is a trailer on the Big Finish website as there is with almost every release.
What will I listen to next? I can’t give it away now. That spoils half the fun! See you next time!