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10 October 2012

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: John Dorney

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: 30th September 2012

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 10th October 2012

The Houses of Gadarel and Sorsha have been at war for decades.

Each House has a claim to the Imperial Throne of the Drashani Empire. The civilisation that spans galaxies is now soaked in the blood of millions and finally seems to be at an end. The process for peace was near to completion with the union in marriage of Prince Kylo and Princess Aliona. But the marriage was halted when the Princesses’ wedding galley crash landed on the planet Sharnax.

All contact and hope it seemed was lost.

A rescue ship is dispatched to discover the fate of the Princess with representatives from both Houses; the Prince included trying desperately to not let the chance of peace slip away. There are those on both sides however who do not wish for peace, and sabotage is not too far away. 

Arriving on board the rescue ship by accident, The Doctor soon becomes entangled in the games of power and peace with deadly creatures not too far behind. Can The Doctor avert more bloodshed or will the Prince Kylo’s burning desire to be reunited with his love destroy the fates of all?

For the final trilogy in the main range this year, Big Finish have gone and created an epic story. Across three releases, each with a different Doctor, they want to tell the history of one sector of space and its history over time. It is an ambitious undertaking for the last three releases of 2012 but if they live up to the strength of The Burning Prince it just might be the crowning jewel of what has been a very strong year for the Doctor Who main range.

The Burning Prince is a thrilling under siege and whodunit story wrapped up in the fabric of a grand space opera. There is a remarkable amount of world building here woven into the core and background of the play, and it is a testament to John Dorney’s abilities as a writer that he makes all of the threads work and not crumble under its own weight.

The story charges along at break neck speed and even in the quieter moments there is always something exciting going on. It is a very linear plot but this is to the play’s strength making it one of the most enjoyable Big Finish stories this year.

One of the interesting aspects of this trilogy is to remove The Doctor’s companions from him and in The Burning Prince the decision works to the story’s advantage.

As great as it is to hear The Fifth Doctor with his regular companions, on his own here with no one to vouch for him, we get to see what makes The Fifth Doctor work well as a character. He is completely under suspicion but still possesses that remarkable ability to get people on side very quickly. Without the familiar companions the sense of peril is ramped up and you just have no idea who is going to make it out alive. This is a refreshing change from the norm and one I’d like to see repeated.

The ensemble cast is fantastic and it is incredible how many of the characters make an impact despite some of them being killed off a few scenes afterwards. 

Peter Davison is on top form as The Doctor, balancing both moral outrage and a dry sense of humour. He is incredibly funny in a few scenes and I’d love to see more of this in future Fifth Doctor stories as his characterization gets a little more room to develop here through the perspective of strangers.

There are excellent performances by Clive Mantle as Tuvold and George Rainsford as the tortured Prince Kylo. The highlight of the play is Kirsty Besterman as Princess Aliona. To do an in-depth exploration of her character would be revealing too much of the story but rest assured her performance is exceptional, layered and memorable.

The twist in the story is a little obvious if you are listening carefully but the result of it is chilling and rather bleak which is very similar to the latter Fifth Doctor television stories.

It remains to be seen just what elements of this play will either thematically or explicitly run through the rest of the trilogy but if The Burning Prince is anything to go by, it will be very much worth finding out.

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