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30 March 2012

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: John Dorney

RRP: £10.99

Release Date: 31st March 2012

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 30th March 2012

The Doctor has taken his companion Leela to ancient Norfolk to learn about her ancestors but they get a little closer than they hoped. Caught in the middle of a battle between Roman centurions and tribal warriors, the travellers unexpectedly become guests of the legendary warrior queen Boudica.

After hearing of the tragic circumstances which have led to her fight against the Romans, Leela is keen for The Doctor to help Boudica and her tribe, The Iceni overthrow the invaders. The Doctor however is anxious to move on, as incredibly significant events in Boudica’s history are drawing closer and any further interference from him could cause irreparable damage to not only the future of the world but perhaps also a very dear friendship.

After some of the more traditional monsters and corridors stories it is lovely to see The Fourth Doctor and Leela in a purely historical drama. In a way The Doctor actually takes a step back from most of the precedings as this is quite clearly a story about Leela.

A warrior of the Sevateem meeting the most fearsome warrior Queen in history is simply too good an opportunity to pass up and, in the hands of the very skilled John Dorney, the results are fantastic.

It is extraordinary how quickly Leela does fall under Boudica’s spell, but this seems to be very much a consequence of her conflict with The Doctor. Until now she has always believed The Doctor was a force for good, righting the wrongs, defeating the invaders and freeing the subjugated. Now her mentor has challenged this with his desire to leave the Iceni to their fate, all for the sake of preserving the course of unfolding history. But why does The Doctor feel he has the right to decide who is saved and who must die? Through Leela, the ethical and moral choices of The Doctor’s actions come into question and to see Leela replace The Doctor with Boudica as a mentor more on the level of her warrior upbringing is both understandable and believable.

It is a credit to Louise Jameson’s strong and convincing performance that we see Leela’s struggle as she discovers her new Queen to be cruel and heartless in the pursuit of her revenge. One scene in particular when Leela observes Boudica killing innocent and defenceless people stirs the two women into a one on one fight to the death; a scenario that Dorney must have enjoyed writing immensely as it is one of the highlights of the audio.

Following up on the strength of Jameson’s performance is undoubtedly Ella Kenion as Boudica. Her portrayal is electrifying; all at once noble, fierce, cold and monstrous. This is clearly a woman who has dedicated her sole purpose to the extinction of the Roman occupation of her country and anyone who gets in her way will be trampled under horse or run through with her blade.

The Doctor gets to enjoy some lovely scenes with the Iceni cook Bragnar, played by the lovely Nia Roberts. This provides Tom Baker with some nice moments for comedy but Bragnar is given some interesting depth in a subplot in which she overhears The Doctor relate to Leela the tragic fate of the Iceni prompting her decision to flee rather than die a wasteful death.

Supporting players Michael Rouse and Daniel Hawksford are very good in their rather small roles but give enough to elevate their parts from simply being devices to steer the plot forward.

The cast is surprisingly small considering the scale and ambition of the play. The sound design of Richard Fox and Lauren Yason is to be applauded, for bringing the battle scenes to vivid life and for providing an excellent score.

The Wrath of the Iceni is a highly enjoyable play and an excellent character piece, and proof that Big Finish can create a thoughtful and convincing historical adventure story - let us hope that they do more of them.

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