Big Finish Folly, Part 16a

So here we go, it was going to happen eventually – this is the first out-of-sequence review, as the Burning Prince was only released this last month. Get used to it – there’ll be more like this as we go on…

The Burning Prince, by John Dorney

The Burning PrinceBlimey. Is there any way to easily summarise this story without going too deeply into the plot? Set between Omega and The Elite, the Doctor has – quite accidentally and involuntarily – joined a desperate rescue mission: the ship bringing Princess Aliona to join her future husband has crashed onto the dangerous world of Sharnax, potentially wrecking any hope of reconciliation between two warring factions of the Drashani Empire. But some people don’t want the rescue to succeed, and the Doctor will be extremely lucky to leave this world alive…

Others have noted, and I’ll do the same, that Big Finish have played an absolute blinder so far this year. Obviously I can’t comment on the Sixth or Seventh Doctor stories as by the strict self-imposed rules of BFF I haven’t even listened to them yet, but the Peter Davison stories have (in the words of a Meadowhell till-dodger) been right off the chain. The Burning Prince is no exception. Somehow John Dorney has contrived to create a tale that not only hits the ground running but also increases its momentum without losing any clarity at all as it hurtles towards a gory, genocidal end. The body count here is stupendous to say the least; I don’t think I’d be giving away too much to warn listeners not to get too attached to any particular members of the rescue crew. At the same time however, the plot itself is refreshingly linear – as much so as in the train chase during The Emerald Tiger (which I also enjoyed), and I think that simplicity is what allows the story to run at such breakneck speeds.

Listening back, you can hear the way the story has been constructed. At the risk of breaking the magic, there’s a significant death at the end of each episode, acting as both climax and impetus for the rest of the story. The characters however are not just cardboard cut-outs propelled into this maelstrom of death – oh no, you will cheer for each one of them as they desperately attempt to rescue the Princess. Even the somewhat spoiled Prince Kylo, engenders more than a small amount of sympathy as you realise how much of a dupe he’s been played for, despite the fact that he has some serious personality issues. And at this point I should add that Aliona herself has some egregious character flaws of her own… and leave it at that.

If there’s any criticism at all it’s merely that events on the shuttle in the final episode don’t quite match the breathless pace of the previous three, but then there had to be some degree of explanation somewhere along the line and it might as well be here, with the listener almost as appalled as the Doctor himself. And, this being Peter Davison’s Doctor, his frustrated fallability is played up to the hilt. Highly recommended – and now, because of the BFF rules, I have to wait the best part of a year to be able to listen to the next part of the trilogy (dependent of course on where I judge it to sit in the Sixth Doctor’s timeline). Bah. The only upside to which is that you, dear reader, must wait another year for the review…
*****

Buy it here

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