The Draconian Rage

Posted in Audio by - August 05, 2018
The Draconian Rage

Released August 2003

The second serial in the fourth season of adventures featuring Bernice Summerfield that is dedicated to focusing on established foes from the Doctor Who franchise brings back the fiercely honourable and intelligent Draconians that featured in 1973’s ‘Frontier in Space.’ Serving also as a sequel to Big Finish’s own ‘The Dark Flame’ that released in March 2003 and saw Bernice once more team with the Seventh Doctor and Ace, ‘The Draconian Rage’ by Trevor Baxendale picks up in the aftermath of an ancient and apocalyptic suicide ritual that has claimed the lives of twenty million Draconians when the expertise of an archaeologist is needed, even if that expert happens to be both human and female at a time when nothing and nobody can be trusted.

‘The Draconian Rage’ continues the recent trend of focusing on Bernice’s own intelligence and experience with alien cultures, and having her established as an authority on many of the civilisations that flourished in Earth space gives even the mighty Draconians reasons to look past their own disdain and xenophobia regarding what Bernice represents. The story quite wisely also shows Bernice as initially unwilling to accept the honour of this invitation because of her desire to spend time with Peter, eventually heeding to Braxiatel’s charm even though she will never give him credit for any part of her journey to and arrival at Draconia and even though she suspects he simply wants to see if an unearthed relic of human origin from Trenagus that was once part of the Earth Empire is worthy of his collection.

Baxendale does a good job of presenting a society where trust is anything but assumed, and Bernice quickly finds herself in the middle of conspiracies that threaten the very stability of the Draconian Empire itself. Of course, with only three major Draconian players, the writing is by necessity relatively simple and straightforward given the political intrigue in play. Fortunately, the performances are immensely engaging and elevate the scenario to something quite intriguing, even before Bernice finds herself in the middle of quite long and excruciating torture scenes. Kraig Thorner convincingly plays the very traditional Lord Paranesh with his dreams of grandeur, and Johnson Willis is superb as the far more nuanced and human-like Lord Vasar who was once stationed at the embassy on Earth and has come to appreciate humanity and its propensity for humour more than is typical for his species even if his motivations are purposefully not always clear. Perhaps most importantly, however, is Philip Bretherton’s fantastic outing as the incredibly logical and even-tempered Emperor Shenn who is all too aware of the possibilities of deception surrounding him even in his guarded palace and able to plan accordingly, creating a powerful presence that gives credence to the quiet bombast of the Draconian race.

This audio range has been unafraid to hinge its event on occurrences from other audio ranges or mediums before, but having the relic be the skull that represents the last remnant of the leader of the Cult of the Dark Flame, Vilus Krull, is a nice nod to Bernice’s time spent with the Doctor. The Flame has existed for millennia, including within Bernice’s mind, and Paranesh has come to support the Cult as a means of inciting fear between Earth and Draconia. With the long-gestating suicide pact the signal for the beginning of the end, the Cult’s members in all walks of life throughout the cosmos are poised to strike, and using Bernice as the murder weapon against the Emperor will cause the chaos needed for Paranesh to assume control. With loyalties tested and schemes counteracting schemes, this affair played out a more intimate scale is just as complex, and everyone involved gives staggering performances with the requisite emotion needed for it to not simply fall flat.

‘The Draconian Rage’ explores both the cultural and political aspects of Draconia to remarkable effect, making this a story that absolutely requires and benefits from the established aliens’ presence. With superb characterisation and fantastic sound design and direction to make this a thoroughly immersive experience, the only potential shortcoming is that the engrossing torture scenes don’t actually reveal anything new about Bernice, making the horror captivating but ultimately little more in the long run. Still, this is a superb example of what this range is capable of, and it’s a shame that it looks like Bernice and the Draconians will not cross paths again soon based on how this story ends.

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