THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
"THE FOUR DOCTORS"
AND "THE MIND'S EYE."
BIG FINISH CD#99
RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER
I AM PRINCE VLAD III -
SON OF VLAD THE GREAT,
AND SOVEREIGN AND
RULER OF UNGRO-
WALACHIA AND THE
DUCHIES OF AMLAS AND
BUT SINCE MY FATHER'S
I AM DRACULA.
Son of the Dragon
“Son of the Dragon” may be billed as ‘Doctor Who versus Dracula’, but in fact Steve Lyons’ story is one grounded in recorded history or, at least, something very close to it. Those listeners expecting a gothic tale of vampires and bats and Whitby Abbey will surely be surprised by this four-parter but not, I feel, disappointed. What “Son of the Dragon” lacks in hammer horror it more than makes up for in gritty, grisly but thankfully not too gratuitous
Now I am no expert on Ungro-Walachian history and so I cannot comment on just how far Lyons has strayed from the history books. From past form though, I would suspect that the major historical events depicted over the course of this story did actually happen, and what
is more I would not be surprised if the legend of Dracula was indeed borne out of the myths surrounding the real life sovereign Prince Vlad III – the man who went down in history as ‘the Impaler’ for reasons made explicitly clear in some of this story’s nastiest scenes.
The narrative itself focuses on the feud – well, war – between Vlad and his estranged brother, Radu ‘the Handsome’. Lyons masterfully structures his story in such a way that we inevitably side with Radu and the Turkish Army, not just because of the natural association
of ‘Dracula’ and ‘baddie’, but also because Peri clearly makes that same link which prejudices her actions. In a sense, Peri is the audience’s anchor. Erimem, on the other
hand, judges both Vlad and Radu by the standards of her own time, rather than by Peri’s twentieth-century holier-than-thou morality. Accordingly, she is able not only to forgive
Vlad’s sadistic flaws, but to actually fall in love with him.
The character story that drives “Son of Dragon” is very similar to that of “The Council of Nicaea”, the only major difference being that here the volume is turned way up. I found
myself quite fascinated by Caroline Morris’ comments on the behind the scenes documentary included on the release; she describes Erimem’s development as “two steps forward, three steps back” and, to a certain extent, I can see where precisely where she is coming from. For most companions, “The Council of Nicaea” would have seen the end to one chapter in their development; a definite full stop. But not to Erimem, and perhaps that is the whole point. Maybe, having grown up as a living God in time where morality was viewed in a completely different way, Erimem is simply not able to live her life by the laws of time. Maybe she is not cut out for the life of a time traveller. I have to admit, listening to this play I
did wonder whether this story might have been Erimem’s last. We all know she has got to
go at some point, it is just a question of how and when, and I for one love that uncertainty. I hope that when she does finally leave, Big Finish have the gall to write her out in a fashion that truly befits her character – not necessarily ‘Bride of Dracula’, but certainly something as bold and as original as she deserves.
There is a lot more to like about “Son of the Dragon” than just the character drama though. The whole play has such a wonderful atmosphere; Lyons’ script simply bleeds historical detail, and both Gareth Jenkins and Andy Hardwick have done such a great job on the
sound design and the music that whole thing just comes alive. Perhaps even more importantly though, there is not a bad performance to be found anywhere in the play. The regulars, as ever, are wonderful; Morris especially seems to relish the meaty role that she has been given by the writer. The other standout performers are without doubt Rome star James Purefoy (Vlad / Dracula) and Douglas Hodge (Radu). Their performances are as credible as they are theatrical, and what is more both men are particularly impressive in
their delivery of Lyons’ powerful dialogue.
“Son of the Dragon” should also be applauded for its unique structure. Whilst the play is comprised of four twenty-five minute episodes, each is fairly self-contained and features its own pre-title sequence. Stranger still, the cliffhangers dwell more on key plot points than they do on incident or set pieces, and none of them are reprised – something that, on
audio, works remarkably well. The first two episode endings in particular are extremely memorable – “I am Dracula!” and “The Bride of Dracula!” are much more powerful than most unremarkable ‘mortal peril’-type cliffhangers.
The CD Extras also mark yet another evolution in the series, this time boasting several deleted scenes on top of the standard interviews. Back in 1999 when it all began, the mere fact that new Doctor Who was being produced was sufficient to ensure most fans’ subscriptions but now, with the new series going strong, Big Finish have to make these releases just that little bit more tempting and I think that, under Nicholas Briggs’ stewardship, they are doing precisely that. Nowadays, you get almost as much in the way of bonus material on a Big Finish monthly CD release as you do on a classic series DVD release!
Of course, no amount of bonus material is any substitute for a cracking good story, but so
far as “Son of the Dragon” is concerned, you are looking at the complete package – a cannot miss story and some great bonus material. Not bad at all for a tenner or so!
Now here is a thought to leave you with – the next time we see Peter Davison playing the
fifth Doctor, it will be for telly! Friday 16th November – pencil it in!
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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