Doctor Who: The Wrath of the Iceni. Audio Book Review

THE WRATH OF THE ICENI by John Dorney

Big Finish, CD £10.99, download £8.99, http://bigfinish.com

Reviewed by Chris Limb

“If they are invaders then we must repel them!”

“Must we?”

“Is that not what we do?”

The Doctor gets more than he bargained for when his latest trip to teach Leela about her ancient Earth ancestors places them both in the middle of the Roman occupation of Britain in 60 AD. Finding a kindred spirit in Warrior Queen Boudica, Leela is puzzled and then frustrated by the Doctor’s refusal to help with the fight against the Romans and eventually decides to leave the TARDIS all together…

When Doctor Who started in 1963 its remit was to entertain and educate and therefore in the early days the tales of alien planets and invasions were interspersed with pure historicals in which the Doctor and his companions would become embroiled in past events. These were phased out in 1966 and (aside from the odd little 1982 tale Black Orchid in which Peter Davison’s Doctor is caught up in a 1920s murder mystery) stories containing no SF elements were never again made for TV.  However, since gaining the licence to produce audio Doctor Who, Big Finish have produced a number of excellent historical stories, proving that you don’t have to bolt on an ancient alien incursion to shine a light on the past and tell a gripping tale therein.

Wrath of the Iceni may well be one of the best of these type of plays Big Finish has produced. Dealing with a number of adult themes it is a story all about questions and assumptions. Tom Baker’s normally jovial Fourth Doctor is forced to confront the darker side of Ancient Britain when trying to explain to Leela why they cannot interfere with the course of history.  The script also tackles head on what the real Boudica may well have been like, a bloodthirsty psychopath a long way from the romanticised cultural symbol of the Britannia-like warrior popular from the Renaissance onwards.  Ella Kenion puts in an extraordinary performance as this frightening figure, ruthless and menacing as she forces the Doctor to reveal his foreknowledge of the defeat of the Iceni in a scene eerily reminiscent of the seminal sequence in Genesis of the Daleks in which Davros attempts something very similar.

Louise Jameson here puts in one of her best and most mature performances as Leela, from her anguish at the decisions she must make to the fury when she discovers just what kind of a person her new hero Boudica really is.

The sound design during the battle of Camulodunum is so realistic that at times it feels almost too gory for Doctor Who, and despite such a small cast (aside from the regulars and Boudica there are only two other main characters) Wrath of the Iceni feels like a real epic.

About Phil Lunt (885 Articles)
Hailing from the rain-sodden, North Western wastelands of England, Phil has dabbled in many an arcane vocation. From rock-star to conveyor-belt scraper at a bread factory, 'Dairy Logistics Technician' to world's worst waiter. He's currently a freelance designer, actor, sometime writer/editor and Chair of the British Fantasy Society. He is on the Global Frequency and is still considering becoming an astronaut when he grows up.