Audio Drama Review: The Wrath of the Iceni (take two!)

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to The Wrath of the Iceni, the third entry in series one of the Fourth Doctor Adventures. Written by John Dorney and directed by Ken Bentley, this story is a notable and rare Fourth Doctor historical. I’ve reviewed it before, but it was only the second audio review I posted, and I hadn’t really worked out a format yet; nor did I have much background as to the audios from which to work. We’ve come a long way since then, and so I’ve decided to post a new review here, in the midst of series one of the Fourth Doctor Adventures; but you can still read the original review here if you are interested. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

Wrath of the Iceni 1

The TARDIS materializes in a vacant field. The Doctor and Leela emerge and head toward a nearby wood.  The Doctor declines Leela’s suggestion that they return to the TARDIS, and explains that he intends this journey to be a part of her education; he wishes to track her ancestry via the local natives and gain information for her.  Nearby in the wood, two Romans are tracked down by the local warrior queen, Boudica of the Iceni tribe.  The Romans discover her, and kill her horse before threatening her.  They are interrupted by the Doctor and Leela, and Leela takes arms to assist Boudica; Boudica takes advantage of the situation to kill the two Romans.  She introduces herself; when the Doctor learns her identity, he changes his mind and tries to persuade Leela to return to the TARDIS.

Leela refuses, and Boudica supports her in it. To thank Leela for her loyalty, Boudica takes them back to her tribe’s encampment and offers them shelter and food.  When they at last obtain some privacy, Leela asks the Doctor why he was suddenly anxious to leave.  He explains the era in which they have landed: seventeen years ago, the Romans invaded the land that will one day be England, and bought off several local tribal rulers in order to ensure a peaceful conquest.  Boudica’s husband, Prasutagus, was one of those rulers; in his will he divided his domain between the Roman Empire and his own daughters.  The Emperor, Nero, disregarded the will and claimed the entire kingdom; when Boudica raised objections, her daughters were taken and publicly raped, and she herself was flogged.  Now—if the Doctor has correctly pinpointed the date, and he is certain he has—Boudica is preparing to lead her tribe in an attack on the nearest Roman town.  History records that her campaign will end in a massacre of her tribe.

Leela insists that they must prevent the deaths of the Iceni, but the Doctor explains that history has fixed these events, and they cannot be changed. Leela doesn’t understand; they are here, now, and the events have not yet happened, and therefore she believes they can and should be changed.  When the Doctor insists, she refuses to listen; instead she goes to Boudica and offers her loyalty and assistance.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is approached by a servant girl named Bragnar. Having overheard his conversation, she believes him to be a seer; now, she wants him to save her tribe.  He explains that he cannot, as they are destined to fail; but perhaps he can save her.  To that end, he decides to take her to the TARDIS, and also to recover Leela if he can.  However, their conspiracy is overheard, and Boudica is informed.  She takes this as a sign of betrayal, despite Leela’s insistence on the Doctor’s good faith.  She heads into the forest on horseback with Leela, and intercepts the Doctor and Bragnar.  Boudica threatens to kill them, but is stopped by Leela, who insists that the Doctor can see the future; she explains that he has predicted that tomorrow’s battle will end in destruction.  Boudica decides to let him live; but she holds the Doctor and Bragnar prisoner instead, planning to extort from him the information she needs to win the battle.

Boudica and Leela overlook the targeted Roman town, Camulodunum; Boudica is confident it can be overrun. She insists that the Doctor can be made to give her more information.

The Doctor and Bragnar are tied up in a tent at Boudica’s orders, and lamenting their situation. Bragnar doesn’t wish anyone dead; she just wishes for peace.  Boudica returns and checks in with the guard, Caedmon, regarding the progress of the situation; he wants to torture the Doctor, but Boudica again forbids it.  Instead, she intends to use Bragnar to get the Doctor to speak.  Inside the tent, Bragnar has grown tired of the Doctor’s banter, when Boudica and Leela arrive; Leela has him untied, but Boudica keeps Bragnar bound.  Boudica demands answers about his prophecy of destruction, and how the Iceni will be defeated.  When he won’t elaborate, Boudica says she will find her own omens…in Bragnar’s entrails.

The Doctor gives in to save Bragnar’s life. He explains that Camulodunum is sparsely guarded, but that it is a decoy; though the attack there will be successful, Governor Paulinus is laying a trap for the Iceni, with his armies held to the north.  When the city is taken, he will return and hem in the Iceni inside the city, then destroy them.  Satisfied, she leaves him in the tent, bound again, and orders a reinforcement of her army’s rear guard; she orders the army to prepare to ride.  Leela is appalled that she won’t release him, but she insists she has many battles to fight, and will make him serve her for all of them.

Leela returns and confronts the Doctor, but leaves him in the tent. She insists that Boudica is a good woman, and declares that she will ride with the army.  To Caedmon’s satisfaction, she tells the Doctor that he must stay and give up his old life and serve as Boudica insists.  However, when Leela leaves with Caedmon, the Doctor tells Bragnar that it’s not what she said, but what she did—and what she did, was slip him her knife.  The Doctor laboriously cuts his own bonds, then Bragnar’s; he comments that Leela was really telling him to abandon her, not his own life.

The army gathers near the Romans encampment, and prepares to charge, though Leela expresses her doubts. Boudica gives a speech to rally her troops, and leads the charge.  The armies engage, and the battle begins.

The Doctor and Bragnar locate a pair of horses, and hurry toward Camulodunum; Bragnar is alarmed, but the Doctor insists he is going to rescue Leela, despite what she asked of him. Meanwhile, Leela is becoming more and more distraught at Boudica’s bloodthirst; she is ashamed to see the Iceni killing the aged, sick, women, and even those who had surrendered.  Boudica orders her troops to destroy the city’s temple and the final survivors inside, which include British slaves—Leela protests, as Boudica plans to kill them as well.  Leela confronts Boudica, and insists that the woman is fighting not for her country, but for revenge.  She declares that the Doctor was right—Boudica is not a good woman, and her battle is wrong.  She reveals that she released the Doctor, which Boudica takes as a betrayal.  Boudica attacks Leela, declaring that she has “scarce fought an equal”.

The Doctor and Bragnar arrive in the last of the battle, where they meet with Caedmon, who chases after them. Caedmon kills the Doctor’s horse; the Doctor sends Bragnar away for her safety, and confronts Caedmon.  Caedmon intends to defy Boudica’s order and kill the Doctor, blaming it on the Romans; but Bragnar doubles back and attacks Caedmon, unintentionally killing him.  They set off again to search for Leela.

Leela and Boudica are still battling, as the Doctor arrives. Boudica manages to strike her while she is distracted, but she is not badly hurt.  She orders the Doctor not to interfere; and moments later, she gets the advantage.  She refuses to kill Boudica, instead leaving her behind.  Boudica is undeterred; she refuses to consider herself defeated, and continues the larger battle.

On the road back toward the TARDIS, Leela and Bragnar discuss the battle. The Doctor admits that he didn’t tell Boudica the truth; there was no army coming from the north, and no defeat today.  Instead, it was a Roman massacre that took place, just as history had recorded.  However, in the future, Boudica will go on to fight other battles, which will lead to her ultimate defeat—not today, but on a day to come, when her pride and arrogance will leave her own army hemmed in to be slaughtered.  Leela admits that she may no longer have the stomach for slaughter, leading the Doctor to comment that her education may be progressing after all.  At the TARDIS, the Doctor explains how Boudica dies: facing death in battle, she kills her daughters, then poisons herself.  Violence brings its own end, it seems.  As the TARDIS departs, the Doctor considers that Leela has had enough education for now; it’s time for something different.

Years hence, Bragnar passes on her story to her own daughters as the sole survivor of her tribe.

Wrath of the Iceni 4

Historicals may have become rare in Doctor Who over the years, but at least they’re familiar, for the most part. Perhaps in part because of the programme’s origins in children’s television, it tends to stick to well-known parts of history. This one, however, covers a corner of history which I knew nothing about, and indeed had never heard of prior to my first time listening. That probably says more about the difference between American and British education than it does about Doctor Who; but still, it came as a rare surprise to me.

For any other American fans like me, who may not be familiar with the particulars of distant eras of British history, the titular Iceni were a British Celtic tribe, with this story—and presumably much of their history—ending around AD 60 or 61. Boudica was queen of the Iceni by necessity; her husband, Prasutagus, ruled the tribe, but of necessity become a partially independent ally of the invading Romans some seventeen years earlier. He intended for his daughters to rule after him and continue the alliance; but after his death the territory of the Iceni was claimed fully by Rome. Boudica protested, and was subsequently flogged; her daughters were publicly raped. Boudica then led the Iceni and some of their allies in revolt against the Romans, destroying Camulodunum (modern Colchester, according to Wikipedia) before moving on to Londinium (modern London), and in the process killing about eighty thousand Romans. However, they were eventually defeated by the Romans and practically wiped out, with Boudica either committing suicide or dying of illness (there is some debate). This story takes place in the earliest days of her campaign, just before and during the attack on Camulodunum. The Doctor and Leela fall in with Boudica quite by accident, but Leela is taken with her warrior ways, and chooses to help Boudica’s cause. The Doctor, meanwhile, knows how history plays out, and knows that helping the Iceni is futile; nevertheless, his knowledge slips out, and he is held prisoner as a seer. Toward the end, Leela realizes her mistake, but is in too deep to back off; therefore the Doctor, upon escaping, is forced to rescue her. He tells Boudica what she wants to hear, but cleverly hides the ultimate outcome, causing her to commit to her original plan without changing history. In the end, Leela cannot save the Iceni, but with the Doctor’s help, she saves one person—a woman named Bragnar, who survives to tell the story to her own daughters.

Over five decades, we’ve seen nearly every possible take on the idea that history cannot be changed. This episode is nothing new; it’s just very tragic. Then again, history itself is often tragic; and this story, at least, reports it as accurately as can be done when adding the Doctor to a story. We don’t watch or listen to these stories in order to see how the Doctor changes things; we listen to them to see the clever lengths to which he must go to prevent changing things. In that regard, this story is very reminiscent of The Fires of Pompeii with the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble; the Doctor would find it exceedingly simple to change things, but that change would most likely have catastrophic repercussions throughout the future. Therefore he has to work at not changing anything; and his task is made that much harder by a companion who wants more than anything to save everyone. The only answer that will allow him to maintain his identity as the Doctor, and yet preserve history (even with its tragedies!) is to do what he does in both stories: save someone.

As a reminder, this is still very early in Leela’s story. As far as can be told, this is only her seventh adventure with the Doctor. Thus he is still on his quest to educate her about her own species’ history. Boudica’s era is familiar territory to Leela, as she is also of a “savage” tribal background; therefore the Doctor is far less condescending toward her here than in most stories, because he knows he is surrounded by people just like her, who won’t put up with it (or understand it, probably). He does take the opportunity to give her the lesson about history being unchangeable, although without the level of technical detail he gives to more technically advanced companions. This is truly Leela’s story, not the Doctor’s, even though the screen time is about equally split between them; for the first time, she is the confident one, and she makes her own decisions. She may be wrong in the end, but seeing her take charge is practically majestic; and even the Doctor seems to acknowledge that.

Continuity References: Leela expressly says that history can be changed, despite what the Doctor says; this is a reference to The Foe From the Future, which, though an audio, is set immediately before The Talons of Weng-Chiang (and notably was originally written to be the series 14 finale, but was not produced). The Doctor’s observation (regarding Bragnar) that one person is unlikely to make a difference is also a reference to that story. He hates Morris dancers, which nearly killed him in The Daemons. He makes reference to the Morovanian Museum, and Leela mentions Reginald Harcourt (The Renaissance Man). He mentions his earliest encounter with Houdini (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and the extinction of the dodo (The Last Dodo–Doctor Who has a story for everything). A few future references are noteworthy, although I usually try to avoid them until we reach the stories involved and can look back: Leela claims her name has no meaning, contradicting several future audios (notably, The Catalyst); The Tenth Doctor and Donna will meet Boudica again in The Lonely Computer; the Doctor plans a trip to the 21st century (the next entry, Energy of the Daleks). Iris Wildthyme claims to have been at the siege of Colchester (or Camulodunum in this case; The Elixir of Doom). Boudica and the Iceni get a mention in Byzantium!.

Overall: It’s worth noting that this is the first pure historical for the fourth Doctor in any performance medium (and possibly still the only—I haven’t looked ahead at later series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, but we’ll find out as we get there). While it’s fairly straightforward—as I said, there are no great surprises here—that’s all it needs to be, being the first historical for him. The conflict between Leela and the Doctor is not new, and isn’t going away anytime soon—all in all, they are a bit of a one-note duo—but it’s done well here, and this story does more than any other I’ve encountered to make Leela’s point and make it sympathetic. Her way of life is valid; it’s just not always applicable. She’s a moral and noble and valiant character, and all of those strengths get showcased here; she just happens to be lacking a piece of relevant knowledge about history. It proves to be a hard and bitter lesson for her, but learn it she does.

Wrath of the Iceni 3

Next time: Energy of the Daleks! See you there.

All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this story’s purchase page is linked below.  This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

The Wrath of the Iceni



Audio Drama Review: The Relics of Time

We’re back, with another Doctor Who audio drama review! I don’t usually post on Wednesdays, but I’ve decided to take on something different for a few weeks. As I have a series of Big Finish audio reviews fairly well established on Mondays and Thursdays, I didn’t want to interrupt that project; so, for the next few Wednesdays, I’ll be taking advantage of some temporarily-available audios and looking at a series of audios published by BBC, rather than Big Finish Productions. It’s a different take on the audio drama format, but just as entertaining; BBC has published far less Doctor Who audio, but their quality doesn’t suffer for that. We join the Fourth Doctor and a BBC Audio-exclusive companion, Mrs. Wibbsey, in Demon Crest:  The Relics of Time, written by Paul Magrs. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!


Before I get started, I should explain that I’m arriving at this series in the middle. Three story arcs have been released for the Fourth Doctor in this series; the first, Hornet’s Nest, I have not yet had opportunity to hear. Demon Quest is the second of the three arcs, consisting of five two-hour stories, each divided into two parts. Should I have the opportunity, I will back up and pick up Hornet’s Nest as well, and possibly continue the final series, Serpent Crest.

The Fourth Doctor returns to Nest Cottage, his “vacation home” of sorts in West Surrey, just before Christmas 2010. He spends some time buttering up his housekeeper, Mrs. Wibbsey, who is from Cromer, 1932 (having been rescued and brought here by the Doctor in Hornet’s Nest). He is here to relax, and to complete some repairs on the TARDIS; as a result, he disassembles much of the console in the parlor. He gets into trouble, however, when she sells some things from the cottage at a church charity sale—and suspects that she may have put some TARDIS components in the sale. In fact, a stranger has bought some components—specifically, the spatial geometer—but he left a bag of odds and ends in exchange.

The bag contains, among other things, a bit of mosaic tile, and a photo of the Roman-era mosaic of which it is a part. More shocking is the mosaic itself: it is the image of the Fourth Doctor! Also, a cartoon is there, which also includes the image of the Doctor. Mrs. Wibbsey is upset at herself; but the Doctor is intrigued by the objects.

He patches the TARDIS back together as best he can, and has its navigational system analyze the tile. The tile was unearthed in West Sussex in 1964, along with the rest of the mosaic, an apparent anachronism for the local Celts of its time period. He finds a reference to a local goddess named, oddly, “Wibbsentia”…

Without the missing components, the TARDIS cannot travel in space, only in time. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, he takes Mrs. Wibbsey with him—bullies her, really—back in time. He admits that he has not been to that time period “in this body”, confusing her, but she goes along; he tells her that the reference to “Wibbsentia” implicates her in the mystery as much as him.

In the Roman era, they make their way overland to the nearest settlement, and are intercepted by a group of Celts. The Celts take them in and lodge and feed them overnight; the Elders meet to discuss the Doctor and Mrs. Wibbsey. The Elders hope that the Doctor is a Druid, of the “lost tribe”. He at first denies it, but—as that hope is the only thing keeping them alive—he quickly introduces Mrs. Wibbsey as a prophetess and priestess skilled in reading goat entrails. They dub her “Wibbsentia”, and promptly sacrifice a goat for her to use in divination. She plays the part well, describing a rival group, a tribe from the hills that is raiding the Celts, and getting help from a powerful wizard with a monstrous pet…it begins to become clear that she’s not faking, but actually getting a message from somewhere. And the message prophesies destruction for the Celts.

The Doctor confers with her about her message, but is interrupted by the Elders, who offer them freedom in exchange for helping them; they want the Doctor and “Wibbsentia” to go to the other tribe…and kill the wizard. On threat of death, and with no options, they accept the mission.

The next morning, the tribe sends them off, unaccompanied; Mrs. Wibbsey comments on this, but the Doctor thinks they fear the other side too much to go along. They come upon a number of dead bodies, dessicated, but with clothes that indicate the deaths were recent. The bodies seem to come from the rival tribe. The Doctor reflects that nothing in this time can kill in this way.

They reach the other settlement, which is a little better off than the Celtic village. The Doctor marches straight in and asks to see the wizard; the woman who first meets him raises an alarm and draws a crowd. With some comical misunderstanding, they meet the alleged Wizard, who admits to being a foreigner himself. He’s a nervous and stuttering man, but he invites him to his dwelling…and also, casually, he has an elephant, affectionately named “Nelly”.

The man appears to be from Rome; his hut is decorated in Roman items, and he has trained a local Briton, Metafix, in mosaic-work. (Metafix is making a mosaic of the wizard.) Mrs. Wibbsey warns the man about the Celtic tribe, which will be attacking later today. However, he seems partly unconcerned. The Doctor outs him, however; putting together several clues, he realizes that the man is actually the Emperor Claudius, who should NOT be here in any circumstance! History makes no mention of him being here. It turns out that he bolted, abandoning his duties when the opportunity presented itself, during a journey; he just wanted to get away, and he’s done it. The Doctor assures him that he is, in fact, defying history, but can’t stay there; at a minimum, the Celts are about to attack, and will overwhelm Claudius’s tribe. The Doctor urges him to go home (making a great pun in the process: “Now, don’t get all…imperious!”) as his presence will change history drastically. He is stubborn, and won’t go; the Doctor tries to prove he is from the future so as to convince him. Most of the Doctor’s odds and ends don’t impress him, but the Doctor plays an answering machine message of Mike Yates talking about travel plans. Claudius lets slip a reference to “it all [being] on microchip someday”, and then shrugs them off.

The attack begins, and the Celts besiege the town. Mrs. Wibbsey finds a piece of the spatial geometer in the hut; Claudius sneaks off and gives them the slip. The Doctor can’t deal with him now; he goes to confront the two tribes and end the hostilities. The Celts want to kill him; but he uses the recorded message from Mike Yates (presenting it as a message from the gods) to scare them into submission. This time, it works, and they cease fighting, and eventually collaborate to prepare for their midwinter festival.

Mrs. Wibbsey has cornered Claudius in his antechamber. It’s an elaborate room, with additional mosaics; but there’s a strange light inside, and something isn’t right. Mrs. Wibbsey suspects it might be a TARDIS, but Claudius says it isn’t; the Doctor gets them out just before the room—and Claudius—disappears. His attempt at kidnapping them failed.

The Doctor drops a suggestion that Metafix may want to change the subject of his mosaic; but Metafix tears up the mosaic. Apparently the picture of the mosaic with the Doctor was a fake…but why? And who did it come from? They have a brief confrontation with the tribesmen over the elephant—the tribesmen want to eat it—and, after rescuing it, they take it with them. Along the way back to the TARDIS, they review the other items from the bag…and deduce a connection with Paris in the 1800s. That will be their next stop—the Moulin Rouge!


I really enjoyed this story, even though, truth be told, it’s not much of a story. By the Doctor’s standards, next to nothing happens; really it serves better as a prologue to the rest of the arc. Still, it’s very entertaining, and reminds me just why I’ve always liked the Fourth Doctor. He’s as cryptic and witty as ever, if a little slow on the uptake sometimes; but then, he WAS on vacation, so we can cut him some slack. He gets a few great lines; there’s the “Imperious” line I mentioned above, and in regard to his image in the mosaic, “I don’t usually take a good mosaic…” and later, this exchange in regard to Nelly the elephant: “She’s been a good companion to me.” ~The Wizard. “Oh, perhaps I’ll try it myself one day!” ~The Doctor. (Admittedly, an elephant would be a better companion than the talking cabbage that Tom Baker is reputed to have wanted at one point; but maybe a smaller animal would be better—a penguin, maybe?) He’s a bit confounded by Mrs. Wibbsey, who seems to get under his skin in a way that most of his other companions never manage (Romana, perhaps, or maybe K9). Their dynamic is very reminiscent of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Mrs. Wibbsey herself is a somewhat sad character. She’s out of her time and out of her depth in more than one sense; I don’t know much about her background, other than that she originates in Cromer in 1932, as I mentioned before, and that the Doctor assures her there is nothing there for her now. She does her best to keep up with the Doctor, but it’s a struggle for her; she would really be happier just going home, at least at this point. Still, it’s hard not to like her; she has a very grandmotherly, “church lady” demeanor, and her actress, Susan Jameson, nails the role.

There aren’t any real surprises to be had here. While Claudius’s real identity isn’t revealed here—presumably we’ll see him again—it’s obvious from his first appearance that he’s more than meets the eye. The Doctor doesn’t really pick up on the “microchip” reference, but it’s an obvious bread crumb for the audience. In that regard, it’s not much of a mystery; but it sets up some intriguing clues for the next entries in the series.

For once, there are next to no references to other stories (or at least, outside this series—there are some minor bits of review of Hornet’s Nest). The Doctor makes no references to other companions or past adventures outside this series, and even says precious little about the TARDIS; even the spatial geometer which figures so prominently here, doesn’t appear in any other stories of which I am aware. He does offer Mrs. Wibbsey some jelly babies, and uses the sonic screwdriver at one point. Mike Yates of past UNIT fame does make a brief appearance in the form of an answering-machine message, and will appear in future entries; courtesy of actor Richard Franklin’s appearance, he does figure in Hornet’s Nest as well. As this is a Fourth Doctor story, I would assume that from Yate’s point of view, this is after his betrayal and subsequent restoration as discussed in Planet of the Spiders and other places. The Doctor has never before been to Roman-era Britain, at least not onscreen; however, while traveling with Leela, he will visit the Iceni tribe in the later Roman period (Wrath of the Iceni; the Doctor Who Reference Guide places this story between The Invasion of Time, Leela’s last serial, and The Ribos Operation, Romana’s first; if true, this would mean he has already visited the Roman period in Wrath of the Iceni), and will return to the Roman period as the Eleventh Doctor with Amy and River (The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang). The Celts speak of Julius Caesar as still being alive, and the Romans have not invaded in force yet.

Overall: It’s alright. It’s certainly not the most exciting story, but it’s entertaining enough. One gets the impression that Tom Baker, at least, had fun recording this one; and the Fourth Doctor is as good as ever. If the subsequent stories step things up a bit, this one will be worth the time.


Next time: Tomorrow we’ll be back to Big Finish with Night of the Whisper, and Monday it’s the Main Range with Minuet in Hell. On Wednesday, we’ll be listening to Demon Quest, part two: The Demon of Paris! See you there.

All BBC audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased on CD at Book Depository; this story’s purchase page is linked below.  If anyone has a link to a purchase page directly from BBC, please let me know in the comments!  I would be happy to support the producing company, but have been unable to locate this or related audios for sale on the BBC website.

The Relics of Time


Audio Review: The Wrath of the Iceni

We’re back, with another audio drama review! As previously mentioned, this is one of an occasional series I’m putting together, in which I’ll review various Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas. Generally the plan is to follow the Main Range (or Monthly Range, if you prefer), and I’ll be getting started with that soon; I’ve started listening to The Sirens of Time, the first Main Range entry, and I hope to get something posted by next week. In the meantime, today we’re looking at the Fourth Doctor and Leela in the Fourth Doctor Adventures’ Wrath of the Iceni. Let’s get started!

(As always, spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this production!)

Wrath of the Iceni 2

We meet the Fourth Doctor and Leela on Earth, in the year 60 AD. Specifically, they are in the area of Norfolk, and later, at the Roman capital at Camulodunum (later Colchester)—yes, this is during the Roman occupation. There’s a bit of an anachronism with the date at one point; the character Pacquolas refers to fights in the Coliseum, but it had not yet been built. We can be sure of the date, however, as the story’s antagonist, Boudica, is an established historical figure. With regard to continuity, it’s hard to pin down where this story fits in, as I suspect is true with many small-cast audios; all we know for sure is that it’s between Season Fourteen’s The Face of Evil and Season Fifteen’s The Invasion of Time, and probably not very near the beginning of that span (as Leela refers to having traveled with the Doctor several times already).

Historically, Boudica was the wife of a ruler of the Iceni tribe, who later died in battle against the Romans along with the rest of her people. That basic outline remains unchanged by the story. The Doctor and Leela blunder into the middle of these events, and are quickly involved. Leela, being of a warrior mindset and dedicated to justice, is taken with Boudica’s cause; she wants to see the Iceni overcome their oppression by the Romans. It’s a good cause, except for one problem: History already states that the Iceni are wiped out. While the Doctor doesn’t call it a fixed point, it clearly is; and he makes it clear that the laws of time won’t allow him to save the Iceni. Leela wants none of that, of course; she wants to help even if it means the history that created her will not come to pass. In her words, there is no future, only here and now. One would think that, after traveling with the Doctor even a short time, she wouldn’t take that view; but there it is. It’s only when she sees that Boudica’s cause isn’t purely just—that despite claiming to be seeking revenge for her people, she really just wants to kill—that Leela comes to her sense. While it’s good that she backs off from helping Boudica, it’s a little concerning that in the end, she never really acknowledges the Doctor’s point—that some things in history can’t be changed.

Leela is clearly the main character here. It’s a story focused on her personal growth, and it accomplishes that goal nicely, if incompletely (it will take other adventures for her to really understand about time). She begins to see that not every issue is black and white, and that even a right action can be done for the wrong reasons. The Doctor pokes fun at her from time to time, addressing her as “savage”, but acknowledges in the end that she’s learning a lot about the universe. The Doctor himself is at his wittiest here; but we also see that he’s not afraid to lie to get what he wants. When it comes out that he knows Boudica’s fate, Leela passes him off as a prophet; then, under duress, he tells Boudica a significant lie about how she and her people will die. When, instead, they succeed, she believes she has won; but her newfound pride will eventually lead to the very downfall that history has recorded for her. Thus the fixed point remains intact. However, the Doctor isn’t heartless here; and just as the Tenth Doctor will one day do at Pompeii, he saves someone—in this case, Bragnar, the young camp cook who had been imprisoned with him. As for Boudica: Ella Kenion’s portrayal is over the top, brimming with anger and chewing every piece of scenery within reach; but no one can accuse her of being unconvincing. Boudica’s fate is tragic, but it’s utterly clear that she took herself to it. Had the Doctor not been present, the outcome would have been the same.

During the second half of the television series—the period into which this story would fit—we don’t get many pure historical stories. I, for one, didn’t enjoy the historicals as much, and often had trouble paying attention to them; I think that despite being about time travel, Doctor Who didn’t do so well with established history. There’s none of that here; maybe it’s the medium, as the nature of an audio drama probably requires more attention to detail as opposed to television. Still, either way, this is a fast-paced story, containing a fair bit of violence, and I liked it quite a bit. It’s short as the audios go, but worth a listen (and as of this writing, it’s available on Spotify for free!). Check it out!

Next time: The Sirens of Time! (And I mean it this time!) See you there.

All audios reviewed in this series can be purchased here from Big Finish Productions; link to this story is below.  This and many other audio dramas are also available on Spotify and Google Play.

The Wrath of the Iceni