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Friday, 30 November 2012

The Drashani Trilogy

 Well, it's time for a multi-Doctor set of stories! This isn't actually a crossover, but we do see the Doctor visiting the same empire in three different incarnations across 80 years. These three audios also do a good job of introducing their Doctors and might be a good starting place for new listeners. There are no recurring companions and the unified story seems designed to show the differences in the Doctors.

The Burning Prince (2012) By: John Dorney

The Doctor arrives on a warship on the way to rescue a princess from a starship crash. Her betrothed, Prince Kylo, cannot wait for the wedding and is anxious to find his bride. The wedding is meant to unite the Sorsha and Gadarel factions. The Doctor is captured and thought to be a spy. As he is brought before the security captain Shira, an Igris, an invincible creature they have for study, is released from its cage. The invincible creature runs amok on the ship and crashes the ship to the planet below where there are thousands of Igris.

This is another action packed tale for the Fifth Doctor. However, this is more of a survival thriller than an adventure tale. It does a great job of setting up the stakes as well as the cleverness of the a saboteur in their midst. Some of the military envoy get rather lost in the story. So much so that when the saboteur is revealed, I had to wait for the Doctor to explain which character that was. All in all, it succeeded in making a daring chase story with high stakes and mostly likeable characters.

Our Hero
The Fifth Doctor is almost his usual peace loving self. He has a few moments where I was wondering about his lack of compassion as people are being killed off, but these were only a few fleeting moments and could be chalked up to the Doctor's optimism. He also gets more light and humorous moments than in a normal Fifth Doctor story.

Hunted Observers
Prince Kylo is the eponymous prince in addition to being a sappy naive romantic. He can get a bit annoying with his fits and his freak outs, but I don't think we're meant to like this whiny privileged adolescent. He is definitely changed by the events of the story.

Shira is the mission leader and a brave military commander. She is the first to accept that the Doctor is not a spy or saboteur. The way her character is built up is really effective. Over the course of the first episode, she's the first of the characters that the listener can care about. Also, through her convictions, the listener can come to care about the mission despite Kylo being an annoyance.

Tuvold is the Gadarel ambassador and uncle to the missing princess Aliona. He is a kindly old man whose only hope is for peace and the return to his newly born daughter. He provides the empathy this story needs. There is a lot of staunch military hope, but Tuvold provides genuine non-adolescent emotion.

Corwin is Shira's second in command. He is brash and foolhardy. Naturally he and the Doctor don't get along.

Altus, Riga, and Tyron are other military personnel. They largely exist as cannon fodder and to interact with the others. Not to say they have no personality. They do and do quite a bit, but they are rather similar to one another and even their leaders Shira and Corwin.

Hateful Foes
The traitor has stock motives and really only serves to create a lurking suspicion and drive the action. In these functions, this person works well, but as a character he's/she's little more than a plot device.

The Igris are a really cool species. They actually come across as unstoppable killing machines and their weaknesses are few. As a threat they work really well especially as the traitor's chief means of killing of the party.

Crashed Atmosphere
The spaceship, crash, wreck, and spaceport are all lent enough detail to serve as viable pieces to move the action along. The action occurs in short bursts and lends itself well to the audio with characters in danger communicating their movements to characters in a safer location.

In the End
The twists in part three are not too impressive, but I was pretty shocked by the ending. It contains both hope and tragedy and made me want to listen to the rest of the series much more than the predictable post-credits cliffhanger.

This trilogy is all about how hate and revenge can turn things from bad to worse. I think this episode manages to create a tense and exciting romp with the Doctor and earn the ending it gives. Some strong character writing for the Doctor, Shira, and Tuvold really help overcome this episode's shortcomings.
Buy it here from Big Finish!

The Acheron Pulse (2012) By: Rick Briggs

The Drashani Empire is at peace and Empress Cheni has come to oversee some mining negotiations incognito. The Doctor arrives on the mining planet of Cawdor only to be taken captive by some barbarians. He winds up at the mining negotiations as the Warlord Tenebris and his Wrath attack with their ultimate weapon the Acheron Pulse.

This story can be divided into three somewhat connected plots. The barbarians taking back their world is wholly unnecessary time filler. Duhkin and Teesha trying to stop a bomb on the station is the B plot and one of the last to develop. It seemed kind of necessary, but was far more enjoyable than the stupid barbarians. The A plot involves the Doctor, Cheni and Tenebris facing off for the fate of the empire. The problem is that the A plot isn't that interesting until they reveal what the Acheron Pulse actually is. The Acheron Pulse also brings back the Igris for the better.

Our Heroes
The Sixth Doctor lets his arrogance get the better of him. I also thought it was a bit strange that he waited a whole regeneration before returning to the Drashani Empire and I would have liked more explanation. I liked the Doctor's plan at the end and he was at his best face to face with Tenebris.

Stratified Observers
Empress Cheni is the ruler of the Drashani Empire and has grown up with the stories of the romance Kylo and Aliona. She is a kind ruler, though a bit on the naive side. Her presence is also stronger toward the end, though she gets kind of forgotten about.

Teesha and Duhkin are a natives of the planet Cawdor and some of the people negotiating with the Drashani over mining rights. They must deal with a bomb planted by one of the other minor characters. This is mixed in with the main plot and works to add some lighter moments during the dark chapter three and start of four.

The Barbarians seem like filler at the beginning and do nothing to disprove that during the course of the audio. They should have been left out and had the A and B plots expanded.

Vengeful Foes
Tenebris is a warlord with a grudge against the Drashani. Anyone who has listened to The Burning Prince will know immediately who this is, fortunately they don't dwell on that 'twist' for too long. Tenebris is given the weight he deserves and his soldiers are even pretty cool themselves.

The Wrath are the soldiers of Tenebris. They can project flame bolts and even kill Igris. Fortunately, this isn't presented as a reduction of the Igris but shows the power of the Wrath. You can see them in the background of the cover and they kind of sound like more intense Cylons. First Indiana Jones, now Battlestar Galactica, what next?

I'm still not sure about the end of the bomb subplot. There was an explanation, but I'm not sure it made sense. Anyway, the coolest part of the setting is the very end that I can't talk about. So, yeah look forward to the end because even the Doctor says the space station isn't all that.

In the End
This ending plays to all the Sixth Doctor's strengths as well as his faults. It's also nice to have a happier ending after the depression of the first half of the Drashani arc. I was a bit disappointed that they seem to forget about Empress Cheni though.

I can say this story is a weak start followed by a strong finish. The first two chapters are cluttered with filler and a lot of backstory, it manages a 5/10. The last two have some filler, but manage a successful conclusion to the main story as well as the previous one. An 8/10 for sure. This is quite a shame, since with a better writer this story could have managed a lot better. This does continue the theme that hatred and revenge cause destruction. It is uneven, but definitely worth a listen.
Buy it here from Big Finish!

The Shadow Heart (2012) By: Jonathan Morris

The Wrath have extended their reach across the galaxy and now are searching for the ones who made them that way: the Doctor and Tenebris. They've sent bounty hunter Vienna Salvatori to capture the Doctor.

This is a fun action adventure piece by one of my favorite audio writers, Jonathan Morris. It has overtones of many of the best loved sci-fi and can even be a bit goofy at times. The edge of the first two installments isn't gone, but it is a lot more blunted. Most of the side characters are used for comedy. The villains get enough screen time with a little emphasis on a new potential star, Vienna.

Our Heroes
The Seventh Doctor walks the line between his humorous and manipulative sides. There is a fun bit of out of sequence time for the Doctor that came off as much as luck as cleverness. The doctor once again gets defensive over his past action and that's one thing I would have changed. The Doctor never really accepts his role in these events.

Jandor is the Doctor's mysterious sidekick. I had no idea who this was for the entirety of the audio. I had a stronger feeling toward the end, but it really could have been any of the good or bad guys.

Talbar and Horval are intergalactic salvagers who fly around in a space snail named Hercules. Does it sound ridiculous? Yeah. But, it actually turns about to be a nice set of characters that I cared about and wanted to be okay at the end.

Vienna Salvatori is a bounty hunter who kills anyone that hears her name. Well, at the start anyway. She's shown as a shifty, backstabbing sellsword. I'm not sure if she's meant to mellow in her own series. At first I found her voice a little strange to listen to, but I soon got used to it. Her voice actress, Chase Masterson, also played Leeta on Deep Space 9 and I could hear it occasionally though not enough to distract me. On a side note, Chase Masterson is looking fantastic for almost being fifty. Had to say it.

Tenebris is back and has evolved as a character even more. He has more solid and understandable reasons for returning to plague the Doctor. This is his trilogy and this is a fitting send off.

The Wrath are back and have become more like the Borg. They are less threatening, but I guess that's because their objectives are less harsh than in The Acheron Pulse.

Is that the Cantina? Yeah, I can almost hear Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes. Then a Star Trek spaceship battle. Then the MCP at the end. Okay, maybe I'm being a bit unfair, but that's what it seemed like. Not that it was bad.

In the End
A fitting end to the trilogy and a fun story after the gloom at the start.

Not Jonathan Morris' best, but this was a fun end to a long and sometimes grim adventure. The loose ends are tied up and we see a long character arc close as another begins. The empire spanning Wrath are less terrifying than before, but no less cool. Check this trilogy out.
Buy it here from Big Finish!

This series culminates in introducing a new line of Big Finish audios due out next year called Vienna staring Chase Masterson as Vienna Salvatori from The Shadow Heart. It is only $5 to pre-order the first episode of this new series, so if you liked her in this, you should check that out. It will be released in February.

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