Doctor Who Review – “The Burning Prince”

Rating: (WARNING: Significant spoilers follow) Here we have part one of a three part series. Rather like Big Finish’s “Excelis”…

Chris Swanson

Contributor

Rating: ★★★★☆

(WARNING: Significant spoilers follow)

Here we have part one of a three part series. Rather like Big Finish’s “Excelis” series (released in 2003 for the show’s 40th anniversary and guest starring Anthony Stewart Head as the recurring villain), this series seems to focus on the Doctor’s involvement in one planet over the course of three different regenerations. In this first story, we have the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison). Next month we’ll get the Sixth Doctor and then in November, the Seventh. This format worked well with “Excelis”, and also included a lovely bonus story with Bernice Summerfield and Iris Wildthyme. How does it work for this series?

Well, this is just the first part, but at least so far it works well. The story focuses on the Doctor, travelling solo, and arriving on board a spaceship that’s ferrying a young prince (George Rainsford) as he tries to find his missing bride (Caroline Langshire). Yes, it’s a ferry-tale. The two are supposed to enter into an arranged marriage as a way of bringing peace to their two noble houses (both alike in dignity, you know), and thus end generations of war, etc, etc. That the two are in love with each other is a nice bonus.

Naturally, things don’t go as planned, and soon the ship they are all on is being attacked by some sort of genetically modified lifeform that kills pretty much everyone and forces our crew to crashland on the same planet where the princess went missing. The Doctor gets accused of sabotage, there’s plenty of treason and betrayal and the prince turns out to be quite the little firebug. So all in all, there’s a lot happening here.

As part one of a trilogy, this is a hard story to judge, but I’ll give it a go, starting with what didn’t work for me. First, the prince. Didn’t care for him. He struck me as an annoying little oit, who didn’t deserve what happens to him, but didn’t really rouse my sympathy very much. Also, the eventual reveal of who the villain was and what their plan was, wasn’t very much of much. I also seriously raised an eyebrow at the very tail end of the story.

I also felt like this is one of those rare stories where the Doctor wasn’t really doing much. He was the protagonist, but didn’t really protag all that much. Mostly he just sort of let events carry him. This happens from time to time in the series, and it can work when done well, but it was a bit irritating here.

That all said, I still found the overall story to be enjoyable and entertaining, and I do look forward to seeing where this goes with the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Hopefully they’ll get to do a little bit more and hopefully they’ll also have somewhat more interesting villains to deal with.

Despite the flaws, I can recommend this one, though perhaps it might be worth holding off until the next two stories are released, because there’s little more irritating than enjoying part one of a story and finding that the next two just don’t rock.