Saturday, May 28, 2016
      ( 5:49 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
I didn't hear about the Donald Trump protesters here in San Diego until late in the evening when a friend of mine who lives in another state sent me a message asking if I was okay. Yes, I'm fine, I don't think I have the constitution for a normal protest, let alone one where apparently things got slightly violent. All in the Gaslamp, downtown, it seems, a place that I'm sure is familiar to anyone who's come here for Comic Con. A couple months from now presumably that place will be filled with promotions for various television shows and movies.

I was on internet blackout while I worked on my comic yesterday. But I listened to two very interesting Doctor Who audio plays while I worked--a 2007 Fifth Doctor audio play called Son of the Dragon and a 2015 War Doctor audio play called The Innocent. This was the first Doctor Who audio play to star John Hurt as the War Doctor, reprising the role he played on television in the 50th anniversary special. He's by far the most interesting thing about this particular audio play but in other respects it's not bad.

The first part of a trilogy of audios called Only the Monstrous, unfortunately all three were written by Nicholas Briggs. Being the first stand alone adventure for the War Doctor, I found myself listening attentively to what distinguishes his personality, something I'd do the first time hearing or seeing any Doctor, but particularly here I was listening for things that make him more of a warrior thanks to the potion he drank before regenerating. Aside from getting angry whenever someone calls him "Doctor" and insisting to the would-be companion that he's a monster, he doesn't really do anything especially monstrous or warlike, though. He wipes out a Dalek fleet at the beginning but the Seventh Doctor destroyed the Dalek home world. Well, he tricked the Daleks into doing it themselves but War still needs to really establish his cred.

Hurt's performance is great, much slower most of the time than the other actors. He generally has a slightly bitter, musing quality, but every now and then he sneaks in a quick line delivery that sounds amused or oddly young and you get the impression of the layers of personality underneath.

But a far better audio play was Son of the Dragon. Written by Steve Lyons, who wrote the nice Eighth Doctor audio Time Works, Son of the Dragon finds Five (Peter Davison), Peri (Nicola Bryant), and Erimem (Caroline), the former Pharaoh and one of the best audio companions, materialising on a bloody mediaeval battlefield. The conflict is between Slavs and invading Turks and it's not right away they realise that one faction is headed by none other than Vlad the Impaler (James Purefoy).

This audio play is of a sort I really wish the television series would emulate more often--one that has a real feeling for a moment in history. Like The Settling or Circular Time, however accurate it might be it captures a sense of the different groups of people at the time and their interests. Lyons uses the fact that Vlad's brother, Radu (Douglas Hodge), was allied with the Turks to create a story of brothers in conflict. It doesn't quite make sense that people believe Erimem was a Pharaoh just because she says so but the romance between her and Vlad is nice because Lyons never denies that Vlad is violent and brutal and Erimem isn't unacquainted with violent tactics herself as a ruler. It's a refreshing relationship for Doctor Who and listening to Vlad trying to impose his will and Erimem sometimes outmanoeuvring him is fun. Peri is kind of a fifth wheel in this story, her squeaky voice making her a particularly superfluous wheel but it's nice the Doctor has someone to remind that one should consider the historical context before being too horrified with some of Vlad's crueller methods. Though of course the Doctor exhibits plenty of disapproval. Still, it's one of those too rare stories where Davison gets to cash in on his Errol Flynn-ishness by using a sword in combat.

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