The Doctor, wishing to continue to teach Leela about her ancestry, takes her to Britain during the Roman occupation.
Surely that’s a dangerous enough place and time for the TARDIS team? Apparently not, arriving in Norfolk the Doctor and Leela are captured and taken to face the wrath and general psychotic behaviour of Boudica, the fiery warrior queen of the British Iceni tribe that are planning to overthrow the Roman army.
This is where The Wrath of the Iceni turns into, for want of a better title, “How Leela Met Her Mother”. Obviously not literally, but the similar views of both Boudica and Leela make for an interesting partnership. When they first meet, Boudica is wary of the Doctor, she almost finds him threatening and his addresses to her lack the respect and fear that she is used to commanding.
Leela, though, is different. She is of course an equal with similar values and beliefs. As the story progresses and Leela finds out from the Doctor the terrible thing that happened to Boudica’s daughters she insists on helping the cause but the Doctor, being of sound mind and the view of “we cannot interfere”, opposes her view.
This leads to something of a first for the Fourth Doctor and Leela as she actively defies him and ever so slightly loses her faith in him, siding with another. We’re used to Leela blindly following the Doctor and her faith in him never floundering but here, in this tale, she changes. The Doctor’s pleas of non-interference fall on deaf ears, and Leela makes decisions that could help alter the course of history itself.
It’s an interesting concept to play with, even in television tales when the Doctor seems to betray Leela, her faith in him is always strong but in The Wrath of the Iceni the savage seems to abandon his ideals completely and is willing to leave her time travelling life behind to fight alongside the mother she never had.
Writer John Dorney explores some very adult themes in this piece, themes that have never been addressed in the world of Doctor Who. To hear them talked about is a sobering experience as one realises that there are all types of evil in the Doctor’s universe. Nothing is exempt and that makes this story all the more grounded and all the more real. The first two fourth Doctor adventures have been just that, adventures. Fun stories with nasty villains and a neat resolution but with this tale we’re given a much more sobering experience. There are no aliens, no time loops, no spaceships looming overhead, hell bent on the destruction of Earth, this is a human story about the evil that some can do and it shines because of that sole factor.
Iceni is an adult tale with adults themes featuring real people; it evokes stories from the more modern Doctor Who episodes and deals with ideas that listeners will recognise as all too real. Human nature, uncertainty, blind faith, fear, resentment and anger are all rife in the characters here and that gives Baker and Jameson a wonderful opportunity to act their socks off.
This is where the Fourth Doctor Adventures really start to mature into something we haven’t experienced before, a serious drama in a sci-fi show that needs no sci-fi elements to progress.
The Wrath of the Iceni is available from www.bigfinsh.com now on CD or via download.