Monday, 29 March 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Draconian Rage

There are a few things you might expect from the Draconian Rage. It’s by Trevor Baxendale who is known for dark and traumatic stories. It features the misogynistic Draconians who are sure to spark against Bernice’s natural wit and independence. Its got a relatively small cast set amongst a political setting, so plenty of intrigue and backstabbing are expected.

A fully fledged sequel to ‘The Dark Flame’ was not expected. For ones there are some serious problems with that story and it did not get a very warm fan reception. Additionally what the hell do the proud, Draconians have to do with Villus Krull, human emissary of the Dark Flame?

Actually, it turns out in this story, quite a lot. Things start with the expected confusion about why the Draconians would invite a ‘female’ professor to Draconia, and our glimpses of the Emperor show that actually he isn’t aware of who he’s inviting. But whilst Bernice and Lord Vasar dance around each other you can sense something brewing unsaid in the background. What exactly happened of Tranagus isn’t explained clearly but the concept of an entire planet commiting suicide, and the rest of the galaxy considering it no more than a political embarrassment, is unnerving.

And then, just as Bernice arrives on Draconia and the story seems ready to begin, Tevor Baxendale pulls the rug out from beneath you. This isn’t a story about the Draconians, and they didn’t ‘accidentally’ invite a female professor to Draconia, they wanted her specifically. It’s about Bernice, about a dark side of her we haven’t seen since Just War when she shot a German soldier in cold blood. Its about how she might endeavour to be a woman of peace but actually, when push comes to shove, she’s a bloody dangerous woman.

Yes there are torture scenes, and actually, they are quite excruciating. The ritual drilling into her skull, the humiliation of a shaven head, the drugging and the duplicity are actually a perfect fit for the Draconians. Baxendale’s representation of Draconia as a society twice as old as our own makes sense, whereas we only have legends of mythical ancient evil, they were around to experience it.

And the story dovetails nicely towards a brilliant climax between Bernice and the Emperor Shen, where the very concept of good and evil are thrown out of the window. Additionally, its nice to see the poetry quoted at the very beginning of the play come back at the end with twice as much meaning behind the words.

The Draconian Rage is a brilliantly scripted play, showing a strength and agility that was completely lacking in its predecessor. The sound design is almost flawless and the Draconians make a brilliant nemesis for the professor. It’s just a shame that the way things are left hanging she wont be back any time soon.

Thoroughly recommended only for those with a strong constitution towards torture scenes.

9 / 10

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