That was John Dorney’s idea for this story, as revealed in the CD extras, and it pretty much sums up the story. It’s a female-dominated tale, with three strong women at its heart: Leela, Boudica and the cook Bragnar, all well-developed and given their own journey through the story.
As soon as the two warrior women meet, you can see why Louise Jameson was so enthusiastic about this story. Although it’s not unusual for Leela to meet someone who isn’t her equal, that’s not normally because they’re better at what she does, but Boudica seems, at least initially, to be the sort of woman that Leela aspires to be. The Sevateem warrior is blind to the reality of the queen’s grip on power, and her motivations, despite the Doctor’s best endeavours to show her the truth.
Ella Kenion captures Boudica’s magnetic personality: here’s a woman who has been dragged through hell, forced to watch her daughters degraded, who becomes a rallying point for the resistance to the Roman invaders. But she’s gone way beyond worrying whether the ends justify the means…
Nia Roberts’ Bragnar becomes captivated by a different irresistible force of nature – the fourth Doctor. The Time Lord is definitely the secondary character of the TARDIS crew in this story, but his interactions are absolutely true to form – everything from coming up with simple games to keep his fellow prisoner’s mind off impending doom, to the passion that he demonstrates when he’s trying to explain to Leela that there are times when history simply must be allowed to take its course.
John Dorney’s script isn’t just about two strong women’s encounter; he shows us a Doctor keen to teach (and who has learned from his past mistakes, such as in Genesis of the Daleks), and a Leela who sometimes has to learn the hard way.
A brief word about the CD extras as well: it’s good to hear Tom Baker in proper interview mode. So often he is still playing Tom Baker the Personality in such situations, but I’ve been lucky enough in the past to interview him when he’s wanted to talk seriously, and I’m glad that at least at times during these recordings, he’s displayed that side of his personality.
Verdict: A strong historical story built around the character of Leela. 7/10