THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE AFTER THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMA
"DUST BREEDING," AND
IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO
THE BIG FINISH AUDIO
DRAMA "THE RAPTURE."
BIG FINISH CD#25
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
October 1944: As
World War II draws
conclusion, a Nazi
defeat begins to seem
almost inevitable. But
that might be about
Two intruders are
captured in the
grounds of Colditz
Castle, the most
secure P.O.W. camp in
Germany. At first, the
guards think they're
dealing with British
spies. But the
strangers arrived in
the like of which
they've never seen
With this TARDIS in
their hands, the Third
Reich might triumph
Big Finish have finally come up with a script truly worthy of Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred; one of the best Doctor and companion teams out there that, up until now, has been sadly underutilised in this medium.
Dust Breeding managed to improve on the quality of the preceding seventh Doctor and Ace stories and Colditz continues this improvement, easily as good (if not better than) anything produced during the majestic final season of the television series. However, whereas with Dust Breeding Mike Tucker ripped a great hole in the continuity of the New Adventures, in Colditz Steve Lyons elects to draw inspiration from them. Lyons’ plot shares many central themes with Terrance Dicks’ Timewyrm: Exodus and Lance Parkin’s Just War, two of the very best Virgin novels in my view.
However, more than anything else, Lyons’ plot is reminiscent of his last script for Big Finish, The Fires of Vulcan (which, incidentally, is quite easily the best seventh Doctor audio play available presently) in that it is a purely historical story, built upon a head-scratchingly clever temporal irony. Completely devoid of aliens and creatures, Colditz’s monsters are borne of humanity itself.
Indeed, Oflag 4C - otherwise known as Colditz Castle - is portrayed exactly how one would imagine it to have been: an inescapable fortress populated by stereotypically brave, stiff-upper lipped Brits; duty-crazed Nazi soldiers; and even a few shades of grey in between, such as the sympathetic Nazi Hauptmann Schäfer and the cowardly Brit Timothy Wilkins. Three characters stand out in particular: Nicholas Young as Flying Officer Bill Gower, David Tennant as Feldwebel Kurtz, and Tracey Childs as Klein. Gower is the epitome of bravery, honesty and decency; almost a walking wartime cliché. Kurtz, conversely, is all the evils of Nazism incarnate - a vile and despicable bully who places only his own gratification above the welfare of his beloved state. Klein is something else altogether - a pitiless time-travelling Nazi from a future that never was who is hell-bent on absconding from Colditz with both the Doctor and his TARDIS. A calm spout of venom, Klein proves a delectable foil to McCoy’s morally-outraged Doctor.
And Lyons’ characterisation of both
the Doctor and Ace is nothing short
of outstanding. For once, the Doctor
isn’t in the driving seat, pulling strings
or hatching master plans. This allows
McCoy to play the Doctor with more
vulnerability than usual for his inca-
rnation, making for some incredibly
tense drama and one particularly
memorable cliffhanger. It also makes for an initially perplexing, but ultimately very satisfying
ending as we learn that the Doctor did have a master plan after all - just not this Doctor…
Furthermore, the incidental music in this story is absolutely fantastic – so very suggestive,
yet so very Who. Married with their superlative sound design, Cressidia have really made
a colossal contribution to the unique feel of this audio.
“No, not Ace. Not anymore. Time to grow up remember. It’s Dorothy McShane now.”
On a final note, Colditz is something of a watershed story for Ace. Over the two hours of this adventure Ace matures considerably, forming bonds of fellowship with her fellow prisoners and undergoing some horrifying ordeals at the hands of Kurtz that really leave their mark on her. And, worse still, right at the death she witnesses the most grizzly and disturbing death that I can ever recall in Doctor Who as Kurtz is torn in half by the dematerialising TARDIS – one half of his body inside the ship, the other half left behind in Colditz castle. The ensuing trauma affects Ace profoundly; so much so that he decides to be known by her given name from this hereon in.
Altogether then, Colditz is an absolute cracker of an adventure, and one that leaves itself tantalisingly open for a sequel. Before I listened to this one I couldn’t see how Lyons was going to top The Fires of Vulcan, but the experience of hearing a Second World War story being performed by McCoy, Aldred and a dazzling supporting cast can’t easily be beaten. And so, much like the unfortunate Feldwebel Kurtz, I’m torn…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Ace refers to having met Nazis before; a reference to the events of either Illegal Alien or Timewyrm: Exodus,
or perhaps even the neo-Nazis of Silver Nemesis. She also refers to Paul Tanner, meaning that Colditz must take place after The Fearmonger.
The above, together with Ace’s development in this story and as her audio adventures progress, support the theory that the Big Finish audio dramas featuring the seventh Doctor, Ace and eventually Hex all take place between the novels Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible and Cat’s Cradle: Warhead.
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