THE EVENTS OF THIS
STORY TAKE PLACE
BETWEEN THE TV STORY
"DOCTOR WHO AND
THE SILURIANS" AND
THE BIG FINISH AUDIO
BOOK "SHADOW OF
BIG FINISH 'COMPANION
CHRONICLES' CD 2.3
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
KRIEGESKIND HAS BEEN
THE SITE OF A MILITARY
FORTRESS SINCE THE
DAYS OF THE ROMAN
EMPIRE, BUT NOW IT IS A
SECRET FACILITY IN
SERVICE TO UNIT, THE
WORLD'S FIRST LINE OF
SUMMONED BY A
CRYPTIC MESSAGE FROM
AN OLD COMRADE-IN-
STEWART ARRIVES AT
THE GOTHIC CASTLE TO
DISCOVER A BASE UNDER
SIEGE, A CONSPIRACY
OF SILENCE AND AN
INVASION FROM THE
FOR THE BRIGADIER AND
THE DOCTOR, HONOUR
AND DUTY COLLIDE WITH
A DEADLY PHANTOM
ENEMY THAT CAN ONLY
BE STOPPED BY MAKING
Of all the Companion Chronicles released by Big Finish Productions, Old Sold-
iers was the first to truly catch my eye. As a keen devotee of the third Doctor / UNIT era, the thought of a new story set during this period was a tantalising enough prospect in itself; however, having the same relayed by Nicholas Courtney’s indomitable Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart made the idea absolutely irresistible.
Of course, the principal selling point of these Companion Chronicles is that they do enable us to revisit the series’ earlier years and enjoy stories with Doctors either long-since dead
or lost to Little Britain. How convincingly each story does this varies a great deal, depending on both its writer and the articulacy of its narrator, but thankfully here James Swallow’s really quite reflective script is brought to life marvellously by Courtney. Listening to Old Soldiers,
it’s so easy to close your eyes and imagine the old, white-haired Sir Alistair of today impart-ing this tale to some awestruck underling (or memoir ghostwriter!) whilst clutching a tumbler of malt whisky. And what’s more, Courtney does not just play his own part superbly; he also “channels” a bloody convincing third Doctor. I couldn’t believe my ears!
“We had both done what we had thought to be right.
And both of us had to weather the consequences, no matter what price they exacted”.
However, I find that the really remarkable thing about the Companion Chronicles is that, when they are done well, they can offer us new insight into old characters. Obviously a novel can do much the same thing, but not with quite as much gusto; there is something distinctly compelling about being told a story like this one as opposed to simply reading it. And Old Soldiers is a particularly fine example of this, Swallow and Courtney conspiring to present
us with some of the thoughts that ran through the Brigadier’s head at this early - and often downright volatile - stage of his association with the Doctor. Indeed, set as it is so shortly after the pair’s explosive moral disagreement concerning the Brigadier’s bombing of the Silurians, the Brigadier’s ruminations are of exceptional interest in this story. The patent
shift of emphasis also adds to the extraordinary feel of the piece; after all, how many UNIT stories can you call to mind where we are privy to the Brigadier’s investigations before he slaps a file of papers down on the Doctor’s desk?
Further, the main thrust of the narrative is just as gripping as the manner is which it is told. Swallow’s tale concerning UNIT’s clandestine Project 995 at Castle Kriegeskind and the resultant apparition of a bloodthirsty army of wraithlike historical soldiers certainly evokes
the spirit of contemporaneous television serials, and better still through Colonel Heinrich Konrad (played here by Toby Longworth, who also pulls a double-header as Schrader) Lethbridge-Stewart is presented with the most agonising of dilemmas which, in true UNIT style, he must confront whilst being assailed by a legion of the Castle’s historic dead and whilst waiting for his colleagues to execute their “Arklight Protocol” and ‘sanitise’ the whole place! Talk about pressure…
The CD release is nicely fleshed out too, the disc’s eighty-minute capacity utilised in full thanks to director Nigel Fairs’ short but sweet interview with Courtney and ten minutes or
so of David Darlington’s magnificent score.
On the whole then, Old Soldiers impresses throughout. I can only hope that the Doctor’s staunchest ally is treated to another dusting-down of this type in the near future.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This story’s blurb places it between Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Ambassadors of Death. Within this gap, we have placed it prior to the audio book Shadow of the Past, which was released later.
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