Doctor Who: Colditz (2001)

Colditz_(Doctor_Who)

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), David Tennant (Feldwebel Kurtz), Toby Longworth (Hauptmann Julius Schäfer), Nicholas Young (Flying Officer Bill Gower), Peter Rae (Timothy Wilkins), Tracey Childs (Klein).

Colditz takes place during World War II, and as one can probably easily piece together from the title, it has to do with the infamous prison camp Colditz Castle. While Americans are not as familiar with this legendary facility, The UK has had decades of documentaries, Television shows, and even board games based on the many escape attempts of it’s prisoners. The camp was basically set up to house officers and other high ranking people who tried to escape from other camps, so it was almost seen as the Alcatraz of it’s time. Over here, we have tons of versions of the Steve McQueen movie The Great Escape which is based on an escape from a polish POW camp, so you get the idea.

The bad guys in this are Nazis, and if there was any “Tardis team” that has a good chance of being able to deal with Nazis, it’s definitely Ace and the seventh Doctor. We have seen their influence in Curse of Fenric, The Silver Nemesis, and one could argue that The villains of The Fearmonger were essentially some type of right-wing Neo-Nazi types. Because of this, I actually chuckled when Ace mentioned “not Nazis again, I hate Nazis!”. I’m not a huge fan of science fiction having Nazi bad-guys because it usually ends up being the lazy Star Trek “Space Nazis!” trope, but thankfully this isn’t the case here. These are regular Nazis in their correct time line.

I’m a big fan of historical episodes that do not involve some sort contrived alien involvement, and this one is almost entirely of that sort. In fact, The Doctor himself is the only real alien involvement we see here which is refreshing. The plot of this episode centers around The Nazis confiscating a CD Walkman from Ace and creating a paradox in which they reverse engineer it and win World War II. This plot is more-or-less in the background, but it’s the way they a new anti-hero character named Klein is introduced. You see, Klein’s from this alternate time line in which the Nazi powers have taken over the rest of the world. As far as she’s concerned, her world is the better one; as a child of German parents growing up in England, she welcomed the Nazi victory. I know from looking at Wikis that Klein’s story is fleshed out more, and can’t wait to fill the gaps in.

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Perhaps the most notable thing about this story is that the main villain of the story, Kurtz, is played by none other than a young David Tennant in his first Doctor Who related piece of entertainment. Kurtz is an awful piece of work, the sort of character that one really hopes will come to an early death. He plots behind the backs of his superiors, tries to hold information for his own gains, and even tries to take advantage of inmates in unspeakable ways. Kurtz is definitely a Hollywood Nazi archetype, as is another character in Schafer – the sympathetic Nazi. While these character tropes aren’t bad they reek of being historically inaccurate to some degree.

My only downside to this audio seemed to be the sound mixing, which shocked me because Gary Russell directed episodes are usually very well done. There were many scenes within the interior of Colditz Castle that had weird foley work such as footsteps that sounded as if everyone was wearing concrete shoes on metal floors. I have a digital file for this audio, so perhaps I got a bad download? I’m not sure, but it sounded off in places. Perhaps somebody with the CD could chime in on the comments page. This didn’t take me out the play by any means, but there were times where it got distracting or drowned out a bit of dialog.

All-in-all this was a great story, and considering people think that I’m too harsh on 80’s Doctor Who, this is the second McCoy/Aldred story in a row that I’ve really enjoyed. I do wish that the audio mix would have been a bit better, but it’s still a hearty recommendation to every Doctor Who fan. Upon listening to this, I also have a strange feeling that I should watch Chicken Run for some reason.

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Review: Doctor Who – The Sirens of Time

While the acting and sound effects are really good, the plot in The Sirens of Time is unnecessarily complex at times and seems to be full of stuff that does not move the storyline along very well.

220px-Sirens_of_Time.jpg picture by spdk1

Big Finish Audio drama

Earlier this year, I decided to take the plunge and start listening to a line of audio dramas from a UK based company called Big Finish.  Living in the U.S., we really don’t have audio dramas at all whatsoever, so I was not too sure if I would like them at all.  Gladly this was put to rest, as my experience with these is largely positive.  The first one I listened to was also the first Big Finish audio drama made that was officially licensed by the BBC.  Starring Colin Baker, Peter Davison, and Sylvester McCoy all at once The Sirens of Time promised to be a crazy ride.

Multi Doctor stories are generally not nearly as good as one would think they would be, as they generally come across as ‘fanwanky” and nonsensical.  Take for instance the 80’s TV episode The Five Doctors in which everyone looks to the Doctor’s first incarnation for some sort of wizened advice from time to time, despite the fact that the Doctor was younger and less experienced than the others.  Luckily The Sirens of Time escapes this fate a bit, but still comes across as a little thin storyline-wise nonetheless.

The story involves an invasion of Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet,by a warmongering race called The Knights of Velyshaa.  The Timelords release that someone or something is meddling with time and forcing three different incarnations of the Doctor to mess time up in some way in order to create this militant army.  Terrified by this prospect, the Timelords try to take measures to kill the Doctor so he can’t do the deed he is being tricked into doing.

The fifth Doctor is revealed to be stuck on a German U-boat in WWI, unable to re-enter his Tardis to go home.  The Sixth Doctor is on some kind of conference ship where a group of dignitaries and scientists are investigating a spatial anomaly known as the Kurgon Wonder. And the Seventh Doctor is in a jungle of some sort, where he saves a young girl from dying only to end up meeting a reformed war criminal on the run from android assassins.

While the acting and sound effects are really good, the plot in The Sirens of Time is unnecessarily complex at times and seems to be full of stuff that does not move the storyline along very well.  As a one shot story I feel that the episode is very “middle of the road”, but as a “sampler” of sorts for the next few dramas that were planned, I can see why this was made in this way.  All in all I liked The Sirens of Time, but better audios were to come.

My Rating: 3 out of 5