01/04/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 120 minutes. Price: CD: £14.99 (UK), Download: £12.99 (UK. ISBN: 978-1-84435-434-4)cast: Sylvester McCoy, Tracey Childs, Rupert Wickham, Adrian Bower, Hannah Smith, Evie Dawnay, Mark Donovan, Alex Mallinson and Paul McGann.
check out web site www.BigFinish.com
It's time for a few things to be cleared up. Just how did Elizabeth Klein get to Nazi Germany in 1944?
As the Doctor whisks her off for a galactic tour, he's as curious as us to know when, where and how she got possession of the TARDIS and learnt how to use it. Listeners to 'Colditz' story, reviewed last month, may have been speculating for nine years about this one. It's the opening episode a standalone called simply 'Klein's Story' which explains it all.
Instead of shovelling this into another adventure, it is a nice touch to provide us with a short dramatic episode that gives us a place to start with Klein. It situates her character, giving her a life and a purpose which was destroyed once she intervened in the Doctor's visit to Colditz.
The Doctor wants to demonstrate to Klein that there is a bigger picture but first she wants to make sense of her own journey. He feels guilty that he has both created and destroyed a timeline so what else can he do but offer her the whole of eternity to travel in? From being a significant scientist in the post-war Nazi government with a lover who might become the next Fuhrer, she is dropped in into a bleak existence and thoughts of what might have been. Her ideology is at odds with the modern world.
When she's concluded her story, Klein continues to travel with the Doctor. We catch up with them when they arrive in a cave on a remote planet and their conversation implies they've seen a lot of sights already. She's showing signs of becoming the ideal companion but somehow we know that she is the leopard and spots are so in this year.
This is an alien encounter with a difference, for the creatures that the two meet do not communicate by sound at all. The TARDIS translates different smells into words that the Doctor and Klein can understand. They make first contact with a race of creatures in their nest that are under threat but the nest has been nearly wiped out by the Winterlack. The Doctor and Klein must find out what this is and how they can save the remainder of the creatures. If the Doctor and Klein can survive long enough perhaps they can help the species and perhaps Klein can help herself.
'Survival Of The Fittest' is both a curious story and an interesting examination of the way we take communication for granted and how easily it might break down. It's another variation on the difficulties we encounter between different countries, let alone different species. The whole plot challenges our assumptions about intelligence and language. Alongside this, we have the question of Klein who finds she is standing up for an alien species that only need to keep their own space to survive, the reality of 'lebensraum'. It's a thoughtful piece that seeks to tease out Klein's philosophy so we can better understand her isolation. Luckily, apart from all this thought, there are some scary moments to shake up the action.
This mini-series is proving to be a great exploration of character and looks at how the Doctor can be guilty of manipulation whilst he's 'just' visiting us. Next in the series 'Architects Of History' will round off Klein's story and perhaps push the Doctor into intervention on a huge scale as he seeks to destroy the galactic Reich whilst Klein desperately tries to save it.
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