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Doctor Who: Colditz by Steve Lyons

01/03/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: Colditz in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: Colditz in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 109 minutes. Price: CD/Download: £ 5.00 (UK). ISBN: 1-903654-47-5) cast: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Tracey Childs, David Tennant, Toby Longworth, Julius Schäfer, Nicholas Young, Peter Rae and Neil Corry

When the Doctor and Ace land in a malfunctioning TARDIS, they can't quite work out where they are at first. Realisation dawns quickly and soon they are running from a German guard from Second World War. They have the misfortune to have arrived at Colditz in 1944.

One of the most notorious German prison camps, prisoners of war were put there after persistent escape attempts from other stalags. Some of the prisoners are convinced that despite the Allies efforts they will be killed before the conclusion of the war and they are determined to continue with their escape attempts.

The guard who apprehends the Doctor and Ace appears to be overly interested in Ace. Feldwebel Kurtz won't take no for an answer. He's pretty interested in the contents of Ace's rucksack as well and she always travels well-prepared.

When Ace is separated from the Doctor and meets her fellow prisoners who sound very well-spoken, she is quick to start planning her escape but will need help from young war reporter Timothy Wilkins, who has been selected as a 'Prominenta', a special prisoner to be used for bargaining in the event of an allied attack. The rest of the prisoners are reluctant to give her any advice.

'Doctor Who' writer Steve Lyons ( a veteran of Who novels) has borrowed the mythos of the Colditz story-gleaned from the BBC series and all those Bank Holiday great escapes, spinning a story that mixes up good and evil Germans with an assortment of Poms. Stir up and add in the character of Elizabeth Klein with her own agenda.

It's when the Doctor meets interrogator Klein that the drama kicks off and he starts to wonder what is really going on. He's worried that his actions might change history and he also needs to protect Ace. But what can he do to get away from Klein?

This audio is one of the early ones from a fledgling Big Finish. Released in 2001, it is interesting to listen to as the character of Elizabeth Klein has been revived and used in three new audios this year featuring the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy). The first, 'A Thousand Tiny Wings', is reviewed this month.

'Colditz' is a good story. Its clichéd in that there are sympathetic German commanders and evil Nazi types but as an adventure it works well. Dialogue is era-appropriate and if you drop in few moral dilemmas with some brain-bending time travel, combined with some True-Brit prison-busting, you have a good old-fashioned action adventure.

Noise and music effects aren't as polished as the newer products but the actors put on a consummate performance. The music soundtrack does match the style of the prisoner-of-war dramas of the past. There are none of the expected extras which now appear as standard neither. There's an illustrious cast including Tracey Childs ('Howard's Way'), Nicholas Young ('The Tomorrow People') and a young chap called David Tennant playing the viscous Kurtz. He acquits himself well. Oh and a Big Finish long-service medal for Toby Longworth. He's playing Hauptmann Julius Schäfer the sympathetic commandant (anteceded by Bernard Hepton in the BBC drama).

This audio is currently available as a bargain download or CD for £5 on the Big Finish site. Amazingly, the BBC series from 1972-1974 has never achieved a release on DVD but the daring exploits of the escapees can be viewed on the 1954 movie 'The Colditz Story' with John Mills as the real-life escapee Pat Reid. It's all inspiring stuff and linking it to this story is a very good way of publicising the bravery of these men.

Sue Davies

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