The TARDIS has brought the Doctor and Ace to Colditz Castle, the legendary German prison camp, at the height of World War II. The time travelers are captured almost immediately, and the Doctor is shot in the shoulder. Ace instantly attracts the interest of Kurtz, the head of the guards – more interest than she would like. She also befriends English prisoners of war who are already planning their next escape attempt, but are reluctant to let her in on the plot unless she gives them more concrete information about where she’s from. In the meantime, the Doctor – and his TARDIS, which the guards witnessed materializing the courtyard – have gotten the interest of someone who appears to be very closely connected to the upper ranks of the German war effort. When the Doctor is given a choice – hand over the keys to the TARDIS or spare Ace’s life – he gives the Nazis his time machine, setting ripples in motion which will change history forever unless he can regain control of the situation.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Tracey Childs (Klein), Nicholas Young (Flying Officer Bill Gower), Toby Longworth (Hauptmann Julius Schafer), David Tennant (Feldwebel Kurtz), Peter Rae (Timothy Wilkins)
Note: This audio story marks David Tennant‘s first Doctor Who appearance, though obviously not in the role for which he would become most famous later…
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: I almost feel like this review should be written in two parts: the first two episodes of this four-parter are gripping and suspenseful, while the latter two parts give in to some hamfisted plotting that depends upon time paradoxes, as-yet-unseen future incarnations of the Doctor acting invisibly in the background, and the whereabouts of Ace’s CD player. Part four closes with some (in my opinion) misplaced developments regarding Ace deciding to shed her nickname and “grow up” – something which, since one must assume that this adventure happens before the New Adventures novel “Love And War”, is out of place and rather premature in the continuity of the series. It might’ve made a nice development for the character of Ace on television, but given most of the seventh Doctor’s Audio Adventures take place not long after the TV series and before the New Adventures, it’s the right development at the wrong time.
One much-maligned feature of Colditz – and perhaps this criticism is well-earned – is the reliance on a sharp, annoying slapback reverb effect to simulate the close, echoey confines of the castle’s smaller rooms and cells. While it’s likely accurate to suggest that closely confined rooms with stone walls would have bestowed at least some echo on any sounds within, it seems unlikely the effect would have been as extreme as it is here – or as distracting. In a few places, it forces the listener to go back and listen to a certain passage again to make sure the dialogue was heard right. Not helping the overall sonic impression made by Colditz is some rather tinny martial music by newcomers Toby Richards and Emily Baker. I’d like to hear them score something else, as their freshman outing as Doctor Who composers showed some promise, but the music was ultimately let down by being a little too obviously synthesized. As many horns and snare drums as were heard here, maybe better samples would have salvaged the results.
As for the plotting in parts two and three…it’s as if Steve Lyons ran out of good ideas. It’s not that the setting isn’t inspirational enough, and it’s not as if this story especially needed a science fiction element. I actually would have preferred a “pure” historical adventure here. The future incarnation gag was already used, to better effect, in season 26’s Battlefield, and to play that card again (with the same Doctor, no less) is an old ploy.
Outstanding beginning, but a bit of a letdown in the end.