Old Soldiers

Doctor Who: Old SoldiersThe Brigadier receives an urgent but cryptic summons from his old friend, Colonel Heinrich Konrad, of UNIT’s force in West Germany. The message brings Lethbridge-Stewart to an ancient fortification, the Kriegskind, which is now home to a secret UNIT detachment. But rather than being greeted by Konrad, Lethbridge-Stewart is met by his distinctly nervous second-in-command, Schrader, who assures him somewhat unconvincingly that nothing is amiss. The Brigadier pulls rank and is horrified to discover that his old friend is in critical condition in the base’s sick bay, claiming to be the only survivor of some unspecified incident and warning that “time is against me.” Later, Lethbridge-Stewart sees for himself what Schrader didn’t want him to see: medieval swordsmen engaging UNIT troops in a pitched battle, capable of wounding men heavily armed with modern weapons but apparently taking little damage themselves. Lethrbridge-Stewart makes an urgent call to his scientific advisor; the Doctor parachutes into the base hours later. Both men stumble across evidence that they are indeed facing yet another threat of alien origin – but this time, UNIT has brought this menace upon itself.

Order this CD written by James Swallow
directed by Nigel Fairs
music by David Darlington

Colonel Heinrich Konrad

Cast: Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Toby Longworth (Schrader / Konrad)

Timeline: after Doctor Who And The Siluarians and before The Ambassadors Of Death

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: I’ve been listening to the single-disc Companion Chronicles in no particular order, waiting for the concept – not really audio drama, but audiobooks with one primary narrator (a former Doctor Who guest star) and a secondary voice – to really “click” with me and reveal its true potential. With Old Soldiers, it’s finally happened – this is really the first time this format hasn’t seemed as though it’s constraining things compared to the usual full-cast audio drama.

Of course, a lot of that is down to the talent. “Guest voice” Toby Longworth is infamous for having voiced every character in one of Big Finish Productions’ final audio stories based on the 2000 Doctor WhoA.D. comics, so that doesn’t hurt. But a lot of Old Soldiers‘ impact is down to Nicholas Courtney, who not only reprises his classic TV role as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, but does an eerily uncanny impersonation of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. It’s become almost a cliche to impersonate Pertwee by speaking through one’s nose with a lisp, but somehow Courtney hits closer to home than most – not surprisingly, since the two worked together extensively on TV Doctor Who in the early 1970s. Courtney also essays a few minor characters here and there. Between Courtney and Longworth, this does not seem like a story that’s constrainted to two actors.

The story itself is old-school Doctor Who, and unlike the previous Companion Chronicles I’ve listened to, it doesn’t seem as though it’s new-style Who with classic series characters. With its psychic influences and a bit of moralizing on the Brigadier’s part, this is a story that could indeed have been slotted effortlessly into Pertwee’s first season as the Doctor. (It’s interesting to note that the other Pertwee-era Chronicle thus far – The Blue Tooth starring Caroline John – is also set during this era rather than during the tenures of Pertwee’s other two companions.) Also clever is the framing story – the listener is apparently a distinguished guest hearing this story from the long-retired Lethbridge-Stewart, with a glass of brandy at the ready, one imagines – which neatly explains away the age evident in Nicholas Courtney’s voice.

The thought occurs that Mr. Courtney will at some point leave us, and his television adventures and audio outings will be held up as examples of his fine work. Old Soldiers should be highlighted as one of the finer such examples.