Doctor Who: The Night Witches

DW Night Witches

The Early Adventures range returns to the Second Doctor era and once again faithfully recreates the era despite two of the lead cast no longer being with us. The Night Witches is a pure historical, though with that old sci-fi cliché of happening upon an exact doppelganger, in this case of companion Polly. Is the old act tired, or does it manage to pull it off? Let’s find out!

Official Synopsis:

When the TARDIS materialises north of Stalingrad in 1942, the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly are captured by the Night Witches, an all-female unit of flyers tasked with disrupting the German forces nearing Moscow.

They suspect that the travellers are spies – part of the Germans’ Operation Barbarossa. Despite their pleas they are locked up while it is decided what to do with them.

Polly, however, is receiving strange looks from the pilots and clearly unnerving them. When the TARDIS crew discover why this is, it becomes clear that they’re about to get far more involved in the war than they could possibly have imagined.

Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Frazer Hines) – Still relatively early in his second body, The Doctor is enjoying his more youthful and playful self, though that doesn’t mean he’s not still getting into trouble pretty much every time he walks out of the TARDIS…

Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) – Still new to time travel (and, well… most things, really) the setting of World War II means as much to him as a world of flying robots would to us, although his fighting spirit drives him through most situations anyway…

Polly Wright (Anneke Wills) – Coming from a rather posh upbringing in 60s London, Polly is still able to let loose and get in on the action… sometimes… mostly on audios made in the current day, rather than back in 60s TV land…

Ben Jackson (Elliot Chapman) – A navy officer from a far more common family, Ben enjoys teasing the more upper-class Polly, but still cares for her. He’s also frequently in the thick of the action, though not as much as back when it was just himself, Polly and the old man First Doctor…

Tatania Kregki (Anjella Mackintosh) – Tatania comes from a humble family and wishes nothing more than to return to the simple life she once had, rather than the one where she nearly dies nightly flying old fashioned planes for Soviet Russia. She also happens to look exactly like Polly, and thanks to her stage work pre-war, is even able to mimic her voice…

Nadia Vasney (Wanda Opalinska) – Nadia is the leader of the Night Witches squadron and is very strict and dedicated to the cause… dangerously so…

Lilya Grankin (Kristina Buikaite) – A Night Witches pilot who was shot down and found by The Doctor and co., leading them to her crazy world…

and more!

The Good:

DW Night Witches Cover

Another great cover, especially the edit job on putting Polly in a flight suit!

This easily could have been a big “seen it all before” story. The historical setting is at least a little different, but really you have The Doctor and companion accidentally arrive, get captured, escape, ally with one side of a war, and then eventually reunite with the TARDIS, all the while dealing a the old exact physical duplicate cliché. Somehow, however, this manages to be really engaging, and that’s probably due to the well rounded characters of sympathetic Polly-alike Tatania and her wanting to do anything to leave the war, and the harsh Nadia who would do anything to end the war as fast as possible. Throw in Lilya and her generally polite and helpful ways, and you have some interesting characters that are enjoyable to hear both interact with the lead foursome and each other.

As per usual Frazer Hines does a good job as both Jamie (obviously!) and Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor. Polly and Ben (now played on-point by Elliot Chapman) are also well served, and generally it’s a refreshing TARDIS team to hear what is essentially a new four part full cast adventure.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph above, the WWII setting is done to death, but this particular part of that dark history is new and interesting, especially the Night Witches themselves. The story was interesting enough to make me look up some things after listening…

The Bad:

While there is a lot of fun had with the concept in the story, I always dislike the super-coincidence of meeting your exact double, then throw in the fact she had the background of being able to mimic people’s voice… yeah, a little TOO convenient for me. At the end of the story Tatania disguises herself as Polly in an attempt to escape the war, and it nearly works until The Doctor tricks her with some questions… I just kept thinking “she can’t look and behave THAT much like her, surely!”

The Continuity:

Not really any linking continuity, really. Well, unless you want me to list every Doctor Who story set in World War II, but that would take some time… The opening lines do suggest this takes place directly after the previous Jamie, Ben and Polly Early Adventure called “The Yes Men”.

Overall Thoughts:

Despite all odds The Night Witches manages to be a really entertaining and interesting two hours, even with the rather dull and overly convenient plot point. It proves a full historical can be just as interesting as alien invasions, if written well…

4 Star Listen

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