DW: Colditz Review

DW Colditz.jpg

Elizabeth Klein is one of the odder “companions” of The Doctor. She starts off as an alternate reality Nazi, ends up in our reality, and then… well, lot’s of other stuff, but concentrating on her debut story you’d probably think I made some sort of mistake. Klein’s next three stories form one of the best “trilogies” in the main range, but since this all about debut stories, we have Colditz, one of the earlier stories from Big Finish, but a great little look into all sides of World War II through the eyes of soldiers and inmates of the infamous castle, plus David Tennant’s first Doctor Who role thrown in! Let’s take a look…

Official Synopsis:

As World War Two draws towards its conclusion, a Nazi defeat begins to seem almost inevitable. But that might be about to change…

Two intruders are captured in the grounds of Colditz Castle, the most secure Prisoner of War camp in Germany.

At first, the guards think they’re dealing with British spies. But the strangers arrived in an advanced travelling machine, the like of which they’ve never seen before.

With this “TARDIS” in their hands, the Third Reich might triumph after all…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor materialising in the middle of a castle courtyard is not an unusual occurrence, but doing so in this castle as this period of time could be deadly…

Ace (Sophie Aldred) – Ace is having a good time with The Doctor, but she can’t help but feel the trip is getting a bit too Nazi-heavy…

Elizabeth Klein (Tracey Childs) – Klein comes from a timeline where the Nazis won, and so from her perspective The Doctor, who ends up trying to prevent that timeline’s existence, is a threat to all she knows…

Feldwebel Kurtz (David Tennant) – Kurtz is a loyal Nazi who wants nothing more than recognition and promotion, at any cost… apart from betraying the rules. Bending them a bit? Sure, especially if it means getting close to a female prisoner…

Hauptmann Julius Schafer (Toby Longworth) – Schafer is in charge of Colditz, and is weary of the war. He treats all his prisoners with the utmost respect, and receives the same in kind. Soldiers on either side of the war are still men, after all…

Flying Officer Bill Gower (Nicholas Young) – Bill Gower was captured and transferred to Colditz a while ago. He’s seen people come and go, and more than a few try to go and get killed for it. Still, the war will be over soon, right?

Timothy Wilkins (Peter Rae) – Wilkins is a war correspondent who was captured behind enemy lines. Turns out a relative of his is a high-ranking Navy man, so he’s been put on the high priority prisoner list…

Plus More!

The Good:

DW Colditz Cover

Really effective and well done cover, especially for such an early release.

A simple idea like “The Doctor arrives in Colditz Castle during WWII” is also a great idea. It was released in 2001, so right in the middle of the post-McGann wilderness years, so they could get away with a lot more mature content, and it shows in a good way. The story focuses on soldiers from both sides of the war being somewhat friendly with each other as the war winds down, and it’s really effective drama in places.

Klein is an interesting character in her debut, as from her view point it’s The Doctor, who is trying to alter history back to the way we know it, who’s the bad guy and the man who’s trying to change history. Even though Klein’s history was accidentally created by Ace leaving her Walkman with Kurtz, from her perspective The Doctor trying to make the Nazis lose WWII is him trying to change things into an unknown world the same way we talk about “what if the Nazi’s had won”. Given the world she grew up in, she is on the harsh and … well, Nazi side, but it’s still an interesting perspective for an enemy. The Doctor playing mind games with her, figuring things out and trying to stop her were great, classic Seventh Doctor whispery voice of satisfaction when he puts it all together. Klein eventually escapes Colditz before Kurtz and co. figure out her papers were forged (given her legit papers were from the future!) after The Doctor foils her plan, and we don’t from her for a while… well, ages from The Doctor’s point of view!

David Tennant’s Kurtz was an unpleasant character, even for a Nazi, and his implied but never outright stated plan to have his way sexually with Ace whether she liked it or not was creepy. His death, being ripped apart by being half-in and half-out of the TARDIS as it dematerialised was also an unpleasant image in your head. The way it shook Ace sold it ever more, given all he tried to do to her she still repeated the phrase that no person deserves that fate.

The rest of the story features a good mix of characters interacting and doing the WWII prison camp-set stuff. Schafer is the Nazi who sympathises with the enemy soldiers in that none of them want this war, and he is treated with respect by the other inmates as a result. Bill Gower is the “good old boy” British WWII pilot type, who tries to help all the other prisoners, and has friendly chats with Schafer. He also helps plan escape attempts and shoots down ideas that might lead in a man being shot. Wilkins is a coward who thinks he can be brave and escape, the backs out at the last moment and leaves Gower and Ace to get captured, which gets him isolated by the other prisoners. So basically you have the good Brit (Gower), the bad Brit (Wilkins), the bad Nazi (Kurtz) and the good Nazi (Schafer). No side of a war is truly good, both sides are equally on the wrong side. It’s the right way of looking at such a horrible period.

The Bad:

This is the start of the thankfully short-lived “Just call me McShane” period of Ace’s time, where she “grows out” of the Ace nickname and wishes to be called by her surname. It gets annoying quick! The amount of times she says “Just McShane” in this play is staggering. Thankfully Big Finish would realise their mistake quite soon…

The Continuity:

DW Colditz DWM

It’s the good old DWM preview picture! Also, David Tennants first DWM appearance… sort of (not really a strong resemblance in Kurtz’ picture…)

As mentioned several times, and as is the point of this marathon, Klein becomes a semi-regular, companion-like character, starting with “A Thousand Tiny Wings”.

Ace has had run ins with Nazis before, including the TV story “Silver Nemesis”, and also appeared in a WWII setting during the TV story “The Curse of Fenric”. The CD Walkman Ace leaves in the hands of the Nazis is one she got from Paul Tanner during her visit to the future (to her) year of 2002 in the audio story “The Fearmonger”.

Overall Thoughts:

Colditz is a really strong story, blending WWII, prison life of POWs, time travel and its effects, and alternate realities all together. With that many strings to its bow it could have been a disaster, but it was really well handled. It’s paced well enough that scenes of twists and turns to do with The Doctor and Klein and POW drama with Ace and co. never drag. Great ending too, and some development for Ace (ignoring the renaming thing)… Got to give it a 5, really… I think I will!

5 Star Listen

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