So, Colditz is apparently a board game. Or rather, it’s called Escape from Colditz, and was based on the actual prison camp at Colditz Castle. The name is mentioned in this, the last of my Big Finish Doctor Who audios from my discounted subscription, with the assumption that the audience will have heard of it. Unfortunately, just like the R-101 or Pieter Stubbe, the historical reference was lost on me.
That didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story, however. The plot is about the 7th Doctor (good ol’ Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) winding up as prisoners in the apparently infamous prison camp, and their attempts to escape without causing too much damage to history Some spoilers ahead.
At first, one gets the impression that this might turn out to be a purely historical story, with no science fiction elements aside from the Tardis crew. We realize this isn’t the case, though, because 1) the story wasn’t produced in the 1960’s, and 2) the sudden appearance a German officer from the future intent on capturing the Tardis. But even that ends up sort of fitting into the “historical” category, as she is only from the 1960’s. What transpires is a fun little time-travel puzzler that somehow remains straightforwardly told, with strong I’m characterization and good performances.
I’m regularly impressed with how strong the performances are from the regular Doctor Who actors are, even as “undistinguished” as many of them are. Sophie Aldred, for instance, does a consistently good job as Ace, and gets a pretty deep time as the character here. In Colditz, Ace gets to do some real growing, realizing that her impetuous (and even justified) anger has had farther reaching consequences than she’d considered. And the same time, she doesn’t lose her strength, holding her own amidst other POW’s and fending off the advances of lecherous Nazi’s.
The story has contains some interesting implications about the Doctor as well. In his confrontations with Klein, one of the main antagonists of the story, he challenges her with the question of whether she will sacrifice her world for the sake her own life. Eventually, the story reveals that the Doctor has had to face the same question, albeit in a never-heard alternate future incarnation. They don’t really draw attention to it, but it’s a cool connection. (Incidentally, how cool of a TV episode would this have been if it had included sequences of a dazed and confused stranger, ingratiating himself into the scientific community of a Nazi controlled 1965, manipulating a zealous scientist into going back in time to the 1940’s in the Tardis, only to have it revealed over the course of the story that this is actually the Doctor, in a never-seen-before, never-seen-again alternate incarnation?)
Klein is still alive and sort of well at the end of the story, setting up further appearances. This apparently came to pass in later audios, where at a glance it seems like her history and story became quite convoluted and confused, which is a shame, as this story deftly managed to avoid it.
Incidentally, the other main villain of the story, Feldwebel Kurtz, is played by David Tennant, about four years or so before he first showed up as the Doctor. It’s apparently his first role of any kind in Doctor Who, but not his last for Big Finish before he became the star of the series. He does a good job, making Kurtz a despicable yet understandable guy.
And so as I said this concludes the “season” of Big Finish audios that I bought for myself last year for an incredibly low price since the company decided to reduce the price of their first 50 audios considerably. There have been hits, there have been misses, and there’s been stuff in the broad range between. But overall, it’s been a lot of fun listening to Messrs McCoy, McGann, Baker, and Davison bringing their famous character back to life. It’s too bad it’s over, but hey…it’s almost Christmas again, so who knows…?