Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
Old Soldiers

Author: James Swallow
Read by: Nicholas Courtney
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 292 0
Available 31 December 2007

Kriegeskind has been the site of a military fortress ever since the days of the Roman Empire, but now it is a secret facility in the service of UNIT. Summoned by a cryptic message from an ailing comrade-in-arms, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart arrives at the gothic castle to discover a base under siege, a conspiracy of silence and an invasion from the past. For the Brigadier and the Doctor, honour and duty collide with a deadly phantom enemy that can only be stopped by making the ultimate sacrifice...

Set during the aftermath of Doctor Who and the Silurians, with the Doctor still seething at the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) for his actions at Wenley Moor, this story mentions but doesn’t feature Liz Shaw, the narrator of the previous Third Doctor Companion Chronicle, The Blue Tooth. Her absence here is not an unprecedented situation - indeed, it ties in rather well with the first three Third Doctor comic strips that appeared in TV Comic (issues 944-959), which were similarly Liz-less. Unlike last month’s Helicon Prime, though, which pictured the missing Victoria in the “Who’s Who?” section of the sleeve notes, Liz is (very sensibly) not illustrated in the booklet of this release.

At first, I thought the Doctor was going to remain absent too, as the Brigadier heads off alone to respond to a call for help from an old friend and colleague, German base commander Konrad (Toby Longworth). However, the Time Lord shows up eventually, when the Brig in turn requests assistance. Courtney “channels” Jon Pertwee effectively enough, though not as successfully as Frazer Hines’s impersonation of Patrick Troughton in Helicon Prime - apart from the exclamation of “Success!” during track 18, which sounds remarkably like Pertwee. Success, indeed!

Writer James Swallow makes good use of the Brigadier, peering beneath the veneer of military efficiency to explore the man’s inner feelings about the burdens of responsibility. Meanwhile, the German setting lends a real sense of UNIT as an international organisation, an aspect that was missing from many television serials.

The supporting voice artist, multi-talented Big Finish stalwart Toby Longworth, plays two roles here, Konrad and his younger subordinate, the abrasive Schrader, who doesn’t exactly see eye to eye with the Brigadier.

Success! Now, Big Finish, how about some double-disc Companion Chronicles, to help even up the score for those sadly under-represented old soldiers, the first four Doctors? Splendid chaps, all of them.

Richard McGinlay

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