“Colditz”

It makes me giggle… I get a regular number of hits on my blog per day, and it displays on my dashboard when I log in. Then, I publish my review for Dead Air and tag David Tennant, because a large part of that review had to do with his spectacular performance, and my readership triples. I guess you have to give the readers what they want! Well, I’m not a click-whore, and even though David Tennant is again a part of this post, I’m not going to tag him, because this one’s about the character he plays, not him. Ha! Bucking the system! I’m such a rebel!

Much of my time lately has been either devoted to playing Doctor Who: Legacy or listening to audios. We did finish our rewatch of the Eleventh Doctor’s episodes, up until “The Day of the Doctor,” but I really don’t have much to say about that. I liked the seventh series better than I did the first time I saw it, but still not all that much. *shrug* So, my blog post, at least for the last few days, have been all about audios.

Colditz“Colditz” is #25 in the main range of Big Finish audios, and features the Seventh Doctor and Ace. They land in Nazi Germany and are immediately captured and imprisoned in Colditz Castle, famed for being the prison to which repeat escapees from other POW camps are sent. This audio is known for being David Tennant’s first appearance in a Doctor Who story, playing Feldwebel Kurtz (a feldwebel is a sergeant), recorded back in 2001.

First, an opinion on the audio with minor spoilers.

This audio is a bit of an enigma. It introduces the character Elizabeth Klein, a high-ranking Nazi officer who appears to know what a TARDIS is but doesn’t have any interest in it. She’s instead interested in the Doctor himself, and her story is very interesting, well-written and well-acted. On the other side, the depiction of Colditz Castle and Ace’s internment there is uneven at best, and completely unbelievable at worst. Without going into much more detail, I’d have to say this audio comes out to be pretty average, worth listening to a few very good performances and for Klein, but not a keeper.

Now, discussion with major spoilers.

A Nazi prison camp. Not just any Nazi prison camp, but a specially-created high-security one. The concept itself brings to mind a gritty, dark story, of cruelties and despair, into which Ace is thrown while the Doctor is ripped away from her. The story does attempt to go in that direction: I was amazed (and impressed) at Kurtz’s threats to Ace that he was going to come to her room at night and rape her. He didn’t say it outright, but it was heavily implied, and I could not believe that Doctor Who would even touch on such a subject.

However, the atmosphere never materialized. It didn’t take very long for me to get the impression that when Big Finish came up with the idea of setting a story at a Nazi prison camp, the author immediately did research on them by watching Hogan’s Heroes. It’s true that only the POWs who escaped multiple times from their first camps were sent to Colditz and that they continued to scheme to escape once they were interned at the castle, but the prisoners in the audio seemed almost happy to be there. The background sounds were almost party-like, and the prisoners talked freely of their next plans to escape. They even had equipment, such as radios, secreted away from the rather ineffectual Nazi guards.

Then Ace is added to the mix. She maintains that she’s not a spy but is unable to explain why she’s in Germany in the first place, and the Germans accept that without blinking. Whenever she comes into contact with the Nazi officers, she mouths off and refuses to do anything they ask or command, and she’s never so much as even slapped for her insubordination. The German officers – Kurtz and his superior Schafer – sputter at her, but that’s about it. It was so unbelievable that at some points, I was rooting for the Germans, that they would grow a backbone and smack Ace around a bit.

The real meat of the story is in the events surrounding Klein and the Doctor. She knows about the TARDIS because she comes from an alternate future in which the Nazis won the war; they have the TARDIS but don’t know how to use it, and she’s come back to get the Doctor to force him to teach her. He realizes he needs to shut down the alternate future, and he does so (I won’t say how, but it’s very indicative of the Seventh Doctor’s manipulative nature), but in the process, Klein challenges him, asking why he’s the one who gets to decide which version of history is the one that stands, and why she and all the people in her timeline must be sacrificed for it. The Doctor doesn’t waver throughout the discussion, but it should raise such questions in the listener’s mind.

Many of the minor characters were rather, well, unbelievable. One of the prisoners, a journalist, promises to help Ace escape, but gets cold feet just before they put the plan into action, and instead of telling her that he won’t do, he goes to the Germans and rats on his fellow prisoners, so that they are captured and punished. Why? I have no idea. Mr. Tennant’s Kurtz was actually very interesting, an unapologetically despicable character (and well-portrayed; if you’ve ever wanted to hate Mr. Tennant, this is the performance to listen to). A small-minded man, devoted to the Third Reich and reveling in his power over the prisoners from his rank as feldwebel, his hands are still tied by the Geneva Convention, which requires him to treat the prisoners fairly. He’s ambitious, but not very smart, unable to play the games needed to rise in rank or become trusted by the commandant. All of this results in him brandishing his power about and simply being exceedingly cruel to everyone he can. Ace and the other prisoners play on his paranoia to manipulate him, which works sometimes and backfires other times. He was quite a horrid man, but he didn’t deserve his gruesome death, torn in half as the TARDIS dematerialized with him halfway in the door – another shocking scene that I was surprised to find in Doctor Who. If the audio had had the nerve to maintain this kind of atmosphere, allowing the Germans to dominate and preventing Ace from owning the camp, it would have been one of Big Finish’s best.

Advertisements

8 responses to ““Colditz”

  1. “He didn’t say [he would rape her] outright, but it was heavily implied, and I could not believe that Doctor Who would even touch on such a subject.”

    Well, that depends. How do you interpret Mercy Hartigan’s manner of speech in “The Next Doctor”? (“Excellent. The Doctor. Yet another man come to assert himself against me in the night.”) A product of the sexist nature of her time and place or the result of being targeted? Note how many times she refers to sex or gender somehow, such as the bit about the Cyber King rising, saying one of the men at the funeral had been looking at her, etc.

    • There are plenty of ways to interpret her comments (the character was created as a prostitute, so that’s the most common interpretation, that the men were her johns), but that’s actually the point here. It’s left open to interpretation, and they’re allusions to events that happened in the past. Kurtz was speaking almost directly about sexual assault, something he was planning to do that night to that woman standing in front of him. For a franchise that dances around actual violence and refuses to show blood to try to keep it family-friendly, this was unexpected and shocking.

      To be sure, it was rather refreshing, because with all the atrocities committed in those POW camps, you’d expect things like this to happen to female prisoners, and I wish “Colditz” had maintained that atmosphere. I was just surprised that it would appear in Doctor Who.

      • It is surprising sometimes. You don’t expect one of the more lighter, but not always lighthearted, shows to show darker things like that.
        My father, to give an example, only tends to take away the fun parts of the experience from anything he watches. It’s all well and good for him, but when he rewatched some of Nine’s episodes, which he had thought were lighter, he found that there were scary and sad things he hadn’t thought of at all. (He’s much more sensitive to those things than he used to be for some reason.)
        Like in “The Doctor Dances”. he had forgot about the whole thing with the gasmask zombies and remembered the dance party ending.
        He didn’t realize how many people died in Doctor Who until I pointed out significant events where people did die and found a video that gave an approximate count.

        I’ve not heard Colditz, not in full, so I don’t know how things were portrayed but I’m sure you’ve got the right impressions. Poor Ace. She’s a perfectly nice girl.

        I didn’t realize Hartigan was a prostitute, I thought she was a factory or orphanage owner or something? Maybe a workhouse? I’m going to have to look her up later. Busy making dinner now.

      • Ah, I just checked Tardis Data Core, and she wasn’t a prostitute – they intended her to be a victim of sexual abuse, but since they wanted to keep the show appropriate for a young audience, it wasn’t said definitively. I still do maintain that veiled references to such things in the past don’t hold a candle to a direct threat right now.

        I do wish that the show dealt more often with “fates worse than death,” meaning the fact that death isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Maybe it’s because Moffat, with his constant killing and resurrecting of characters, had desensitized me to death in the show (“Oh, there goes Rory again. Whoop-de-do.), but it hits me a lot harder when the characters suffer in other ways. Which is kind of why the Silence and the Whispermen really didn’t scare me – they pretty much just killed people. (The Silence were scary up until the point they exploded the woman in front of Amy; before that, they were mysterious with unfathomable motives.)

        I think my favorite example of this is from “The Caves of Androzani.” From the moment they enter the cave, the Doctor and Peri were dying and as you’re watching, you’re stressed to watch that happen. But the real horrifying part of the story? Sharaz Jek and his obsession with Peri. Jek was terrifying not from the death he was wreaking on the miners, but because of what he was doing to Peri. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more of from the show.

      • “I still do maintain that veiled references to such things in the past don’t hold a candle to a direct threat right now.”

        I don’t think I indicated disagreement on that point with you, or, if I did, I never meant to. I was just saying that it wasn’t the only time the subject was touched upon.

        “I do wish that the show dealt more often with “fates worse than death,” meaning the fact that death isn’t the worst thing that can happen.”

        Maybe the new series would do that. Did you see those trailers? Hmph, they can’t even be called trailers. Teasers, more like. Looks pretty dark. I’m sticking with it, though. Even through the dark parts.

        “Sharaz Jek and his obsession with Peri.”

        Yeah, that was “Phantom of the Opera”-level creepiness.

    • Stupid WordPress won’t let me respond back to your final comment below. No, actually, I haven’t seen any of the Series 8 trailers. I really don’t care to be spoiled on anything, including what the Doctor might be like (not to mention, a lot of the time, trailers like that are edited to give the impression the advertiser wants to give, not what the show will actually be like).

      Not trying to be a downer, but we also just finished rewatching the last half of Series 7, and Clara was so irritating that both my husband and I are not excited about Series 8 at the moment. We are so hoping this is her last season.

      • Maybe it will be her last season. We’ve had so many sassy females lately that Clara just seems…yeah, annoying and overdone. We need something different for a companion, maybe even a guy. That I’d like to see. They did it with Fitz, Adric and a short while with Turlough, a male companion who isn’t in a relationship.

      • They’ve released details on companions and stuff. Are you avoiding spoilers? If you are, I won’t tell you what I’ve heard. (They’re very minor spoilers; I’m avoiding spoilers myself.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s