Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 6/5/17 10:46 pm
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.
This is a great story. My only complaint, and it's a small one, is that Ace's side of the story gets pretty thoroughly overshadowed by the Doctor/Klein subplot. There's nothing wrong with Ace's subplot, but Klein is such an excellent character that she basically steals the whole story, which unfortunately draws attention from some really interesting stuff happening with Ace.
People tend to focus on her ambivalence over her name, a point that is picked up less effectively in subsequent stories, but that's not what I'm talking about. Ace's side of this story serves as an interesting deconstruction of some standard "Doctor Who" tropes. Ace and the Doctor break out of prison literally all the time, so Ace has a really hard time understanding why Colditz is different. But it is. Ace's story represents a difficult collision between the lazy adventure story tropes that tend to govern Ace's life and the cold, merciless reality of a Nazi prison camp in 1944. Calling attention to the essential implausibility of many of the basic tropes that "Doctor Who" relies on is tricky, and it shouldn't be done too often, but this script handles it perfectly. It comes across not as a criticism of standard "Doctor Who", but rather as a particular interest in historical accuracy which isn't suited to every story, but adds quite a lot to this one. The point is not to criticize "Doctor Who" for contriving implausibly easy escapes from prisons all the time, but rather to make a historically well-informed about the particular real-life prison featured in this story. Notice how Lyons's previous script, "The Fires of Vulcan", used prison in the traditional way: as a plot obstacle to be overcome with ingenuity, resourcefulness, and implausible good fortune. Because that story wasn't *about* a prison.
That's all great, so it's kind of a shame that Klein overshadows it all. But Klein is really great also, and the credit for that must be shared between Lyons and Tracey Childs. The concept of the character is so strong that it's hard to imagine how a poor performance could mess it up, but Childs delivers a fantastic performance that really makes the most of it. She's cold, calculating, and ruthless, but what rally sells her is that she has a clear point-of-view which she believes in absolutely. The story, like "The Fires of Vulcan", is another time-travel puzzle. The Doctor has to learn what he can about Klein's past in order to change his future and prevent her past from ever happening. It's not only a clever story on paper, but it's very compellingly conveyed in the drama as well.
All in all, an excellent story.