Intending to visit the Winter Palace, the TARDIS brings the travellers to the right place but the wrong time.
Big Finish continues the Early Adventures range with a brand new outing for the Second Doctor. Frazer Hines takes on the late Patrick Troughton’s role as the Doctor as well as his usual part as Jamie. How will the TARDIS team fare when they meet ‘The Night Witches’?
Landing in the snow, the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie soon discover they are just north of Stalingrad in 1942 and it isn’t a safe place. With the German army advancing, they are caught by the Night Witches, an all-female group of pilots who disrupted the German advance. Of course, they believe the strangers to be German spies and plot to execute them all. Then they catch a glimpse of Polly and they discover that something else is going on. One of the Night Witches is the spitting image of Polly. They do say that everyone on Earth has a doppelganger but, for Polly, this could spell her doom…
The Night Witches Offers Some Superb Writing
‘The Night Witches’ comes from the pen of Roland Moore, someone relatively new to the worlds of Doctor Who, with an entry in the November release of The Survivors and ‘The Tales of New Earth’ coming next year. With this story, it feels like he has been writing for this team of TARDIS travellers for many years. Each character is pitched perfectly. He pays particular attention to Polly but the rest of the crew get moments to shine too.
Polly was always a companion who didn’t do much on screen. Like in ‘The Moonbase’, too many times was she sidelined or told to go and grab the coffee. This is where the audios have really succeeded with her character; like Peri, Mel and Tegan, Polly has been allowed to flourish in these stories. ‘The Night Witches’ sees her flung head first into the action as she discovers that the pilot Tatiana Kregki looks exactly like her.
Anneke Wills is a real tour-de-force here as she is obviously revelling in the script. And why shouldn’t she? Much as ‘The Forsaken’ put a lot of focus on Elliot Chapman as Ben, here it’s Polly’s turn. But it takes a different turn from ‘The Forsaken’ and instead plays with the idea of doppelgangers as Nyssa did in ‘Black Orchid’. But where Nyssa and Ann used their likenesses to confuse and generally have a good time, Tatiana sees Polly as her way out of the war. She doesn’t dress up as Polly to go out and dance, she intends to join the Doctor.
Michael and Elliot
Elliot Chapman continues to impress as Ben Jackson. He effortlessly creates the role made famous by Michael Craze. When it was first announced that Chapman would be played Ben, there was a bit of an outcry. But since his stellar first appearance, Chapman has continued to impress. Ben also gets a fair percent of the action, particularly with Lilya Grankin, with whom he sees a kinship. While Lilya sees their relationship as the start of something else, there’s a sadness underlining their discussions. Ben knows what will happen to them. No way could they hold out against the Nazi forces. But he admires their courage. And what courage they had!
Frazer Hines also continues to impress with his performance as not only Jamie McCrimmon but Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor. There are moments where you would think that the heads of Big Finish had actually performed some dark arts and resurrected Troughton! He is superb! Jamie is the companion who gets slightly sidelined by the story. Though that’s probably inevitable with three companions to juggle. However, his performance as the Doctor more than makes up for this. Big Finish get their money’s worth from Hines.
The guest cast, made up of Anjella Mackintosh, Wanda Opalinska and Kristina Buikaite are brilliant too. Each of them creates a distinct character. Anjella really brings Tatiana to life as someone who is tired of the war and wants a way out.
And Historical Adventures.
‘The Night Witches’ is a culmination of everything that makes a great historical Doctor Who story. Even if it does just use the notion of the crew being separated from the TARDIS to deposit the characters where the writer wanted them to be. It features brilliant writing from Roland Moore, tight direction from Helen Goldwyn and terrific performances from a terrific cast. Everyone involved should be so very proud.
Blogtor Rating – 10/10
When the TARDIS materialises north of Stalingrad in 1942, the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly are captured by the Night Witches, an all-female unit of flyers tasked with disrupting the German forces nearing Moscow.
They suspect that the travellers are spies – part of the Germans’ Operation Barbarossa. Despite their pleas they are locked up while it is decided what to do with them.
Polly, however, is receiving strange looks from the pilots and clearly unnerving them. When the TARDIS crew discover why this is, it becomes clear that they’re about to get far more involved in the war than they could possibly have imagined.
Written By: Roland Moore
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn
Anneke Wills (Polly Wright/Narrator), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon/The Doctor), Elliot Chapman (Ben Jackson), Anjella Mackintosh(Tatiana Kregki), Wanda Opalinska (Nadia Vasney), Kristina Buikaite (Lilya Grankin). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs