jj

30/07/2011 11:57 AM

Resistance (BF audio): my review

Big Finish Companion Chronicles, 3.9. 2 episodes. Approx. 61 minutes.
Written by: Steve Lyons. Directed by: Lisa Bowerman. Produced by:
David Richardson. Performed by: Anneke Wills, John Sackville.


THE PLOT

The TARDIS materializes in Vichy France during the waning days of
World War II. The Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie have barely had a
chance to step outside before they are spotted by members of the
Milice (essentially, the French Gestapo). They scatter and flee, but
Polly does observe Jamie getting shot before she loses sight of him.

The Doctor and Polly manage to stay together, but they are cut off
from Ben and Jamie, who the Doctor suspects have probably been
captured. Their only hope to find their friends is to make contact
with the French Resistance. With Polly posing as a French girl and the
Doctor as an English spy, they manage to join a line of evaders being
escorted at great risk to Spain.

Among these evaders is a British pilot, shot down over France two
weeks earlier. As the man discusses his background with one of the
suspicious Resistance leaders, Polly has a startling realization: This
British pilot is her uncle, who was captured and eventually died in a
German POW camp in 1944!


CHARACTERS

The Doctor: Though there is no questioning his brilliance, Polly has
severe doubts about his practicality. The Doctor's actual actions seem
to belie these doubts, however. He spends most of the story keeping
Polly's nerves calm. He concocts a cover story for them to satisfy the
Resistance, and keeps Polly from giving them away when questioned by a
Resistance member early in Episode Two. His skills as a forger come in
handy, as well. Mostly, we see this Doctor's strong capacity for
compassion. He senses Polly's self-doubts, and takes the time to
directly answer them in a wonderful scene at the story's end. Anneke
Wills doesn't even attempt to mimic Troughton's voice (a good thing),
but she does imbue a certain gravelly quality to the Doctor's lines.
This, and a deliberately slower and gentler line delivery when the
Doctor speaks, conjures up the gentler aspects of Troughton's
characterization, making a good fit for this particular story.

Polly: Polly has significant doubts about her own usefulness. She sees
Ben as the pragmatic one, Ben and Jamie as being useful in fighting
the assorted monsters and villains they encounter, and the Doctor as
brilliant. But she feels that there's no real role for her, and
owrries that she hasn't truly made a difference. That's one reason she
latches so firmly onto the hope of saving her uncle. Anneke Wills,
whose voice has not aged much in the 45 years since she played the
role regularly, recaptures her 1960's performance very effectively,
making Polly's view of the story's events highly relatable to the
listener.

Ben/Jamie: Each of the televised stories featuring this quartet
reduces at least one of them per story to "glorified extra" status, so
it's appropriate that Ben and Jamie become glorified extras here. They
are really only glimpsed at the very beginning and end of the story.
Polly does spend a lot of time worrying about them, though. Not
surprisingly, most of her thoughts turn to Ben and his pragmatic
streak, to the point that she invokes his voice when trying to
convince herself to take some sort of action.


THOUGHTS

Resistance seems to be a story that splits listeners. Its detractors
dislike it for the reasons historicals are usually disliked by some:
It's slow-paced, with no real science fiction twists or elements and a
fairly predictable narrative trajectory. Additionally, some have
complained that a pure historical is out of place in Troughton's era.
Never mind that this could be said of any Doctor other than Hartnell!

As my Who reviews to date have probably shown, I'm rather a fan of the
pure historicals. I regret that they were curtailed so early in the
series' run, and I'm glad that Big Finish have redressed the balance
by producing several pure historicals for the various Doctors. It's
therefore probably not surprising that I'm in the other camp with
regard to Resistance: I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There are two things this story does very well. The story only really
has time to sketch out the setting of Vichy France, but it's a good
sketch. The pilot's narration lets us know that a British pilot
seeking aid from a random French civilian is as likely to encounter a
supporter of the fascists as a Resistance member. One Resistance
member has a cousin who is in the Milise. When the pilot asks if her
cousin would "turn a blind eye" given their family connection, the
girl shoots down that suggestion with a single look. The Resistance
members are paranoid with good reason, and there's a real sense of
them being under constant threat.

The other area in which the story succeeds is Polly's
characterization. She isn't given any over-the-top secrets or traumas
- This is very much the Polly on view in the late Hartnell and early
Troughton eras. But by filtering the story through her viewpoint, and
by making that story so personal to her, it gives her character that
extra dimension that was often lacking in the televised stories.

Also, while the pace may be measured, I never found it dull. Between
the details of the Resistance line and the sense of anxiety and
paranoia among the Resistance members, there was plenty in the
narrative to hold my interest. Writer Steve Lyons does an excellent
job of pulling the historical and character threads together, and I
found the final scene between the Doctor and Polly to be particularly
touching. Finally, Anneke Wills does a splendid job of reading the
story, effectively conveying all of the regulars without stooping to
mimicry, and at the same time giving a restrained yet highly emotional
performance as Polly.

Those who don't usually like historicals probably won't find their
minds changed by this story. But I found it thoroughly satisfying, as
enjoyable on this second listen as it was the first time around.


Rating: 8/10.