Survival of the Fittest (2010)

Following on from the fantastic A Thousand Tiny Wings we have a very different story. For the first time since The Minds Eye back in November 2007 we are treated to a three plus one story. The difference in this case is that the first episode is the single story and the next three episodes form the main story which is the opposite of how it has been in the past. The first episode was called Klein’s Story and as you would imagine it’s about Elizabeth Klein.

It’s about what happened to Klein when she went travelling in the TARDIS during the events of Colditz. It’s a curious tale where Klein ends up in 1962 Cambridge where in this story Ace has been executed, Hitler has survived (he dies in 1961) and the Doctor gets shot in Colditz in 1955. During these events the Doctor regenerates into Paul McGann’s Doctor. This is where the story gets weird as McGann’s Doctor manipulates Klein into changing history back to what it should be. This was because Laser technology had been discovered sooner than it should have been. This leads to Nuclear weapons been developed and major cities being destroyed like New York and means that the Third Reich win the war. This story moves at a fast pace which makes time for Klein to get intimately involved with Major Jonas Faber. As if this episode needed anything else to make it stand out then it has Paul McGann as the guest star. He is obviously playing the Eighth Doctor who is pretending to be someone else to hide the fact that his earlier incarnation might hear this story. McGann plays Johan Schmidt who is someone who makes Klein curious about what he knows and uses her ambition to get her to change history.

The character of Faber is someone who has uneasy feelings about Schmidt/Doctor but is ignored by Klein who was blind sighted by the possibility of success. Rupert Wickham plays the role of Faber brilliantly. The tale does well to highlight that Klein is more ambitious than evil. Whilst Nazi’s are terrible people with terrible beliefs there is a fine line that Big Finish has to walk on. It’s a good story that serves no other purpose than to help give Klein a back story that she desperately needed. Not much is known about Klein apart from what we know so a bit more knowledge about her is always going to be appreciated. John Ainsworth and Lee Mansfield are responsible for this story which is short snappy and more importantly is an intriguing tale.

As we progress into Survival of the Fittest. A three part story which sees the Doctor and Klein arrive on a planet which is being threatened by two humans who are trying to capture a particular source that helps the Vrill grow to the size they are. The story does take quite a long time to get started but once it does we have a setting which sees the Vrill on the verge of extinction. I quite liked how the idea that the TARDIS can translate alien languages into English that little bit further with the idea of scents actually saying something.

The characters were all good enough. I particularly found Steffan (Adrian Bower) to be a typically nasty character. It initially looks like he is trying to lay the groundwork for colonisation but then his true motives came out. I recognised Bower’s voice because he was in the Channel 4 drama Teachers. His character wasn’t the most original one but Bower played it just right and made it a relatively normal character. However it was Klein that stood out for me but not necersarily in the way that I would have expected. Sylvester McCoy is on usual good form, he seems to enjoy having debates/arguments with Klein and this is perhaps the most passionate that we have seen from McCoy in quite sometime. The Klein we get in this story isn’t quite what I am use to. For part of it she was the traditional companion and concerned with the future of the Vrill and then later on she was back to her Nazi self. I think at times it was quite confusing and also frustrating. It was quite interesting listening to Klein and seeing her trying to support the Vrill. Tracey Childs is really got into her stride in the latter half of the story which saw Klein realise that the GO Police were essentially fascists and this seemed to spur Klein on and once she discovered the TARDIS key she was off and away quicker than you could say ‘Ace would never have done that!’. The last five minutes were the best part of the story. Once Klein had the key she basically turned the Vrill against the Doctor and Steffan and that’s where the whole thing really got interesting because with the TARDIS gone the thing that I wanted to know was how the Doctor was going to get off the planet then there was the death of Steffan which came as quite a shock. What we are left with at the end of this story is the Doctor without his TARDIS with a Nazi scientist roaming around in time and space free to pursue her ambitions and that sets up the final story of this series brilliantly.

There are problems with this story the first is how the four episodes are laid out. Now traditionally the first three episodes would be at the beginning and so the extras would come between the second and third episode where the story had got going a bit but in this instance we would get the first episode and then have to stop to listen to the extras. Now I know that you’re reading this and thinking that I could just skip the extras until the end but I haven’t done it before and I don’t see why I should start now. But the real issue that I have was with the story itself. I don’t think it’s a bad story just average and with the potential of this series it’s seems wrong that we have an average adventure. Like The Angel of Scutari in the last Seventh Doctor series, this story will unfortunately be seen as the weakest story of the series.

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