Doctor Who

Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
ISBN 1 903654 47 5, BFPDWCD7U
Available now

Having suffered damage, the TARDIS needs time to repair her systems. The Doctor thinks that he and Ace have landed on 20th-century Earth, but the instruments cannot be more precise. They soon realise they are stranded in Colditz, the most secure prison camp in the whole of Nazi Germany...

So the Seventh Doctor and Ace face Nazis... again! They previously battled them in Remembrance of the Daleks, Silver Nemesis and the novels Timewyrm: Exodus and Illegal Alien. It does seem that writers cannot resist pitting the Machiavellian McCoy Doctor and the hate-crime-hating Ms McShane against such iconic bad guys.

Yes, that's right: Ace's surname is reiterated as being "McShane", as originally set down by Virgin's New Adventures novels. (Have you got that, Mike Tucker? Let's have no more of that "Dorothy Gale" nonsense!) However, this brief victory to NA mythology is potentially snatched away again at the end of the tale, when Dorothy McShane reaches a particular decision about the use of her nickname that does not sit too comfortably alongside Virgin continuity. Maybe it's just a phase she's going through - you'll see what I mean when you hear the ending.

But back to the Nazis and, more specifically, to Colditz Castle. As with his previous Big Finish script, The Fires of Vulcan, writer Steve Lyons has selected an enduringly fascinating historical setting in which to entrap the TARDIS crew. The appeal of vintage war movies is captured (no pun intended) by the presence of a particularly zealous German officer, Feldwebel Kurtz (David Tennant), and an especially stiff-upper-lipped British prisoner, Flying Officer Bill Gower (Nicholas Young). However, the writer offsets such clichés by also including German and British officers who do not conform to these stereotypes.

As with his Fires of Vulcan - in fact, in common with the majority of this writer's work - a tricky temporal complication presents itself to the Doctor, thus ensuring that this adventure becomes more than your average prison-break story. There seems to be no limit to Lyons' ability to concoct new and intriguing time-travel paradoxes with which to challenge our brains.

A variation on familiar themes this may be, but there are far worse places to be than inside, out of the cold, listening to Colditz.

Richard McGinlay