Review: The Companion Chronicles: Old Soldiers

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Blue Box Bill - Posted on 08 June 2012

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Old Soldiers: The Skinny: Nicholas Courtney lives on in this newfound favorite.

Old soldiers, comrades in arms - the Brigadier saw many fall during his years with UNIT, but perhaps none more tragically than those at Kreigskind. Called to help when a friend falls ill, how can Lethbridge-Stewart fight an enemy that can breach every defence?

When remembering the man behind the character of Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, one is unlikely to find or compose a more fitting toast than the one which opens Old Soldiers, read by none other than Nicholas Courtney:

"To absent friends, to comrades in arms, to old soldiers..."

And now, the rest of the story...

The Brig recalls, "We were under siege from an enemy that could move through walls, that could strike at a heartbeat. Shrader's men has secured the radio room in the aftermath of the last incursion and placed it under heavy guard. The men said it was to protect the communications gear from any attacks but I had little doubt it was Shrader's way of ensuring no outside contact with HQ."

The Brig continues, "I set the bulwark at the doors to the medical wing. "Hold fast." The lull in their attacks had ended, they were advancing once again silent and slow down the corridors. "Rifleman, suppressing fire, short controlled bursts. Five rounds rapid on my command..... open fire!"

36 years prior to the recording of "Old Soldiers" in the Doctor Who episode called "The Dæmons" the Brig ordered, "Chap with wings there. Five rounds rapid!" Not exactly déjà vu but it was to become a phrase with staying power just like the actor behind the character. "Five Rounds Rapid!" is also the title of Nicholas Courtney's Autobiography. On my "Must Read" book list.

So, absent friends, choices made and the consequences thereof. When the next threat comes to this planet, and it will, we will not defeat it by becoming the things that we fear, we will not defeat it by making ourselves as alien as our enemies. If we sacrifice everything that we are, then there's nothing worth defending anymore. Our sword and our shield will be the one thing that makes us unique, our humanity. If a man loses sight of that he loses sight of himself. It's important we remember..... never forget... absent friends, comrades in arms, old soldiers.

This is a Companion Chronicle. Nick did a nice job of impersonating the 3rd Doctor when delivering the Doctor's lines, a impersonation which improved with time, however it must be said that it was a little jarring at first, not because of his delivery but because the rest of the story sounds as thought it is a full cast recording when in actual fact the entire piece is voiced by Nick Courtney and Toby Longworth. Toby plays both Konrad and Schrader. Not framing the recording as a Companion Chronicle was most certainly an oversight on my part.

A good story. A believable story. At one point with the help of the Doctor and another of his lashed up gizmos an onslaught is stopped with the invaders literally frozen in time. The way this scene is written and the way in which the Brig communicates it is fantastic.

As to the likelihood of defending against an enemy that can walk through walls, well that just punctuates the impossibility of the situation while at the same time making it obvious to the seasoned fan / listener that this is the sort of thing UNIT gets up to, it's what they do and who better to be in command than the Brig? In Old Soldiers the Brig and Nicholas Courtney shine for this IS his story.

If you want a standalone keepsake recording of the Brig in top form, might I suggest you add "Old Soldiers" to your short list?

Old Soldiers earns a 5 BLUE BOX SCORE

What's this?

PRODUCTION NOTES: Read By: Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart); Toby Longworth (Konrad / Schrader)

Writer: James Swallow; Director: Nigel Fairs; Music: David Darlington; Sound Design: David Darlington; Cover Illustration: Simon Holub

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