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on 7 June 2013
One of Big Finish's popular Doctor Who audio ranges is The Companion Chronicles, which focuses primarily on the adventures of the first three Doctors, as these Doctors are no longer with us. Rather than full-cast audio dramas, these adventures take the form of a two-person performance, with one of the Doctor's companions narrating an "unseen" adventure with a second supporting character taking part. They tend to be shorter than the Big Finish's full cast audios, with two half hour episodes on one CD.

This release, Old Soldiers, is narrated by Nicholas Courtney, who played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, one of the companions from the Third Doctor's era and senior member of the UNIT task force. The Brigadier is one of my favourite Doctor Who supporting characters so I was looking forward to hearing this, the only companion chronicles release made before Nicholas Courtney died in 2011.

The story takes place shortly after the TV serial, The Silurians, and deals with the aftermath of the Brigadier's decision to blow up the Silurian base at Wenley-Moor and how it affects both his relationship with the Doctor and his decisions in this story. I really liked how the writer, James Swallow, made use of the continuity of the TV show in his story and added an extra layer of depth to the Brigadier, allowing us to see the repercussions of that decision in a way we had never seen before.

The Brigadier is summoned to UNIT base in Germany located in the castle grounds known as Kriegeskind by an old army friend, Heinrich Konrad and is shocked to find him stricken by a mysterious disease. His second-in-command, the evasive Schrader proves most unhelpful in supplying the Brigadier with the details that led to Konrad's condition. Things take a more sinister turn however when midway through the night, the Brigadier awakes to narrowly miss a blade from a Roman Soldier cutting his pillow in two. It seems that the ghosts of Old Soldiers haven't taken form within Kriegeskind and are haunting those who occupy its walls.

I liked this story as it gave the Brigadier most of the focus, even after the Doctor appears on the scene. Nicholas Courtney manages to do a pretty effective Jon Pertwee impression, something he discusses in depth in the bonus track interview, but only uses it sparingly, often referring to the Doctor's lines in the character of the Brigadier, however when he does switch to the Doctor's voice, it captures many of his little quirks, such as the faint lisp and curtness of speech. I was very impressed!

Toby Longworth plays both Schrader and Konrad, who sound similar, although Konrad spends the majority of the audio-play gasping for his words, so it's never tricky to differentiate between the two. At first, I thought the fact Longworth played both characters hinted at a link between the two - possibly two halves of one man, or some kind of descendent, however it seems it was mainly because there wasn't much for both characters to do, so they combined the roles for the versatile voice actor.

Overall, this was a fun audio adventure, which told a nice two-parter and filled in some extra detail on the Brig's personality, particularly in those early Third Doctor adventures when he and the Doctor were at their most 'prickly'. The actual threat is quite visual and while one listens, it is easy to picture the action occurring with the recognisable images of ghostly Roman Soldiers and Nazi Officers roaming around an old castle. I'm not sure whether it would have been successful as a TV serial, but I think any fan of the UNIT era of Doctor Who will love this story!
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on 27 November 2014
I enjoyed this. It's lovely to hear dear old Nicholas Courtney's marvellous voice again. The story isn't the greatest, with some incongruities - for example Lethbridge-Stewart had a Browning pistol instead of a Webley. The music is atmospheric and evocative of the Pertwee era. Courtney's Pertwee impression isn't quite right tonally, sounding more like Worzel Gummidge, but he has the vocal cadences just right. Well worth a listen if you like the Three era, or just fancy reminiscing this wonderful period of Classic Who.
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third in the latest series of doctor who companion chronicles audios. these involve an actor who played a companion on tv to one of the first four doctors playing the part once again, reading a talking book featuring a new story for their character and the doctor. There is always one other speaking part in the story.

This runs for sixty minutes, in two thirty minute long episodes, and involves nicholas courtney, the brigadier on screen, telling the story of a strange encounter the brigadier had in germany when visiting a castle used as a UNIT base there, which turns out to be haunted.

The story is framed with the brigadier sitting down, pouring himself a glass, and then telling the listener the tale. this is a nice touch and added to nicholas courtneys superb voice it makes it a real pleasure to listen to. like all these stories the lead actor has to impersonate the doctor, and it tends to come over more like the character doing that than the actor, but his take on jon pertwee's voice works fine.

toby longworth the other speaking voice does two different roles, which both could sound rather similar, but he's talented enough to make them different so you are never confused.

This is a good but not great story. It has a good set up in part one but then part two plays out in a rather predictable fashion, although the climax is pretty powerful stuff, and there are a few moments that hardcoe doctor who fans will enjoy.

the final track on the disc is a short interview with nicholas courtney that is well worth listening to, then ten minutes or so of the score to the tale with no dialogue to get in the way.

An okay story. but a very good listen
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on 29 July 2014
Another entertaining tale from the Companion Chronicles series, this time featuring the Third Doctor, the Brigadier and UNIT.

The Brigadier responds to a request from an old army friend in Germany and is shocked to find him dying of a mysterious disease at the UNIT HQ in the grounds of a huge sinister castle. What caused his friend's strange illness and why are the soldiers fearful of the ghostly apparitions that stalk the hallways and shadows?

I won't spoil the story any further, but rather like the earlier Third Doctor story, Blue Tooth, this one has a nice air of menace that keeps you enthralled throughout the 60+ minutes playing time.
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