I think I just said that you can’t really go wrong with a Companion Chronicle; I’ll of course eat my words when that statement proves to be false, but so far it just hasn’t. Resistance by Steve Lyons is the latest we’ve listened to and is a pure historical with Polly at the helm. It is, in fact, the first time Anneke Wills has played Polly since 1967, and she performs all the complicated acting that is required of the lead companion in a Companion Chronicle. This time, no particular reason is given for Polly to be recounting this story; we just understand that she’s older. However, a reason isn’t really necessary, and in addition to the narrative, the other characters, Polly’s inner monologues and outward dialogue, Wills also has to play the Doctor, Jamie, and Ben, and she does a pretty crackin’ job at that!
This is one of those stories that doesn’t need a sci fi element and yet is extremely chilling. The sound separation can be a bit baffling at times, in order to distinguish between the Polly telling the story and the other characters, but most of the time is wonderfully integrated into the narrative. For example, when the TARDIS dematerializes and we hear footsteps in the snow, we have our first aural clues and they back up the narrative well. Similarly, when the Milice are chasing the time travellers through the underbrush, the pounding sound of their boots combined with Polly’s worried narrative and the music make for a tense moment.
There’s a wonderfully Ace-like twist to Polly’s story here, and yet Lyons subverts that beautifully. The Doctor has a beautiful moment that really strikes the heart of the setting: everyone lost someone in that war, and to Polly who was actually one year old at the time, it’s a bit like Rose’s position in “Father’s Day.” Polly is also aware in this story of her ambiguous, even subservient role, in the TARDIS team, and the story gives her time to reflect and even improve on her life goals. I recently saw “The War Machines” and realized how much we miss out by having so much lack of Ben and Polly.