Resistance

Posted in Audio by - March 04, 2019
Resistance

Released March 2009

Arguably the greatest tragedy in the long history of Doctor Who is the sheer number of episodes that no longer exist in the visual medium, audio recordings and fragmentary still images fortunately remaining but only hinting at the productions as a whole. With no companion’s material hit as hard by that purge as Anneke Wills’s Polly, this actress who has remained so fiercely dedicated to the franchise through convention appearances and portraying other roles finally has the opportunity to bring her beloved companion to life again for the first time since 1967 in Steve Lyons’s ‘Resistance.’

With so much material missing from the archives and Polly not always receiving the deepest backstory or characterisation, she represents a rare opportunity to treat her almost as a new character by exploring her inner motivations and feelings that weren’t necessarily brought to the forefront during her original run. This is a woman who firmly knows that she is a part of the TARDIS team, but she often wonders if she’s really making a difference since she sees herself more as one to make tea and wipe brows as needed. However, when the TARDIS lands in World War II and memories of her father telling her about her Uncle Randolph who lost his life during the conflict begin to resurface, she finds herself surrounded by ordinary individuals living their lives and trying to make a difference in any way possible, big or small. Given all of the horrors that she has seen in her travels, nothing hits her quite as hard as this very human conflict that was still so very much in the public consciousness of her time, and the dovetailing of her present and familial past as she crosses paths with her very much living Uncle Randolph works wonderfully in allowing Wills to showcase an immense emotional range.

Polly believes it cruel that she should have to be witness to her Uncle’s ultimate fate knowing the pain it will cause her father, but as events unfold and the Doctor suggests that he may be a spy, an indignant anger overtakes her while she promises that she will stay with her Uncle and ensure his known fate does not befall him regardless of the consequences. She naturally keeps this plan a secret from the Doctor, knowing what his response and actions will be, and fittingly it’s Ben’s voice that she hears in her mind as she seeks advice. This is a story that is able to develop richly layered characters and environments with just a few key words and phrases, and the palpable sense of oppression and tension as the ever-present spectre of war looms large is brilliant and gives each decision a true sense of impact. If there is one fault of the story, however, it’s that Polly’s final decision to save the day is based on a falsity and luck more than anything else, and writing certain actions off as simple impulse to get her to where she ultimately needs to be to do so is somewhat less rewarding as a result. However, the genuine affection the Doctor has for Polly as he thanks her for making him the man he is today and being there for him with her kindness and resourcefulness is genuinely touching, especially as he ensures her she will one day find herself and comments that she should dedicate herself to changing the future rather than the past.

Proving that the Troughton era is just as capable of anchoring true historical stories while providing truly character defining moments for Polly as her past is delved into more than ever before while Ben and Jamie face the brutal horrors of the time, ‘Resistance’ is a stunning production on all fronts and proves just how valuable this range is with giving those companions who have seen so much of their work wiped a new lease on life for old and new generations alike.

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