Posted in Audio by - September 09, 2023

Released September 2023


Aiming to land in Yugoslavia to allow Tegan to visit her grandmother, the Doctor inadvertently materializes the TARDIS in a Warsaw club basement in 1982 to open ‘Resistor’ by Sarah Grochala. When one of the members of the band due on stage goes missing, however, the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan quickly come to realize that something very strange is occurring on the streets of this very dangerous locale.

It has become increasingly rare for Doctor Who to present pure historical adventures with no science fiction element other than the arrival of the TARDIS, but ‘Resistor’ may have done well to fully lean into the unique dangers that 1982 Warsaw presents in general and to the members of Resistor specifically. This was a time and place rife with anti-government protests amidst martial law, and the Secret Police patrolling the streets ensured that everyone was living within the strict allotted parameters. These parameters included sexual orientation, and it’s upon this foundation that half of the plot of ‘Resistor’ is built as Roman’s secret homosexuality results in his being blackmailed and being forced to furtively act against his friends’ own interests. While the eventual admission to his then-girlfriend about his true identity is unquestionably accepted far too easily with little emotional conflict, the internal turmoil leading up to this admission and the oppressive communist surroundings peppered by small acts of resistance and individuality are absolutely fantastic and combine to create one of the more memorable settings in recent Doctor Who.

Where ‘Resistor’ falters somewhat is with its attempt to insert an alien element into this oppressive environment that is purely human in its creation. The plot thankfully does not try to condone human behaviour or to blame it on an alien influence, but trying to tie together local myths of a mysterious black car roaming the streets, blinking street lights, and an unidentified flying object prove to detract from the nuances of the locale and the government as well as the quite profound and resonant interpersonal conflicts of Roman, Hao and Iza that more than easily could have sustained the two parts of this tale at least. It is intriguing, admittedly, to learn of a peaceful and noble alien species that has been forced to take actions that are anything but, but despite the strong imagery that accompanies this particular plotline that does manage to at least tangentially intertwine with the dark local affairs, it never comes close to matching the power and atmosphere of the communist and Resistor story elements.

Typically, the Doctor and friends leave a locale with acquaintances they have made then affecting change in their wake. However, ‘Resistor’ somewhat uniquely takes the approach of Tegan realizing that she knows this band from London, suggesting to the Doctor that this means that they must be responsible for that translocation. Despite the leap in logic needed to arrive at this conclusion and despite the ostensibly better life that will result for Roman, Hao, and Iza, it also means that there is no opportunity for these three to be a continuing force within Warsaw itself despite the obvious difficulties they would confront. With the trio still performing together in London, it also means that there really are no consequences at all to actions taken even under the threat of blackmail against friends or to secrets that were kept, resulting in something of a somewhat insignificant conclusion as history is simply left to take its course. Still, even with the contrivance of the Doctor being something of a professional drummer to allow an in with the band, ‘Resistor’ succeeds wholly based on its setting and guest trio of Daniel Easton, Chris Lew Kum Hoi, and Niky Wardley combining so well with the always-superb leading performances from Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, and Janet Fielding who rather uniquely- and by truly leaning into Tegan’s Australian heritage- traverse the many perils on Warsaw’s streets in this time period.

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