The 2019 Sixth Doctor and Peri trilogy ended with Harry Houdini’s War and for me it was a mixed bag. John Schwab shone as Houdini (and will no doubt return) but I found the story as a whole a little incoherent. Part of this is I was reminded of writer Steve Lyons’s classic Colditz and made assumptions about how this story would evolve. Instead of timey-wimey trickery this is more a study of loyalty to one’s country and motives. I’ll explain…
As any fan knows Harry Houdini is much referenced in Doctor Who and appeared on audio in 2013’s Smoke and Mirrors, also by Steve Lyons. In this newer story we have Sixie acting mysterious (and a bit more like the Seventh Doctor perhaps?) and Houdini at times the lead and others just caught up in events he doesn’t understand. It’s late in World War 1 (as we know it) and alien technology is in the wrong hands. The Doctor is focussed on removing it from all parties but also needs to preserve Houdini’s place in history.
The Doctor, Peri and Houdini end up in Germany, separated and there’ plenty of action. There’s also a moment where the sound design (late in part 3 I think) drops a big hint as to the final twist. This meant for me the reveal in the end of the story fell flat. It’s a shame as this story gave both Colin and Nicola different ways in which to take their parts but in the end I found it less satisfying than I might have liked. I accept part of the problem is reviewing makes me listen to stories in a particular way, but this time for whatever reason I wasn’t captivated.