Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions
Writers: Matt Fitton & Andrew Smith
RRP: £20.00 (CD) / £20.00 (Download)
Release Date: June 2016
Reviewed by: Bedwyr Gullidge for Doctor Who Online
2.1 Power Cell by Matt Fitton
"Osgood and Captain Josh Carter are sent to investigate the disappearance of a UNIT scientist.
Meanwhile, alien technology has fallen into the hands of Lyme Industries, and Kate Stewart can't persuade the company’s CEO, Felicity Lyme, to give it back.
But UNIT find themselves fighting a third battle when innocent people start to die. Who are the mysterious assassins? And what does Felicity Lyme want with top secret alien technology?"
UNIT is back! Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver return to their roles of Kate Stewart and Osgood for a second outing with Big Finish. UNIT: Extinction was the skilled storyteller’s first venture into the world of modern Doctor Who created in 2005 and such was its success the team have returned for a second outing in a proper, full-fledged drama featuring the popular characters seen in only a handful of onscreen stories. It is such a joy to have more adventures with these individuals because it allows for more time to be dedicated to them alone, for instance, more scenes that they dominate instead of the Doctor, which aids their personal growth and builds that connection with the audience still further. As an example, the story opens with Osgood at a pub quiz, something which there simply would not be time for during a television episode that needs to grab the audience’s attention immediately and to engage them enough to quell the impulse to change the channel.
Osgood and Kate Stewart are the leading stars of the series and hopefully draw in new listeners to the wonders of Big Finish audio adventures. Ingrid Oliver’s Osgood has become a popular choice for cosplay fans but she is far more than a clothes horse and is a wonderfully rounded character; her likeable nature without question and she even uses a cloister bell message alert tone. Similarly, Kate Stewart maintains an approachable connection to her inferiors, despite her seniority, much like her father did. Jemma Redgrave is very respectful of the legacy passed down to her by her character's onscreen father, the sadly missed Doctor Who legend Nicholas Courtney. This story also draws an element from the UNIT era of Third Doctor Jon Pertwee which the Brigadier played such a key role in.
Writer Matt Fitton creates a tale which shines an investigatory light on Whitehall figures in a similar way that the Third Doctor's era provided scathing critiques on those Governmental types, such as Chinn in The Claws of Axos or Walker the Parliamentary Private Secretary in The Sea Devils. The timing of this subject matter also seems appropriate given the current political turmoil in Westminster, with Kate Stewart stating categorically, “I don't trust the Government” and seemingly capturing the mood of a nation. In the UK we fear the intrusion of public companies, siphoning off our most valuable resources for the sake of profit margins, the privatisation of the NHS for example, is a constant concern these days. For UNIT it is their alien technology which they place the highest value upon and so must be recovered from the hands of the unknown but wonderfully intriguing Miss Lyme, expertly played by Alice Krige. These competing ideologies, supposedly in partnership and on the same side but yet the potential selling off of those shared secrets, adds further to the developing intrigue.
However this story is not only a satirical perspective on the Government, as the first part draws to a close with an action sequence of unidentified, but clearly alien, creatures attacking Osgood in her own flat. Things are developing quickly and the adventure has only just begun…
2.2 Death In Geneva by Andrew Smith
"With few people left to trust, and with assassins on their tail, Kate and Osgood race to UNIT Command in Geneva. Will General Avary be able to help them?
But when death follows UNIT all the way from the English countryside to the snowy slopes of the Alps, Captain Carter finds himself in a race against time.
As the body count rises, Kate struggles to separate friend from foe, danger circles Osgood ever closer, and, high in the mountains, Josh comes face to face with the enemy..."
In a move borrowed from Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart himself, Kate and Osgood head to Geneva to gain support from UNIT Central Command. Unlike the television production of the 1970’s the limitless scope of Big Finish allows listeners to follow the action to Geneva. Unfortunately, the danger follows too and even in Switzerland not everyone can be trusted. Slowly the UNIT team begin to unravel events and learn more about the mysterious Tengobushi as the bodies start piling up and innocent people are now being caught in the crossfire.
This episode starts with a bang and maintains that pace throughout, gripping the audience with numerous twists and turns along the way as Kate and Osgood come under seemingly constant attack. Continuing the work of Matt Fitton, Andrew Smith picks up the momentum created by the introductory first episode, skilfully teasing out more information for the developing plot. Although the Kate Stewart and Osgood pairing receive the bulk of the attention - and rightly so - they are in reality two thirds of a trio which also includes James Joyce as Captain Josh Carter. Admittedly Carter has a curiously convenient knack for turning up at the most opportune moment, which happens a lot in this four part story, but when under threat from lightning fast alien ninja warriors UNIT need a military leader and Joyce is perfect in his role - one which will be vital in the next episode…
2.3 The Battle Of The Tower by Andrew Smith
"The threat is now clear, and Kate Stewart retreats to UNIT HQ with her most trusted colleagues. She has no choice but to place the Black Archive into lockdown, and the Tower of London is where UNIT will make its stand.
While the capital sleeps, an alien horde is gathering, ready to rise from the shadows to attack Earth’s greatest defence force inside its own stronghold.
The Tower is infiltrated, and UNIT must hold the line. At any cost. Lock and load..."
The action packed pace of Death in Geneva continues as UNIT retreat to the stronghold of the Tower of London - first identified as a UNIT base in The Christmas Invasion. This episode also allows a period of downtime to expand on the plot as UNIT attempt to identify and understand the alien trinket which has drawn the Tengobushi to London so they can recover it. Osgood and Kate Stewart are able to investigate the artefact, postulating why the Tengobushi want it back so badly and revealing crucial plot points required for the story’s final resolution to the audience.
Like an episode of Game of Thrones, these early parts of the episode provide material that adds depth and detail to the story that would be quickly skirted over in a Doctor Who television episode, limited by a finite running time.
Other nice story touches include the revelation that the Yeoman warders are in fact members of UNIT capable of reporting to Kate Stewart. There are also lovely references for fans of the televised output such as name checking Malcolm who appeared in Planet of the Dead and the Ravens needing batteries as mentioned in The Day of the Doctor. When the Tengobushi do reach the Tower and begin their attack, the action comes thick and fast, the accompanying soundscape headed by director Ken Bentley aiding in the dynamism that builds nicely for a spectacular conclusion…
2.4 Ice Station Alpha by Matt Fitton
"Caught between human greed and an unstoppable alien power, Kate Stewart leads her closest allies on one final, desperate mission. This could be the very last chance for the human race.
But the UNIT team has been declared rogue, and ruthless military forces are in pursuit as they race across the globe. Kate calls Lieutenant Sam Bishop to their aid, while Josh and Osgood head out across the frozen Antarctic plains to try and prevent a disaster no-one else knows is coming."
In the concluding part we return to the original themes outlined at the very beginning, casting a scathing comment on the spurious methods of big business, plus raising doubts about the true motives of those individuals supposedly working to protect us. The tale also raises an interesting argument regarding UNIT’s own use of alien technologies and the dangers of allowing unregulated individuals equal free-reign. However whilst the small-minded humans argue amongst themselves a much more substantial power is closing in on the eye of the storm in Antartica…
This second adventure with Kate Stewart and Osgood is another triumph; superbly combining intelligent plotting from writers Matt Fitton and Andrew Smith with explosive action in a journey across planet Earth - the likes of which would be difficult to do justice to on a television budget. In a refreshing move, the lines between good and evil are masterfully blurred to deliver an excellent adventure which grips and thrills the listener throughout.
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