Recruits gives our Redacted heroes a rare breathing space, in an episode that dances deftly from comedy to tragedy
After the scares and tension of Redacted’s past few episodes, it’s time for some light relief in Recruits, the sixth episode of BBC Sounds’ Doctor Who drama. UNIT’s satisfied after last week’s intense interrogation that Cleo, Abby and Shawna aren’t involved in the disappearances plaguing the world. So Recruits has fun with the concept of these three stream-of-consciousness bantering young podcasters loose in the UNIT archive. At least until Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor returns towards the episode’s end, bringing with her the almost forgotten shadow that’s been hanging over them.
The spread of redaction has reached UNIT itself. Many of their case files are reduced to flimsy pamphlets, detailing an alien threat, but mysteriously blank on the details of who or wait stepped in to stop them. Even the UNIT archive of alien artefacts is full of now mysterious objects. Items whose description cards give little to no explanation of their purpose or origins. But some of these objects and events have also been stories on the Blue Box Files podcast, giving UNIT hope the team might be able to help identify them. Having sat through a hilariously 1970s public information style UNIT orientation video, the women run amok in the archive. It’s an opportunity for some fun scenes, rich with in-jokes, that the script makes great use of. Though undoubtedly the best is that this particular warehouse holds 862 lots, 97 of which are completely missing…
Ken Cheng provides Redacted’s most overtly comic script yet, featuring adorable scenes of the gals loose in UNIT’s archive
But while Cleo and Shawna get up to mischief with sonic mascara alongside their UNIT chaperone (a deliciously deadpan performance from episode writer Ken Cheng), there’s also the kind of nicely grounded character work we’ve come to expect from Redacted. Abby’s always been the most militant of the Blue Box Files gang. She’s the most suspicious of authority and the most paranoid about some vast secret conspiracy. But now that she’s inside the conspiracy that persona falters, and it looks like it was the not knowing that rankled her.
Most of Abby’s scenes this week play out opposite Ingrid Oliver’s Osgood. Oliver’s performed the role so deftly, and for so long across many television episodes and Big Finish audio plays, that it’s perhaps gotten easy to take her for granted. But there’s a slight shift of emphasis here, with her UNIT’s Chief Scientific Officer (with Kate Stewart redacted.) She’s a bit more assertive and confident, and it reminds us again what a talented and subtle actor Oliver is. As does some of the low key flirting between Abby and Osgood.
Jodie Whittaker returns as the Doctor’s role in Doctor Who: Redacted becomes clearer
After as close to a holiday from their problems as they’re like to get, a couple of twists in the latter scenes of Recruits give Redacted’s plot a significant jump forward. They also give us Jodie Whittaker’s largest part in the drama to date. Finally establishing contact with Cleo, the Doctor establishes elements of the plot listeners have had to guess at until now. It also firmly pins all her hopes of saving her, and the day, on the Blue Box Files team. It signals a stepping up of the action in the remaining episode as well as hinting at a crucial role for Cleo, in particular, to play in the solution. But some of Recruits’ revelations also generate a new crisis for our three unlikely heroes.
All four actors give these scenes everything they’ve got. Combined with the script they retain Redacted’s core strength, the reality and credibility of this cast and their reactions to events. There are irrational leaps of logic, and bitter misunderstandings based on failing to share information. But unlike in many less skilfully handled dramas, you never doubt that this is exactly how these characters would react.
Ultimately the three may have to save the Earth without the one thing they’ve always been able to depend on… each other.
Doctor Who: Redacted continues on Sunday on BBC Sounds
The story continues each Sunday, with Doctor Who: Redacted available via the BBC Sounds website and app, free worldwide. Complete scripts are also available on each episode’s page for accessibility. All episode so far available now.