This month’s main range release from Big Finish stars Peter Davison as The Fifth Doctor in ‘The Helliax Rift’. ‘The Helliax Rift’ is a mixture of comedy, action and ideas that is part classic series, part Big Finish.
The Fifth Doctor, somehow, manged to miss out on all the UNIT action. Any fan who has longed for the Fifth Doctor to stand with UNIT can now rest easy knowing that it’s here. Taking place sometime in the 1980’s, UNIT seem to be suffering growing pains. They aren’t as friendly to The Doctor, as they once were (or will be again in the new series), though they are well aware of him.
Both UNIT and The Doctor are following a signal but UNIT confuse the extraterrestrial signal for the Doctor. They find the TARDIS and when the Doctor returns, Lieutenant-Colonel Price has The Doctor taken in for questioning. The Doctor is solo on this outing but he befriends a medical officer, Hopkins, played exceptionally by Blake Harrison. Hopkins takes the Doctor under his supervision and indulges the Doctor, allowing him to further explore what’s actually going on.
‘The Helliax Rift’ is ambitious. It has a story to tell but is also setting up a wider arc and needs to establish the new UNIT team. The new UNIT is very 1980’s. Colonel Price, for example, is unrelentingly bullish in his views. To the point that he borders on frustrating. Big Finish typically provide more nuance to their characters but there is a lot of ground to cover and an arc to build. Price would fit in nicely with almost any classic Doctor as a road block at every turn.
The story starts off playful and light, like a McCoy era UNIT, and delivers some fantastic little jokes and references along the way. We’re introduced to a younger UNIT in high-ranking roles and they are almost like kids playing in uniforms too big. They know their role but haven’t quite grown into their position. The music by Joe Kraemer is excellent as it sets the tone for a romp and it slowly descends, with the plot, into darker themes.
Once we finally delve into the main plot of the story the mood shifts dramatically and this is where we enter the Big Finish territory. The subject matter is slightly more mature and the mysteries are interesting and horrifying. Scott Handcock has concocted a scenario which will hook the listeners in and leave them wanting more. There are some beautiful performances given through the Mordan Clinic segments, and this is where the story truly shines.
Where ‘The Helliax Rift’ suffers is that it tries hard to walk that line of Big Finish and classic Who but doesn’t quite stick the landing. The missteps are wonderful though. It’s the kind of thing Doctor Who fans adore. It has an a big idea and it’s trying something but even if it falls just a bit short, we understand the concept and it doesn’t damage our enjoyment. The Helliax itself is a fascinating, well-developed character, wonderfully performed and used exceptionally well. It could easily have held my attention for a 4 disc box set.
Thankfully we can expect to see more of Hopkins over the course of the year meeting Doctor’s Six and Seven. The rest of the new UNIT team should also be on board and it will be fascinating to see how it all plays out, especially against other Doctors
‘The Helliax Rift’ is an enjoyable, ambitious, story with some hiccups along the way. Happily there are many more pro’s than cons including fantastic music, some positively brilliant guest stars and a story that’s more than captivating. It’s an interesting starting point for this new character of Hopkins and I’m eager to see where his character goes from here, along with the new UNIT.
This title was released in April 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until May 31st 2018, and on general sale after this date.
Daniel Hopkins thought he knew what he was letting himself in for when he joined the top-secret UNIT organisation as its latest Medical Officer.
Racing about the countryside, chasing strange lights in the sky? Check. Defending the realm against extraterrestrial incursion? Check. Frequent ear-bashings from UNIT’s UK CO, the famously no-nonsense Lt-Col Lewis Price? Check. Close encounters of the First, Second and even Third kind? Check, check, check.
But he had no idea what alien beings were really like. Until the day of the Fallen Kestrel. Until the day he met the Doctor.
Written By: Scott Handcock
Directed By: Jamie Anderson
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Blake Harrison (Lieutenant Daniel Hopkins), Russ Bain (Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Price), Genevieve Gaunt (Corporal Linda Maxwell), Deborah Thomas (Annabel Morden), Anna Louise Plowman (Dr Jennifer Harrison), Robbie Stevens (Morris), Jacob Dudman (Samuel).
Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer Scott Handcock
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs