Kate Stewart, Osgood and the UNIT team are back in a new Big Finish audio drama titled ‘UNIT Encounters’. A set of 4 stories that will face them against 2 classic Doctor Who villains.
Typically the UNIT box sets are an overarching story. The stories may be stand alone but they’re working toward a bigger story. ‘Encounters’ dares to try something different by telling individual stories that don’t connect except for a thin thread which seems to be leading towards something bigger to come.
So how do the four stories hold up on their own? Let’s take a closer look in this spoiler free review.
The Dalek Transaction
Matt Fitton writes the opening adventure about a team of Guerilla fighters that manage to get their hands on a Dalek and attempt to sell it to an undercover UNIT team. The concept is a fun one, especially UNIT taking on a Dalek, however somehow it doesn’t deliver the punch and excitement. While everyone does an excellent job in the way of production and performances, with a special nod to Karina Fernandez who plays the leader of the guerilla team, this could have been a fuller story arc in its own right. Instead this feels light, as if it’s only skimming what the story could have been.
One of the great things about this entry is Nicholas Briggs’ Dalek performance. It’s not a typical Dalek. There’s an extra layer of rage and, oddly enough, honesty, which made this Dalek really dynamic. It would’ve been great fun to have more time with this story, Dalek and especially the character of Captain Gonsalves as she proved to be a good character and contrast to Stewart.
The second story in the set is written by Roy Gill and is a dramatic change in tone from ‘The Dalek Transaction’ and that’s part of the charm of this box set. Big Finish and producer David Richardson made a great choice to juxtapose stories like this. Jungle war to ghost story is a why you do a set like this. To tell smaller stories and expand the scope of UNIT.
As always everyone does a wonderful job from production and performance but somehow this one doesn’t pop the way you want it to. That’s not to say that it’s not good or enjoyable, it is. But in a box set with Daleks, Sontarans and evil doppelgänger a ghost story gets lost. I do believe this is the kind of story that when listened to again, at a later time, you rediscover it and appreciate it more. It’s not obviously thrilling but it’s well done and understated.
The Sontaran Project
The third story by Andrew Smith is the stand out entry of this set. A story like this works perfectly for UNIT. There are scientists and espionage with Alien war monsters. There’s a great plot twist that just keeps the listener engaged from what starts off as a bit of a slow burn.
The sound design here is outlandishly good. Rich and textured yet never over steps itself. It creates visuals in the listeners mind that aid the story and the incredible performances. Dan Starkey continues to make Sontarans interesting and layered and Ingrid Oliver does such a great job here as Osgood. It’s exactly the kind of story you want for UNIT, and especially for Osgood.
John Dorney writes the concluding story, the one many of us were hoping would be a return to the Third Doctors story ‘Inferno’ where there is an alternative world with evil versions of UNIT. This is not the same universe, and that’s okay, because this is a lot of fun regardless. This is cheeky UNIT. One that’s not so farcical that you can’t accept it in the more serious world of UNIT, but still knows how to have fun with itself.
Director, Ken Bentley, along with actors, Ingrid Oliver and James Joyce, managed to make the different versions of Josh and Osgood just off kilter enough to keep them interesting while remaining true to who they are, in both worlds. This is a story that could have lost the plot if not so well-balanced. Of course, the talented cast and crew all offer up a very good story with terrific execution. A wonderful way to conclude the box set and keep you keen for what the next set of stories will have to offer.
‘UNIT Encounters’ is an odd variety of adventures that are all wonderfully told. The production team, Iain Meadows, Daniel Burnett, Benji Clifford and Howard Carter have created some great atmosphere and effects while Howard Carter does double duties with music as well. Both, guest stars and reoccurring cast deliver solid performances. Where UNIT is a professional work environment, unlike Doctor who which is pure adventure, it’s handled well having the lead cast members always remain as calm as possible despite some of the situations. That sometimes brings down the excitement but we receive tension instead.
Big Finish like to change formula when fans get comfortable, and that’s quite satisfying. Giving us four individual stories is a great idea and one that I hope happens again. The stories in this set vary in many ways, though none of them are disappointing. UNIT is moving into new territory and it’s interesting to see what Big Finish do next and where they take our cast of characters.
Pick up your copy on CD or download, here.
This title was released in November 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2018, and on general sale after this date.
Protecting the Earth is a full-time job, but Kate Stewart and her team are always prepared. Join UNIT as they deal with threats from other worlds, and some from closer to home…
The Dalek Transaction by Matt Fitton
When a rogue guerrilla faction offer an alien artefact for auction, Kate Stewart and her team go undercover to the jungles of Central America. But they find that the prize on offer is far deadlier than its owners realise. Captive, desperate and alone. That’s when a Dalek is at its most dangerous.
Invocation by Roy Gill
It’s Hallowe’en, and Josh finds himself at a party where phantoms are becoming all too real. Osgood is working late and hears a voice from the skies making strange incantations. The next day, Kate has gone missing in the Scottish Borders, and the team head north to investigate. Ghosts from the past are haunting UNIT, and now they threaten the whole world…
The Sontaran Project by Andrew Smith
On a routine reconnaissance mission, Colonel Shindi finds more than he bargains for in the Forest of Ardennes. Back in England, an old colleague makes Osgood an offer she cannot refuse. The chance to take part in an exciting new scientific advance. Before long, UNIT is on collision course with a force of alien clones, and Kate must forge an unlikely alliance.
False Negative by John Dorney
When a strange travel capsule is activated in UNIT’s laboratory, Osgood and Josh find themselves in a whole new world of trouble. Soon, nobody at UNIT HQ is quite who they seem, and the team discovers that the greatest danger they could ever face comes from within…
Written By: Matt Fitton, Roy Gill, Andrew Smith, John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), James Joyce (Captain Josh Carter), Ramon Tikaram (Colonel Shindi), Karina Fernandez (Captain Gonsalves/ Phoebe Breckenridge), Lucy Fleming (Alice Donelly), Matthew Cottle (Ben Donelly/ Overseer), David Jonsson (Corporal James Morley), Dan Starkey (Marshal Skar/ Commander Merx/ Sontaran Escapee), James Wilby (Professor John Torrance), Beth Goddard (Christine Colley), Barnaby Edwards (Satellite voice), Jot Davies (Guerilla/ AIDE/ Soldier) and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editors Matt Fitton, John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs