Last week the latest UNIT box set from Big Finish, UNIT: Revisitations, was released. This is the 7th release, set within the modern era of Doctor Who. Starring Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver, reprising their Doctor Who TV roles, this may be the best UNIT set yet!
This set of essentially 3 stories holds its own against previous guest stars, such as Derek Jacobi and Katy Manning, by focusing on strong plot and character development. That’s not to say that past box sets have not done this, or were weaker for having popular villains such as the Cybermen or Sontarans. UNIT: Revisitations features the Wirrn and a great special guest star in ‘Open the Box’ but these aren’t likely to draw in new listeners based on names alone. Instead it is the strength of the storytelling that earns this release a place on the ‘must-listen’ list.
Hosts of the Wirrn – Parts 1 & 2
The biggest special attraction of this set are the Wirrn. Picking up shortly after the previous box set ‘Cyber-Reality‘, UNIT are tasked with taking care of something that the Master has left behind. Due to this situation, Osgood conducts an unorthodox interview to recruit the help of Shana Siddiqui as the Wirrn are about to wreak havoc on Earth.
This two-part story is a fantastic fit for a UNIT box set. It gives us something to sink our teeth into without stretching itself thin or forcing an over-arching plot. Writer Chris Chapman manages to hook the listener and keep them engaged with the unfolding plot. It also has great humour throughout and really challenges the characters. Vineeta Rishi, as Shana, is a pleasant fit into the team and endures so much that it’s incredible she can deliver the performance which she does.
There are great moments scattered through this two-part story. Humour, intrigue and horror, all the elements one could want from a modern UNIT story.
Breach of Trust
This is the standout story right here. The Wirrn tale delivered but ‘Breach of Trust‘ surpasses all expectations. David K. Barnes crafts an episode which humanises Kate Stewart and Osgood while giving us unexpected twists and turns in a tried and true genre of alien capture.
It begins with Kate Stewart on a date and the way she handles herself helps us understand why she’s in charge of UNIT. The way she deals with the bad date gives a good indication of how she can handle the situations that arise later. Better than that, her attitude carries on and affects her work. It’s a nice touch to see Stewart out of her element without being out of herself. Jemma Redgrave is at her absolute best here, having something she can really sink her teeth into. Also going above and beyond is Ingrid Oliver as Osgood. She’s compassionate and slightly irrational in a way we don’t normally see her. It’s not so far off course that it’s unbelievable and that’s the beauty of good writing and skilful performances.
Add in some truly dynamic sound design from Howard Carter and you’ve got it nailed. The musical voices are beautiful but unpleasant, and that can’t be easily achieved. There’s also one exceptional bang that comes out of nowhere… Truly stunning work from Carter.
Open the Box
Roy Gil writes the concluding story to the UNIT: Revisitations set, ‘Open the Box‘. Within a set of stories that have dealt with personal and emotional development, ‘Open the Box‘ takes it one step farther and secludes the team in a form of team-building retreat. This feels like the more traditional UNIT story of the bunch but it does a good job of standing out in its own right. Actually, this could almost have fit on Torchwood: Believe with the tone and some of the concepts. ‘Open the Box‘ takes its time to get where it’s going but gives us some good personal moments and that goes a long way.
This is one of the strongest UNIT box sets to date. With no major guest cast or supremely popular villain these stories stand on their own by focusing on character. The cast, especially Jemma Redgrave, have numerous moments to shine and elevate their characters. Ingrid Oliver continues to make Osgood the most unbelievably believable and lovable cosplaying scientist ever.
Having a two parter is a great fit for these sets, much like the recent 4th Doctor Adventures. We’re able to have the best of both worlds, stand alone stories as well as a larger story.
UNIT: Revisitations simply gets everything right. The stories are tight, the cast shine and the post production is stellar. What more could you ask for?
7.1 and 7.2 Hosts of the Wirrn by Chris Chapman.
7.3 Breach of Trust by David K Barnes.
7.4 Open the Box by Roy Gill.
Written By: Chris Chapman, David K Barnes and Roy Gill.
Directed By: Ken Bentley.
Full Cast List
Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), James Joyce (Captain Josh Carter), Ramon Tikaram (Colonel Shindi), Vineeta Rishi (Shana), Roger May (Sergeant Brundle / Simon / Fisherman / Jasper), Glen McCready (Marcus / Evans / Jacob), Katherine Senior (Kirsty / Private Sedgwick), Lizzie Stables (Vara / Norei), Richard Earl (Jarrack / Richard), Pik-Sen Lim (Doctor Chin Lee), Jonathan Christie (Seth Heyer), Simon Hepworth (Miles McLellan / Pandora). Other parts played by members of the cast.