With the UNIT audio adventures reaching its fourth series, we’re taking another look at their very first outing – ‘UNIT: Extinction’.
As leader of UNIT, Kate Stewart has modernised the military organisation from its former “five rounds, rapid” philosophy. But when the dreaded Nestenes return to Earth, UNIT must look to its roots or face extinction.
Vanguard by Matt Fitton
The opening story does a lot of heavy-lifting to get all the main characters established along with the plot. Luckily, Matt Fitton has wrapped it into a high-octane package that keeps a lively pace while delivering exposition. Osgood, Josh and Colonel Shindi race to find a mysterious object falling to earth. Meanwhile, Kate is dragged into a press conference on a new type of 3D printer. It’s more exciting than it sounds; in fact, it’s very exciting! As a way to set the tone for the series, this is a great opening move.
Earthfall by Andrew Smith
New UNIT establishes its globetrotting credentials as Osgood is sent to recover a Nestene control sphere from the Gobi desert. Meanwhile, Kate investigates the smooth-talking Simon Devlin and learns more about his past. Devlin is written and performed with the right amount of charm to make him feel like a classic Who villain. Osgood is captured by Autons and Sam has to mount a rescue with some new allies. Back home, an amnesiac old adversary clues the UNIT team in on some vital info. While this features less action than part one, it steadily builds anticipation and beautifully carries it over into part three.
Bridgehead by Andrew Smith
Josh goes undercover at Devlin Futuretech as their 3D printers become all the rage. Meanwhile, a shower of Nestene control spheres send UNIT and the Autons on a global Easter egg hunt from hell. The penultimate part of the release pays off some of the build-up while still leaving plenty for the conclusion. Josh’s character arc reaches its logical turning point having been carefully developed in parts one and two. A degree of body horror gets added to the mix here, which I think works really well to turn the Autons into a more personal threat. Even as their global plan reaches its final phase.
Armageddon by Matt Fitton
‘Extinction’ ends with an explosive denouement. Everything is ramped up – the action, the horror, the pace. With Autons in every home and the Nestene consciousness finding a terrible new source of plastic, UNIT must stop them before humanity is lost forever. This is a great conclusion with every plot thread dovetailing beautifully. My only complaint is that Josh’s character arc doesn’t get as much payoff as I’d have liked. His recklessness got him in serious trouble last time but it ultimately helps save the day. He seems unperturbed by the way he’s been changed and manipulated, which doesn’t feel realistic. But that’s a minor complaint in a really well thought-out final chapter in this exciting Auton adventure.
‘UNIT: Extinction’ is one of those rare stories that appeals to old and new fans alike without cramming in references. The story has the sound, storyline and aesthetic of a Pertwee-era alien invasion story with all the trimmings. But features elements of a modern-day drama to keep things fresh. Using 3D printers as a covert Nestene infiltration device was a great way to modernise the Autons. The music evokes the 70s without itself feeling dated. This is a carefully constructed, tightly-plotted and very fitting thematic bridge between these eras of Doctor Who.
Blogtor Rating – 9/10
‘Big Finish’s first major foray into post-2005 Doctor Who is cracking stuff. The scripts by Matt Fitton and Andrew Smith are smart and pacey, and director Ken Bentley gives it all a glossy, expensive feel. Finally, UNIT has the spin-off it deserves.’ Martin Ruddock, DWM
In this four-story box set, Kate Stewart, Osgood and the UNIT team confront an alien invasion by the Nestene Consciousness and its army of plastic Autons…
1.1 Vanguard by Matt Fitton
From a state-of-the-art bunker beneath the Tower of London, Kate Stewart leads a secret army protecting the Earth from extraterrestrial threat. Crashed UFOs, strange meteors, a giant lizard in the Severn – all business as usual for UNIT.
While Scientific Advisor Osgood attends a ‘skyfall’ incident with Colonel Shindi and Captain Josh Carter, Kate’s duties take her to visit Devlin Future Tech, and reclusive billionaire Simon Devlin.
Journalist Jackie McGee is also on FutureTech’s case, and nothing’s going to get in the way of her story: a product launch that will change the world…
1.2 Earthfall by Andrew Smith
Lieutenant Sam Bishop is finishing an assignment in Bangkok when he receives a call from Kate Stewart. She has a new job for him – hunt for a stray Nestene energy unit that has come down somewhere in the Gobi desert.
In Mongolia, Sam is joined by Osgood and they set off into the Gobi. But there are Autons in this desert. They are also looking for the energy unit, and they’re ready to kill anyone who comes into contact with it.
Back in London, Kate is becoming suspicious of Simon Devlin’s company, and decides to pay him a visit.
1.3 Bridgehead by Andrew Smith
With Nestene energy units falling from the skies around the globe, UNIT’s resources are stretched to breaking point as they try to respond.
Josh Carter has gone undercover inside Devlin FutureTech. His safety is jeopardised, however, by the activities of investigative journalist Jacqui McGee.
As the Nestenes progress their plans, Kate becomes a target.
1.4 Armageddon by Matt Fitton
As Autons swarm across the planet, the human race faces its darkest hour. Simon Devlin has helped his alien masters gain a global foothold and their scheme is almost complete.
As UNIT leads the fightback on every front, every continent, against an implacable army, Kate Stewart must look to the past for some clue to defeat the plastic menace.
The Nestene Consciousness is growing in power. It has plans for the human race, and when it achieves its ultimate form, it will be unstoppable. Only UNIT stands between humanity and total extinction…
Written By: Andrew Smith, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Warren Brown (Lieutenant Sam Bishop), Ramon Tikaram (Colonel Shindi), James Joyce (Captain Josh Carter), Steve John Shepherd (Simon Devlin), Karina Fernandez (Jenna Gold), Tracy Wiles (Jacqui McGee), Derek Carlyle (Tim Stevens) and Nicholas Briggs (The Nestene Consciousness). Other parts played by the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Ken Bentley
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs