Ben Aaronovitch’s Remembrance of the Daleks is probably my favourite Sylvester McCoy TV story in large part because, on its first broadcast back in 1988, it renewed my faith in the show. This was the Doctor Who I remembered and wanted to continue watching. It was pacey, dealt – to an extent – with some of the real problems of the time period in which it was set, and introduced a sort of proto-UNIT in the form of Captain Ian “Chunky” Gilmore and the scientists assisting him with the problems at Coal Hill School.
Jump forward nearly a quarter of a century (and yes, that does make me feel old!) and Gilmore and his group are back in this first box set of adventures from Big Finish, which picks up their story a few years later. The “pilot” episode, Paul Finch’s Threshold, sees Rachel Jensen visiting Allison Williams for a brief, enforced, holiday, and lending her expertise to a mystery in Bermondsey.
The period details are neatly done, and the recognition that a Jewish scientist might have problems dealing with a German rocket engineer is welcome (matching the “no coloureds” sign from Remembrance). There’s an obvious debt to the original Quatermass stories – elements from Quatermass and the Pit and large and small screen versions of The Quatermass Experiment are present – although I do hope that there’s not a temptation to include Bernard himself in these tales.
Threshold doesn’t just riff off Remembrance; there’s a great debt to the ITC series of the 1960s, down to the tag scene with a glass of something to celebrate. Hugh Ross’ Toby Kinsella is in the great line of bosses of the period, such as The Avengers’ Mother (yes, I know, not ITC but same genre!) or Dennis Alaba Peters’ Sir Curtis Seretse from Department S. Nick Briggs’ musical score pays homage to the Edwin Astley/Laurie Johnson school of composing and Ken Bentley’s direction and soundscape works for this heightened reality.
As for the cast, it’s great to hear Simon Williams, Pamela Salem and Karen Gledhill reprise their roles. There’s the odd moment where the voices reflect the elapsed time in the real world, but Salem, in particular, captures the occasionally odd inflections of Professor Jensen.
Verdict: If you’ve not already grabbed this, order it now: on the basis of this first episode, Big Finish’s decision to go ahead with Series 2 was a no-brainer. 8/10