Why are so many people insistent that Rachel and Allison shouldn’t be in London for a few days? What is the connection with a haunted monastery and a general who misses the glory days of the British Empire?
(Some spoilers follow)
The short description on the Big Finish website gives away one of the key elements of this story – the very un-British coup that is being mounted. Drawing together certain strands from earlier in the series, Justin Richards weaves together a great blend of historical reality and fiction to give a terrific end to the first Counter-Measures series.
There’s a persistent rumour that the Army planned a coup against the British government in the 1970s, but Richards has neatly moved that forward a few years to make it part of the Wilson administration’s problems early in the new government’s time in office. There’s a nod to Lord Mountbatten’s alleged involvement in the real scheme, as well as Harold Wilson’s genuine paranoia (which demonstrated itself far more in his second time in office than the first).
The story is told on a large scale, and there are (probably quite deliberately) some questions left unanswered at the end of the story. Why was Sir Toby so insistent that the haunted monastery be investigated? Was he telling the truth when he told Allison that he was unaware of Julian’s involvement in the plot?
Ken Bentley’s direction is at its best here: although there are numerous scenes which are told simply through effects, the listener never feels lost. In fact, there’s an air that you’re almost cutting between different cameos of the battles that are going on, which helps maintain the tension, particularly in the sometimes-talky scenes in 10 Downing Street.
A note of praise too to the entire main cast, whose performances have kept the series grounded where it’s needed to be. They’ve struck the right note of incredulity tempered with the fact that they know from the infamous Shoreditch Incident (can’t BF even say Daleks, by the way, or does that attract a mega-fee from the Nation Estate?) that aliens not only exist but have been to Earth.
As to the future, it’ll be good to see some more development for Sir Toby: at the moment, he’s coming across occasionally as a little too like Irving Braxiatel in the early Benny audios, a charming manipulator with an alternate agenda. I know that a reveal that he’s actually working for Torchwood won’t be permitted (presumably) but there’s obviously some other outfit also interested in this technology…
Hopefully the three missions mentioned in the final scene will be done and dusted when the second season begins (short stories anyone?) and the new tales will reflect Allison’s growing maturity in the light of her betrayal, Rachel gradually starting to work with others better, and Gilmore continuing to move away from the proto-Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as he has this season. Oh – and keep the Doctor well and truly out of this one please!
Verdict: A great conclusion to probably the best box set Big Finish has done to date. 9/10