David Richardson, Matt Fitton, Andrew Smith and Ken Bentley have once again produced an excellent continuation of the UNIT saga with this four-episode box set that pits Kate Stewart, Osgood, Josh Carter and Sam Bishop against the mysterious Tangobushi as well as the rather unscrupulous Felicity Lyme. It once again emphasises the international remit of UNIT, and skilfully updates the tropes that made the concept so popular in the 1970s: you can see the HAVOC team letting out whoops of joy if they got the set pieces to work on, particularly from the two middle episodes! It’s Howard Carter who’s let rip on these though, and the sound design is once again spot on – the dialogue is used just as much as is needed to clarify any storytelling points.
The set kicks off with Fitton’s Power Cell, which introduces the new antagonists (both human and alien) gradually, as well as providing some good character development for Osgood – it starts with her outside her comfort zone, and one of the joys of the set is the way in which she grows emotionally. Smith’s Death in Geneva takes us very much into “who can you trust” territory, with question marks over a number of people. Guest star Harry Ditson’s General Grant Avary is key to this, and his relationship with Jemma Redgrave’s Kate is well handled.
The Battle of the Tower, also by Smith, is a terrific, tension-filled piece, with plenty of throwbacks to the whole UNIT saga – given the research on show, I half expected the Naval Reserve unit who have access to the Tower to make a guest appearance! Fitton provides the finale, Ice Station Alpha which is suitably Alastair MacLean-like – in fact, MacLean’s UNACO series bears many similarities, bar the SF elements, to the UNIT tales – with Kate’s diplomatic skills tested to the limit.
Throughout the set, Alice Krige and Nigel Carrington provide strong foils as Felicity Lyme and minister Sir Peter Latcham, and Dan Li’s alien Dokan is more nuanced than you might initially expect. The way the Big Finish universe operates now, I won’t be in the least surprised to hear the Tangobushi and their masters turn up in the Main Range some centuries down the line.
James Joyce’s Josh Carter and Warren Brown’s Sam Bishop work so well with Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver’s characters that there’ll be a slight disappointment if we see the UNIT team back on TV without them – but luckily we know there’s more audio adventures to come…
Verdict: UNIT at its finest. 9/10