After the high-octane widescreen epic that was the previous set UNIT: Extinction, it’s a change of pace for UNIT: Encounters. We have four stories exploring various facets of the UNIT world, with some good exploration of both Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and Osgood (Ingrid Oliver). While there’s no big enemy looming large, there is something being hinted at and built-up for a future set.
First up is Matt Fitton’s The Dalek Transaction, and it’s a chance for Nick Briggs to voice a Dalek held captive by a guerrilla group in Central America. The first half as all about the UNIT team (and Kate herself goes to make the deal) to meet a gang of hard-nosed guerrillas with many secrets and something to sell. The listener knows even a captive, injured Dalek is not something to be taken lightly, and what starts as a transaction ends up as a battle for survival.
There’s a lot of hinting at a bigger arc, and also a treatment of the Dalek we don’t often get. It’s perfectly logical, but also could undermine the essence of the Daleks. Matt avoids this, keeping the Dalek as a driven, malevolent force whose evil transcends the shell.
The second story is a change of pace and style for the UNIT range. It’s Roy Gill’s Invocation, and brings the supernatural to the fore. Yes, there’s a scientific slant for Osgood to engage with, but the core is still supernatural rather than alien. What is more interesting in some ways is the element of backstory for Kate Stewart. It’s nice to have a change of pace, and Lucy Fleming (Jenny from Survivors) also makes an appearance as the mysterious Alice Donelly.
Andrew Smith takes us to a familiar enemy in The Sontaran Project, but the potato headed clones are not the only threat Osgood has to face when she meets up with a former colleague. Andrew finds a new line on the Sontarans and their single-minded pursuit of glory and warfare. Colonel Shindi (Ramon Tikaram) also has much to do as he starts the story on a routine mission in the Ardennes. Of the four stories, this is the most UNIT-like, and paints a good picture of how the organisation has to work in the modern world.
John Dorney finishes the set with False Negative, a parallel world story in the style of the third Doctor’s Inferno (or perhaps the Star Trek story Mirror, Mirror. It centres on Osgood and Josh (James Joyce) as they find out just how their lives could have happened, had things been a bit different. John keeps the various characters guessing just what is going on, while making sure the listener can enjoy the fun. The setup isn’t explained, and the story doesn’t dwell on mechanics, just giving a chance for Ingrid Oliver to show her talents.
Overall the set has plenty of moments, and gives a pause in pace between the previous Silurian encounters and the upcoming May 2018 release with not just Cybermen, but also the War Master! Roll on 2018…