Counter-Measures has long since escaped the 1960s and their roots as a Doctor Who spin-off (from Revelation of the Daleks) and carved a path that in this set of stories sees them plough further into the 1970s and then curve right back towards their roots.
The first story is The Splintered Man by Roland Moore, a tale of Spanish scientists, and a chance to explore the 1970s boom in package holidays to along with half-built hotels and a mysterious Doctor Javier Santos. The plot manages to get all the team involved, but Professor Rachel Jensen (Pamela Salem) is perhaps most in focus as she meets and old flame. The plot involves a secret project and a sense there is more in play than first thought. The twist when it comes is perhaps too well signalled, but very well handled and the whole cast are on form.
Second is Christopher Hatherall’s The Ship of the Sleepwalkers, and if we started on a Spanish holiday, we find the whole Counter-Measures team on a cruise liner, with no memory of how they got there! It’s a good conspiracy tale and has several resonances with modern day events in its exploration of the need of those in power to control the masses. There is plenty of action for both Group Captain Gimore (Simon Williams) and Allison Williams (Karen Gledhill) and a good range of other characters.
Action switches to London in the third story, My Enemy’s Enemy by Robert Khan and Tom Salinksy. It’s a welcome return for Lady Suzanne Clare (Carolyn Seymour) who appeared in the previous boxset and is a dealer in alien artefacts now desperate (it seems) for sanctuary in Counter-Measures. Being set in their base (the Post Office Tower as was) they have their own super-computer (of the time) and it’s almost but not quite telling us what happened to WOTAN after the Doctor Who story The War Machines. The plot is full of suspicions, betrayals and some larger than life villains with the team caught very much in the middle. There’s also the emergence of Punk Rock, placing this story in the latter part of the decade, and allowing for some amusing insights into the personalities of the team (the scene where Gilmore goes clubbing is a delight!)
There is a sense in which the first three stories are very much in the style of the original Avengers series, but the final tale puts the team very much back in familiar territory. Enter the Great Intelligence and the Yeti! Written by Andy Frankham-Allen this story retcons Sir Toby Kinsella (Hugh Ross) into the events of the Doctor Who story The Web of Fear, and also brings us Tim Bentinck as Professor Edward Travers. It’s the big story of the set, and delivers great characters performed well. It’s a very satisfying take, but does then leave fans wondering when (and if) the connection between Counter-Measures and UNIT will be explored. Let’s hope so.
Overall it’s a solid set of stories but the jewel is the final tale. It’s to be hoped we get more of the Yeti and Professor Travers both in this range and elsewhere in the Big Finish portfolio