Old and new incarnations of UNIT get together for a series of audio adventures thanks to Big Finish. Here’s our UNIT Assembled Review…
This fourth Big Finish boxset in its modern UNIT series brings back characters from the past for the first time. Three previous four-story sets have featured Kate Stewart (Gemma Redgrave), Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) and Big Finish creations Sam Bishop (Warren Brown) and Josh Carter (James Joyce). Now they’re established, it’s time to blend in some names from the third Doctor’s era. Cue Unit – Assembled.
It’s a tricky thing mixing old with new and using legacy characters needs to be done with care. It’s been over forty years since Jon Pertwee’s tenure, after all. The stories, therefore, must feel like modern UNIT without compromising the nature of the featured characters. Additions must avoid being either tokenistic or, worse, patronising.
UNIT Assembled: Call to Arms
Matt Fitton starts the ball rolling with Call to Arms. Not only does it feature the return of Sgt. Benton (John Levene) and Cpt. Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) but also the villain of the set – the Silurians. Its clever concept suitably tweaks things to bridge from the 1970s to the 2010s, beginning with a modern UNIT team needing help when a ‘routine’ mission goes wrong.
This story has plenty of action. It features a deadly foe, Jastrok (Richard Hope), willing to do terrible things to the stinking apes inhabiting his planet. Benton and Yates show their age, but more importantly their experience. In a touch-and-go situation they demonstrate that, despite retirement, once in UNIT, always in UNIT.
UNIT Assembled: Tidal Wave
Guy Adams takes over the reins with Tidal Wave. He gets to bring in Jo Jones (ex Jo Grant, Katy Manning) as UNIT tackles an undersea base in the South Atlantic packed with Sea Devils! It places her with Osgood, and the scenes between the two of them – as Osgood fangirls, as is her way – are a joy. So is Jo being somewhat motherly to her in return. It’s a great story and treats the Sea Devils (voiced by Nick Briggs) well.
UNIT Assembled: Retrieval
Guy then moves the action to the Mediterranean in Retrieval. It’s a modern UNIT-only tale, focussing on a last-ditch attempt by Kate and Osgood to fight back against an ever more potent Silurian force. Enter Silurian warrior Tryska, a chilling lizard hunter played with evil relish. This story gives Kate something more meaningful to do than attend meetings, and Osgood has some fantastic (and very different) scenes.
UNIT Assembled: United
It all comes to a big, widescreen conclusion in Matt Fitton’s United, with old and new UNIT facing an array of reptiles and Neve McIntosh (Vastra from TV) is Kalana, the right-hand lizard of Jastrok. Action switches from central London to various locations around the country and all the major characters play their parts, and Jo is true to character and the memory of her Doctor. Can the stinking apes survive? It’s close, and UNIT need all their resources.
It’s a big, entertaining set of stories. They feature a good choice of villain, great performances and Ken Bentley’s usual taut direction.
UNIT Assembled offers Gemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver have the chance to round-out their characters. Osgood, especially, is exposed to a whole new set of challenges. Especially pleasing, though, is hearing Katy Manning turn in one of the best of many good performances for Big Finish. In fact, it may be one of her best Doctor Who performances ever.
On the evidence of this set, don’t rule out the odd return as the new UNIT adventures continue.
Extras: A whole CD of interviews