The New Counter-Measures Series 2 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 13 January 2018 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
New Countermeasures - Series 2 (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Roland Moore, Christopher Hatherall, Robert Khan, Tom Salinsky, Andy Frankham-Allen Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Simon Williams (Group Captain Gilmore), Pamela Salem (Rachel Jensen), Karen Gledhill (Allison Williams), Hugh Ross (Sir Toby Kinsella), Owen Aaronovitch (Doctor Javier Santos), Dan Starkey (Doctor Henry Cording), Beatriz Romilly (Mariana Lopez), Cory English (Ted Hunter), Ewan Bailey (Dimitri Papkin/ Mr Dobson), Caroline Harker (Dr Jayne Smythe), Carolyn Seymour (Lady Suzanne Clare), Laurence Kennedy (Sir August Frazer), Leighton Pugh (Bernard/ Freddie), Lisa Diveney (Doctor Norma Vine), Tim Bentinck (Professor Edward Travers/ The Great Intelligence), Charlie Anson (Reece Goff/ Jacob). Other parts played by members of the cast.

The second series of ‘The New Counter-Measures’ consists of four completely standalone stories, featuring the return of the beloved team. Pamela Salem (Rachel Jensen) Simon Williams (Captain Ian Gilmore), Karen Gladhill (Alison Williams) and Hugh Ross (Toby Kinsella are all present but the set is primarily noticeable for the return of several other memorable characters. I am of course speaking of the Great Intelligence, the Yeti and Edward Travers (Tim Bentinck-more on him in a bit). Due to the various issues surrounding those characters (eventually resulting in the Lethbridge-Stewart series of novels from Candy Jar Books) it seemed for a long time that Big Finish would be unable to feature them. Fortunately a deal was able to be reached with the Haisman estate, resulting in their triumphant return in this sets final story, celebrating their 50th anniversary. Still there’s three more tales of espionage and adventure before we get to that…

Admittedly the opening tale, The Splintered Man, is without doubt the weakest in the set. Spiriting our team away to Spain they investigate a scientist, Javier Santos (Owen Arronovitch) who killed himself in an attempt to destroy his research, yet still makes attempts on his colleague’s life.  I’ll refrain from mentioning anymore simply in an attempt to avoid spoilers but rest assured once the nature of Santos’s research is made clear, the story becomes disappointingly derivative and most of all dull. Of course the regular cast are superb as ever and a few nice comic moments are littered throughout. Pamela Salem is given a real chance to shine, encountering an old flame that gives this story it’s really shining moments. However, The Splintered Man still manages to be the weakest of Series 2 offerings.

Things really kick up a notch with The Ship of the Sleepwalkers, in which the team wake up on a mysterious ocean liner with no memory of how they got there. Being a genuinely intriguing mystery before evolving into an out and out action fest, with a truly repulsive villain, this is 60 minutes of pure joy. Whilst the team are all on top form and the story gives Simon Williams a real chance to shine, the story is stolen by a wonderful guest performance from Cory English as Ted Hunter. A truly nasty villain he makes a good foil for Gilmore and the stories only real shame is that there’s no climactic fight between the two, despite much teasing.

However the real shining jewel in this set is My Enemy’s Enemy, featuring the return of Lady Suzanne Clare from the previous set, once again played by Carolyn Seymour. This time Lady Clare offers herself to the Counter-Measures team in return for protection from the ruthless businessman, Sir August Fraser (Laurence Kennedy). Opening with a hilarious sequence which see’s Gilmore go undercover at a punk rock nightclub, what follows is an action packed spectacular as two criminal giants battle it out with the Counter-Measures team caught in the middle. At equal points funny and genuinely tense (including a thrilling sequence in which long held tensions between Allison and Sir Toby come to the surface- I’ll say no more!) this has to be one the finest things the range has ever produced. The guest cast is superb with Carolyn Seymour shining once again but Laurence Kennedy’s August Fraser is crying out for a return appearance. Despite only having two-major scenes he’s helped by some superb dialogue from other characters that constantly refers to him as ‘the Devil himself’ building up a genuinely threatening presence around him.  The regulars get some excellent character moments, Hugh Ross in particular earning a few laughs when he decides to prove that he too can be a master of disguise. Easily the best of a strong set.

Which of course brings us to Time of the Intelligence. I must confess to being a little nervous going into this one. I have experience with the first two-series of the Lethbridge-Stewart novels, but lost track during the third. Not for any particular reason mind you, other than becoming distracted. To this end I was slightly concerned when I saw that this was written by Andy Frankham-Allen, worrying that perhaps it might rely on continuity later in the series. Knowing Frankham-Allen’s work I really shouldn’t have been concerned. Time of the Intelligence is a superb way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Great Intelligence and the Yeti and an excellent tale in its own right. Being a direct sequel to Web of Fear, it expertly intertwines some elements from the Lethbridge-Stewart series but doesn’t rely on any of that continuity too heavily, so it can be listened to without any familiarity with those books. The characterisation of Professor Travers is excellent and whilst Tim Bentick doesn’t sound exactly like Jack Watling, he does a brilliant job of getting the essence of the character and was one of the highlights of the entire series. The decisions made concerning what’s happened with his character since the ‘Yeti event’ I found to be genuinely moving, and a rare case of showing the effect of an Aliens interference within the who-niverse. There’s some brilliant sound design here too, mingling the Yeti-sphere sound as part of the music. A brilliant finale to a superb set. The end was unexpected and leaves me wondering if there’s more Great Intelligence adventures in store for Big Finish…

All in all a superb set and one I can’t recommend enough. Roll on New Counter-Measures 3!