Counter-Measures - The Hollow KingBookmark and Share

Friday, 20 September 2019 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The New Counter-Measures: The Hollow King (Credit: Big Finish)
 
Writer: Ian Potter
Director: Ken Bentley
 

Big Finish 

:Released: January 2019

 

Running Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

 

Odd events have been witnessed in the diminutive village known as Swammcombe. Unexpected lights in the sky. Insanity plaguing many a person. Even spaceships have been rumoured. Counter-Measures' Allison Williams is resolute to get some answers to the many questions that these events pose. She is not alone as her friends and associates Gilmore, Rachel and Sir Toby make their own efforts to look into the case. It becomes clear that the Elite Visualisation tests, and Open Band - the devoted followers of Lord Cavall -are at the core of the mystery needing to be unearthed. Cavell's acolytes insist his cause his just but that is open to question given how many require specialist psychiatric help. The biggest question to answer is how the King under the hill connects with all the odd events swirling around the village...

*

The story hits the ground running in that our regular team of investigators have already made some effort into uncovering more information about the somewhat absurd goings-on. One strand that Rachel is drawn to is the serious consequence that Open Band's mind expansion activities. She visits one of the victims who can only but rant in a secure mental health ward – whilst very vocal there are previous few overt answers to the mystery. Undeterred she sets up a laboratory and monitor base in order to tease out further hard nuggets of evidence.

Meanwhile, Allison puts her own sanity at risk but she is a dab hand by now at such enterprises and manages to play a key role in the resolution of the crisis. The male contingent of Counter-Measures get involved by impersonating a documentary producer (in Gilmore's case), and playing the sycophantic autograph hunter (as per the chameleon that is Sir Toby). All these goings-on feel by now familiar but in the best possible sense of a well-oiled machine and the fast pace (leading to a scant running time of 81 minutes) is a definite asset. As the denouement unfolds it becomes clear that the main antagonist is not one most listeners would have assumed, and something very disturbing indeed has been happening underneath the seeming reality...

*

The acting from the regulars is as nuanced and spontaneous-sounding as we have come to expect. This month sees The Legacy Of Time released with Counter-Measures 'reunited' with the Seventh Doctor and Ace. Initial interest in this range back in 2012 was certainly generated in some part due to this Doctor and Companion team encountering Gilmore, Alison and Rachel in the sublime Remembrance of the Daleks. However The Hollow King works just as well as a brand new introduction to the range, as a continuation, such is the focus on showing both individually and collectivity how the team function and perceive their world around them.

Ian Potter has constructed a strong story that works well on its own but also will now serve as the official first stanza in the Third Season of the New Counter-Measures (with Dalek and Movellan stories on offer in early 2020). Based on this evidence there is plenty of fuel for a long-running range to reach it's tenth anniversary.


EXTRAS

 

The first set of interviews gives plenty of focus to Timothy Bentinck and Simon Williams' joint work on the iconic BBC radio show The Archers, and how it is to play a markedly different character in this particular Big Finish Range. Bentinck also played Allison's father in the Forgotten Village story in 2014 despite being a handful of real-life years older than Karen Gledhil.

The second and concluding group of interviewee material is notable for comparing radio acting to dancing in that the body will follow a certain number of movements despite (obviously) not being needed for this particular medium. Also of interest is how both Jessica Regan and Kate Russell-Smith elaborate on what it is like to play several roles in the same play. They bring enthusiasm and dry wit to their craft of breathing distinct individual life into those parts.