UNIT: Revisitations (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 4 March 2019 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
UNIT: Revisitations (Credit: Big Finish)
 
Director: Ken Bentley
 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

First Released: November 2018

Running Time: 5 hours

The latest UNIT box set takes the idea of our heroes having to face some threats from the past. Following on from 'Encounters' this is more of a set of standalone stories, with one two parter, as oppose to the more traditional 'long story' format. 

Hosts of the Wirrn

Sam Chapman’s Wirrn two-parter opens the latest series of UNIT, telling the story of a mysterious egg left behind as a ‘present’ by the Master…you can see where this is going. The resulting two-parter is a tale of epic proportions that should probably of been placed at the ending of this set, rather than the start. As it is, it feels a little odd as a season opener and isn’t wholly successful. One of the first problems is that ‘Hosts of the Wirrn’ spends far too much time introducing a new character, Shana, played by Vineeta Rishi.  Rishi gives a stellar performance and I found her genuinely likeable. Unfortunately, Shana appears only in this story and so it seems a bit of a waste of time. I can understand if she returns later on in another series, but again- an odd way to open the set. The Wirrn themselves, whilst being given some new tricks, sadly have some of their fear factor removed in the process- becoming a little more comical and being given a few jokes to sprout. It perhaps can’t be chalked up as a negative, but it just seems like a slightly odd choice and as such, I felt the Wirrn came across more as a generic alien force rather than a returning foe from the Whoniverse. Perhaps not an overly bad story, but one which didn’t jell with this listener and certainly would have been better placed as a season closer.

Breach of Trust

The second story in this series also happens to be the best. In fact, not only this but it’s also perhaps one of the finest stories to have emerged from the UNIT series thus far. Taking place all in one night, the story concerns a mysterious alien vessel arriving on earth and it’s even more mysterious occupants seeking asylum. David K. Barnes concocts an incredibly powerful story, involving as the title suggests- trust. The story also asks some difficult questions about morality and the nature of UNIT’s role in the world. Kate is placed forefront here and it gives Jemma Redgrave to explore some new and interesting aspects to her character, the result is one of her finest performances to date. ‘Breach of Trust’ may not be the easiest story to listen too and is genuinely emotional at points, but it is one hell of a listen.

Open the Box

The season finale features some more returning faces, namely Captain Ching Lee (Pik-Sem Lin) and the Keller Machine from the ‘Mind of Evil’. Now I have to confess but I was more than a little bemused when it was announced that Ching-Lee would be one of the returning foes in this series of UNIT. It’s not that Pik-Sem Lin presents us with a bad character or anything of the sort, (far from it as this story proves!) but Ching-Lee seemed always to be a 'bit' character, indeed she disappears halfway through ‘Mind’. However, I should know better than to doubt the skills of Roy Gill and he gives the character a truly wonderful return. Indeed the entire tale, whilst not quite reaching the emotional heights of the previous adventure, is a wonderful little story and a testament to the entire UNIT team.

Definitely a set of two halves, this latest UNIT series still manages to tell some great stories even if it gets off to something of a weak start. I look forward to seeing where the team goes next and look forward to a few more one-off adventures, as well as the larger epic story based sets.

 






U.N.I.T Series 6- Cyber RealityBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 30 May 2018 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
UNIT: Cyber-Reality (Credit: Big Finish)

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)
R
eleased  May 2018
Running Time: 5 hours

The sixth series of U.N.I.T, entitled ‘Cyber Reality’, sees a return to the format of one ‘blockbuster’ story across four one hour episodes as opposed to the previous series which featured single hour stories only loosely connected. Of course the big bad this time are the Cybermen, though the cover spoils another Who villain who makes his appearance in the final story. The regulars all reprise their roles, with Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart, Ingrid Oliver as Osgood, James Joyce as Josh Carter, Ramon Tikaram as Colonel Shindi and Warren Brown as Sam Bishop and the series picks up directly where the previous left of, with U.N.I.T on the hunt of the mysterious auctioneers…

Game Theory- Matt Fiton

‘Game Theory’ opens the series and sees U.N.I.T being put taught a lesson by the Auctioneers who seek to try and attempt to keep them out of their business once and for all. It’s a thrilling series opener, with Kate Stewart and Osgood being forced into a sick game that presents the Auctioneers as a palpable threat and a powerful foe. Meanwhile Warren Brown gets to take the spotlight after being conspicuously absent last series. His role here is an interesting one and although towards the end his segments do tend to get…repetitive, however intentionally so they do tend to drag. Unfortunately, the story is let down somewhat by a semi-obvious plot development but it’s at least interesting. A brilliant series opener and one of the highlights of the set.

Telepresence- Guy Adams

Picking up directly where the previous story left off, the U.N.I.T team are investigating some strange technology that sees’s Osgood, Shindi and Carter embarking, ‘virtually’ into a strange deserted desert-like world. It’s a deliciously creepy tale that is incredibly imaginative in its imagery, with strange metal worms bursting out of the ground and attempting to convert our heroes. There’s a genuine feeling of danger throughout, of something extremely malevolent and dangerous lurking (quite literally) beneath the surface. Of course, the listener knows who the secret rulers of this planet are, but that doesn’t make the build-up any the less effective and I kind of wish we could spend a little more time in this cyber-ruled post-apocalyptic nightmare. Another success for the sixth series of UNIT.

Code Silver- Guy Adams

Again following on directly, Code Silver sees an offshore UNIT base (which we’re told should be familiar to fans of The Sea Devils) invaded by a new breed of Cybermen. Guy Adams really works wonders with the Cybermen here, managing to do the impossible and bring something new to the table. He uses the idea of the Cybermen utilising modern technologies to its logical conclusion and we’re presented with a rip-roaring action fest that features Kate Stewart and Josh Carter trying to compete with a cyber-force that is constantly updating and bettering itself. A rip-roaring adventure.

Master of Worlds- Matt Fitton

Unfortunately, after three incredibly strong stories, what should be the explosive finale ends up being my least favourite. Now as a story, it’s not bad, not bad at all. As a season finale? It’s terrible. Why? A simple reason- the inclusion of the Master. Now I should say that in fact Derek Jacobi was actually my favourite thing in this story, if not the entire box set. This is my first experience of his version of the Master on Audio and he is incredible. Fitton also gives him some incredibly juicy moments but that’s just the problem. The Master is introduced only in this story and suddenly all the attention is on him. The result is that the other elements that have been built up throughout this series (and to an extent the last) are suddenly pushed aside. Indeed one particular element that felt should have been central to the plot had about two minutes and was dealt with in at least thirty seconds of those. It’s a shame really as the Master elements are the best part of this story but they result in a weak finale to the set. Big Finish really should have held off and had the Master as the villain for an entire series.

All in an all another amazing set of stories. Unfortunately, the last episode does let it down somewhat but it’s still an amazing set of audio dramas and whilst it may not work as a series finale, it still works as a brilliant showdown between UNIT and The Master.






The Third Doctor - #5 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part FiveBookmark and Share

Thursday, 1 June 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The_Third_Doctor_05_Cover_A (Credit: Titan)


ISSUE 5
(On Sale: February 22nd 2017)
 
Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Christopher Jones
Colorist: Hi-Fi

AVAILABLE
as either a digital download,
or from comic stores/ online shops

TITAN COMICS

The final stanza of this miniseries sees an (overly rare) foray into the past for the grey/silver-haired Doctor that helped UNIT overcome all manner of enemy from both home and far, far away.

I will openly state in this review that the main opposition comes in the form of the despicable would-be world dictator Ramon Salamander.

This evil 'double' of the charming Second Doctor had been masquerading as his lookalike, having established himself at a scientific research institute and begun work on exploring dimensions outside of the commonly recognised Height, Width and Depth. 

Now both Salamander and the combined group of principal UNIT members, the Doctor, Jo Grant, and the constantly-fickle Master have arrived in Parliament back at the tail-end of the 19th Century..

The Mexican despot is attempting to use his powers of persuasion, as have worked both in the future time of his origin, as well as the Mid-Twentieth Century. But stout-hearted men of Britain, who are pioneers in the sphere of democracy, are not the easiest to manipulate.

The Doctor makes his entrance in the Commons and is perhaps more effective. But ultimately, it will take something a little special from the shakily assembled alliance of Time Lords, and the more modern Earthlings, to see off the monster of Merida.

****

This miniseries has been a real treat, and this climax to the storyline does everything one could hope for. There is no dawdling, or self-indulgence in terms of pleasing ever-loyal fans with in-jokes. A focused and urgent pace is maintained throughout, and some pleasing moments of incident and drama - couple with some political satire - makes this a very effortless read.

The art continues to be a highlight, and shows how the team that helped Doctor Who become a colour Saturday night phenomenon would have coped with the challenge of showing the London of yester-century.

The whole mini-series really needs to be read issue by issue to work most effectively, which is a difference from perhaps some of the other ones Titan have presented to readers in the last couple of years. But the effort is more than rewarded, by an artistic team who clearly love both Doctor Who, and the wonderful personality that was the Third Doctor.

I know I am not alone in wishing that this is the start of a new era for a re-exploration of one of the more traditionally 'human' Doctors in the saga. Whilst the much-respected Paul Cornell has stated at the Gallifrey One convention that he will not return to Doctor Who (or any other licensed work), one can only hope this is not indefinite.

Regardless, the platform is now there for future adventures through Space and Time, that have something both nostalgic, but also something pertinent to the world we live in today.





The Third Doctor - #4 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part FourBookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 April 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO THIRD DOCTOR #4 Cover_A (Credit: Titan)
Writer - Paul Cornell

Artist - Christopher Jones

Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letters  - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Alistair Lethbridge Stewart - Created By Mervyn Haisman +
Henry Lincoln, appearing courtesy of Candy Jar Books --with thanks to Hannah Haisman, Henry Lincoln, + Andy Frankham-Allen)
 
Editor - John Freeman

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Amoona Saohin

Senior Designer - Andrew Leung

RELEASED 11th January 2017

The micromachines threat becomes secondary to the machinations of a man, who wants to seize mastery over not only Earth itself, but time and space as well. He has been putting together a scheme, using the expertise of some true brain-boxes from Electronicon Ltd. The Doctor, Jo and UNIT must find a way to prevent this potential danger from becoming an all too present reality. And the untrustworthy renegade Time Lord, who prefers to be known as the 'Master', will have to be part of this effort to combat a foe, who the Doctor thought was defeated for all of eternity..


After some very enjoyable earlier instalments, this fourth chapter in this limited run of stories that revisit the magnetic Third Doctor really ups both the stakes and the overall quality to a new level. Writer Paul Cornell ushers in a lot more supporting characters, and such is his consummate skill, that readers are highly likely to be invested in the fates off both major and minor players in the story. It also is engaging to finally realise that whilst the Master is always a threat, there is another recurring character who is the actual villain of the piece. Such is his lust for power, that he not only is causing circumstances that threaten the Earth's safety, but his very own well-being is tenuous as well.

Just who this antagonist is, was revealed in Issue 3's cliff hanger, and whilst I will adopt some secrecy with this review, I can at least say that Barry Letts' extensive involvement both as a producer and director is probably the reason this memorable resident in the Who hall of infamy was brought back. The art and colours - from Christopher Jones and Hi-Fi - seem to have picked up in quality thanks to the relentless pace, invention and wit of the story. The impression on the reader also continues to be remarkable, almost as if an actual time tunnel to the early colour TV era is generated.

The Master continues to be one of the sure-fire highlights of this comic book, and this should be expected, given how much he made the Pertwee era a success. Tragically, this original version left viewers too early, when actor Roger Delgago perished in a car accident, during filming of a movie abroad. Cornell made the right decision to include him here, especially as Season 10 had the lowest amount of material for the Master, out of the middle three seasons of the Third Doctor era.

Also welcome in terms of adding to the limits of just five actual stories per season (albeit with much greater screen time than the typical TV outings of today), is the insight into Mike Yates' disillusionment with UNIT, and furthermore the wider society that he is sworn to serve and protect. Mike had a three story arc beginning with the sublime The Green Death, but this new story helps make his undercover work and subjugation to BOSS' mind control that much more significant, as the Master helps to sow some seeds of doubt and rebellion into his impressionable mind.

The final panels are some of the most electric, and present another gripping hook into the ensuing issue. The location and time period thus far has been fairly static - despite the Doctor's ability to again travel freely in his TARDIS - but now another cause for adventures in the fourth dimension dramatically reveals itself.

The net result - Issue Five is set up as even more of a must-read than its forebears...

 


BONUS:

Seemingly like clockwork (as of recent times), this edition provides both variant covers for the present issue, as well as smaller variants for the impending concluding issue of the miniseries.

Monochrome examples of Jones' ink process feature, one displaying a terrifying journey through the space/time vortex, and the other featuring the much-loved UNIT 'family' - alongside the micro machines.





Ninth Doctor Issue 5 - The Transformed (Part 2 of 2)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 April 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
NINTH DOCTOR #5 (Credit: Titan)

WRITER - Cavan Scott
ARTIST - Adriana Melo
COLORIST - Matheus Lopes

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS
AND COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

SENIOR DESIGNER -  ANDREW LEUNG

SENIOR EDITOR -  ANDREW JAMES

ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON & AMOONA SAOHIN

Published - September 7th 2016 - TITAN COMICS

The Ninth Doctor, and a Mickey Smith that knows a thing or two about quantum leaps (and had been saved from sniper fire by a dying Tenth Doctor), must somehow halt the grim threat to various innocent humans, who face becoming anonymous (and grotesque) alien monstrosities.


The story continues to look diverting and full of incident, and there is now a tangible antagonist that the time travelling regulars need to overcome, who played a role back in the 2015 mini-series. Whilst strikingly alien in appearance, he is not the brightest crayon in the set, and comes equipped with fellow non-humanoid henchmen that seem a bit dim.

Rose is given again some decent moments here as her concern for her new friends is made believable, (and the reader’s belief in her avoiding a permanent change of appearance and identity is kept somewhat in suspense). Jack has a reasonable plot contribution here too - although he still inevitably is 'second fiddle' to Mickey. There is further reminder of the former Time Agent's tenuous friendship with this Doctor, when Rose's exposure to danger is laid starkly at his door.

The art is no less captivating, but notably for this concluding half of the story Adriana Melo is once again assigned with the relevant responsibilities. She is a confident contributor of visual stories, and manages to continue the overall look of 'Part One', without compromising her own distinctive visual style.

And the pace which already had enough ‘oomph’ to it in Issue 4, is tweaked to a higher notch, and the story manages to develop plus introduce some fine revelations and solutions to make the current situation have some resolution. However, Jack, Rose and the (incumbent) Doctor are all just realising the weight of responsibility resting on them. It is just as well the Doctor can control his ship as well as he does, as they are forced to pursue the ongoing danger across time and space...

It has been interesting to have Mickey return- albeit briefly - with Noel Clarke nowadays being esteemed somewhat more for being a writer/producer than an actor. However his turn as the first Earthbound relationship figure for a companion, in the modern era, is still one that bears reminiscing. 

Martha does not affect proceedings all that much as perhaps hoped, and whilst her fortunes improve here, there simply is not enough panel 'time' for her to actually appear on this occasion.

The Ninth Doctor is certainly not my personal favourite, but has grown in my affections over time, and certainly The 50th Anniversary Special, and various War Doctor material has given his anger and frustration further weight and meaning. When he feigns slapstick and silliness, it is clear it is both a front for his many regrets and bad memories, and sometimes also can be an awkward way to try and integrate with the ‘simplistic’ humans he cares so much for. These new comic adventures do a fine job of conveying the 'image versus inner reality' struggle quite well. There is always pressure for this Doctor to avoid genocide and destruction of civilisation, whereas other versions took it on as a big responsibility, but could at times truly enjoy their intellectual strengths during the troubles at hand.


There are no easy answers in this concluding half of the story. The Doctor and his friends do their best with ‘damage control’ as they can. However, the threat of disturbances to a given person’s physiology is set up as a potential problem in more than one time zone, and so a longer story arc is commencing. To my tastes at the very least, it is pleasing that the story now will encompass the Doctor's long-standing allies; UNIT.

Not only looking to honour allies of the doctor from recent times in 21st Century, but also some popular characters that last had onscreen appearances in the mid 1970s (come the well-executed final panel), this edition has a bit of everything for most dedicated fans of this great sci-fi phenomenon.


BONUS

The main cover, by Blair Shedd, is one of the better ones - applying to both this ongoing range, as well as Titan's monthly output in general. However, should readers wish, they can pick up the comic in person with an alternate image - either by Will Brooks or Simon Myers. If opting for the digital download, then both covers 'B' and 'C' are afforded full-page detail at the end of the comic. 

Smaller previews of Issue 6 are also on view. These once again look presentable, but contribute next to nothing in terms of explaining what the actual story content involves. However, there is a full page preview of Melo's black-and-white artwork, which encompasses five panels, and which gives some clearer hints.





The Third Doctor - #3 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part ThreeBookmark and Share

Saturday, 11 March 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
THIRD DOCTOR #3 (Credit: Titan)
Writer - Paul Cornell
Artist - Christopher Jones
Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letters  - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Alastair Lethbidge Stewart -Created By Mervyn Haisman +
Henry Lincoln,appearing courtesy of Candy Jar Books --
with thanks to Hannah Haisman,
Henry Lincoln,and Andy Frankham-Allen) 

Editor - John Freeman
Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Amoona Saohin
Senior Designer - Andrew Leung

Published November 30th 2016, TITAN COMICS

Jo Grant’s mind is a fascinating place. But the Third Doctor needs to work hard to achieve some kind of progress in the fight against the metallic aliens that are threatening both Great Britain, and planet Earth itself. If he fails, he and his best friend remain trapped on the metaphysical plane of existence for all of eternity. Meanwhile the Master remains free, and a mystery emerges over just what the Second Doctor's plan involves.


This middle issue of the miniseries effectively acts as wrapping up what seemed to be the main story, and proceeding to establish what the true narrative actually is. It perhaps lacks the overt excitement and startling visual work of issues one and two, but the closing revelation – featuring the return of a long-forgotten foe - more than makes up for it.

The Third Doctor makes a partial breakthrough in managing to convince a faction of the Micro Machines to be on his side. This action that relied on tact and emotional smarts helps the UNIT forces that had been scratching their heads as they faced a standoff with these metallic creatures over in Fairford. The actual story behind what the Second Doctor is doing on Earth during the Third Doctor/UNIT years is revealed to a small extent, but with two further instalments to go, readers are left kept waiting for full answers.

Once again the original Master, complete with beard and a mixture of dark and greying hair, manages to be the most arrestingly compelling character. He this time manages to impersonate the Brigadier, but the manner in which this is kept a surprise is somewhat more subtle than some other such attempts. Also, the writer has done some fine work in this ongoing story to suggest just how versatile this most dangerous of renegade Time Lords can be, when it comes to creating gadgets and managing to infiltrate supposedly top-secret organisations

Humour continues to be very good here too. Cornell has proven time again with his TV scripts, novels and comic book stories how he can find the appropriate tone to make a story and its characters’ actions properly flow. I liked the way Jo triumphantly displayed a tome entitled ‘Everything I’ve Learned in the last Three Years’, which is a knowing acknowledgement of her good character development under the control of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. It also manages to poke a little fun at the UNIT dating confusion that close followers of the show sometimes find so controversial.

There also is a well-done fight between the Master and his ‘most worthy of opponents’, as they trade off barbed witticisms and talk of the virtues of their respective “Martian Kendo” and “Mercurian Kung Fu” martial art skills. This manages to show that the Third Doctor’s love of “Venusian Aikido” has served him well in certain situations, but as a man of action he sometimes needs to up the ante.

On a slightly more negative note, the art is just a touch less effective this time round. A good portion of the action is set indoors, and without the use of some creative backgrounds or alternate perspective, this leads to a few too many panels looking a little stilted. Even the sections in Jo’s mind are a little too low-key after being so striking in the previous issue, but a couple of passage at least show good use of the crystalline cave, where the Doctor negotiates with the Micro Machines' ‘hive mind’. I also cannot fathom why Mike has been made to look the way he does; being more evocative of the one-off UNIT captains that featured, until he made his debut at the start of Season 8.

However this does not seriously prevent the story from working its charms, and the Third Doctor continues to be as authoritative and engaging as Jon Pertwee so consistently portrayed him on-screen. The twist that so stunningly closes the issues also manages to make sense, in terms of linking with the clues that had been carefully placed thus far. The final two ‘episodes’ look to be upping the pace, and the stakes, in truly epic fashion..


 

BONUS:


Variant covers are featured for this issue, as well as previews of Issue Four's cover and its variants. There are 'behind-the-scenes' examples of Jones' pencil and ink work for two different pages of the story.