Twelfth Doctor Vol #4 - The School Of Death - (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 5 February 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek


Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #1 (Credit: Titan)

STORY 1 - The School Of Death

STORY 2 - The Fourth Wall

STORY 3 - Robot Rampage

Originally Published in Twelfth Doctor Year 2 Issues 1-5
(+ A Free Comicbook Day Issue)

***************************************************************

WRITER: ROBBIE MORRISON

ARTISTS: RACHAEL STOTT, SIMON FRASER

COLORISTS: IVAN NUNES, MARCIO MENYS

LETTERS: RICHARD STARKINGS +
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

 SENIOR EDITOR: ANDREW JAMES

 ASSISTANT EDITOR: JESSICA BURTON

 DESIGNER: ROB FARMER

***************************************************************

PUBLISHED: 13TH SEPTEMBER 2016 TITAN COMICS

"There’s something fishy going on at the remote Scottish school of Ravenscaur...

Something that has bedevilled students and teachers alike...

Something that has lurked in the caverns beneath the school for millennia!

Only the Doctor and Clara can unravel a deadly conspiracy that reaches as high as the Prime Minister of England!"

(Official Teaser To The Title Story)


The feature story had originally four issues in theYear Two run with which to build up suspense, and feature a number of engaging subplots, as well as a loosely connected solo adventure for the Twelfth Doctor taking on Captain Volk, and his lethal pirates/mercenaries. With this prologue of sorts, the reader only witnesses the climactic moments, but it still resonates enough to feel like a proper story in its own right.

An exciting first impression is made in the 'pre-credit' sequence counterpart, as teacher Christel is hounded by mysterious forces. This 'sacrificial lamb' is given enough likability, and connection to Clara, for us to care about her grim fate. 

As the primary action unfolds, the creepy Mr Beck is keen to fully introduce The 'Impossible Girl' to the school, which turns out to have a number of skeletons hidden in its closets. After some mystery, the majority of the tale can be described as a thoroughly enjoyable romp. Two additional new 'assistants' help the Doctor overcome the real threat behind the cold-hearted bureaucratic school; one that Clara had intended to teach in, as a change-up from her hectic life in the capital city.

Overall the story can be likened to a mixture of prior Sea Devil stories, with a 'Village Of The Damned' situation, as the local island/school community are all but completely mentally subdued. The Doctor and Clara clearly are at a stage in their partnership, where they enjoy each other's company and accept that they are very different in approach. Thus they can work together assuredly to solve the problems as required. I know many devoted fans prefer the Doctor to actually get on with his best friend, more often than not, and I count myself in that group.

It is also welcome to have UNIT involved once again in these comics, with this present variant of the Doctor; (albeit now sadly announced as departing come Christmas this year). After the Zygon Invasion/Inversion story of Autumn 2015, this story honours continuity in typically faithful Titan style, by having both Osgoods feature in the narrative. Along with the much-loved Kate Stewart playing her role to help the Doctor, in the same way her father helped his 'predecessors', there has been a proper 'renaissance' for UNIT, of late. This is in thanks not only to the TV shows being seen globally, but also the work done across Doctor Who's various other mediums, ever since 2012's The Power Of Three.

But ultimately the final triumph comes down to the TARDIS duo, and a pair of delinquent but warm-hearted teenagers, who have been too stubborn to be recruited by the Sea Devil's army of zombies. Come the ending there is a nice hint of the next stage in the journey of life for these two guest characters. The TV show - particularly the modern version - has always been good at not only wrapping up the main problem but making followers care about the fortunes of characters, most of whom are unlikely to ever be seen again. 

Some nice light-heartedness helps the story from taking itself too seriously, which is a wise move given how close to the Establishment Nose the satire verges on, at times. The Doctor's blasé attitude, or boldness, when confronted by the pub of possessed villagers would certainly play out well on primetime TV. His weak 'sea urchin' disguise is a fun example of his inconsistent ability to blend into his environment. I also enjoyed the swordfish ally, he acquires as he pretends a completely inanimate object is of the same value as K9 or Kamelion from his days of 'youth', but a nice irony is made of this towards the final stages.

Other elements though would stretch the budget quite considerably, with some of the action being worthy of a proper Hollywood blockbuster. With the fine artistic skills of Rachael Stott and Ivan Nunes on display, the epic scope of the action is translated handsomely well, however.

This effort entertains throughout. I cannot honestly say any of the new characters were ones for the ages, or worthy of a further adventure down the line, but they fit well into a fun story, where the odds seem stacked against contemporary human society. The original Sea Devils had its flaws but always knew how to move the narrative into some new location, or confound expectations. In that sense then, The School of Death rises to the surface with gusto, rather than stagnating to the bottom of the sea, like the much-maligned Peter Davison sequel.


The second story is rather more satirical and self-referential, both in terms of its moods and its themes. It does an impressive job in casting retrospective light over the Doctor Who mythos itself.  There is even a rather 'meta' take on the comic book medium which makes the story both entertaining, and distinctly different from other such stories, that centre on a mystery and a relentless force needing to be overcome. 

A fun poke at the TV show's once male-dominated fanbase is briefly incorporated into the tale. As many know, the male-female ratio of Doctor Who aficionados has evened up considerably in recent years thanks to the quality writing and casting of the 21st century series.

Readers get to see some decided vanity from the Doctor –  a defining characteristic whichever face/body he is inhabiting – when he displays outrage over the persona, or image, that he has online. This internet portrayal of our title hero reminded me of the very knowing TV portrayal of Clive, a superfan utterly obsessed with the mysterious Ninth Doctor, who featured in the reboot triumph that was Rose

Also notable - if perhaps somewhat surprising, given how much Clara has experienced - is the Coal Hill School teacher's cynicism over comic book shop staff claims regarding people going missing. At this point in her (ultimately infinite) life, she has seen enough weird and wonderful things. Then again, real people that we all know, are contradictory and three-dimensional. Whilst very likable, Clara would not be human without some judgemental sides to her character, and some entrenched pre-conceptions over certain types of people.

With perhaps other references to the biggest comics and comic book companies also being intended by Morrison, I did enjoy one particular nod towards Marvel’s Silver Surfer.

This story also operates as a loose sequel to Series Eight gem Flatline, and does a fine job of using a well-designed monster without just simply repeating the same ‘gimmick’. Whilst ‘The School Of Death’ had more time to develop its key supporting characters, as well as have some decent tertiary ‘cast members’, The Fourth Wall still is well-paced, and does a fine job of marrying continuity between the Titan comics and the actual TV show.  

Dialogue also seems to be pitched perfectly for the talents of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, were this to be an actual story made for Series 9. Prior stories (including the preceding Sea Devil one) have ‘cameos’ as panels within the story, enabling a clever parody on the comic book canvas and panelling techniques.

The story also works on another level by having a strong message concerning escapism, especially one found in a personal hobby that others deem as 'not cool'. The danger of slipping too far into make-belief, however, should always be an important consideration for someone to still be healthy and interact well with others. For a story that had a solitary issue originally with which to get its objectives across, this is very impressive, and arguably the high point of this collection.


Rounding off Volume Four is a fun, if very brief, sequel to Fourth Doctor debut Robot. With its limited page/panel count Robo Rampage acts more as a straight-up King Kong homage. The difference between the 1933 classic movie and this story, is that the English capital city is the playground for chaos, as opposed to Manhattan. As the metallic monster attacks the London Eye, this much 'older' Doctor rants over the greed and irresponsibility of humanity that has allowed for Professor Kettlewell’s invention to suddenly be back in the public sphere.

This story has no Clara, but we do get a nice turn for Osgood, giving her more to do than in the main Sea Devil story. The UNIT scientist is still eager to be a proper companion (and into the bargain be excused from her day job duties). Showing her fanatical side, Osgood showers the grey haired wearer of sonic sunglasses with a number of 'alternative titles' to that of "Doctor". Some of those names are references to past TV stories. Ultimately though she tries to christen him with one of her own monikers.

The previous two stories had their moments of mirth, but this one is probably the most amusing in terms of comedy, and can be regarded as a longer attempt at the (once customary) ‘bonus humour strip’.


BONUS

Two alternative covers are featured in full page size. They are credited to respectively Brian Miller, and Simon Myers.

Other featured (albeit smaller-sized) covers are credited to MyersAlex RonaldWill BrooksJAKe, and main artist Rachael Stott 

The main title cover is credited to Alice X. Zhang, and also features in the gallery section


SUMMARY

Altogether then, this is a fine collection of wholly new original stories that help develop both the main two characters, as well as some of the recurring allies to feature in the Steven Moffat epoch. It deserves to be taken as authentic and official in the time lines as the main televised entity itself. Oddly, there is no separate title for The Fourth Wall story within the collection (although the phrase is found within dialogue), whereas Robot Rampage (originally published for Free Comics Day) retains its name in-story. Regardless, if the reader has missed some or most of the prior issues released in Year 2, then this collection is the best option on the market. 

One to keep and enjoy.





The Third Doctor - #2 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part TwoBookmark and Share

Sunday, 1 January 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: Third Doctor #2 (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 October 12th 2016, TITAN COMICS

The Third Doctor and Jo return to the lab in UNIT HQ, where the TARDIS Is housed, and discover an unexpected visitor - none other than the Doctor's last incarnation, complete with a dark mop of hair and chequered trousers. Jo is delighted to see the other Doctor who was so kind to her during their ordeal in Omega's universe. The 'of-his-time' Doctor, however, was hoping such an exceptional event, and one needing him to cross his own time stream, would indeed remain rare. But the Second Doctor, in typically buoyant mood, assures his friends that he was again sent by the Time Lords, and in this case to help with the robotic entities threatening Earth.

Some of UNIT's forces are holding the invaders at bay with a makeshift, passable force field. Suddenly the Brigadier, overseeing the defences, is visited by a 'General Mayhew' who is coming across just a little more familiar than he should. Lethbridge-Stewart quickly unmasks the visitor, as none other than the Master. But is the evil renegade Time Lord to blame for the events that are occurring?

As the two Doctors try to solve the mystery of the 'micro machines', Miss Grant is suddenly attacked by the specimen that was retrieved. This forces the incumbent Doctor into having to perform a Gallifreyan mind meld and visit the inner psyche of Jo to both save her, and perhaps find a solution to the crisis at hand...


Paul Cornell continues to tell a story that is fun, amusing, and not entirely predictable, and yet there is homage aplenty to the much-loved Jon Pertwee era of the 'Classic' TV show.

The interplay of the Pertwee/ Troughton Doctors is hard to get wrong by even the weakest writer. In the hands of Cornell, this is thus a big plus point in a comic book teeming with positive attributes.

Of particular interest, is the way that these two regenerations of the title hero show their concern and affection for Jo Grant, in markedly different fashions. The Third Doctor is the protective patriarch, whilst his predecessor is the genial, funny uncle. Also well done is the Second Doctor's keenness to one day change his appearance, and be acquainted with Jo properly. This is a nice echo of a scene towards the end of The Three Doctors, where the 'present'  Doctor acknowledges how he used to be rather "sweet".

The actual main threat of the 'Heralds' does slow to a crawl, after the perils of Issue One. However, given there are three more instalments in the mini-series to follow, this is more than acceptable.

Art from Christopher Jones remains at a high level, and is both authentic in evoking the many stories of the Third Doctor and UNIT, but also having its own confident style. I enjoyed the way the Master's disguise was all too obvious on several occasions. This surely is a knowing homage to when either the Master removed the mock-up 'face' of someone he was impersonating, or (more memorably) when a character he was able to hypnotise had the false face of the bearded renegade Time Lord.

And Cornell is clever enough to have this apparent joke turned on its head, in an action scene which really needs to be read/seen to be appreciated properly, and which is my personal highlight of a sterling second instalment in the mini series.

The main characters of the (early 1970s) TV shows really feel just as we knew and loved them. Any newcomers will want to see some of the Pertwee stories based on the vitality of the players in this story. And the art stands on its own feet such that many readers will want to come back to look at the comic, just for its visual dimensions. Hi-Fi has made many of these Titan comics breathe full life, but deserves particular praise for the final product of this mini-series.


BONUS FEATURES:

Two separate pages at the latter end of the comic book show Jones' pencils at an earlier stage before the colour process took hold. One is devoted to the Master and the Brigadier, and the other for the Two Doctors and Jo.                                                                                                                    

There are also main/alternate cover variants for both the current issue, and the upcoming one as well. Issue Two also has full page cover variants separately. 





UNIT - Silenced (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 12 December 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
UNIT: Silenced (Credit: Big Finish)
Written By: Matt Fitton, John Dorney
 
Directed By: Ken Bentley
 
Cast: Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Petronella Osgood), Warren Brown (Lieutenant Sam Bishop), James Joyce (Captain Josh Carter), Ramon Tikaram (Colonel Shindi), Tracy Wiles (Jacqui McGee), Joanna Wake (Miss Faversham), Nicholas Day (Kenneth LeBlanc/Heston), Tom Alexander (Cecil/Derek), Aaron Neil (Homeless Man/News Reporter/David), Nimmy March (Baroness Vance/Telokni), John Banks (Mission Control/Captain/Soldier) and Nicholas Briggs as The Silence. 

 
Big Finish Productions - Released November 2016

When it was first announced that this third boxed set of UNIT – The New Series would feature the return of the Silence or rather the creatures known as Silents prior to the revelation of their original purpose in The Time of the Doctor, this reviewer had a few qualms about how the continuity would fit in with what we’ve already seen of them on television. However, as with the previous boxed-sets, it is worth remembering that these adventures are set prior to most of the new UNIT team’s televised adventures as Big Finish’s current license does not extend beyond the end of the Eleventh Doctor’s final television outing (notwithstanding an occasional cheeky reference to later adventures by River Song but that’s no concern of this series, at least for now). With no Doctor on the scene, this series of adventures focuses on a surviving remnant of the Silent creatures who are in hiding following the subliminal message given to kill them on site during the 1969 moon landing, referring back to their television debut in 2011’s The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon.

Writing and script editing duties have been shared between regular Big Finish scribes John Dorney and Matt Fitton giving the overarching storyline a cohesive feeling even though the events portrayed take place over an extended period of time with the potential for other adventures to take place at the same time. The opening instalment, House of Silents, sees the welcome return of Ramon Tikaram as Colonel Shindi following his recuperation after the events of last year’s UNIT – Extinction.

Shindi has been assigned a surveillance mission on a large house owned by wealthy blind recluse Miss Faversham (not the first time Big Finish have used a character inspired by the abandoned bride of Dickens’ Great Expectations). The concept of the Silents allying with someone who cannot see them and is thus immune from their usual memory loss is cleverly realised.  Joanna Wake gives a very believable performance as the well-meaning philanthropist with a touching humour in one of the climactic scenes of the episode when she is interviewed byIngrid Oliver’s Osgood. The Silence themselves are for the first time voiced by Nicholas Briggs, who contrary to popular misapprehension, has never given voice to their televised incarnation but nonetheless manages a perfect vocal recreation.

The second and third episodes, which take place a few weeks after the first episode and then some months later, are almost a mini arc in their own right as they depict the seemingly irresistible rise to power of the Silents’ other new ally, Kenneth Le Blanc, who is unmistakeably a cipher for a certain right wing minority party leader of recent times. Although it is supremely ironic that this story should have come to be released so soon after the shockwaves are still being felt from real life events which would have been completely unforeseen when this was being written last year. Nicholas Day gives a charismatic and yet at the same time carefully guarded performance as Le Blanc, and it is somewhat of a shame that the climax of his story has been so dramatically eclipsed by real life events and tempting to wonder if the Silence were influencing more than one recent election.

The final episode moves events on again, with the UNIT team struggling to keep hold of their fading memories of the Silence, who in a final throw of the dice seek to use a space station to set humanity at war with another alien race. The highlight of the finale is getting to hear Osgood setting foot on a space station for the first time in the able company of Warren Brown’s immensely likeable Lieutenant Sam Bishop.

Overall, this is another strong collection of episodes with the concept of the Silence used to chilling effect throughout but also allowing for some great comedy mileage when certain characters continually lose their memory as soon as they look away. The regular cast is now starting to feel even more established than its TV counterpart. As ever, Jemma Redgrave leads from the front as the redoubtable Kate Stewart and this reviewer is very much looking forward to her next audio adventures which will see her reunited with several of the Brigadier’s former comrades and sometime enemies for UNIT – Assembled.

 

 

UNIT - Silenced is available now from Big Finish and is on general release from January 31st 2017.



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Jan 2017
Silenced (Unit - The New Series)



The Third Doctor - #1 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part One (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 2 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Third Doctor #1 (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)

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

Published September 14th 2016, TITAN COMICS

Newly released from the exile imposed by his own people - the Time Lords - the brilliant scientist Doctor John Smith is once again needed in order to help his friend Lethbridge Stewart and UNIT. A relentless, self-repairing metal menace has come to make life difficult for the natives of planet Earth, and that may be not be the only threat of consequence before too long.

 

Having had success with other Doctors from time past in the Eighth Doctor miniseries and, more recently, Fourth Doctor miniseries, Titan now unleashes another title. And how welcome that it features the undeniably charismatic Third Doctor, performed onscreen with such conviction by the late Jon Pertwee.

Paul Cornell knows exactly how to mix in the familiar elements which fans have come to know and love, but also add a sprinkling of his own creative skill to make something memorable and engaging. There is one returning foe, several returning secondary UNIT characters - Corporal Bell and Sergeant Osgood - and a key returning character who makes a sizeable impact in the customary end-of-issue cliffhanger.

The decision to set these new stories after The Three Doctors is a sound one, and potentially allows for Jo and the Doctor to go on travels across cosmos and time zones without yet another formulaic 'mission for the Time Lords' justification. It also allows for a properly fleshed out and well-knit 'UNIT family' - i.e. the Doctor and Jo, as well as the Brigadier, Captain Yates, and Sergeant Benton.

The art, from Christopher Jones, is a truly impressive selling point for this maiden issue, and earned the praise of Pertwee Era script-editor Terrance Dicks: "A handsomely-drawn epic". Key to having this miniseries work is a proper rendering of the Third Doctor, and this is certainly the case as we witness the 'James Bond/ Gentleman's Club' variant of our favourite Time Lord, as he goes about his heady business. Although the heavily stylised use of lines can be noticeable in the odd panel, the overall effect is compelling. Further, the use of palette, by the ever-reliable Hi-Fi, evokes with authentic impact the very first period of Doctor Who's history to feature full colour visuals.

 

The story undoubtedly will read well to old and new fans alike, with just the right balance of continuity and innovation. However, a certain clutch of early 1970s stories perhaps should be seen first, by those Who aficionados, who have tried little or none of the Classic era of the show. Not only will it add to the strengths of this particular adventure concocted in 2016, but it will be a reminder that the show was always able to deliver great acting and show initiative in trying markedly new things, both for science fiction and for TV in general.

Working splendidly both as set-up, and a showcase of incident and drama, also, this is a flying start to another promising new title from Titan.

 

EXTRAS :

* 'Behind the Scenes' Pencils and Inks are on display for one of the comic's most interesting panels, with the Doctor standing atop his car, Bessie.

* Three medium and full page-sized alternate covers feature, as well as two variant covers by Boo Cook and Andy Walker respectively.





The Shadow In The Glass (Audio Book)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 16 July 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Shadow in the Glass (Credit: BBC Audio)

Written By: Stephen Cole + Justin Richards
Read By: India Fisher

(Original Novel published in 2001, and Republished in 2015)

Approximate Length: 9 Hours


RELEASED: MARCH 2016 - BBC DIGITAL AUDIO

In the dying days of the Second World War, a UFO crash-lands in Turelhampton; a village in the English county of Dorset. The Royal Air Force has dealt with a possible threat at such a fraught time with seemingly no fuss. But then the village itself is soon evacuated.

Fast forward to the year 2001, and Turelhampton is still under the control of military troops. A sinister mystery is being shrouded from wider society. However a determined TV documentary crew are able to break through and record images of a malevolent ceremony, that crosses into the paranormal. And three-dimensional danger soon reaches the rather headstrong media professionals. Nearby in picturesque Cornwall, journalist Claire Aldwych is determined to uncover just what is going on after witnessing images of the bizarre and disturbing ceremony.

Meanwhile the Doctor, currently without his usual female companion - or 'penguin' Frobisher that can resemble anything and anyone - is drawn to the odd chain of mysterious events. But a beacon of reassuring familiarity resurfaces in the shape of Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart. Alistair is now rather wizened and past his prime days of blood and thunder, but still more than able to match the verbal wits of his many-lived friend and associate.

And their partnership must work at its best in the face of a grave test. The infamous Führer of the Third Reich is set to rise again; threatening the interests of all peace loving and decent natives of the blue-green planet that the Doctor cares so much for...

**

Shadow is a very enjoyable yarn, and combines a touch of 'old-school' Who with some of the more intense interpersonal drama from the Virgin and BBC book lines. These often experimental tomes paved the way for the more all-round drama of the modern TV show. At times things could easily verge into parody. I do find the end game with more than the one Adolf Hitler thrown into the fray threatens to unravel the core of the storyline. Yet it all manages to work as a whole.

I am a little unsure also if the villains behind the scenes, who are 'imp like' beings, could not have been executed rather better. They function well enough in that they enable the human villains to go about their dastardly schemes. But the best Doctor Who makes use of its monsters in a memorable fashion. These foes are simply fair-to-middling. The titular glass/medium concept is elaborated on very well, however, and ties in some clever minor character stories fluidly. The book is justifiably much longer than the novelisations that TV Doctor Who in written form, and similarly the length of this audio release is never a stumbling block.

Music is used sparingly but effectively, and helps punctuate the mood, as the story keeps moving along to one heart-racing moment of shock and awe, then to another of rather more introspective respite. India Fisher is a respected and well-loved contributor to the Doctor Who audio universe, which has helped the franchise endure. She does remarkably well with the inimitable portrayals of the Sixth Doctor and Brigadier that we have come to know and love so much. Sixie's bluster and buoyancy was a great counterpoint to the very dark Third and 'Fourth' Reich material in the original text by Cole and Richards. Our sole audio performer grasps the need to delicately balance both humour and 'world in peril' high-stakes thriller.

There is a lot of exposition and scene-setting prose for Fisher to convey to the listener, and convey it she does with aplomb. The plot is relatively straightforward, even with all the time travelling and subplots that feature, but in the hands of a less capable narrator there could be room for the audience to be disengaged.

**

This story could have easily worked, were it made originally as an audio drama spin off by Big Finish with Colin Baker and Nicholas Courtney. The enjoyable The Spectre of Lanyon Moor proved the chemistry between the two was up there with all the other leading men of the classic era. Today all of us miss the wonderful Courtney, but he left a terrific legacy as an actor and a person. Today still, his alter-ego soldier commands our attention and emotional investment.

One can quite easily listen to this set of eight CDs over a week or two, interspersing with the best TV material of the Sixth Doctor and the UNIT era to build up the visual cues needed. In any case, the prose, atmosphere and pacing all work well, and this story stands tall on its own.

There are plenty of nods to past UNIT characters, and to the family-like nature of the military organisation when it featured in the main show on a regular basis. My favourite returning solider is Tom Osgood. Though rather bumbling - at least in comparison to the eccentric genius protagonist - he is still determined and technically proficient. Some additional UNIT and military personal of course are added by the authors into proceedings, and are given suitable character development and back-story.

There is also a portion of the story that features the legendary real-life wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who has featured repeatedly in the Moffat era, and also now in ongoing Big Finish audios. What little this redoubtable politician and leader does here works well, but he is still more of a plot device than a proper supporting player. There is no actual meeting of Churchill, with either Hitler or his 'double', which perhaps is a missed opportunity.

There are a number of characters that have their own agenda and are neither wholly altruistic or malicious. This helps remind us that very few who fought in the War - win or lose - were completely without qualities at either end of the spectrum. Ultimately the biggest success of this book/audio is that it provokes some sober reflection on the defence of freedom and equality for all, in the face of cruel and distorted ideologies. And a good ending is always key for a satisfying adventure. Shadow closes in bittersweet fashion, but avoids this vibe from being telegraphed or coming off as just another twist. The finale instead arises organically out of the key themes.

Combining real life history, additional material for the 'short-lived' Sixth Doctor, and revisits to past friends from UNIT, this story has a bit of something for everyone. It never quite hits the heights of the very best of the original novels that feature in Doctor Who's extended universe, but is still a confident form of entertainment.





UNIT: Shutdown (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 13 July 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
UNIT: Shutdown (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Matt Fitton and Andrew Smith
Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Warren Brown (Sam Bishop), James Joyce (Captain Josh Carter), Alice Krige (Felicity Lyme), Asif Khan (Jay Roy) Tyrone Huggins (Dr Kenton Eastwood), Nigel Carrington (Sir Peter Latcham), Beth Chalmers (Anna/Radio Announcer/Quizmaster), Harry Ditson (General Grant Avary), Dan Li (Dokan/Alien Leader), Akira Koieyama (Chiso/Tengobushi Assassins), Stephen Billington (Commander Bergam), Jot Davies (Sebastien/Major Disanto)

Big Finish Productions – Released June 2016

This is the second boxset of adventures featuring the new generation of UNIT headed up by Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart and Ingrid Oliver as her scientist sidekick Osgood. As with the first box set, this story is set at an indeterminate time at some point before Osgood was killed in the TV series as all the signs point to the audio incarnation being the human version of the character who first appeared in The Day of the Doctor. One thing that can said with certainty is that this set follows on from Big Finish’s first foray into the New Series, UNIT – Extinction, and sees the return of new team members Warren Brown as international troubleshooter Sam Bishop and James Joyce as Captain Josh Carter. Josh in particular is an extremely likeable character whose continuing character arc proves central to this box set (although anyone who hasn’t heard Extinction may find themselves at a slight loss to understand his apparent super-strength whose origin is only fleetingly alluded to). As much as Joyce is at risk of becoming another member of the rep company of overused Big Finish actors, this reviewer is a self-confessed member of the club that would wish to see Captain Carter remain a regular feature of this ongoing spin-off series given Big Finish’s tendency to kill off some of their best loved original characters.

It would be remiss of this reviewer not to acknowledge the action-packed opening and closing themes composed by Howard Carter which are probably one of the most successful for any of Big Finish’s many Doctor Who spin-offs and will hopefully remain in place for all future UNIT series (as opposed to the frequently altered theme variations of the Bernice Summerfield range over the years).

The four-part story itself was written is another excellent collaboration between Matt Fitton who penned the opening and closing instalments and Andrew Smith who penned the middle two episodes. For this reviewer the highlight was probably the third episode, The Battle of the Tower in which Smith made great efficacy of the regular Tower of London setting for UNIT’s base of operations. By a quirk of fate, an exciting scene which saw a pursuit into Tower Hill underground station unfolded whilst this reviewer was actually travelling on the district line to that very station. This story manages to take a different path to the more traditional UNIT vs alien conquest of the planet story which was told in Extinction and not fall in the trap of allowing the series to get stuck in a repeated formula as is wont to happen with some Big Finish box sets (Survivors please take note). The conspiracy-thriller opening chapter introduces the story’s human antagonist Felicity Lyme, a ruthless businesswoman portrayed by former Borg Queen Alice Krige. The gradual realisation that Lyme was not in league with aliens and instead acting to secure her own business interests was a very pleasing development. In terms of the story’s alien characters, the ninja style warriors known as Tengobushi and their Comishi masters are generally well realised if a little uncomfortably close to human Samurai, especially when their leaders speak with Oriental accents which might be perceived as a racial stereotype. The Behind-the-scenes discs suggests that the inspiration was linked to the idea that ancient culture such as that of Japan could potentially have alien origins but these wasn’t drawn out especially clearly in the play itself. However, this is possibly nit-picking at what is otherwise another very fine box set and overall the decision to not include any recurring aliens from the television series has paid off and allowed more space for the development of both Kate’s and Osgood’s characters and their new team. It’s only a shame that a couple of the more promising characters in the story didn’t survive until the end but UNIT has always had a high mortality rate so perhaps unsurprising. In any case this reviewer will be looking forward to the team’s next outing this November, in  which they will encounter the Silence.








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