1. Who Killed Toby Kinsella? by John Dorney
2. The Dead Don't Rise by Ken Bentley
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Cast: Simon Williams (Gilmore), Pamela Salem (Rachel),
Karen Gledhill (Allison), Hugh Ross (Sir Toby Kinsella),
Raad Rawi (Prince Hassan Al-Nadyr),
Justin Avoth (Mikhail), Belinda Stewart-Wilson (Overton),
Ian Lindsay (Routledge), Jot Davies (Avery),
Alan Cox (Fanshawe).
Producer - David Richardson
Script Editor - John Dorney
Story by - Ken Bentley
Sound Design:Robert Harvey
Cover Art:Simon Holub
Executive Producers - Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Released by - Big Finish Productions, July 2016
NB -Spoilers For This Release -And Series Four of Counter-Measures - feature:
As halls are decked with boughs of holly in the twilight of 1973, the eminent figure of state Prince Hassan Al-Nadyr faces a grave threat. A relentless assassin, possessing abilities and powers that exceed anything a normal human should have, is focused on the Prince's demise. Co-incidentally, it is close to a decade since the specialist 'Counter-Measures' group suddenly disappeared off the face of the Earth. Only Sir Toby Kinsella had remained alive since then , but before long he too is pronounced officially dead. By getting too close to the Prince, Toby has paid the ultimate price.
The funeral soon after for the Knight of the Realm sees the seemingly dead Group Captain Gilmore, Professor Rachel Jensen, and Dr Allison Williams, come together to mourn their associate and to try and uncover just what foul play is at hand. And the authorities are far from helpful in aiding their efforts. Perhaps someone from the late Sir Toby's past may have some answers, though.
Dear readers, if you have proceeded past the spoiler warning (and perhaps also the more guarded sections of 'confidentiality' I strove for in my Series Four box set review last October), I must clarify that the front cover is to be believed. Our main heroes of Gilmore, Jensen and Williams are very much alive and well. They, however, have been forced to live different lives for fear of being recognised by those with malicious intent. Instead of their normal vocations, they have assumed somewhat different, somewhat similar lifestyles and professions.
The pace and the characterisation are at an optimum and having a more straightforward plot works to this two-parter's advantage. Wondering if Toby really is dead, and the signs are ominous indeed, makes for a nice inversion of what transpired in the closing moments of Clean Sweep.
By moving proceedings forward to the 1970s, the regulars are somewhat closer in age to their real life counterparts. One of my concerns in the past was the believability of the vocal age, and this has been assuaged somewhat now. Furthermore, the move to the Seventies brings a distinct breath of fresh air and a chance to try and evoke some of the other TV and Radio series of the era. (Of course, I also emphasise that the riveting interlinked Series Four never came near to being stale.)
A nod or two to one of Oscar Wilde's more celebrated fictional feats of imagination could have easily been done ham-fistedly, but here is pulled off with aplomb by the writers. Although the antagonist appears relatively early on and so we recognise, his full background and motivation is sketched in with deliberately staged patience in later sections of the story. His being a malicious, efficient agent of death is a fine counterpoint to the main heroic trio, who only resort to killing as a last resort. It is commendable that Who Killed.. puts enough groundwork into making listeners ponder the motivations of the villain. Some of the best modern TV Who has worked wonders by making the audience emphasise just that little bit with an otherwise deplorable individual.
Having a player in proceedings who is a thorn in the sides of the main cast, but who is on the side of the British public through their position in MI5, brings added dimension and drama to the story. Belinda Stewart-Wilson's Overton reminds me somewhat of Kate Stewart in her effortless command and determination to see things through, but she is perhaps a little more blinkered and not stopping to consider if perhaps there is a common goal to be achieved, after all. The eventual culmination of this dramatic conflict is truly executed well.
The sign of a strong and confident tale is the dénouement and final stages as the protagonists reflect on their escapades. In this regard, The Dead Don't Rise plays its trump card with brilliant timing. In many TV shows, including a few of the Moffat/Capaldi Doctor Who stories, endings sometimes feel just that bit truncated. But here, the focus on characterisation and a crystal clear plot allow for the closing tracks to breath fully and to resonate in listeners' auditory organs to maximum effect.
As one would surely expect at this stage in Big Finish's track record with this particular range, the main voice cast are all on song with their portrayals of well-crafted characters. Simon Williams is a fine leading man, (once Hugh Ross' excellent voice acting has graced the exhilarating opening action stages of the play). His interactions with both Pamela Salem and Karen Gledhill are always amusing, and sometimes also heart-warming. Clearly, all four of the cast were most keen to return to the fold, and kudos to Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs for making sure the wait for that return was a short one. Now that the series has legs again to proceed, the expectation must be that more sound material along these lines will follow in good time.