Written By: Matt Fitton, John Dorney
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.