Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Wasting written by Iain McLaughlin & Claire Bartlett and directed by Nicola Bryant

What’s it about: A deadly flu-like infection is sweeping the planet. Its first cases appeared in Britain but now millions are infected worldwide and there is no sign of a cure. The emergency services can't cope with what the press have dubbed a plague… Under attack from all sides, UNIT in Britain is in disarray. It faces a stark choice - to close its doors and concede defeat, or to fight back, whatever the cost… and the injured Colonel Emily Chaudhry knows UNIT has never backed down from a battle… If UNIT is to fight back, it's going to need the services of its missing commander, Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood, and the experience of the Brigadier, who can never refuse when duty calls…

Chap With Wings: Alistair is paranoid about ISIS surveillance and doesn’t like to be in one place for a long time. Back in his day Mike Yates was very good at paperwork and Benton was extremely adept at filing anything that looked like a waste of time in the nearest bin. When told he has friends in high places (Harry in NATO) he also comments with some pride that he has friends in low places too. The Brigadier admits that he has no official standing and by asking the UNIT soldiers to resist the orders from the Ministry they will be breaking the law. They will never have a UNIT scientific advisor like the one he had and he accepts the post as the scientific advisor to Chaudhry’s new UNIT.

Colonel Chaudhry: She is more than happy to have the Brigadier around to shout the orders because her world has been turned upside down after the deaths of Dalton and Hoffman and the panic that has gripped the country. She trusted Wood so much and his betrayal cuts deep. She gets her best ever moment when she kicks the crap out of Wood and tells him that they would have followed him into anything and not because they fancied him…and she tells him he’s not in her league just as she knees him in the nuts. She knows she is worthy of the post as the new CO of UNIT.

Colonel Dalton: He wasn’t in UNIT for very long but long enough to make him one of their own and he had a full ceremonial funeral.

Standout Performance: Its wonderful to see Nicholas Courtney getting a larger share of the action (who knows what the Brigadier was doing in Time Heals?) and by his presence alone does he makes this story a massive step up from the others in the range. His warm handling of Chaudhry and the way he commands the loyalty of the men without even trying proves that he hasn’t lost his touch. I also have to applaud David Tennant’s awesome Brimmicombe-Wood who never seems to get the amount of air time he deserves but provides riotous entertainment every time he turns up. Its such a different role from the Doctor that you would wear it was a different actor playing the part but it just goes to show the versatility of the man. Imagine a face off between the tenth Doctor and Wood? I would play big bucks to see that!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘if that takes off I’ll tear everyone of you a new arse!’ – its great to have Wood back!
‘I am placing you under arrest for murder, attempted murder, hijacking, treason, terrorism and being the biggest arsehole on the planet!’
‘Odd to think that an explosion could save the world.’

Great Ideas: ISIS has picked a fight with UNIT and kicked their arse all over the country, almost had Sir Alistair killed, undermined the government, attacked Chaudhry’s troops… Their mentality is Britain first and sod the rest. There is an outbreak of an virus that had become international but it is not a strain of Sars as was originally suspected. Currie makes a good point that when the country goes to the dogs they will have plenty of material to build their career on. The patients of the virus have become aggressive and are eating people. UNIT has always been a politicians football, they aren’t liked but when there is nobody else to clean up the mess they are their best friends. The flu symptoms are the first stage of the virus, followed by skin blotches, then the skin takes on the texture of rotting meat and the patients become violent and losing the ability to think clearly. Its like they are decomposing while they’re still alive. In a moment of utter naiveté from the British press they think that UNIT soldiers are cocking their rifles to control a cornered crowd of virus infected citizens and open fire and murder the lot of them. Its all staged by ISIS and filmed by Currie as the final indignity for the military taskforce. An artifical alien virus that alters human DNA and metamorphoses them into… Martial law is announced and a curfew is enforced. The gas released from the stolen spaceship rewrites the chromosomes of certain human beings and mutates them into something more palatable. The ship was sent to Earth to turn the human race into rotten meat so the occupants can turn up and harvest the population later…yuck! That’s really yucky! Wood turning out to be an enemy agent turns out to be the best concealed surprise of the series and completely floored me. He is the CO of ISIS and has been for years, all the time he was working for UNIT he was reporting everything back to ISIS. He thinks every other country out there is doing everything they can to protect themselves and that Great Britain shouldn’t be any different. With the Silurians help they came up with something that would stop the mutations. It becomes a race against time to get the missile in the air and spread the antidote. Because they saved the world UNIT has been exonerated and have been given increased manpower and funding.

Audio Landscape: Wind and rain at Dalton’s graveside, windows smashing, virus victims lurching onto the streets like zombies, fake UNIT soldiers shooting into a crowd, panicked crowds, the Brigadier’s car exploding, running footsteps, a scraping door, gunfire and grenades, the helicopter taking off and soaring overhead, there’s an impressive dogfight in the air, the missile exploding in the air,

Musical Cues: What a fabulous militaristic score as the Brigadier tries to getaway in his motor!

Isn’t it Odd: Nicola Bryant puts on a terrible upper class accent for a quick cameo. Winnington turns up like a cackling witch at the end of the story and I was desperately hoping the Brigadier would put a bullet in her skull. Unfortunately he only aims for her hand and lets her live.

Standout Scene: Its interesting that the best moment in this entire series comes when Harry Sullivan phones the Brigadier and he promises to meet him for a beer. It takes you back to the olden days when UNIT was a vital part of Doctor Who…and reminds you of how badly they pulled off this revamp that the most touching moment comes during a one side telephone call.

Result: With two regular characters dead and ISIS closing in on UNIT finally I was interested enough to care about what was going on. UNIT being set up to fall and its soldiers going rogue is such a juicy idea it is a miracle that nobody has thought to try it before. Having three stories pretty much run in real time before this one has shown that a life in UNIT is a idiots game, it reminds me of the realisation the Torchwood crew came to – no social life, losing your friends and constantly considered the enemy. The Wasting doesn’t try and do too much like Time Heals, isn’t slack like Snake Head and reins in its melodrama like The Longest Night failed to do…there is a pleasing claustrophobic feel to the material (because there is literally nowhere else for the show to go now over half the cast has been killed and the public image of the organisation has been shattered) and even a couple of great twists at the climax. Suddenly Siri O’Neal wakes up and gives the sort of attention grabbing performance we needed in the first story but then surrounded by heavyweights Nicholas Courtney and David Tennant she definitely had to up her game. As far as I am concerned the UNIT series has been a massive flop because it has struggled to find an identity, lacked characters worth investing your time in and (most heinously) failed to produce any decent stories but at least the series retains some dignity and goes out with a hurrah in The Wasting. I’m glad we never had a second season, I don’t think this series has the legs to support it: 8/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:


Anonymous said...

Shouldn't the "Great Ideas" section start with a spoiler warning. I know you don't have a high opinion of the series but doesn't the central plot twist deserve to be treated with a little more respect?

Doc Oho said...

Not really, every single review that I have written is riddled with spoilers. And these releases are years and years old...

...the spoilers will continue!

Anonymous said...

IF ONLY someone had realised that on audio there was no reason to make UNIT 'contemporary'. They could have spent the time making a series of terrific UNIT stories set in the 3rd/4th Doctor's time, with the Brig still in charge, and a set of characters we already knew and cared about.
Too late now.
What a wasted opportunity.

Jeremiah_Ecks said...

I don't mind the fact that it wasn't the 'classic' UNIT crew, but to be fair, Chaudhry was absolutely boring, and Hoffman didn't get enough screen time. I didn't like Dalton either; that leaves the Brig, and even he is on auto pilot during this story - possibly due to Nick Courtney's possibly ill health, or who knows?

I have to say all four episodes of UNIT are the big misfires of all of the Big Finish's I've listened to (well, Nekromanteia is another). They all have great moments - bits of Snake Head were amazing, and the growing dread of the end of The Longest Day is great too - but overall, Chaudhry couldn't maintain the series as the hero. It's a shame.

I also wondered if her and Hoffman would get any shout outs for being former Old Sixie companions. I felt that was a wasted opportunity too.