Wednesday, 26 December 2012

UNIT Dominion Part Four written by Nick Briggs & Jason Arnopp and directed by Nick Briggs

The Real McCoy: It sounded like McCoy had been disposed of in the pre-credits sequence so we could get on with having fun with the Master and Klein (a more delicious combination I cannot imagine). Unfortunately this was just getting my hopes up for nothing but I appreciate the effort nonetheless. When the Master starts talking technobabble and conquest the Doctor ponders the fate of being bored to death by him. There is great chemistry between the two characters now the pretence has been dropped and they can get back to their universal game of cat and mouse (although who is the cat and who is the mouse I have yet to fathom). We realise with some astonishment that every life that has been lost on the Earth thanks to the dimensional incursions has been the Doctor’s fault. Raine tries to stand up for him but even she can see that this has been one of his more serious boo-boos. He seems a lot more comfortable now he knows who his opponent is, purring with silky menace as he taunts the Master. He even adopts his catchphrase (‘hellllooo you!’) when he is about to foil all of his intricate schemes. When people talk about McCoy having a good couple of years on audio this is exactly the sort of material they are referring to.

Art Thief: Poor Raine is stuck having to face the music whilst the Doctors have scarpered and makes an excellent point about them having kept their word and saved the Earth. Its in these scenes where she left to her own devices and has to think for herself that the character finally gains some independence and responsibility. Wonderfully she makes another slip (calling Klein ‘Fraulein’) and has to admit a falsehood that she was just being racist in a scene that is loaded with subtext. Whilst she quickly comes to terms with the fact that the ‘future’ Doctor isn’t her Doctor at all, Raine is more astonished that the Master informs Klein of all of her wrongdoings in the past and how her life has been manipulated into something different. Her quiet bewilderment that he could be so cruel made her feel very human and its by far her standout scene in the set.

The Other Doctor: Now the cat is out of the bag about the Master’s identity, Alex McQueen can enjoy himself even more and he kicks off the concluding installment by causing havoc and murder on Gallifrey in the way that only the Doctor’s nemesis can. Has anybody made the ‘Master Race’ joke before because if not that was trick missed in his multiple appearances! He always likes to involve the Doctor in his machinations simply because it feels better that way. The Tolians think of the Master as their saviour and the bringer of power – finally we are getting some tasty pay off from elements introduced right at the beginning of this story. There is a touch of the John Simm Master to McQueen’s approach, a sense of immaturity and frivolous abandon that gives him a really unpredictable edge. He certainly hasn’t lost his sadistic edge either, wanting to enjoy every moment of the Doctor’s pain as he forces him to watch his friends and his enemies die at the same time. UNIT feels as though they have been determining the amount of control the Master (or the Doctor as they know him) has but he reveals in a pretty dramatic way that he has been stringing them along the whole time. Its almost as if he has been on a leash for so long now that he is revelling in his opportunity to tell Klein, Raine and the rest what he really thinks of them and what fate has in store for them. The only reason he would ever hug the Doctor is to pick his pocket. He’s one of those villains who is perfectly willing to dispose of his army should they show the slightest sign of rebellion. Klein thinks that there is a little part of the Master that envies the Doctor and enjoyed being able to act as UNIT’s unofficial scientific advisor just as the Doctor did back in the day.

Nazi Scientist: Compared to her dominance in the first three installments Klein is practically forgotten for the first half of part four. In true Russell T Davies style when the drama is packed away there is always an emotional cost and Klein’s discovery of her past is dealt with beautifully. The usually cool and collective character has had the wind completely taken out of her and doesn’t quite know how to react to such shocking news of her past. I was a little baffled at how quickly she comes to accept the truth and how she waves the Doctor off at the end so perhaps she believes she has been changed for the better too. If that is the trade off for more Klein/UNIT adventures then I am more than happy to make the bargain.

Its Always the Innocents That Suffer: The writers even manage to do something with the sexual tension that has been pointed out between Pete and Raine throughout the last two installments. Methinks Pete doth object too much to a point where he clearly does have feelings for Raine but he is completely ashamed of them because of his family situation back home. Because the writers haven’t been afraid to let go of characters in unpredictable circumstances (Lafayette), the story is wrapping up and the fact that he has had victim written all over his face thanks to the repeated reminders of his family I had a real gnawing sense of paranoia that Pete’s days were numbered. And strangely enough that affected me more than I thought it would so I guess I have come to enjoy the character over the four hour story.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There I was thinking that you had some insane scheme of conquest when all the time you just wanted to inspect me shoes!’ – Briggs/Arnopp inject a little season 24 merriment into the 7th Doctor that has been sorely missed from his character on audio for some time.
‘He thought that you’d revert to type so he kept popping back from time to time to make sure you weren’t invading Poland or committing genocide on the quiet…’
‘The Laws of Time…who needs them?’

Standout Performance: McCoy totally pulls the rug up from under everybody’s feet and provides the finale with its best moments. Bravo that man for being generous enough to allow the rest of the cast to have their chance to shine and waiting until last to have his turn.

Great Ideas: For totally control of the energy that flows through the dimensions you require the mind of a Time Lord so the Master setting up the Doctor’s involvement in this story suddenly makes very good sense. The real Tolians are a hundred times the size of any human being; vast, battle armoured and invincible insectoids. Just the sort of army the Master would use to spread fear and gain control of the other dimensions. The world Dominion will be the seat of the Master’s power and the dimensions (not worlds, dimensions…he likes to think big) that defy him will have the power sucked out of them. And those who resist will be crushed by his Tolian army. The Master forgot to mention to the Tolians that their rise to supremacy will force them to die out in a tenth of the time they would have otherwise spanned.

Audio Landscape: What a great example of a sound effect conjuring up an entire series. As soon as the alarms started sounding I was whisked away from UNIT Dominion and straight into the world of Gallifrey. Buzzer, footsteps, alarm, earthquake, gunfire, screams, Tolian voices, tissue compression eliminator.

Musical Cues: Check out the music as Klein and Pete figure out the Master’s schemes between them. It’s a theme that has played out several times throughout the story and has really encapsulated the tone of the piece for me. I found myself humming it earlier when I was trying to figure something out!

Standout Scene: UNIT Dominion saves the moment we have all been waiting for – the Doctor and Klein’s reunion with the truth out in the open – right until the last minute so we are gripped to the last. It reminded me of the Sixie/Charley arc and their final, devastating scene (the only truly honest scene between them in six stories). I loved the conceit that Klein was going to sacrifice herself to save the Doctor because it would have been desperately unsatisfying to lose her and we have already seen the writers play that game with the Tolians. That it just turns out to be a graze really made me chuckle.

Result: Desperately exciting as the shit hits the fan and all the elements that have gone in to constructing this story cohere into a blisteringly good finale. The reveal that the future Doctor is the Master has leant the story a dramatic focus that it has been lacking until this point and its dimension destruction and one-upmanship all the way to the finale. Sylvester McCoy is suddenly giving Alex McQueen a run for his money, he’s obviously been waiting to make his move throughout the story and now he gets the chance to take on his most formidable foe with absolute relish. McQueen is still fantastic though and can now stress some menace which coupled with his already sarcastic and immature approach makes for a sinister and unpredictable interpretation of the character. Briggs & Arnopp have been extremely clever in their approach to UNIT Dominion, allowing for a slow build up before allowing the story to explode into life in the last two installments and saving both epic (the Doctor and the Master bestriding dimensions) and the intimate (Klein’s discovery of her old life) revelations for the conclusion. It means there is barely a moment to breathe in this final part as we swing from one exciting twist to another, one dramatic confrontation to the next, one gem of a scene to another. My one disappointment is the wrap up of the central storyline which comes down to a favourite device of Briggs – self sacrifice. Its not a bad get out clause I suppose (there have certainly been worse) but after four hours of storytelling I was expecting something a little more able. Pleasingly it leaves the best characters open for a return visit and practically goes out of its way to inform us that that will occur at some point in the near future. It’s a testament to the success of this box set that I am salivating at the thought of it: 9/10

Overall: Dramatic and involving, if a little overlong. UNIT Dominion came good in the end and provided some great surprises and top notch entertainment. After being a little wary, this has won me over completely: 8/10

1 comment:

David Pirtle said...

I do think the third part dragged a bit, but overall I agree that this was a very good story that makes me want to hear more from all the characters here, particularly Childs' Klein and MacQueen's Master. I only know the former from Colditz, though I'm sure I'll get to her other adventures eventually. Here she's almost completely a different character, but with enough touches of the old Nazi to make her more interesting than just a human stand-in for the Doctor at UNIT. Of Course MacQueen was just amazing throughout this. I cannot wait to hear more of him.