Monday, 24 December 2012

UNIT Dominion Part Three written by Nicholas Briggs & Jason Arnopp and directed by Nicholas Briggs

The Real McCoy: ‘She’s fuming about it. In fact I’m surprised she hasn’t physically attacked you already!’ Finally the 7th Doctor gets some action and its long past time. Its almost like exposure to the superior half of the narrative immediately ups McCoy’s game and suddenly he is giving the sort of quietly menacing performance that he has received plaudits for in the past couple of years on audio. He’s a sly little devil, well aware that the other Doctor has dropped enough clues as to the falsehood of his claims to be a future incarnation but doesn’t let on to any of his friends to give the game away. Upon hearing the name Klein, the Doctor instantly panics. Things are about to get really interesting. She doesn’t trust him even more than the other Doctor which makes for an interesting parallel especially when we discover who his later ego really is. He vetoes Raine or the other Doctor from telling Klein about her alternative life (suddenly I’m writing ‘other’, ‘future’ or ‘alternative’ in every other sentence because of the question of their identity) because it will shatter the illusion and she might go back to the way she was. I’m not sure what right he has to take her real life away from her (although technically if she claimed her real life she shouldn’t exist anymore because her timeline is now defunct) but it is true that he managed to utilise all her strengths and cut away her more extreme personality traits. I’m still on the fence that he should be happy indulging in such an operation on her identity though. Scenes of the 7th Doctor working with the military and the noise of telephones ringing and paper spitting from typewriters conjures up Remembrance of the Daleks in an instant and I can only imagine that this was deliberate. It sure made me smile.

Art Thief: Despite Beth Chalmers undoubtable…well charms, Raine is still the least interesting thing about this set. Now she gets a larger share of the action she has the opportunity to prove that there is more to her than the two traits that have been flashing above her head with a neon sign since she signed up with the Doctor: ‘posh’ and ‘thief.’ Unfortunately she fails. What is clear is that teaming her up with Alex McQueen provokes far more interest than her interaction with McCoy simply because its fresh and sparky (he likes her because she cuts to the chase). Raine tries flirting with Pete but he’s quick to inform her that he is married and with a baby on the way.

The Other Doctor: I’m not going to beat around the bush. Alex McQueen has proven to be a far more effective Doctor than McCoy in this set and whilst the reveal of his true identity is gloriously climactic (you’ll literally be tapping your feet waiting for somebody to say the name) I was disappointed that this meant we wouldn’t get to see more of this most intriguing of possible future incarnations. After my initial reservations McQueen has completely seduced me and I can only prey that Big Finish can entice him back at some point. Playing either the Doctor or the Master, he is a 100% win for Big Finish.

Nazi Scientist: When did Klein become our identification figure? That is some development when you think that the whole purpose of the Klein trilogy was to expose the clash of ideologies between the Nazi scientist and the Doctor. Finally we have somebody condemning the 7th Doctor’s manipulative approach to time travel who is worthy of the role. Klein is more than a match for the Doctor (as proven in her own trilogy of adventures) in the intelligence stakes and builds an impressive argument against that he cannot fault. He tries to explain that he was never there to stalk her but to help her but how anybody can justify initiating the complete divergence of somebody’s life as ‘helping’ is an interesting case for study. Just try and make excuses. Tracey Childs continues to impress and I’m sure it cannot be long before Big Finish takes the hint and gives her her own series. I especially like how she is savvy to the faults in the plotting of this box set too, exasperated because all they seem to be doing is lurching from one crisis to another! Isn’t she just wonderful? She met the Brigadier briefly but it was enough for him to make an impression her as he always does. When faced with two Doctors and a Node that could possibly save the day or possibly aid them in their escape Klein has more than enough gumption to take them both on. I think people would pay good money to have this women command them in this sort of manner but with an entirely different emphasis. In the middle of the latest catastrophe Klein does admit that ‘our’ Doctor might be their only chance. She’s angry with him but she’s practical too and wont punish the human race to satisfy her need for answers. 

Its Always the Innocents That Suffer: Are Pete’s family going to play a part in this story or do they just keep turning up to remind us of the human cost involved in working for UNIT. I’m finding the cuts to irrelevant characters like this more than a little jarring now especially since Pete seems to be a little sidelined in this part of the story. Raine suggests that Pete is quite sensitive underneath all of his burly soldier persona…but to be honest all we’ve seen is the sensitive side. I have yet to see even a smidgeon of butchness.

Standout Performance: I hate to keep highlighting the same actors to the detriment of the rest of the cast but once again this belongs solely to Alex McQueen (who slips from mercurial Doctor to cunning as a fox Master in the blink of an eye) and Tracey Childs (who continues to mine new depths and startles as Klein).

Great Ideas: The Doctor is meeting his future self for the second time, whereas for his alter ego they have never clapped eyes on each other before. Germany, Tokyo, Vegas…finally UNIT adventures are being told on the international scale that is denied even to the limited budget of the New Series. We often heard about events taking place elsewhere in the world but now we have a cast large enough to dispatch agents to the four corners of the Earth and place this story on a truly global footing. The writers really concentrate on the feeling of everybody working across the globe to defeat this latest menace effectively giving this set the epic scale that it is aiming for. I have seen many a Big Finish adventure strive to be epic (Dark Eyes is one example) by striding so many locations to blind the audience into thinking that there is a cohesive narrative tying it all together. But this time they’ve really struck gold, setting up a planet wide operation with memorable characters at each post. I really like the assertion that the aliens that are escaping their various dimensions aren’t simply hostile but scared because that makes them far more dangerous. I’m surprised that Cardiff let them go ahead with the idea of evil cubes appearing around the world but since they did and I liked the idea in The Power of Three I also really like its (very different) application here. Because we have already seen this concept realised on screen you don’t have to work to hard to imagine how ambitious the effects would be. Having all the Cubes come together to form a gigantic Cube is especially novel and would an intimidating sight on screen. The Nexus are a gestalt entity, often having internal dispute but sharing the same goals and they are quite fond of interdimensional travel. Isn’t wonderful that a race that has initially been portrayed as a threat (the Sky Heads) are now allies and essential in a crisis?

Audio Landscape: Wind whipping as they ride the Sky Heads, activating the Node, rain falling, alarms sounding, combat scenes between the Cubes and the UNIT soldiers, the screeching Nexus, typing, telephones ringing, explosions,

Musical Cues: The music really comes into its own in the third quarter of the story, Martin Johnson has the chance to capitalise on the dramatic momentum of the story and drag us along with it.

Isn’t it Odd: The only real downside to the third installment of UNIT Dominion is that the threat that takes place is pretty much another take on the ones from the first and second parts. UNIT’s reactions are starting to become a little predictable which is a shame because seeing them dealing with the various crisis’ were the highlights of the first half of the box set. Also the silly voices for the aliens are all starting to feel a bit similar. I understand that they are trying to make them all sound distinctive by modulating them in various ways but I would like at least one voice providing purely by an actor with no treatment. Having Pete (‘I have a baby on the way’) and Raine (‘never chatted to a posh girl, have you?’) in the same scene together only serves to highlight how little substance there is to both characters as they re-iterate their only character beats.

Standout Scene: It would have to be the surprise that is left until the climax. Not because it is entirely unexpected (there have been several whopping clues) but because it is packaged so beautifully and dropped just as the plot is really gathering momentum. For the first time since this set began I was desperate to listen to the next installment and this is a great point to have that feeling, on the home stretch.

Result: Suddenly UNIT Dominion switches to a more intimate footing and we are dealing with matters of identity (the future Doctor and Klein) and as a result the story gains a sudden, sharp focus. What this series gets so right that some of the other more recent box sets failed to grasp was that you have to save some impressive revelations for the latter half of the story (this is something that let Epoch, Gallifrey IV and Dark Eyes down) and it has saved a real humdinger for last scene of this installment that will leave you eager to start the next. Paradoxically this is also the most epic part of the story as well telling an exciting alien attack on an impressively diverse geographical scale. Finally Sylvester McCoy gets a decent sized role in the story and he certainly ups his game when performing against the incomparable Tracey Childs and Alex McQueen who both get their most exciting material yet. I questioned whether this box set would work at the beginning with its shopping list of elements and weight of clichés but Briggs & Arnopp have managed to juggle up the former and subvert the latter and create an invigorating atmosphere all of their own. If this is the best section of the story it at least proves that there was some real mileage in the idea: 8/10

No comments: