Monday, 20 October 2014

The Worlds of Doctor Who: The Reesinger Process written by Justin Richards and directed by Ken Bentley & Lisa Bowerman

What's it about: London, 1964, and the repercussions of Jago and Litefoot’s adventure are dealt with by Sir Toby Kinsella and his crack team of specialists at Counter-Measures. What is the Reesinger Process – and who is behind it?

Countermeasures: It is clear immediately that the three actors that played Gilmore, Rachel and Alison in Remembrance of the Daleks have developed a good rapport over the past three seasons. Although both Simon Williams and Pamela Salem do sound noticeably older (unavoidably so since it is astonishing to think that Remembrance aired 26 years ago) they still embody the parts that Ben Aaronovitch wrote for them and Karen Gledhill sounds like she has just stepped through time. I think Rachel would have made a superb companion for the seventh Doctor, she was an instantly vivid character played by a great actress and 'Chunky' Gilmore served as a Brigadier before the Brig's time, embodying all those characteristics that we adored about Lethbridge Stewart (his earnestness, the twinkle in the eye, his shoot first and think later policy). Again Alison was the odd one out, not really sketched in enough to make an impact but that is something the audios have a lot of time to do. Gilmore sees himself as something of a civil servant these days, much to his chargin. I love the idea that the Countermeasures team investigate the Reesinger Organisation from separate avenues and meet up unexpectedly once they are there. It proves that they are all independently capable and able to surprise one another too. Alison comments that it wasn't even a date and Gilmore stood her up - do these two have some kind of history? Rachel manages to cobble together a device that will counteract Rees' brainwashing, serving as the teams scientific advisor just as the Doctor was to UNIT in the 70s.

Great Ideas: The budget of the Ministry of Defence pays for the Countermeasures team to continue their investigations but there are questions being asked in very high places as to whether it is necessary expenditure. Sir Toby Kinsella is directly responsible for the team, a conduit between them and the government. Rees is up to his old tricks, convincing high ranking civil servants or those in the military in the 1960s to commit despicable acts: pushing people off trains, firing blind in a post office, grinding up sleeping pills and adding them to a night time tipple. Colonel Swinton attacked three officers and attempted to commit suicide, a gun to the head. The Reesinger Course is specifically designed to promote contingency character building. The clever use of Rees' name and his raison detre from the previous story tells you everything you need to know about just how he is enhancing their character on this course. It's just a matter of a waiting game to see how long it takes the Countermeasures team to figure out what his behavioural manipulation entails. It's unusual to be this far ahead of the heroes but it works in this respect especially when it is a race against time to prevent the loss of any more unnecessary deaths. When the victims of the Reesinger conditioning succumb and vacant their position (a polite way of saying kill themselves) there always seems to be somebody ready to take their place. And since they are all in vertiginous positions that puts whoever is controlling these replacements in a position of power. Rees has been inside Miss Wilton's mind, whispering in her ear, setting this whole operation up. His body is still lying at the bottom of the well, just bones. After he has been driven out of her mind, the music box still lingers and Ding Dong Bell is hummed in the final scene...Rees' presence still lingers on.

Audio Landscape: Big Ben chiming, cars chugging past in London, a scream, a gunshot, a train screaming along the tracks towards a screaming passenger, gunshots in a post office, the chinkling of china, throwing punches, marching soldiers, waters flowing, Ian smashing equipment, alarms sounding, walls crumbling.

Musical Cues: I rather like the theme tune for this series, as it sounds like a compromise between the melodramatic themes from 60s spy series and the more stylish expectations of shows these days. The rattlesnake motif at the end was particularly nice, as was the flute which added an air of mystery. I enjoyed the percussive soundtrack that guided the story along, it is an unusual musical style that is unique to this series. Ding Dong Bell is used to sinister effect again, too.

Isn't it Odd: About two thirds into the story we start entering into Star Trek Voyager territory, where technobabble starts to overwhelm the story. Unfortunately having Rachel spouting off a lot of scientific babble about brain waves isn't the best use of her character. She's smart but as an audience all we need to know is that Rees can brainwash people without going in to all of the specifics. The technical jargon does rather stall the story.

Standout Scene: Another strong climax where loyalties are tested. This time Rachel has to decide whether to use the machine to wipe out Rees' influence over Miss Wilton and potentially destroy the minds of her two friends in the process.

Result: 'If I can't have her...neither can you!' Now here is a series that I am relatively new to and I certainly haven't written any reviews of the range as of yet. Both Countermeasures and Survivors have been filed under 'Must Listen to when Big Finish's Doctor Who output becomes less prolific and I have the time.' I'm not a huge fan of the 60s Spy genre so it didn't draw me in like Jago & Litefoot did (I'm a sucker for Victorian chillers) but after exposure to Countermeasures in The Assassin Games and now The Reesinger Process it is clear that there is much more to this series than a rehash of shows like Adam Adamant, The Saint and The Man From UNCLE. For a start you have a superb ensemble cast who have gelled together very nicely, which helps the stories progress smoothly but there is also the added element that the Countermeasures team is constantly trying to prove themselves and that their funding could be cut at any minute. It's a team desperate to make an impression, break the rules and get results that satisfies themselves and those big wigs in the government who make the important decisions. There's a real world grit to this series that is absent in the heightened reality of Jago & Litefoot (I couldn't imagine an encounter between the Countermeasures team and the Scorchies for example) and it produces quite dour stories as a result. However if you are up for something moody and granular than you needn't look anywhere else. The Reesinger Process is a smart little story for the most part, one that takes the elements set up in the opening story and utilises them in an ingenious way. Rees is quite the machiavellian plotter and has had time to bed his plans, smuggling away in the mind of an innocent, manipulating certain parties and murdering his way into power. It falls apart a little in the last third when what appears to be a much more epic story has quite an intimate climax, concentrating far more on Rees' desire for to find his remains rather than the grand scheme for overthrowing the government which was where I thought this was heading. Still it is skips by effortlessly for the most part and certainly does its job - Countermeasures has bumped up the list of series that I must listen to soon. I can't see how this is a series that lends itself to particularly diverse storytelling (but then that is a criticism I levelled at Jago & Litefoot when series one was announced and it has been able to push the boundaries of expectation in so many ways) but I look forward to finding out how it might achieve that. Onwards to the UNIT Vault, I think The Worlds of Doctor Who series has been a very smart move on Big Finish's part and has already proven more worthwhile than the multi Doctor arcs (Excelis, Drashani). Beyond the running storyline (which is gathering momentum) it offers exposure to these wonderful worlds that Big Finish has created: 7/10


jbcatz said...

I'd love to read your review of Assassination Game. A great story that balances the roles of the Doctor, Ace and the Counter-Measures team.

Anonymous said...

Joe, as someone who regularly reads and (mostly) agrees with your reviews, I would thoroughly recommend CM. I think all 3 series are very good indeed.

Adam Graham said...

I too was impressed by Counter Measures. After listening to this, I picked up the first two sets in BF's most recent sale