Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 6/9/17 8:33 pm
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In the second part of UNIT: Assembled, Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), needing someone who can do an ecological survey on a new tidal power generator, calls in old UNIT assistant Jo Jones (Katy Manning) to oversee the survey. Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), fawning over Jo, agrees to join the survey, hoping to find out more about the Doctor. But an ancient race is stirring beneath the waves, and they may cause a headache for Jo Jones and UNIT. Tidal Wave was a delightful romp that featured one of the best performances by Katy Manning across all of Big Finish. Katy was delightful, and the guest cast, including Nicholas Briggs as the Sea Devils, was delightful in this story. Guy Adams' script was an excellent tale too, blending together humor and tragedy effortlessly, all while managing to do a great deal of service to the character of Jo Jones.
Katy Manning is back as Jo Jones, formerly known as Jo Grant, companion to the Doctor. Manning's character here is closer to the character she was in the Sarah Jane Adventures, rather than the character she was in Doctor Who proper, and that is a delight to hear. Manning brings a sort of fire to the role here that's sometimes absent from her performances in the Third Doctor stories with Big Finish; Jo Jones is a woman who's been through life and has grown and matured as a person, and in the process, has become someone the Doctor, who was always proud of her, would be prouder still. Manning relishes the chance to play a looser Jo here, taking on some distinctly Doctor-esque qualities (the penchant for telling stories that could be truths or lies, the command of the room, and the delightful way she engages with UNIT and the Sea Devils during the negotiations. Manning is a tour de force throughout this story. Joining Manning is Nicholas Briggs, Big Finish executive producer/actor/writer/director/composer/sound designer extraordinaire, as the Sea Devils. While the design of the Sea Devils is still charmingly B-movie, Briggs gives a surprisingly delicate performance here as the leader of the Sea Devils. The effects put on his voice are lighter, so you can distinctly tell they are related to humans, and his performance has a shocking subtlety for a man who normally screams "EXTERMINATE" in most stories.
Guy Adams' script was another highlight of this story. As the writer of my favorite Big Finish Third Doctor story (The Transcendence of Ephros), Adams does an extremely strong job playing with the elements that made up the Third Doctor's era. His script here bounces between fun, hilarious, tragic, and beautiful at times. The opening scene was brilliantly written, as it gave Manning and Redgrave a chance to show off their comedic skills, and it was really well characterized for Jo (her being extremely happy that her plea had been boosted by UNIT made me legitimately happy as well). His characterization of Jo Jones was a delight too; he could've kept what a lazier writer might have done, and made Jo an older version of the character she was back in the 1970s, but he instead updated her, and gave her more of a fire in her belly, building upon what Russell T. Davies did in the Sarah Jane Adventures. This writing leads to one of the finest scenes for Katy Manning as she confronts the Sea Devils and talks them down from their desire to destroy everything. Manning channels Pertwee in this scene, to great effect, and that's all down to Guy Adams' brilliant idea to have Jo take the lead in this story, rather than Kate.
I'd like to take a moment to mention the excellent score by Howard Carter, who wrote a lovely bit of music for this entire box set. Carter has done lots of work for Big Finish, including all the work for the previous three UNIT sets, and his work continues to be strong. I've always liked his faux-patriotic, bombastic scores for the UNIT sets, and his work on this set works really well. The music quiets down at tension filled times, and swells during Jo's confrontation with the Sea Devils, adding to the story and enhancing pieces of it for the listeners.
Overall, Tidal Wave was an excellent story. Featuring a fantastic performance by Katy Manning as Jo Jones, and another great performance by Nicholas Briggs, alongside a strong guest cast, this release ends up being one of the best acted stories from the UNIT series yet. Mixed with an excellent script by Guy Adams, which was, at times, hilarious, and at other times, beautiful, especially in the confrontation between Jo and the Sea Devils, this story stands out as one of the finest works done this year by Big Finish. It was absolutely delightful to listen to, and I can't wait to hear what's next.