Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 6/9/17 8:35 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
In the closing story of the first run of UNIT: The New Series, a Silurian invasion stands on the edge of Great Britain. Kate Stewart is trapped, and the situation seems hopeless. The situation calls for UNIT's old guard to come forward and do their duty once more. But with a situation as hopeless as this, is there anything that can be done? United ends UNIT: Assembled on a high note, with a solid story of an invasion from within, which shows off the old and new guard of UNIT in a high stakes adventure. The ending, contrary to some of Fitton's recent work with the UNIT series, is a strong bit of writing by Fitton, serving to end the set on a solid note, leaving the future open for more stories.
UNIT is back in action, and the set is led by Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart. I've talked about her a bit in my previous reviews, but Redgrave is delightful as Kate here, especially in the finale, as she takes command of the situation at the end of the story. She's delightful in the role as the head of UNIT, serving to coordinate everything. However, once again the real star of this set is Katy Manning as Jo Jones. Once again, she takes on the role of Doctor surrogate in this story, and is just such a delight in the role. I loved her interactions with Osgood in the middle of the story. I particularly liked her line to Benton saying that as she was assisting the scientific advisor, he could go fetch some tea. It was a nice little reference, and a fun little moment of power for Jo. Also of note from the main cast is Neve McIntosh as Kalana, the lieutenant to Jastrok (Richard Hope). McIntosh gives a delightfully evil performance here; both of McIntosh's appearances with Big Finish have been as villains, and while I liked her more in the War Doctor story The Shadow Vortex, she's still delightful here. It's like the fun, evil version of Madame Vastra, and it's a delight to hear.
The rest of UNIT also makes a return here, with James Joyce finally making a more full appearance as Josh Carter. Joyce does a solid job here, acting well alongside Richard Franklin in the confrontation at Westminster Abbey with the somewhat over-the-top Richard Hope as Jastrok. Franklin has a smaller role in this story which, given his history with UNIT, makes some sort of sense that he would stay behind. Meanwhile, Ingrid Oliver and John Levene get a chance to share the screen as Osgood and Benton, and have a fun chemistry. Rounding out the guest cast is the criminally underused Sam Bishop, who delights in his scene confronting Kalana towards the end of the set.
Matt Fitton's script for United was a surprisingly excellent ending. His track record with the endings of scripts, and hell, even when he's forced into writing something, as I said in my review for Call to Arms, isn't the best. Yet his work here is a strong ending to the series, and one of his best endings yet. I particularly liked how he gave time for the script to breathe; normally Fitton introduces several last minute concepts to the arc, with various twists and turns. But here, he keeps the plot relatively simple; Jastrok wants to enslave humanity with the fear devices, and has Kalana go and take a nuclear warhead hostage as bait. The one twist he does introduce works so well because Katy Manning is utterly brilliant. Fitton's script was just a solid affair throughout though. I liked the gallows humor throughout the story, as the UNIT people slowly come to terms with the fact that humanity might lose this fight, but I liked the more hopeful, firebrand messages of the story, and the "stiff upper lip" attitude of the old guard of UNIT throughout.
Fitton did a great job meshing the personalities of the old and new guards of UNIT, pairing people off in smart ways (Carter and Yates, two Captains; Osgood and Benton, two steadfast leaders). But the biggest triumph was in the writing of Jo throughout the story. Fitton gives Jo lots of depth here; Jo so clearly has grown as a person, and she's now someone more like Liz Shaw, who can understand the Doctor, but she still has that same drive, that same moral of what's right and wrong that sets her apart from the other UNIT members. She has that passion to see that the world changes for the better, even if that means going out on your own to parlay with an insane dictator, hell bent on killing your species. It's a delight to hear, as Jo is one of my favorite companions to the Doctor from the show's entire 54 year history, so I love it when a story does an amazing job with her.
The final thing I'd like to note before my closing comments is the cover art by Tom Webster. Webster has done lots of work for the company, and I quite like the work he did here, for the most part. I really only have two complaints, one of which I'm not even counting, because it's the usage of the Classic Sea Devils sticks out like a sore thumb, but I tend to doubt the BBC would give Big Finish free reign to redesign them. My one criticism is that on the box set cover, John Levene and Richard Franklin stick out like a sore thumb as a bad photoshop. It looks like the heads of the two were simply placed on random bodies in MS Paint or something. Otherwise though, the covers are generally excellent. I particularly liked the covers for the final two stories, which felt sharp and crisp (and hey, who doesn't love to see someone riding a dinosaur).
Overall, United was a strong ending to a strong box set. It had a great guest cast, especially with Jemma Redgrave and Katy Manning as Kate Stewart and Jo Jones. While the villain was a little too over-the-top for my liking at times, I still enjoy the plot of the story, as Fitton didn't apply his usual extra twists in the story, keeping it relatively simple instead. All that came together to make a fitting end to the box set itself, and a strong ending for the original run of UNIT box sets.