Sunday, 20 September 2015

Counter Measures Series 4

The Worlds of Doctor Who (as Big Finish call it) is a big diverse place including many spin off series – Counter Measures is one of these. Series 4 however is NOT a great jumping on point, so dear listener, I have some homework for you, go and watch Remembrance of the Daleks, listen to Counter Measures series 1, 2 and 3 and the main range audio The Assassination Games.
All done and up to date? Then I will continue.
Counter Measures is a spin off from the popular Remembrance of the Daleks TV story and sees Group Captain Gilmore (Simon Williams), Professor Rachel Jensen (Pamela Salem), Dr Alison Williams (Karen Gledhill) from the TV episodes team up with the decidedly amoral Sir Toby Kinsella (Hugh Ross) to investigate strange happenings – a sort of prototype UNIT, but with more cloak and dagger and not half as much family atmosphere!
This fourth series as I have previously said, is not for the faint-hearted, in fact if you were not familiar with the first three series it is fair to say that you would be completely lost – Counter Measures wants you heart and soul, not just for the odd story, and discussing the individual episodes would spoil the enjoyment for long time listeners and confuse newcomers, so I will talk about something that Counter Measures has by the tonne – it has atmosphere. If you close your eyes, you can just imagine Counter Measures as a 1960’s ITC filmed TV show, it is an incredible homage to the 1960’s, the incidental music, the pictures drawn with words, the Cold War cloak and dagger espionage feeling that runs through this series – and what a series it is. Beginning where season 3 left off, it hits the ground running in the first story “New Horizons”, slows down and gets its bearings in the second “The Keep”, ramps up the tension in the third “Rise and Shine” and then reaches a crescendo in the final part, “Clean Sweep”.
Without giving any spoilers away, the theme that runs through is mind control, identity, trust and conspiracy – and the ending of part four literally left me slack jawed – Big Finish have completely raised the bar with this release – the much used phrase (commonly attributed to P.T Barnum) “leave them wanting more” really does apply to this release as the cliffhanger to part four has left me chomping at the bit for Series 5.
The main cast all play their parts excellently and effortlessly, they are so believable, but if I had to pick a favourite it is Hugh Ross as Sir Toby, completely amoral a good man to have in your corner, but don’t turn your back on him – devious, calculating, manipulative and brilliant – Hugh Ross plays him with an oily charm, a truly multi faceted character. The thing about Counter Measures is its sense of realism, yes it deals with extra terrestrial threats, but it is the way that the characters treat each other, the way that each is willing raise the stakes to win at any cost, our heroes (maybe not Sir Toby…) seem a last bastion of decency in a world where honour and chivalry are being lost  to a new generations ambition – they are undoubtedly the same characters we met in Remembrance, but given real believable lives outside the job – I am so pleased with this as I believe that the bedrock of a good story is good characterisation.
So, a great box set, but a set to listen to as part of an ongoing series rather than as a stand alone – it really rewards long time fans (and if you are not a fan already then why not?) So, why not buy the whole lot and then catch up with Series 4??? Highly enjoyable 60’s homage this box set Measures up at 9/10.