Since October 2013 I have been reviewing Big Finish audios for www.planetmondas.com - and now all my reviews are collected here, please take your time to have a read.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016
UNIT - SILENCED
“You should kill us all on sight” – that was the instruction from The Silence spliced in to the Moon Landing footage by the 11th Doctor way way back in 1969. And it looks like humanity have been obliging and slowly over the last four and a bit decades The Silence have been bumped off by humanity, and humanity don’t even remember doing it.
For anyone coming in to the story late, this is the third new series UNIT box set by Big Finish, and it is a little bit different – more cerebral with less emphasis on action (even though it is action packed) and as per the title it features New Who villains – The SIlence.
Now then The Silence have a singular ability – you can see them when you are looking at them, but once you turn away you forget you have ever seen them, making it very difficult to combat them – an enemy which you cannot even remember seeing or interacting with, a villain fighting back agains a subliminal message that has been slowly killing them off, you can almost sympathise with them. Almost as their plan for revenge is convoluted and despicable.
The Britain in this UNIT is frighteningly familiar – a populist right wing buffoon enthuses the masses with rhetoric on immigration and making Britain “great” again is riding high in the polls despite being inept, an embattled Prime Minister tries to hold her Government together against growing calls for a no confidence vote. And in the background are The Silence, plotting, scheming, manipulating and planning their revenge…..
As I said earlier this box set is a departure from the style of the previous two UNIT stories, the contemporary political setting gives this a sense of reality – we can all guess who right wing buffoon and pretender to the office of Prime Minister Kenneth LeBlanc (Nicholas Day) is based on – and the whole sense of the country sleepwalking into disaster is played out in an almost documentary style – this feels more like the Season 7 UNIT of the Pertwee era, all cloak and dagger and a little sinister rather than the UNIT of the new series and gives the new team more depth and the characters more time to breathe. The slower pace really benefits the character of Sam Bishop (Warren Brown) who is given a much more prevalent role in the proceedings.
As is the tradition, the set is one story split in to four parts:
House of Silents
With Colonel Shindi (Ramon Tikaram) back on active duty and given the job of surveillance of one Miss Faversham (Joanna Wake) a blind, elderley philanthropist who is happy to give the disposessed and the desperate a home – the thing is people visit her home but don’t come out, Colonel Shindi has seen this, but then he cant remember how many have gone in or come out. A tense and at times frustrating (not in a plotting but in a character way) opening – I was literally shouting at the cast to look out for Silents – but they didn’t hear me, and then they didn’t remember. Ingrid Oliver is excellent as Osgood – the scene where she explores the attic in Miss Faversham’s house and encounters her lodgers is as tense as it gets. A very good start to a very different UNIT box set.
2. Square One
How do you combat an enemy that you cannot remember? How do you cope when a member of your team suddenly and without warning defects to help a right wing demagogue? How do you put together the holes in the narrative to make sense of what is going on? This is the dilemma facing Kate (Jemma Redgrave), Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) and Sam (Warren Brown) when Josh Carter’s (James Joyce) politics take a turn to the right and all the threads of the investigation that nobody remembers are reinvestigated.
Square One is an apt title as for the characters this is the first time that they have encountered and investigated the Silence and their plan – and what a very clever plan it is, in fact to quote Blackadder you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel – their plan is. No, I have forgotten…….
3. Silent Majority
The Prime Minister has resigned, Kenneth LeBlanc is riding high in the polls and is on the verge of winning an unprecedented majority in Parliament. But why is this buffoon so popular, surely if a malevolent alien force was manipulating the electorate they would remember about it? The Silence plan is incredibly complex and has been a very very long game and their aim is to try to manipulate events to create a phenomenon seen by as many people as the Moon Landings. In the age of social media and viral videos the Silence have upped their game and are using every trick in their devious playbook to achieve their aims – we were told by The Doctor to kill them on sight, how far will they go to counteract that message? A tense political thriller all leading up to the count at the constituency that LeBlanc is standing in, all the pieces are in place and a soon forgotten victory is about to be achieved.
4. In Memory Alone
This is an odd episode, very odd – it somehow doesn’t feel part of the main story, and to begin with it feels disjointed and an afterthought. As if Big Finish would let that happen. This is a coda to the Silence plan – their final revenge for the quiet war that the Doctor has inflicted on them through humanity. They plan to leave humanity powerless and divided and unable to ever harm them again.
A brave move for Big Finish to go away from the tried and tested UNIT formula and go for a completely different take on things. The oddly disjointed feel of the set and paranoid tone works because of the enemy and the methods that they use – when you cant even trust your own memories how can you trust yourself, your friends & your colleagues? Disjointed I think is an apt word for this set – part alien revenge, part political thriller, part cautionary tale about populism and part sequel and clearing up of a mess left by The Doctor UNIT – Silenced dares to be different, to stand out from convention and to try something a little different – and while its sometimes frustrating it is always rewarding and the build ups pay off, the victory really does feel earned by the characters as they have all in their different ways suffered during the series of events. Silence will fall and UNIT – Silenced is awarded a none too quiet 8/10.