The Coup

Posted in Audio by - April 07, 2018
The Coup

Released November 2004

In late 2004 as the BBC was preparing to launch a revitalised and modern take on Doctor Who for a new generation, Big Finish and Doctor Who Magazine combined to offer readers a free audio double bill pairing ‘Silver Lining’ of the Bernice Summerfield line with a twenty-some minute prequel for Big Finish’s upcoming UNIT range that itself promised a modern take on one of the most cherished Doctor Who eras.

In ‘The Coup,’ UNIT is finished, preparing to cede its authority on strange goings-on to the newer Internal Counter Intelligence Service (ICIS), but a mysterious force is attempting to sabotage this peaceful transition. With such a short running time, there obviously isn’t much in the way of plot or subtlety, and so it’s not overly surprising that ICIS is not the peaceful force its members proclaim to be. As such, the story essentially follows the plight of reporter Francis Currie being captured at Tower Bridge and illegally restrained by ICIS while UNIT tries to protect General Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart who has come out of retirement to help oversee the transition. There is understandably only one significant set piece for each of these storylines, the Brigadier’s unfortunately being told rather than shown to allow the story to fit into its allotted running time, but the Silurians make a most welcome- if ultimately far too brief- returning presence that suggests that this upcoming range will not be afraid to look to its past to tread forward.

Nicholas Courtney is, as always, spectacular as his beloved now-General Lethbridge-Stewart, and he is easily able to evoke the weary but commanding presence of a man who has seen and been through so much but has been unable to tell anyone while internalizing the stress and emotional ramifications of decisions made and opportunities both taken and lost. Courtney’s voice is ageless and still encapsulates everything that made his character such a fan favourite so long ago while also taking into the account the many decades of service this honourable man has furtively committed to his country and planet. It’s perhaps logical, then, that no other characters really establish themselves as engaging or particularly deep entities, but the inclusion of Siri O’Neal’s Colonel Emily Chaudhry does hint at the direction this range will be taking without Nicholas Courtney at the helm in the long run.

Understanding that ‘The Coup’ is meant to solely be a complimentary bonus offer to revisit a beloved character as his cherished organisation comes surreptitiously under siege is crucial to enjoying it as those looking for a deep and impactful story featuring the return of Lethbridge-Stewart and the return of UNIT’s glory days will be sorely disappointed. And although ‘The Coup’ isn’t necessarily intriguing enough to demand that listeners continue with UNIT’s new adventures, it confidently bridges the contrasting classic and modern sensibilities just before the new television series launched with the same aspirations, even adding in what appears to be a first contact situation with a famed London landmark the focal point.

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