The Longest Night

Posted in Audio by - April 09, 2018
The Longest Night

Released March 2005

After surviving their vampiric seaside ordeal, Colonels Robert Dalton and Emily Chaudhry head to the pub to enjoy a few pints. After surviving a day of answering telephone calls and hoping for action, Lieutenant Will Hoffman heads to a local nightclub to relax and unwind. After surviving another day of commonplace work, the general English population heads home to settle down and eat dinner. After a bomb fatally explodes in central London, nothing will ever be the same.

It’s clear that Big Finish has an overreaching narrative in mind for this UNIT series with ICIS and Winnington, but using different writers and directors for each release has resulted in wildly distinct tones with somewhat limited but quite inconsistent characterisation for both Colonels anchoring events, and that unfortunate combination continues in ‘The Longest Night.’ The death of Hoffman in a seeming terrorist attack should be a monumental and cataclysmic event for UNIT’s members, but although he has appeared in both preceding serials, he’s been rather deprived of development overall, meaning that his death is ultimately little more important to the audience than anyone else’s except for the fact that the story says it’s more important. Unfortunately, the action unfolding in real-time as a series of attacks buckles London means that he is not afforded any real mourning here even as the plot as a whole greatly benefits. Likewise, Chaudhry is a long-time UNIT member assumedly familiar with all sorts of extraterrestrial and paranormal occurrences, but though she was perfectly willing to accept the notion of a vampire from Kosovo in the previous story, she quite steadfastly dismisses the possibility of mind control as a factor in the attack as a paranoid delusion. Siri O’Neal fully commits to the material, and her chemistry with Nicholas Deal is assuredly coming along as the two Colonels are afforded a scene without tension and action to explore the more personable sides of each, but it’s still a bit difficult at this time to fully accept that these two are the seasoned professionals that exemplify UNIT’s best.

Still, ‘The Longest Night’ features some of the strongest ideas of this audio range yet, and even the concept of having these events follow on directly from those in ‘Snake Head’ wonderfully suggests that a UNIT member’s job is never really done. Equally, the prospect of people dressing in the guise of police officers to gain the explosion’s survivors’ trust in order to then gun them down is frighteningly appalling and instantly pits UNIT against a force far more real and tangibly dangerous threat than any they have yet encountered. Chaudhry is smart enough to realise that the individuals behind the attacks fueled at heightening racial tensions across the United Kingdom are using the televised news broadcasts to stoke the simmering anger present in everyone, and this very real take on society and how easily it can be manipulated to create unjustified victims of hatred is superb. The execution is somewhat tempered, however, by the overly explicit comparison to September 11th, several unneeded racial and religious stereotypes, and the telegraphed signals of brainwashing that take away some of the underlying tension that could otherwise result.

Despite its flaws, ‘The Longest Night’ is still tonally a step in the right direction for this fledgling UNIT series as the darker recesses of civilisation and individuals continue to manifest and develop. The lack of steady characterisation and tone is still a notable misstep, but the real-time drama and very tangible danger provide the most consequential and tense action yet, and the series has begun to provide answers to lingering questions and to establish its spot in the overall Doctor Who continuity as devastation hits all too close to home.

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