UNIT Dating

Posted in Audio by - March 12, 2021
UNIT Dating

Released March 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following a trip to the far future, the Doctor decides to further test his repairing TARDIS’ capabilities by taking a trip into the past, hoping to pick up some spare parts from his former self at UNIT in the process in Roy Gill’s ‘UNIT Dating.’ However, just as a young soldier named Ron Winters meets a young lab assistant named Tony Clare in the 1970s, the couple’s memories mysteriously begin to fall apart in 2020.

Despite Ron and Tony being arguably the least-developed characters of the expanded cast starring in the Stranded saga to this point, David Shaw-Parker and Jeremy Clyde shared an immense chemistry that made their characters’ understated relationship entirely believable. Yet it’s here in a story spanning two time periods where that relationship is fully contextualized, fittingly tying into UNIT that is most closely associated with one of the Doctor’s past incarnations just as Andy and Tania are tied to Torchwood and the actions one of his future selves. Indeed, memories and the importance of time itself are paramount to this story, and the younger versions brought to life so capably by Oscar Batterham and Ewan Goddard quickly capture the spark that will fuel such an enduring relationship even as chaos continues to unfold on so many levels around them. This is a storyline that is intimate yet open and endearing, and the genuine emotions on display only further intensify the dramatic reaction Helen has to this relationship’s formation and continuation given her family’s own history in her native time when homosexuality was a crime.

Of course, the Doctor taking Andy along for the journey results in plenty of humorous and equally emotional moments, capped beautifully by Andy boldly telling the young Ron and Tony of their future in his own time. He’s hardly a natural at traversing time and personal histories, but his heart is always in the right place and he recovers from his initial foible to become a useful- if not integral- part of the Doctor’s plan to borrow from himself so long ago. Understandably, however, it’s the Brigadier who becomes another significant focal point back in the 1970s, and Jon Culshaw wonderfully captures the essence of Nicholas Courtney’s trademark bravado to almost single-handedly bring this beloved era to life once again. The time-traveling Ogron and the time loop at hand ultimately prove to be somewhat superfluous plot devices included simply to present obstacles and to progress the narrative, but the Brigadier always maintains an air of command and control, and his willingness to accept the Doctor and the situation for what they are reinforces the open-mindedness that this regimented military man always displayed. And with the oftentimes more compassionate and empathetic Eighth Doctor featuring, Paul McGann and Culshaw share an immense scene together in which the Doctor is finally able to show the Brigadier his true appreciation and to express sorrow about his failure to treat him more as a genuine friend during their time together. It’s easy to imagine these two fronting a new series of classic-era UNIT stories, but their brief time together here expertly reflects the characters’ long pasts together and the enduring fondness for that era that fans maintain.

‘UNIT Dating’ proves to be an incredible love letter to the classic and modern eras of Doctor Who alike, and the continued focus on the Baker Street characters and their enduring and expanding connections continues to be an engaging and enthralling narrative force. This may not be the first time this Doctor has featured with the Brigadier for Big Finish, but ‘UNIT Dating’ is unquestionably the strongest offering for that pairing and- even if it ends up not being wholly integral to the overall Stranded story- is a testament to the possibilities this series has at its fingertips.

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