Released November 2016
The Silents and their fascinating history as genetically-engineered confessional priests with rogue elements within their ranks are unquestionably some of the strongest highlights of the modern televised era of Doctor Who. With a frighteningly iconic appearance and the chilling abilities to subliminally implant ideas while they themselves are instantly forgotten the moment they are out of sight, the Silence made an instant impact and presented the Doctor with one of his most unique and difficult challenges yet when introduced in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ and ‘The Day of the Moon.’ UNIT: Silenced wisely does not shy away from the fallout of those episodes, instead picking up the tale of the remaining Silents who have been forced into hiding after accidentally commanding their own deaths whenever seen.
UNIT: Silenced is structured a bit differently than most of box sets in Big Finish’s many ranges, neither telling four disparate tales nor four tightly-intertwined tales leading directly into each other. Instead, there is a definite sense of time passing throughout this release, lending credibility to just how incredibly difficult fighting a foe that can’t be remembered is while also highlighting the burgeoning strength of the Silents as their increasingly complex and overt plans are put into motion to ensure their safety and achieve their revenge. There’s something rather fitting about UNIT having to clean up the loose ends of the Doctor’s actions, he ironically being a man of the present who doesn’t always look at long-term consequences, and this puts a very human face on a very nonhuman problem as the very world about its members and the general populace is called into question time and time again.
‘House of Silents’ starts off on a rather smaller scale than what is to follow, wasting no time in reintroducing the Silents who are amassing their numbers and preparing to once more enter the world through the use of a visually-impaired philanthropist. With the help of an anonymous hacker continuing to point them in the right direction, UNIT soon finds itself at the very centre of the Silence movement, and seeing both Osgood and Kate Stewart on unsteady ground as their memories fail them is truly unsettling. The story opens with Kate honing her firearms skills, a nice nod to continuity in the television series as military becomes more entwined with science, and that will assuredly play bigger dividends in the remaining stories, especially as her resolute will to refrain from killing the Silents on the spot in order to negotiate ultimately falls flat while the truly ruthless nature of the foes is revealed.
‘Square One’ shifts the focus to politics as a key part of the Silents’ plan is slowly unveiled. Though the script was written some time before this set saw release, before the Electoral College election of Donald Trump but still at a time when strictly atypical non-politicians were beginning to gain prominence across the globe, ‘Square One’ taps into the public consciousness deftly as the Silents use their subliminal abilities to guide popular opinion and force an election for Prime Minister through messages inserted in viral videos. With Sam back in action to provide a novel viewpoint without ever confronting the Silence and Josh seemingly falling victim to the viral campaign, ‘Square One’ juggles several storylines easily as the investigation continues and Kenneth LeBlanc and his feeble political stance seem headed to landslide victory.
‘Silent Majority’ finally sees UNIT make headway after having to return to square one countless times before. The use of handwritten notes and drawings had provided irrefutable proof whenever needed of the foe they continue to fight, but the advent of a hologram of a Silent in order to keep the image in sight and to implant messages of their own completely changes the balance of power in UNIT’s favour, especially as Josh becomes increasingly important to LeBlanc’s campaign. Of course, nothing is as it seems, and though the Silents are used quite sparingly here, each of their brief appearances is used to maximum effect to hint at a much greater plan than simply putting a pawn in power. Their choice of a buffoon that the media flocks to is very purposeful, and they are perfectly aware that their desire to wipe away the pervasiveness of the moon landing video and its ingrained message will take something truly massive. While UNIT and some quick thinking do ultimately help to save the day, the final scenes of ‘Silent Majority’ venture into far darker and grittier territory than Doctor Who and its spin-offs usually tread, but the tension and payoff are spectacular.
‘In Memory Alone,’ the conclusion of UNIT: Silenced, takes a completely different path than the preceding stories, finding Sam and Osgood aboard a space station for a routine mission but soon entwined in an alien conspiracy years in the making as the Silents’ final plan for humanity becomes known. When Sam and Osgood find the rest of the space station crew murdered and another mysterious presence on board as another alien ship approaches, ‘In Memory Alone’ certainly channels the science fiction aspects of the Silence menace, ratcheting up the atmosphere and tension in a wholly new fashion. Yet it’s events back on Earth that keep this tory firmly grounded in reality as Kate takes charge and tries to assuage the rising tensions of global powers and leaders, again breaking through implanted suggestions to broker an uneasy peace in uncertain times. ‘In Memory Alone’ has an incredible amount to get through, and though some of the developments do seem somewhat rushed, the ultimate result is incredibly satisfying as sacrifices are made to beat the Silents at their own grandiose scheme.
UNIT: Silenced is very nearly a perfect set of four stories that highlights one of the most unique and dangerous foes of the Doctor Who universe. Its only real shortcoming stems from the very thing that makes the Silence so great, meaning that there are by necessity a lot of repetitious moments as events are experienced, forgotten, and re-experienced again to underscore the memory-altering effects of the foe. At the same time, once the Silence again become a global threat, there’s only one real way to circumvent their threat, and so some of the resolutions tread common ground as well. Nonetheless, Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver again headline a stellar cast that firmly entrenches the new UNIT range as one of Big Finish’s best.