Intelligence for War

Posted in Audio by - October 14, 2023
Intelligence for War

Released October 2023


Believing the Doctor is going on a fool’s errand when he decides to investigate a potential time slippage that seemingly brought a Nazi soldier to the Norfolk village of Huncleath, Liz Shaw joins UNIT’s scientific advisor in the seven-part ‘Intelligence for War’ by Eddie Robson. As a villager disappears amid concerns of a furtive weapons trade, however, the secretive military Operation Pinpoint has its eyes set on Liz and her past actions as well as just possibly UNIT’s remit and continued existence.

‘Intelligence for War’ is a story that flourishes because of the immense degree of uncertainty intrinsic to its plot, allowing both unique situations to develop and for character development and revelations to occur. What begins simply but strangely enough as a series of soldiers from recent wars appearing soon becomes entirely more engaging when a very personal element to these and future apparitions and experiences is revealed. Suddenly, no person or interaction can be taken as stated, and while the story makes it clear from the start when an external influence affecting perceptions is being implemented, the tremendous conflict that results when those affected believe everything to be true repeatedly amplifies the tension and drama. This is particularly true for Liz whom Colonel Matthews of Pinpoint believes has engaged in treason involving anti-war contacts from before her time with UNIT. Aside from revealing more about Liz’s time at Cambridge while forcing her to confront incredibly serious consequences for crimes she knows she did not commit, this setup allows Daisy Ashford a brilliant opportunity to showcase not only her range as an actor but also powerfully introspective and even frightened elements of Liz’s character that are not often seen.

Of course, Liz is wise enough to eventually realize that all is not as it seems even if she can’t quite comprehend the scope of the operation around her, but just how dramatically Pinpoint is able to alter the normally assured demeanour of Liz in such short order proves the strength and capabilities that Pinpoint possesses. Interestingly, though, Matthews is seen to be leading an operation that does not quite fully understand the capabilities it possesses, and James Howard is suitably convincing as an ambitious and self-serving man looking to increase his own power. Even the career soldier Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is expendable in Matthews’s eyes, and having the Brigadier in a rare position of vulnerability as even he falls victim to the technology’s effects works wonderfully to escalate the plot’s drama. Jon Culshaw has long since made this famed role his own while duly paying homage to Nicholas Courtney with his uncanny vocal talents, but he deftly showcases the assertiveness, practicality, and humanity of the Brigadier as he tries to work within the bureaucracy to find a way to help Liz and to discover the truth behind the strange goings-on around him and the potential resulting threat to both the military and government they pose.

While wrong-footing characters is repeatedly successful in bringing forth thoughts and memories that would otherwise not surface, Robson succeeds in filling out the narrative requirements of a lengthy seven-part story by intertwining scenes at Cambridge with those in and around Huncleath. Initially, these seem fairly disparate and superfluous, but the means by which they eventually do merge with the greater plot provides a clever twist on conventions that brings an even larger conflict into focus. It’s not long into the story before an alien element to these affairs is suspected, and the Brigadier’s clearance allowing him access to some of the United Kingdom’s greatest alien finds as well as knowledge of who else has access and how they are being studied and implemented provides an intriguing but also terrifying look at how eagerly those in control continue to look for any advantage available to them no matter the potential destruction caused or ethical boundaries crossed in the process. Matthews is but one figure looking to expand overall strength and influence with himself the most important figure in his mind, however, and the motivations driving him are proven to be almost universal while the Doctor continues to try to provide a steadying influence and voice of reason through all of the confusion and rapidly intensifying scale of consequences. Tim Treloar is once more superb as the Third Doctor, and the dedication both to Earth and to his friends even as he continues to search for a way to escape his exile has rarely been on such bold display. Naturally, the story does suffer from some padding even with the first episodes running at a shorter time to fill seven parts and Big Finish’s physical release structure, but the performances, incidental music, and sound effects expertly capture the feel of the early Third Doctor era, together amplifying the surprisingly deep character development to create a genuinely gripping story from beginning to end.

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