UNIT: Extinction

Posted in Audio by - January 26, 2016
UNIT: Extinction

With the release of the UNIT: Extinction boxset, Big Finish boldly enters the world of modern Doctor Who. Featuring both Kate Stewart and Osgood from the current incarnation of UNIT on-screen and pitting them against the classic Autons again bent on world domination, Extinction is a fantastic first venture that constantly ups the stakes and gives us more insight and background into these delightful characters.

UNIT on television is not always portrayed as the most competent of organizations, often times giving way to the Doctor or his companion in order to showcase that individual’s strengths. In audio format, though, UNIT is rightfully and unabashedly portrayed as the strong group it is so clearly meant to be, a true last line of defense for an otherwise defenseless Earth. Of course, two members of UNIT alone cannot carry an entire four episodes that quickly build up a truly global threat and so we are necessarily introduced to several new characters. Captain Carter and Colonel Shindi, in particular, are striking additions to the team, and the writing helps give the sense that each and every member of UNIT is as important as the next.

Right from the get-go, Extinction moves along at a brisk pace, giving every scene a sense of importance with no time wasted on unnecessary background or filler. Spurred on by a strong balance of the multiple plotlines with the characters split up to allow individual focus and attention, the story quickly progresses from a corporate launch event to a global invasion in the blink of an eye. Not a word or sentence is wasted as the threat is revealed and a plan formulated.

This, then, brings us to the villains of the piece. The Autons are an interesting choice for an audio villain if only because of the fact that they are essentially non-verbal creatures. However, the writing is so creative and the use of the classic Auton audio cues are so well done that it is never difficult to picture exactly what is happening. The Autons on display here are ruthless and determined, fueled by technology that is currently starting to become more mainstream in real life, the perfect foil for this revamped UNIT group to oppose. It must also be noted that Simon Devlin, played by Steve John Shepherd, is fantastic as the would-be voice of the Nestene, so effectively displaying the pride and anguish through his rise and fall alongside the Autons.

Gemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver are, as always, a delight to listen to, effortlessly slipping back into their already-iconic roles. Bolstered by a story with a global threat, an excellent support cast with crackling dialogue, and tight pacing, UNIT: Extinction should come highly recommended both to Doctor Who fans and general adventure/intrigue fans alike.

The only concern I have- and it is an extremely minor one- is that the writers of UNIT, both in the television and audio mediums, will not allow us to forget the presence of the Brigadier, especially in relation to Kate. There is no denying the importance and lasting legacy of the character, but Kate also deserves a chance to grow on her own merit, and constantly being reminded of the shadow looming large over her can sometimes detract from the proceedings.

For a first attempt at a story set in the post-2005 Doctor Who universe, however, UNIT: Extinction performs admirably.

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