UNIT: Nemesis 3- Objective: Earth

Posted in Audio by - November 19, 2022
UNIT: Nemesis 3- Objective: Earth

Released November 2022


The Vulpreen continue their advance in Objective: Earth, the third of four sets in UNIT’s Nemesis saga, and Kate and Osgood face some of their greatest challenges yet as unexpected enemies and technology alike complicate any plans of defence.

In Andrew Smith’s opener ‘The Vulpreen Encounter,’ a forty-mile-long asteroid has entered the solar system, and Osgood and Lieutenant Jimmy Tan are sent to investigate aboard the new UK spaceship Starseeker. As the two seek to uncover its composition and origins, Tan comes to the fore much more decisively than in his introductory stories, becoming a very human and well-rounded figure as he reveals anecdotes about his family and relationships in the past. Establishing an engaging recurring actor and character in a well-established franchise is no easy feat, but Chris Lew Kum Hoi manages to showcase both more introspective and action-oriented facets to his character that make him a natural fit for this universe and the growing threats on display. He also shares a strong chemistry with Ingrid Oliver who has Osgood’s shrewd intelligence and charm down to a science, and the discovery that Vulpreen arches are being sent to Earth under the guise of meteorites is a brilliant foundation for the continuing incursion that blends mundane and spectacular with a sense of impending inevitability. The spaceship setting also provides a strong contrast to the very human drama on display when Kate Stewart visits Jacqui McGee who wants nothing to do with the world or anyone else during her stay in the Norwegian UNIT safehouse following her trauma at the hands of the Vulpreen. Despite showing the value and commitment she has to the team, Jacqui is still not a person Kate can implicitly trust even when needing her help against the mounting alien threat, and Jemma Redgrave and Tracy Wiles gives brilliant performances that capture their characters’ begrudging respect for each other and shared determination despite their obvious differences. The benefit of these multi-set arcs is the continuance of established continuity and being able to explore the shifting emotional states of characters as circumstances change, and these scenes are a brilliant reminder of the particular benefits that longform storytelling can offer. This isn’t necessarily a story that advances the plot significantly even as it introduces and moves around very significant pieces, but the incisive dialogue and emotional performances bring the characters vividly to the fore before the action assuredly takes precedence as this set continues and the Vulpreen threat further intensifies.

Lisa McMullin provides a surprising but satisfying conclusion to Jacqui’s time with UNIT in the aptly titled ‘By Jacqui McGee.’ With a Vulpreen assassination squad in pursuit, Kate Stewart and UNIT must race for their lives while trying to uncover the link between China and Canada the Vulpreen seem to have made. Commander Krillen, intent on finding Kate, appears to have something more sinister than an immediate attack on Earth in mind, and David Holt manages to convey a powerful menace to this Vulpreen leader that is both emotional and animalistic to create a truly capable and authoritative enemy presence. These aliens still haven’t been completely developed as individuals to fully differentiate themselves from other threats beyond their unique arches and relation with time, but the power and motivation are undeniable and provide a strong sense of pace and danger throughout as Krillen continues his search. During this, it very much is Jacqui’s time to shine as she steadfastly commits to her journalistic instincts and her commitment to UNIT by filing reports and communicating by whatever means necessary even as the circumstances become their most dire. Jacqui has suffered terribly at the hands of the Vulpreen, and her continued determination is a true testament to her character that Tracy Wiles vividly conveys. Fortunately, everyone realizes the incredible bravery Jacqui has shown all along and recognizes the incredible contributions she has made, and she finally finds an opportunity to bring forward her trademark wit once more to remind her colleagues and listeners alike of the true person whom such severe trauma has more recently blunted. Somewhat less successful, however, is the introduction of tour guide Yang Li. While she does provide vital information about the Forbidden City and is set to become a recurring character, she feels somewhat detached from the plot with a cadence and tone to her voice that seem altogether disparate from the intensifying danger. There will assuredly be ample opportunity for Suan-Li Ong to become more entwined with UNIT as a whole, but Li here comes off more as a necessary narrative device rather than a true character. Nonetheless, ‘By Jacqui McGee’ continues to advance parts of the Vulpreen plan as UNIT tries to piece together the threat facing Earth, providing a brilliant farewell to the fascinating Jacqui while hinting that this villainous scheme with the arches is far more complex than imagined as the Axons emerge.

While the Vulpreen present a very new and visceral threat for UNIT to confront, the return of the Axons in Katharine Armitage’s ‘Axos Unleashed’ presents Kate Stewart’s current iteration of the organization an opportunity to truly prove itself against a known threat that her father’s defeated only because of vital assistance from the Doctor. However, it’s completely understandable that UNIT should turn its attention to the Time Lord currently being held in isolated captivity, Naomi all too eagerly taking it upon herself to enlist the Eleven in UNIT’s quest to return Axos to the time loop the Vulpreen must have broken. It does seem unlikely at best that so few precautions would be taken when entering the Eleven’s presence in any capacity, but Mark Bonnar instantly rejoins the narrative with his usual energy and charisma to bring a shrewd intelligence and manic pride to the fore. The Eleven is every bit as ruthless as ever, and he’s willing to work with anyone whom he perceives offers him the greatest chance of achieving power no matter the toll on others his decisions may incur. It becomes clear the Vulpreen have enlisted the parasitic Axons to lessen Earth’s population and defenses to aid in their own imminent incursion, and Li conveniently has the knowledge that the Axons appear to be targeting oil hotspots across the globe. As the Axons continue to feed and grow stronger, Osgood brilliantly deduces the Axons’ weakness by assessing what they leave behind, and with the thinking molecule Axonite spreading across the globe, Osgood and Josh are able to devise a plan that makes the most of Osgood’s scientific background while also highlighting Kate’s unique power as she presents Axos with a bargain it cannot refuse but that is so much more complex than it could ever understand. To be fair, while her devious plan to incorporate the Eleven by dangling the promise of providing knowledge about time travel is excellent in premise, expecting the Axon interaction with the Eleven to turn out as it did does seem a bit too convenient regardless of any of the unique properties Axonite houses. Still, it very succinctly reminds everyone of the Eleven’s unique condition and certainly provides the distraction UNIT needs, providing a thrilling conclusion to what is easily the strongest narrative of this set anchored by brilliant performances from Redgrave’s Kate Stewart, Ingrid Oliver’s Osgood, Mark Bonnar’s Eleven, and Richard Goulding’s Axos.

With Vulpreen arches around the world and troops ready at each to defend the Earth, Kate and Osgood must make an uneasy alliance with the Eleven to turn the odds in Earth’s favour in Roland Moore’s ‘Time of the Vulpreen.’ The Vulpreen, of course, have some degree of knowledge of the workings of time, and with certain advancements courtesy of the Eleven’s previous help, they have plans to become the next self-appointed lords of time. As such, their multi-pronged plan to not only send an invasion force to Earth but also to use many of the arches as a trap for defenders via stasis technology is a cunning one that instantly proves their shrewdness and shows an intelligence that goes far beyond the brute force techniques of so many alien invaders. The Vulpreen as individuals still aren’t necessarily the most unique or developed, but Alisdair Simpson gives an authoritative performance as Lord Varliss that again captures the race’s sense of power and self-importance. Given that the Vulpreen have all but cast aside the Eleven, however, it’s perfectly in character for the rogue Time Lord to ally with UNIT whom he currently perceives to be the winning side. He brings an unrivaled intelligence and experience to help combat the temporal elements of this nefarious plot, and casting him not strictly as a villain but only as an ally through necessity rather than trust given how easily his motivations and allegiances can change brings out the very best in this character who has been so heavily featured over recent years across Big Finish’s ranges. Mark Bonnar is absolutely superb in this unique role for the character, and the parallels and divergences between the Eleven and the Doctor alongside UNIT make for a brilliant study. Of course, while the expanded UNIT cast does mean that characters such as Naomi are Jimmy don’t get to feature quite as much here, Kate and Osgood again capably step to the fore as the odds seem to grow against them, and Redgrave and Oliver deliver pitch-perfect performances that highlight their characters’ sheer determination and intelligence as always. However, James Joyce also brilliantly stands out as Captain Carter leads the charge against the Vulpreen, and this character who hasn’t always been featured in recent UNIT sets as much as in earlier ones gives a firm reminder of how incredibly brave and selfless he is even when he knows that he cannot possibly survive what he needs to do to save his world. Given Jacqui’s fate earlier and the physical and emotional journey that the unsuspecting Daniel Hoyer must endure here, this is a brutally effective reminder of how perilous the threats UNIT faces head on are and of how fleeting life can be. The Vulpreen still haven’t quite presented themselves as a top-tier threat despite their obvious power given their reliance on the Eleven, the Axons, and now Missy going forward, but ‘Time of the Vulpreen’ offers a very effective finale to this set while expertly setting up the fourth and final of the Nemesis saga.

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