UNIT: Nemesis – Between Two Worlds

Posted in Audio by - November 20, 2021
UNIT: Nemesis – Between Two Worlds

Released November 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The fate and future of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce may be uncertain in the current televised iteration of Doctor Who, but the furtive organization tasked with protecting Earth against paranormal and extraterrestrial threats is very much still an ongoing presence within the audio medium. In UNIT: Nemesis 1 – Between Two Worlds, an ancient stone arch embedded with electronic circuitry is recovered following a rupture in an undersea stretch of the Mull lava group in Scotland, an artefact that reveals a connection to another world and that brings UNIT into contact with a powerful new threat.

Andrew Smith’s ‘The Enemy Beyond’ is tasked with opening this set, and by necessity it takes a few shortcuts to cover an immense amount of ground to bring the unique presence of the Eleven to Earth and to build up the monumental threat he poses here. As a result, series stalwarts Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart and Ingrid Oliver as Osgood have relatively little to do except set the scene within the UNIT facility at Edinburgh Castle, initially as Adam Merchant joins in the arch research and recklessly touches a symbol that he finds familiar before suddenly finding himself blinded and stranded on a strange world. James MacCallum does well with the given material to imbue a sense of pride, frustration, and intrigue as Adam comes to rely on the strange cavalcade of characters around him who identify only by numerical distinction. He finds something of a kindred spirit with the man nicknamed Eleven who has also found his way here, and Mark Bonnar once again excels as this Time Lord who retains and is subject to breakthroughs of the consciousnesses and mannerisms of his previous selves. It does seem as though Adam should have caught on much earlier than when his sight returned that all of these voices originated form the same source, but his desperation as the Eleven feeds and cares for him for their two days here certainly allows for the Eleven to play up a slightly different angle than is typical, an angle that ultimately allows him to bring his deadly threat to Earth that only the sterility of the UNIT facility is able to postpone. Unfortunately, given how adamantly Adam turns against the Eleven when he discovers the truth, it’s difficult to believe that he would so willingly believe his dark spin on events and UNIT’s involvement even with the Time Lords’ known persuasive abilities, and so the whole exercise is a somewhat disjointed one that really just places Adam in whatever position is most convenient for plot progression no matter how erratic the characterization is as a result both before and after the eerie physical changes manifest. Still, despite the somewhat inconsistent tone and a somewhat tepid showing from UNIT itself, ‘The Enemy Beyond’ does what it needs to in order set up the remainder of the set via an intriguing and effective introduction and reintroduction alike for the Eleven that unquestionably presents an immense threat that is sure to challenge UNIT across the globe as strange events in Australia beckon.

In John Dorney’s ‘Fire and Ice,’ Kate and Osgood travel to Australia to seek out Harry Sullivan’s help, posturing the Eleven as a threat that necessitates all of UNIT’s global branches to work together. Christopher Naylor, of course, has voiced the well-intentioned, intelligent, and honourable Harry Sullivan on several occasions for Big Finish already, and he once more channels the spirit and intonations of Ian Marter wonderfully as the character’s unintentional and casual sexism is surrounded by an array of powerful female figures. Surprisingly, Harry is joined here by Naomi Cross who is presented here as another former companion of the Fourth Doctor yet who is also not set to debut alongside the Doctor until 2023’s run of The Fourth Doctor Adventures. Eleanor Crooks gives a charismatic and resolute performance for a character who is unabashedly confident, and this intriguing experiment that has the audience learning about this important character at the same time as Kate and Osgood works to great effect and bodes well for the adventures as yet unseen across Big Finish’s catalogue. Yet despite these two characters’ strong appearances, it’s the presence of the Ice Warriors in a distinctly atypical setting that will provide the biggest immediate draw to this story, and Dorney perfectly captures the unwavering honour and yet rightful suspicion of others that is so prevalent within this race. The ultimate villainous presence is somewhat generic, but it still provides a genuine challenge as well as another opportunity for the individuals of the humans and Martians alike to connect over common ground and shared experiences that transcend race. Sustained attempts at diplomacy amidst mistrust and heightened emotions provide a strong backdrop for this story, and the quick-thinking nature of everyone involved in UNIT along with the advanced technology of the Ice Warriors come together to present a possible method to counteract the Eleven’s audacious scheme as the team heads back to the United Kingdom. There are initially a few awkward moments of dialogue about modern life and social media to introduce the story, but the ultimate showcases of UNIT’s ability to monitor and take action reinforces just how pervasive and important its protective power is to the planet as a whole. Like the preceding tale, ‘Fire and Ice’ is immensely visual as it further fleshes out a classic Doctor Who foe, and the sustained pacing and strong characterization on all sides help to keep the larger scale of this set grounded and perfectly relatable as the tone shifts from helpless and desperate to hopeful and prepared.

In Lisa McMullin’s “Eleven’s Eleven,” UNIT is drawn to investigate a series of jewel robberies in London and the Home Counties when it’s discovered that some of the targeted gems are alien in origin. Notorious East End criminal Ava Drake is leading this spree, but it’s her dangerous new partner known as the Eleven that poses the far more dangerous threat. In short order, UNIT discovers that the Eleven is using his gems to build a sort of tracking device for the arch, and though his ultimate intentions for the arch remain tantalizingly unknown, this highlights just how intelligent this foe is and positions him as a de facto criminal mastermind who knows exactly how to guide and reward those alongside him. While it is unfortunate that the series of heists is little more than a sequence of quick successes with little drama, Mark Bonnar is once more a standout success as his bevy of voices effortlessly integrate to create a cohesive yet purposefully fractured whole that makes the Eleven’s ultimate successes all the more resonant. And although Ava Drake doesn’t quite get the opportunity to develop outside of her needed criminal role, Maggie Service does well to lend further credence to the danger and determination of those surrounding the Eleven and the increasing problems they cause for UNIT through their own actions and surprisingly direct reporting of journalist Jacqui McGee. McGee has been a frequent thorn in the side of UNIT over the years, and Tracy Wiles is superb as the truth she thinks she has uncovered and the truth she finally does discover collide. At the same time, Redgrave and Oliver are once more superb as UNIT attempts to predict and counter all of the Eleven’s moves, and Osgood in particular has plenty of moments for her intellect and incisiveness to shine. Even James Joyce receives a welcomed increase in featured time as Captain Josh Carter, and though it is unfortunate that the series as a whole has stepped away from some of the many supporting characters within UNIT that made the earlier series so successful, his inclusion is a firm reminder that UNIT is very much more than just Kate Stewart and Osgood and helps to bring yet more voices and viewpoints to the forefront. As a whole, “Eleven’s Eleven” is fairly generic by both heist and UNIT standards, but the performances and strong sense of pace always ensure an engaging experience that culminates with a momentous cliffhanger that promises the return of a most enigmatic figure.

While still very much leaving the Eleven’s ultimate scheme and the purpose of the arch ambiguous, Andrew Smith resoundingly brings this first Nemesis box set to a close in “The Curator’s Gambit” as the Eleven uses all of the weapons at his disposal to track down the arch to the Under Gallery. There are clearly no boundaries that the Eleven will not cross in order to achieve his goals, and in short order he is shown killing his associates and spreading his control over others. It needs no saying, but Bonnar is once more superb as his character’s differing visions for a united purpose become increasingly desperate thanks to the most unexpected protection and calculations of the enigmatic Curator. There is so much that remains unknown about this figure first introduced in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ who everyone finds so strangely familiar, and Tom Baker is mesmeric as he deftly assumes a comforting yet commanding role that is able to assure everyone that he has thought of all possible contingencies no matter the increasing threat facing UNIT’s members. Indeed, as the Curator casually references his lengthy lifespan and the previous threat that the Zygons posed via Time Lord stasis cubes, the empathic oils that he insisted be used for a commissioned piece of art so long ago provide a brilliant secondary location within the Under Gallery that vivdly brings to life its original location at Hampton Court Palace while maximizing the potential of the areas within of which the artist had no knowledge. Despite his unassuming appearance, the Curator proves time and time again to be an incredibly powerful ally full of surprises, and hopefully he continues to provide to assistance to UNIT as the organization’s mission continues. It’s perhaps unsurprising that the rest of UNIT is somewhat less utilized given the focus on the Curator, the Eleven, and the control the Eleven exerts over Ava, Clare, and Jacqui in short order, but Kate Stewart, Osgood, Josh, and Harry each get strong moments in the fight to keep the Eleven away from the mysterious arch. This set as a whole has been a bit less climactic than other UNIT sets simply because it is intended to set up mysteries without resolving all of its threads, and while the scope here hasn’t quite reached the earlier sets’ highs despite the globetrotting element, “The Curator’s Gambit” is a confident and wonderful closing point that highlights just how much mystery lies at the very heart of UNIT’s operations. Similarly, although the true opportunities that the Eleven’s regenerative dissonance allow are not explored as fully as in earlier Doctor Who stories, his continued presence is sure to pay grand dividends for this series as his true plan eventually comes to light.

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