UNIT is back! Kate Stewart and Petronella Osgood are back in a new box set entitled UNIT: Shutdown! We’ll be reviewing each story one by one, today we review the final story; Ice Station Alpha.
Caught between human greed and an unstoppable alien power, Kate Stewart leads her closest allies on one final, desperate mission. This could be the very last chance for the human race.
But the UNIT team has been declared rogue, and ruthless military forces are in pursuit as they race across the globe. Kate calls Lieutenant Sam Bishop to their aid, while Josh and Osgood head out across the frozen Antarctic plains to try and prevent a disaster no-one else knows is coming.
Felicity Lyme opens the final story, showing just how harsh the woman is. And she is cold, both in heart and in temperature. The full details of what she’s had planned is; she wants to sell the energy companies of the world unlimited power. (God I wish I could show you an evil person stroking a car whilst sat in a swivel chair right now.)
What’s really interesting, to me at least, is that the opening of the final story in this box set doesn’t focus on the constant impending alien threat from the Tengobusi, but instead decided to draw attention to capitalistic gain at the expense of humanity. When I put it like that I must admit it sounds rather bleak. Then again, so is humanity some times.
I love the tenacity that Big Finish has sometimes; some o their ideas are so great but so controversial that you have to wonder how the BBC approved them. Not every production company would get access to a property like UNIT and decide to show just how frail, fragmented and corrupt it can be in the second box set; it’s a great move that reminds you that UNIT isn’t some god-like being that will save the Earth from aliens; at the end of the day, UNIT is just a group of people.
Sir Peter, who has been looked after by Kate, is the very definition of a jobsworth. I hate jobsworths. I don’t think it helps that Sir Peter also doesn’t particularly seem to like UNIT or the work it does that much. Idiot. It really does seem like Sir Peter has a vendetta against UNIT, especially Kate, as he more or less imprisons her against her will.
There’s a brilliant little reference to Malcolm, who we’ve only seen in Planet of The Dead. I love the fact that Lee Evans’ character keeps getting small mentions in the context of UNIT, whether it be asking him to replace the Raven’s batteries in The Day of The Doctor or saying that he’s keeping an eye on the Tower in Ice Station Alpha. I can only hope that Big Finish somehow convince Mr. Evans to reprise his role for a future box set, even if it is just a small cameo appearance.
UNIT is extremely lucky to have Osgood, as she really is the guaranteed way to get out of a sticky situation; my only hope is that anything in subsequent box sets that is a tricky dilemma doesn’t begin to use an Osgood-ex-machina every time. Whilst I know Osgood is highly intelligent and resourceful, I really don’t think I’d like her character to be downgraded to a human Sonic Screwdriver.
Dokan’s… revelation in the final act of Ice Station Alpha is one that I wish I could have seen, as it seems like the type of thing that would have been an absolute visual spectacle. The revelation also shows just how forward-thinking Kate Stewart’s UNIT can be, and that not every alien is necessarily just an enemy. Not everything is black and white, there’s a lot of grey (more than 50 shades before anyone says anything).
I was surprised at the ‘first’ that happened towards the end of Ice Station Alpha, for Kate, Osgood and Sam. It was something that I thought was well deserved for the characters, and it was something I’m surprised that the show hadn’t done before, even though the opportunity arose and it wasn’t taken.
If you’re a regular reader of my Big Finish reviews, you’re probably sick and tired of me talking about this, but I love the amount of scope that you can have an audio. The last time we were anywhere close to an icy environment in the TV show, we had Last Christmas, which was mainly set aboard a research centre, as the budget and the technology wouldn’t allow or feasibly sending a whole cast and crew to one of the poles to film. Luckily on audio, you can be tricked into believing such thing, thanks to the amazing sound design of Howard Carter. The best parallel I can think of right now is when you were a kid, and you’d play Doctor Who in the playground; even though you weren’t really battling Daleks on Skaro, you fully believed you were there. Big Finish gives you the opportunity to regress and be a kid again, imagining these nearly impossible worlds and getting so lost and invested in it. And it’s great.
Overall, Ice Station Alpha is the action-packed episode that I hoped The Battle of The Tower was going to be. It was a great ending to the Shutdown box set, and it finished this story. In the final moments of Ice Station Alpha, it was really clear to me that writer Matt Fitton has a great understanding of what Kate Stewart’s UNIT is, both in terms of ethos and in terms of characterisation. It even made me chuckle with the lines;
“We can’t keep blaming everything on Derren Brown”
“No, course not… we’re saying it was Dynamo”
Should you want to purchase UNIT: Shutdown, it’s currently available as a physical box set and as a download from Big Finish, both for £20.00 which you can purchase here.