It’s time to rejoin the UNIT gang with Kate Stewart and Petronella Osgood in their third Big Finish box set outing, UNIT: Silenced. They’ve battled the Autons and Tengobushi, but how will they manage to defeat an enemy they don’t know they’re fighting? Today, I’ll be reviewing the first story in the box set, House of Silents.
There is no record of the presence of an alien species known as ‘The Silents’ on Earth. UNIT has never engaged hostiles capable of editing themselves from observers’ memories.
There is no evidence that such an opponent, if real, is regrouping and beginning a new plan of infiltration and manipulation.
Kate Stewart and her team are in no mortal danger. How can they be, when they don’t even know the enemy exists?
Don’t you just love a pre-title sequence? They’re absolutely great. House of Silents arguably has one of the most compelling from Big Finish this year. They don’t wait around to reintroduce us to the Silence, we get it within a few minutes.
After the pre-titles, we meet Kate Stewart learning how to shoot a gun. It seems odd that she’s become so interested in firearms, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s being influenced without knowing it… Of course, this is purely speculation. In fact I’m writing this sentence with no idea what’s going to happen beyond the second chapter of this story. It makes the reviewing process more fresh and exciting.
I must admit that I’m surprised at just how political an angle this box set seems to be headed. The Silents (or Silence, I’m not sure which one is correct) seem to be able to control politics to do their bidding more efficiently. All of a sudden, the last year in global politics seems to make a lot more sense.
It seems that there’s an elderly woman in Hampstead Heath that is holding a secret. Luckily for UNIT, they have an anonymous helper/hacker known as The Eyewitness who is willing to help them uncover a truth that they can’t see. (Or can’t remember seeing…)
Once we learn exactly who the elderly woman is, and who she’s looking after (they’re a little more than cats, trust me), it seems as if a lot of strays are staying in Miss Faversham’s house.
I have to commend the sound design in this story, from Peter Doggart, as it’s pure genius. It’s understated and subtle, rather like the Silents/Silence. The sound effect used to forget the Silence is similar to that used in the TV show and makes the listener instantly recognise the implications of the effect.
The more that you get to know Miss Faversham and her character, the more you realise that Matt Fitton, the writer of House of Silents (as well as In Memory Alone, the last story in this box set) is a genius. The idea that the Silence are forgotten the second you look away from them is utterly fascinating when you make them liaise with a partially sighted person, who maybe couldn’t see them in the first place.
Osgood’s first encounter (that we know about) with the Silence is absolutely brilliant. She’s rightly utterly terrified, but she’s still trying her best to be professional and do her job to the best of her ability. Her return to Kate too is borderline comical, with Kate confused as to why Osgood is so nonchalant after an apparent encounter with something strange.
Kate trying to negotiate with the Silence just goes to show how restrained she can be, especially since the Silence accidentally told humanity that they should kill the Silence on sight. It’s not spelt out directly to the listener, but it’s a lovely little nod to how headstrong Kate Stewart is.
The conclusion of House of Silents really sets up how ruthless, relentless and single-minded the Silence are; once someone or something isn’t required, they’re disposed of. I personally can’t wait to hear what happens in the upcoming stories.
Overall, House of Silents is a brilliant introductory story, setting up the Silence’s struggle and introducing key players in the rest of the box set, mainly LeBlanc, a politician who is only mentioned, but I feel will more than likely be popping up in the next three stories. There’s loads of references to what we already know about the Silence from the Eleventh Doctor’s run on TV and I love how it all seems to tie together. In the past, I’ve been critical of the UNIT box sets, but if the rest of UNIT: Silenced keeps up at this pace with this higher level of storytelling, I’ll be very impressed indeed.
Should you want to purchase UNIT: Silenced, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £20 for a limited time for either the CD or digital download.