It’s time to get old school. With new school. With the oldest school possible. That’s right, this week on GallifreyArchive, I’ll be reviewing the four tales featuring both new and old UNIT teams in a battle with the oldest team the Earth has to offer, the Silurians and Sea Devils. Today, I’ll be reviewing the first story in the set, Call To Arms.
Mike Yates braves a stormy night in the Lakes to help celebrate a milestone for John Benton. An evening of fond reminiscences of old glories and friends awaits. But a long-buried past is about to catch up with them.
Meanwhile, on the rain-lashed moors, what begins as a routine mission for modern-day UNIT quickly becomes a fight for survival.
John Benton owns a pub. How great is that? From aliens to just ales? What a life! For John Benton though, the pub days seem to be over; and a cruise is on the horizon. Can’t say I’d argue at that proposition either. It’s strange to think that after spending your younger years working for UNIT that you could ever have something of a ‘civilian’ life. But for John Benton and his wife, it seems that they’ve managed rather well.
Just as John and a few of his regulars are having one final pint, a storm thrashing outside, and some reminiscing begins, there’s a blast from the past for Sergeant Benton. Mike Yates.
Whilst the old UNIT are being reunited, it seems that the modern UNIT team that we’re used to are somewhat in a bit of a pickle. An army of Silurians are out, and they’re on the hunt for us apes. Oh dear.
There’s a great scene after the titles back in the pub where old grudges seem to resurface. I’ve never personally been in a pub populated by the older generation after they’ve had a few; but if this is what it’s like, I may have to start frequenting different drinking establishments just for the drama.
It’s not too long though before the classic UNIT and the new UNIT, or new-nit if you like, are joined, when Kate and Osgood find Mike and John. As you can probably guess, Osgood manages to keep her cool and not fangirl in the slightest (he said, lying).
There’s an absolutely great flashback scene in which we learn how the Silurian’s began their attack, and I have to say that Osgood is written brilliantly. She’s not the most fearless UNIT member by any stretch, but by heck does she try and be respectful to the Silurian people and keep some modicum of peace.
As is to be expected, we get some nice expositional scenes, where old and new UNIT are sharing all the information they have on the Silurians. It seems as if the Silurian race is mostly happy to sleep, apart from a notable extremist faction, led by a Silurian called Jastrok.
I have to admit that I’m surprised just how action packed the opening episode is; normally, you have to wait for the climax of episode two or the main chunk of episode three in a box set to get high octane action and consequences, but Matt Fitton has no problem shoving it straight in your face within the first hour. Just the shock to the system that you sometimes need.
There’s a great moment in the latter quarter of the episode where you realise that it’s not just the people of old UNIT that have returned. Who knew that a daring escape could bring a tear to your eye?
The conclusion of Call To Arms really impacted me today, as I write this on the day after the Manchester attack. Jastrok’s ideology and radical beliefs can really be transferred to modern terrorist organisations. I know that when Matt Fitton wrote this episode, he had no idea that the events that have happened would transpire, but it is an eerie coincidence nonetheless.
Overall, Call To Arms is a solid start to a series, and the reunification of old school and modern UNIT was really well written. It seems as if Jastrock will be the big bad of the box set, and after the little I’ve heard from him in this episode, I’m not complaining. If I have one minor gripe, it would be that the Silurians have been written in a similar vain to the Slitheen and the Sontarans, wanting to kill for sport and constantly talking about their hunt. Other than that, it was a solid start to UNIT: Assembled.
Should you want to purchase UNIT: Assembled, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £20 for a limited time for either the CD or digital download.