Thursday, 30 June 2016

UNIT - SHUTDOWN

So you have done the world spanning invasion epic in UNIT – Extinction, introduced a new UNIT team to battle alongside Kate & Osgood in the guise of Sam Bishop ( Warren Brown) and Josh Carter (James Joyce), where do you go next? Do you make the stakes even higher or do you do something a little different? Wisely Big Finish have done both – but whereas events were very public in Extinction, in Shutdown we are presented with a much more covert set of stories – yes they are world spanning and the threat level is huge but this is a story kept to the shadows and away from the gazer of the public – it is a lot more “black ops” than the last set.
 It begins with a pub quiz and ends with a hologram and in-between takes in Geneva, an epic battle at the Tower of London and a final confrontation in the Antarctic – its a heck of a journey and not everything is as it seems to begin with. Big Finish have come up with a fascinating new alien race – the Kamishi and their Ninja Assassin servants the Tengobushi. They are an alien race obviously based on Japanes culture and another ancient race who have been around from when the Universe was your, they have god-like powers and technology that is almost indistinguishable from magic – and its this technology that drives the story, you see a piece of this technology has fallen in to the hands of Felicity Lyme (Alice Krige) CEO of Lyme Industries and they are determined to exploit it for maximum profit – problem is The Kamishi are not keen on their tech being used and they want it back – and the whole world is about to get caught in the crossfire.
 The box set is split into four episodes:
 1 Power Cell by Matt Fitton
 A thriller, thats what this one is, an old fashioned hardboiled thriller. For Doctor Who fans, think of the first few episodes of The Invasion and you wont be far off the mark. This has it all – mysterious disappearances, a huge multi national with an arrogant yet charming leader – Felicity Lyme (Alice Krige), alien ninja assassins and before I forget Kate, Osgood, Josh & Sam. This is a very personal story for Osgood, she meets up with an old University friend Jay (Asif Khan) who is given the option of joining the UNIT team – problem is everyone who knows anything at all about the alien artefact that Lyme Industries have procured is going missing, because the alien Kamishi REALLY want their property back. From a slow start, this really builds in to something rather special with twists and turns you really wont expect and a far more gritty tone than I was expecting.
 2 Death in Geneva by Andrew Smith
 With no-one in the Government she can trust, Kate goes to Geneva to enlist the aid of General Grant Avary (Harry Ditson) but the Tengobushi with their leader Dokan (Dan Li) are already there and they have their eyes on Osgood. We go from hard boiled thriller to Hollywood action movie with incredible set pieces that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond film, lots of explosions, deaths and a conspiracy that goes deeper than we first expected, and an astounding cliffhanger
 3 The Battle of the Tower by Andrew Smith
 The stakes just get higher and higher – with the Kamishi & their Tengobushi foot soldiers gunning for Kate and co, Kate decides to put the Tower of London on lockdown – but the Kamishi are determined to get their property back even if it means a pitched battle in London – and that is exactly what they get, because this is not an enigmatic story title, it really does what it says on the tin and presents the Battle of the Tower of London. Its incredibly visual, the sound design and acting really do immerse you in the happenings, we are talking a Rourke’s Drift level of being outnumbered and outgunned by a hugely superior force, and UNIT as always rise to the occasion. Epic.
 4 Ice Station Alpha by Matt Fitton
 Rounding off the set is a jaunt to the Antarctic – Lyme Industries make their last stand against UNIT, and time is running out as the Kamishi mothership is on the way to destroy the earth. High stakes but low key, a covert invasion where who the “bad guys” are is a very very grey area. What really comes across in this episode is the commitment that the UNIT team have not only to each other but to the safety of the planet – with some willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the population.
 Akin to a James Bond film from the classic era, Shutdown is very much the “difficult second album” not as immediate or as epic as Extinction but a deeper more satisfying experience, a sort of Meat is Murder after The Smiths debut if you will. Kate & Osgood are already classic fan favourite characters & this set allows them to flex their character development muscles more than they ever could in a 45 minute TV episode, we even get to see what Osgood does when she isn’t doing “Sciency stuff”. With the awkward second album out of the way its full steam ahead to November and an appearance by, um, hold on I have forgotten (see what I did there) – however back Shutdown & I shut down this review by awarding 8/10.