UNIT vs The Silence set against a contemporary political thriller really doesn’t sound like it should work. And yet Big Finish’s UNIT series ties all three elements together beautifully in an engrossing four-part box set, ‘UNIT – Silenced’.
This isn’t your conventional Big Finish box set, with either four distinct stories or one huge four-parter. Instead, this release features two standalone stories and one two-parter, all with The Silence as their main antagonist. It’s a clever twist on the format given The Silence are all but forgotten at the start of each story. How the memory-machinations of The Silence affect the UNIT team is hammered home by the times they have to rediscover their abilities. But having three stories, rather than four, ensures the conceit never becomes repetitive.
House of Silents by Matt Fitton
It’s been more than five decades since the Doctor broke their silent stranglehold on humanity, but The Silence are patient. A group of surviving Silents are passing themselves off as lodgers to a blind benefactor, which attracts UNIT’s attention. In this story, The Silence are more on the defensive than we’ve seen them before and seem less threatening as a result.
As a primer to establish their abilities before the following two-parter it works well, but it’s a slow-burner.
Square One by John Dorney
A bombastic political outsider is rapidly gaining momentum, despite being dangerously unqualified to lead. Meanwhile, Kate Stewart and the UNIT team are disturbed to find they’ve forgotten everything about their last investigation.
Given this was written many months ago, it’s funny how prescient some of the political elements of this episode become. Including a female PM and the not-so-subtle lampooning of a certain divisive figure. That aside, it’s well-paced and takes advantage of its ‘part one’ status to create a rich background for the story.
Silent Majority by John Dorney
The Silence’s grand plan comes to fruition in the second part of the story. UNIT must fight back against monsters they can’t remember, the will of the people and even their own teammates to stop a violent revolution. Unlike the other episodes, this part is more action-heavy than the others as UNIT try to stop the plan already in motion.
The story features a dark twist in The Silence’s ultimate goal and races to an excellent, satisfying climax.
In Memory Alone by Matt Fitton
UNIT dealt with The Silence. It’s over. Or is it? The box set ends with a seemingly unrelated tale of Osgood and Sam visiting an orbiting space station. But when the crew and their memories go missing, they find they’ve stumbled into the culmination of The Silence’s plan. Meanwhile, Kate has to mollify world leaders while Josh detects a new player closing in on the space station.
The ending proves to be the perfect denouement to this release, echoing the TV appearances of The Silence but with an optimistic twist.
Whereas in their TV appearances they’d already dominated Earth, this release puts The Silence in a totally new scenario. Now they’re on the back-foot, few in number and constantly hunted, trying to reclaim control of humanity. It gives the writers ample opportunity to show how influential these monsters can be and why they’re such a threat. Something that, arguably, didn’t entirely come across on television. Given they’re more a psychological than physical threat, the election backdrop is the perfect blending of story and monster. It also takes the UNIT team into uncharted territory and puts Kate’s “science leads” philosophy through its paces.
Unfortunately, there’s little by way of character development from the main cast and no interpersonal friction. From an in-story perspective, this makes perfect sense. These aren’t a ragtag bunch of plucky mavericks like the Torchwood team. The members of UNIT are trained, rank-and-file military personnel with all the professionalism and command structure that implies. But it means that any conflict has to be contrived by The Silence’s influence rather than their own personalities. They all just naturally get along and it leaves characterisation a little undercooked.
But that can be forgiven for just how thoroughly writers Matt Fitton and John Dorney have expanded on The Silence. Developing their abilities and motives so much they should really be credited alongside Steven Moffat if the Silence ever appear on TV again. The stories are easy to follow without being simplistic, all the actors give excellent performances and it’s a lot of fun to listen to.
Blogtor Rating – 8/10
‘UNIT: Silenced’ is available to buy now from the Big Finish website on CD and download.
Decades after their defeat by the Eleventh Doctor, the Silence prepare to rise against humanity….
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?
It’s business as usual at UNIT, and thankfully, Kate Stewart has no immediate threats to concern her. Or so she believes.
But when Sam Bishop returns from leave, he notices things aren’t quite as they seem. Soon he and Osgood are on the trail of an elusive enemy.
Meanwhile, Kenneth LeBlanc and his controversial political movement gather momentum, and one UNIT team member isn’t quite themselves…
Kenneth LeBlanc looks set to lead his party to national victory, overturning political opinion and taking the polls by storm. UNIT can only stand and watch as a silent revolution takes place.
But who are LeBlanc’s real backers? And what use to them is the triumph of a leader who seems to be nothing more than a liability?
The Silents are about to make the headlines.
In Memory Alone
When Sam Bishop and Osgood visit an orbiting space station for a routine mission, they have no idea that they are part of an alien scheme, years in the planning.
As the global situation spins out of control, Kate seeks help from an unlikely source.
The Silents are not done with humanity yet – and they will have their revenge.
Written By: Matt Fitton, John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Petronella Osgood), Warren Brown (Lieutenant Sam Bishop), James Joyce (Captain Josh Carter), Ramon Tikaram (Colonel Shindi), Tracy Wiles (Jacqui McGee), Joanna Wake (Miss Faversham), Nicholas Day (Kenneth LeBlanc/Heston), Tom Alexander (Cecil/Derek), Aaron Neil(Homeless Man/News Reporter/David), Nimmy March (Baroness Vance/Telokni), John Banks (Mission Control/Captain/Soldier) and Nicholas Briggs as The Silence. Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editors Matt Fitton and John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs