Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Big Finish - Unit: Dominion

This was the third of Big Finish's special release box sets from the end of 2012:
Unit: Dominion by Nicholas Briggs and Jason Arnopp, and directed by Nicholas Briggs (he's a busy chap).

I'm going to use the synopsis directly from the Big Finish website here. The universe stands on the brink of a dimensional crisis – and the Doctor and Raine are pulled into the very epicentre of it. Meanwhile on Earth, UNIT scientific advisor Dr Elizabeth Klein and an incarnation of the Doctor she's never encountered before are tested to the limit by a series of bizarre, alien invasions. At the heart of it all is a terrible secret, almost as old as the Time Lords themselves. Reality is beginning to unravel and two Doctors, Klein, Raine and all of UNIT must use all their strength and guile to prevent the whole of creation being torn apart.For a lot of the time we have two stories going on here. 

We all know that Sylvester McCoy has been in New Zealand for a long time making The Hobbit, and has only been available for brief periods of recording with Big Finish. So he is off stuck in another dimension with Beth Chalmer's Raine Creevy for the first half of this drama. This leaves us focusing on Dr Klein and another future version of the Doctor played with flamboyant relish by Alex Macqueen. There's also a Unit sergeant called Pete Wilson who gives us the ordinary person's point of view and also provides a human interest angle as his wife is about to give birth and his duties keep him away for her.

There's all sorts of strange creatures and trans-dimensional incursions as Unit struggle to save the Earth and there's also a big reveal which was a great surprise (for me anyway). But you know what was the best thing about this? Elizabeth Klein. What is it about Klein's character that makes her so interesting and enjoyable to listen to? She has so far appeared in five Big Finish stories including this one. She's combative and forthright in her views and rather abrasive. She started out as a Nazi scientist, although this version of her is unaware of her past due to the Seventh Doctor's meddling. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) all this she is absolutely fascinating. The actress Tracey Childs is best known for being in a rather dire 1980s soap opera but her vocal performances here are just marvellous. Big Finish has had to create some memorable recurring characters of their own but I believe my favourite so far is Klein.

Having said that she is given a close run for her money by Alex Macqueen's new version of the Doctor with his "Hello, you" catchphrase. His petulant and snobbish dealings with Unit reminded me of Jon Pertwee's rather arrogant third Doctor. It's all done with great panache and although the trans-dimensional story can get a little confusing at times the great characters and performances more than compensate.

I enjoyed the music by Martin Johnson and would also pick out Alex Mallinson for his cover art, and for doing a pretty convincing American accent in one of the smaller parts. My only criticism of the sound design was that there was too much radio sound effect when characters are speaking on walkie-talkies. I think we got the point that they were speaking over the radio and the effects could have been toned down a little so we could hear the dialogue easier. However minor quibbles aside this was a terrific box set from Big Finish and I am glad I finally gave in and bought it before the price went up.

This matched the heights of Dark Eyes and gets 4.5 out of 5 giant floating heads Excellent stuff.

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