DW: UNIT – Dominion Review

UNIT Dominion

When this was first released in 2012 I was really excited to hear this story, and it didn’t disappoint! But what about listening to it a second time this past week, the uniqueness of a four-hour boxset now long gone, and the big twist at the end of Part 3 already known? Let’s find out if UNIT: Dominion still packs a punch!

Synopsis:

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.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

UNIT Dominion 1

Ah the rare TV Movie version of the Seventh Doctor… Not the best memories, but hey-ho…

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor is reaching ever closer to the end of his Seventh life, but that doesn’t mean he’ll slow down! He’s currently travelling with Raine Creevy, someone he met long ago…

Raine Creevy (Beth Chalmers) – Raine met this incarnation of the Doctor when it was still relatively new, and at some currently unknown point the two have began travelling with each other again… what could go wrong?

Elizabeth Klein (Tracey Childs) – Klein was formally a Nazi from a now-erased timeline, and therefore has no memory of this fact. She is currently UNIT’s scientific advisor, and unbeknownst to her, the creepy man with the umbrella she keeps seeing was the person who once held that same position…

The Other Doctor / The Master (Alex Macqueen) – The Master has been given a new body by the Time Lords, told to do their bidding to stop a terrible war from happening… but screw that! He instead travels backwards down his own timeline to mess about with an earlier incarnation of his greatest foe, and maybe rule the universe while he’s at it…

Sgt. Pete Wilson (Bradley Gardner) – A Sergeant in UNIT, and happily married to a wife who is soon to give birth, because soldiers who have family waiting for them at home are always the safest!

Col. Lafayette (Julian Dutton) – The current head of the UK UNIT team, and a very strict believer in the rules… as well as a believer that he could become a famous hero one day, should the right opportunity arise!

Major Wyland-Jones (Sam Clemens) – A Major in UNIT and therefore the man who will assume command if something unfortunate would happen to his boss…

Plus more!

The Good:

UNIT Dominion 4

Macqueen’s Master in all his glory. This is his debut story, but he’s so comfortable in the role it’s like he’s been playing him for ages…

Let’s get the big one out of the way: The Macqueen version of the Master makes his fantastic debut here! For the first three parts he pretends to be a future version of The Doctor, taking advantage of the dimensional riff-raff messing up his old foe’s ability to sense his other selves, as well as his own TARDIS’s ability to actually change shape to whatever he wants, like a police box! It’s a great concept, and Macqueen does a brilliant job of acting like a slightly grumpy version of the Doctor, and it works even better listening to it while knowing the secret as you can pick up on the Master’s increased lack of patience when people ask for his help, and how he has to do it to keep up appearances. I still remember that Part 3 cliffhanger reveal, that legitimately took me by surprise, I knew he wasn’t The Doctor (obviously) but I thought he might be a Doctor from another dimension or timeline, but instead it was The Master being a bit of a git.

Well, maybe that’s putting it lightly. He’s actually trying to use rare and thought-to-be-lost Time Lord tech in order to access other dimensions and harness the power that the technology creates to rule over them. He does this by tricking his old foe into activating one of the nodes necessary while he does the same on Earth, but it backfires when his TARDIS (which contains the necessary equipment to help him out) is taken by UNIT until he agrees to help them with ever increasing invasions from bizarre creatures from other dimensions, that he ironically is the cause of. He keeps up appearances until he can get his TARDIS back, as well as a piece of the technology that Klein keeps on her.

Speaking of Klein, it’s great to hear her back here. I’m really looking forward to when I cover her previous stories for this blog, it’s quite the crazy ride. Here it’s more she’s a regular UNIT Scientific Advisor with a secret history she knows nothing about, and a recurring paranoia about an “Umbrella Man” who keep looking at her from a distance. This is of course the Seventh Doctor, keeping an eye on her after managing to integrate her into this timeline, saving her from being erased when her Nazi-dominated timeline was wiped out. As I said, here she just acts like a strict and weary-of-Doctors advisor, but she’s still enjoyable in the role, and her reaction to finding out the truth is good, though in the end doesn’t do much.

One of the main things I love about this set is the crazy imagination it uses for its creatures. As they’re from other dimensions entirely they don’t have to conform to our rules, so we see weird tentacle-things, mind-leeches, lava spiders, deadly sentient cubes, and my personal favourite, the Skyheads, which are literally giant floating baby heads that speak in really simple, child-like one-or-two-word sentences in an incredibly weird sounding booming voice. Sooner or later the Skyheads ally with UNIT and people begin riding on them to get to different locations! Now there’s a mental image!

As for the rest of the cast: The Seventh Doctor is good here, in his more reflective, quieter version rather than dark manipulator (or whatever the hell you call his self in his first season!), but the rest are mostly rather stock, especially the two UNIT leaders and Raine, who turns into a generic, “ask questions and don’t really do anything” companion. Not bad, but they stand out against such big characters and ideas as we see here.

It’s a well-paced story as well, which at four hours is a blessing! Thanks to the numerous and ever-weirder invasions, we get plenty of location switching and The Doctor and Raine don’t actually arrive on Earth for sometime, allowing the Master’s fake Doctor to run the show with UNIT for the first half, which is definitely fun! There is also a nice fake-out ending, leading to a tense showdown right at the end thanks to a bit of old-fashioned Master hypnotism! I’d forgotten about that, so it was a nice surprise both times…

The Bad:

UNIT Dominion 3

Raine makes her return… just to walk around asking questions. Oh well.

There are a few things that annoy me. First of all, Sgt. Pete Wilson, who goes on and on about his wife being pregnant and about how he can’t wait to see him born etc, etc. I mean, it’s kind of nice that in the end he actually survives (unlike pretty much every other UNIT soldier we hear…), which is against how this normally plays out, but over four hours you do get rather bored of his constant family name drops…

Speaking of getting tired hearing things, if I hear “The Umbrella Man” one more time I’m going to kill someone… Probably not, actually, but that phrase is severely over-used, anyway.

I also don’t like the fact that this is the Seventh Doctor towards the end of his life, complete with TV Movie version of McCoy being used on the covers, yet he’s travelling with a companion and interacts with a ghostly voice of suddenly-on-Gallifrey Ace at several points. The thing about the TV Movie Doctor is that he has fallen into the trap of not trusting anyone and getting ideas above his station, it’s what makes some of the Eighth Doctor’s comments about his previous self so interesting, so to hear the Seventh Doctor so like his more usual self is confusing. Not to mention how he ended up travelling with Raine again is still yet to be revealed (though at least Ace being on Gallifrey is sort-of covered now…)

The Continuity:

UNIT Dominion 2

Klein, still riding the momentum of her great debut story and follow-up trilogy. Let’s just not mention the trilogy that followed this release, yeah?

Klein is introduced in the Seventh Doctor audio Colditz, and later appears in a trilogy of Seventh Doctor audios that end with “The Architects of History”, where she is successfully inserted into the “real” timeline. Raine on the other hand was introduced in the Seventh Doctor “Lost Stories” range, starting with her proper debut in “Crime of the Century”. How she left The Doctor and later began travelling with him again are both still unrevealed at this point…

Alex Macqueen’s Master would later reappear in the Eighth Doctor “Dark Eyes” series of audios, as well as a couple of other appearances where he once again goes backwards down his own timeline, ending with the Seventh Doctor audio “The Two Masters”.

Before leaving The Doctor gives Klein a “Space-Time Telegraph” in case she needs to contact him directly, the same piece of equipment he gave the Brigadier. There are also many references to Third Doctor UNIT stories via codenames and files within the UNIT scenes, but I won’t list all of them.

There is also a funny line where The Doctor wonders why his “future self” is able to cross dimensions and meddle with forbidden technology that the Time Lords don’t allow, leading to Raine wondering if “maybe there aren’t any Time Lords in the era he comes from”, which The Doctor waves off as impossible…

Overall Thoughts:

UNIT: Dominion, at four hours long, is a commitment (though I’ll admit I listened to it a part a day this time, where as the first time is was all four in the same day…) but it tells a great story, with the world getting more and more screwed up as more and more other-dimensional beings keep popping in, and the trio of The Doctor, the “Other Doctor” and Klein all play off each other well, especially in Part 4. If you haven’t had it spoiled (and you skipped straight to this section and avoid my spoilery thoughts, I hope!) then you’ll love the Part 3 cliffhanger reveal, if you already know then you’ll love the subtle hints dropped throughout the first three quarters of the story. Either way, you’ll have fun listening to this mammoth, standalone UNIT story.

5 Star Listen

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