UNIT – Cyber-Reality Review

UNIT Cyber-Reality

As I mentioned in my Gallifrey: Time War Vol. 1 review, I brought the two spin-off range boxsets that included Derek Jacobi’s version of The Master in a recent sale, but unlike Gallifrey, which surprised me with two excellent stories, this anthology is not up to the same standard, and if anything Jacobi’s Master is one of the few highlights… Let’s take a look!

Synopsis:

Sam Bishop is missing. Lost at sea, imprisoned with a valuable hostage, UNIT’s troubleshooter will need all his skills to survive. To save their comrade, Kate Stewart and Osgood are offered a deadly challenge. But this game might be impossible to win…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

UNIT Cyber-Reality Cover

I wonder how many pictures of Derek Jacobi Big Finish took?

Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) – The current leader of UNIT, Kate Stewart learned it all from her father’s long tenure with the organisation. That being said, a Cyberman invasion at the same time The Master arrives might be too much…

Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) – Osgood is UNIT’s resident tech genius who was also inspired to join UNIT based on her father’s role in the group. She’s a big fan of The Doctor, but has started to become pretty reliable in a crisis herself…

Lt. Sam Bishop (Warren Brown) – Sam was inspired to join the military by his great-grandfather’s exploits during World War II. Given some of the things Sam’s seen during his time, I think he envies the simplicity his relative faced…

Colonel Vikram Shindi (Ramon Takaram) – Colonel Shindi is a proud member of UNIT and hasn’t ever thought of leaving, despite the various horrors he’s seen already…

Josh Carter (James Joyce) – Josh is a member of UNIT and has been for a while now. He’s partly an Auton, and as such has gained super strength, and is a lot harder to Cyber-Convert…

The Master (Derek Jacobi) – The Master has spent some time in an alternate dimension trying to avoid the ongoing Time War, but it seems fate has pulled him back to his former universe, and onto Earth, no less…

The Cybermen (Nicholas Briggs) – These Cybermen come from a universe where they have dominated the majority of inhabited planets and are now looking for convert the residents of nearby universes and timelines…

Plus more!

The Good:

UNIT Cyber-Reality P4 Cover

This suffers a bit from “head pasted onto body” syndrome…

The final two episodes form the central story involving an invasion of Cybermen from an alternate reality, and is where the story picks up. Osgood and UNIT-audio-only characters (that I sadly have no emotional attachment too as this is my first time listening to this series…) Sam Bishop and Col. Shindi are all partially Cyber-converted, with Osgood retaining a sense of her humanity as she deduces she’d be a better asset to the “Cyber-cause” by being able to think emotionally as well as logically, which was a fun twist.

Kate Stewart and apparently part-Auton soldier Josh Carter go on the run in search of anti-Cyberman weaponry, which was a fun scene as Kate tells Josh about how there are loads of different kinds of Cybermen, each with subtle differences in goals and weaknesses. This is among the first time this has really been laid out there, though visually it had been obvious, it was fun to think about it, especially how some convert while others kill, which is nice to hear as pretty much all of the New Series Cybermen do nothing but convert…

This leads to Kate being corned by the Cybermen, only for The Master to arrive by coincidence, and of course he proceeds to not give a crap and searches for a needed gizmo while Kate is threatened by Cybermen. It’s only when he is grabbed and his TARDIS captured that he reluctantly helps out UNIT with the problem. As per usual Jacobi’s Master is brilliant here, deliciously evil and loving every second of taunting and tormenting the other soldiers, but especially the daughter of his old enemy The Brigadier. With The Master’s help Kate and UNIT stop the invasion and save humanity, and watch on as The Master escapes as well, but escapes without killing a UNIT member, which is a plus… Overall, it was fun, and The Master was great, but…

The Bad:

UNIT Cyber-Reality P1 Cover

Why did they think Sam looking off to one side would be a good look for the cover?

Episode 1 of the set, titled “Game Theory”, was pretty dull, which is odd because it was pretty much Die Hard with a Vengeance but with the use of a VR headset, which is a fun idea. The Auctioneers, which are seemingly a recurring enemy for UNIT in these sets, have become fed up of UNIT sniffing around their alien-tech-running operation so put Kate and Osgood through the wringer via a series of challenges where people’s lives are on the line, and they get increasingly further apart and harder to manage, at least until Osgood pegs on to the idea of using the VR headset she was given to start the task. Meanwhile Sam Bishop gets put into a cyber-reality of his own via the Auctioneers and their VR headsets and is forced to repeat a sequence of rescuing a hostage from a ship full of terrorists so the evil group can use it as a basis for a VR first-person shooter. Again, it was a fun concept, but it just seemed really flat and dull. Very weird…

Episode 2, “Telepresence”, was equally full of interesting ideas, albeit mostly ripped straight from the Matrix, but it’s also quite dull. Osgood, Shindi and Josh are sent into another reality via the VR headsets that were confiscated and have to go on the run from mutant dogs before eventually bringing the Cybermen to this reality as the cliffhanger. They realise, as they are just plugged into the reality as cyber-people, they can break the laws of physics, including leaping across between two buildings, so… exactly like The Matrix. Anyway, mysteriously uninteresting.

I think looking at it, it’s maybe the cast are just not very interesting? Sam and Josh are flat, uninteresting soldier types, Col. Shindi is as well but with a bit of sarcasm thrown in, and Kate is the steadfast leader. Even Osgood, who is fun to watch on the show, seems really lifeless here on Audio. It’s a shame, but while Gallifrey: Time War Vol. 1 made me interested in checking out more of the series, this has done the opposite. The thought of this cast for four hours without Derek Jacobi is not one I relish…

The Continuity:

UNIT Cyber-Reality P2 Cover

Speaking of “head pasted onto body” syndrome…

Quite a few! The Auctioneers appear in two episodes of UNIT: Encounters. When UNIT looks over their alien wares it is said that Malcom Taylor will look over them, a character that appeared as part of UNIT in the Tenth Doctor TV Story “Planet of the Dead”.

Fortress Island, where most of the story takes place, is the same sea-based … base that is seen during the Third Doctor classic “The Sea Devils”. The Master notes the Cybermen’s attempt to conquer Earth by using existing communication networks was a great idea and that it’s how “he would probably do it”, which is a reference to his next incarnation doing just that in the Tenth Doctor three parter “Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords”.

A lot of this story also links to the Twelfth Doctor two parter “Dark Water / Death in Heaven”, where The Master two-lives on and now called Missy uses Cybermen very much like these ones to conquer Earth, kills a version of Osgood and tries to kill Kate Stewart, which is also teased as The Master leaves and says he’ll “have to kill her another day” at the end of this story.

Apart from a reference to pretty much every Cyberman story that’s ever aired, that’s about it!

Overall Thoughts:

UNIT Cyber-Reality P3 Cover

Kate doesn’t look impressed.

UNIT: Cyber-Reality was a bit of a bore, to be honest. It picks up at the mid-way point and has a great final act, but only because of the introduction of Derek Jacobi’s Master. The lead cast is quite generic and uninteresting, and it certainly hasn’t convinced me to track down the UNIT backlog…

3 Star Listen

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