Doctor Who: The Unzal Incursion Review

The latest Third Doctor Adventures set is very exciting, containing two stories set on either end of the original Third Doctor TV run rather than only featuring the Jo Grant years, all thanks to the daughters of Liz Shaw and Sarah Jane Smith taking up their mother’s roles. This is set during that always fun and sadly short-lived Season 7 time, where The Doctor, Liz Shaw and the Brigadier were facing long-form threats to Earth. Does it fit in? Is it actually good in its own right? Let’s find out!

Synopsis:

Under the supervision of the Doctor, the Brigadier and Dr Liz Shaw, UNIT are getting ready to activate Hotspur: their new, advanced early warning system.

But something goes wrong. Can it be that UNIT has been betrayed from within? Suddenly bases are falling across the globe, and only the Doctor and his friends are able to escape.

Not knowing how far the conspiracy goes, the Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier become fugitives. Their investigations lead them to the Fulcrum military training facility. And something beyond the Earth.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Right off the bat it’s great hearing not only Tim Treloar’s Third Doctor and Jon Culshaw’s Brigadier again, but Daisy Ashford’s spot on take on her mother’s role. It really does feel like a Season 7 audio drama, which is great fun. That being said the actual plot veers from the Season 7 formula by separating our lead trio from UNIT and having them on the run, though admittedly due to an extra-terrestrial threat to Earth, which is certainly on point.

To put that into perspective, the story is that Dr. Shaw is about to activate her “Hotspur” system, something that will link all the early warning systems on Earth and make them far more efficient. At the same time The Brigadier is looking at a new government created training program at a place called “The Fulcrum”, where Cherilyn Dankworth (Clare Corbett) oversees a bunch of robot drones that face off with new UNIT Sergeant Attah (Misha Malcom) and her troops. The Brig isn’t impressed but leaves the Sgt. and her men to it and returns to UNIT HQ. The Doctor, Liz and the Brig meet up at Hotspur’s official opening ceremony before the trio are suddenly turned on and captured by their own troops, led by Attah. Confused, the three of them escape UNIT HQ via a combination of the TARDIS console making a small jump and Bessie, before reaching the special UNIT plane / base from the force’s debut story.

We soon find out that Dankworth is in communication with a group of aliens known as the Unzal and is also responsible for brainwashing Attah and her men, and she sends them after The Doctor and co. along with a bunch of Fulcrum drones because she needs the Hotspur access codes to take down the early warning system for the Unzal. Our trio try to escape in the plane, but the plane is shot down and Liz is captured. The Doctor and an injured Brig manage to break the brainwashing on a soldier named Harper (Avita Jay) and break into the Fulcrum facility and find out just what’s going on, and that being an invasion of Britain specifically because the Unzal aren’t powerful enough to invade the whole planet. Suffice it to say after some back and forth, a few escapes and a shoot-out or two the Unzal’s plans are foiled, and we find out that Dankworth was also being mind controlled, but the control has broken her mind. The Doctor ends the story saying that there must have been a greater power behind the Unzal because there was no way they could’ve pulled this off by themselves. Interesting little cliffhanger…

The Bad:

Lovely cover, though given how far apart these two stories take place they really needed separate covers… *sigh*, I’ll stop complaining about that eventually…

I’d say the only real negative is that for a four parter is still seemed stretched thin, there were times in Episodes 2 and 3 that felt like I was waiting for the inevitable to happen rather than enjoying the story. They were brief and I loved the cast and feel they were going for, so it wasn’t too big a deal in the long run. I also have to mention that Sgt. Attah sounds really… plain. There didn’t seem to be much personality in her performance (even pre and post brainwashing) so if she becomes a regular for any length of time hopefully she can be put in a better position to fill out the character more.

Oh and the Unzal that Dankworth kept talking to sounded FAR too much like Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget…

The Continuity:

The Silurians are mentioned a few times, putting this after “and the Silurians” in terms of Season 7. Benton is mentioned but not as a Sergeant, so maybe this is specifically after Silurians but before Ambassadors of Death? That would make sense as they use the Ambassadors version of the opening theme as well as the “recaps before the titles” thing…

The only other thing is, as mentioned, the UNIT plane base that appeared during UNIT’s debut story, the second Doctor TV eight-part epic “The Invasion”.

Overall Thoughts:

The Unzal Incursion brought back to life an era of the show that sadly is now impossible to revisit with any of the original cast and does so brilliantly. The story isn’t actually up to much overall, but it’s fine, and possibly sets up more to come. Frankly more to come from the Season 7 era of UNIT sounds great to me!

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