Now fully immersed in the conflicted and unstable environs of 1970s’ Britain, the new Counter-Measures team find themselves involved in four separate tales of intrigue, plot-twisting suspense and high adventure which culminate in an unexpected reunion with a dastardly and powerful former adversary.
Under director Ken Bentley’s ever-astute watch, the Counter-Measures cast deliver superior ensemble character drama with great dynamics. As group head Toby Kinsella, Hugh Ross exudes just the right mix of paternalism and empathy; Simon Williams’ Ian Gilmore is a suitably impatient man of action; while perceptive scientific experts Allison Williams (Karen Gledhill) and Rachel Jensen (Pamela Salem) provide authoritative knowledge and guidance the credibility of which is rarely challenged by either alpha-male in the group.
Events get underway with Roland Moore’s energetic, fast-paced foray into the world of cloning and dubious doppelgangers “The Splintered Man”, which unfolds amidst the world of the Seventies’ holiday package and the folklore of ‘half-built hotels’ in sun-drenched resorts. Replete with plenty of plot twists and revelations, and lots of rushing between locations, Moore’s script uses the nascent tension between different national police forces, in what was a newly pan-European setting, to good dramatic effect.
The premise of Christopher Hatherall’s “The Ship of the Sleepwalkers” is disarmingly brilliant. The team awake aboard a cruise liner, without any memory of how or when they left the land. From this disconcerting beginning, the four agents are plunged into a high-stakes conspiracy in which they learn that a foreign power is trying to perfect mind control techniques that will allow them to influence the outcome of another country’s presidential election. It’s not necessary to consider the real-world parallels of Hatherall’s taut and intelligent script in order to enjoy this episode, but few listeners are likely to miss the obvious contemporary resonance of the story.
“My Enemy’s Enemy” heralds the welcome return of the devious and decorous arms dealer Lady Suzanne Clare (played with a delicious sense of wickedness by Survivors’ Carolyn Seymour). The team confront the nefarious schemes of businessman Sir August Frazer, who has acquired extraterrestrial technology that enables him to amass wealth and power by mind manipulation. The only story in the set to employ co-writers (Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky share credit), this episode offers a well-executed tale of duplicity and double-dealing that makes time for different members of the team to take the spotlight. Captain Gilmore’s efforts to ingratiate himself with the punters at one of London’s new punk rock clubs, although incidental to the main plot, is a well-observed clash of generational cultures. Let’s just hope that, on her next return, Clare does not have to share the top guest billing with a co-conspirator: she’s sufficiently bad-to-the-bone to thrive without an accomplice.
Things are brought to a winning, fan-pleasing finale in Andy Frankham-Allen’s “Time of the Intelligence”. The menace of The Great Intelligence has returned, with an army of Yeti threatening London and raiding factories to steal equipment necessary for a chilling regeneration plan. There’s a lot of well-thought-through continuity with the events of The Web of Fear and The Abominable Snowmen in evidence in this fast-moving script (Frankham-Allen having previously written for Candy Jar Books’ Lethbridge Stewart imprint), and events are lit-up by a great performance by Tim Bentinck as the irascible Professor Edward Travers.
This is another strong quartet of stories, which sees the team firing on all cylinders as the 1970s race by. How great would it be, were the intractable licensing obstacles to be cleared, if the Counter-Measures team were to find themselves entangled with the missions of their Seventies’ truth-seeking contemporaries, Dr Quist and the Doomwatch crew? While that remains impossibly unlikely, there are more than enough demands on Counter Measures’ agents to keep them busy for decades to come - alone and unaided.
NEW COUNTER-MEASURES SERIES TWO / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / WRITERS: ROLAND MOORE, CHRISTOPHER HATHERALL, ROBERT KHAN AND TOM SALINSKY, ANDY FRANKHAM-ALLEN / STARRING: HUGH ROSS, SIMON WILLIAMS, PAMELA SALEM, KAREN GLEDHILL / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW