Since being brought into the world of Big Finish, UNIT’s modern day counterpart in Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Petronella Osgood, alongside new recruits Josh Carter and Colonel Shindi, was done incredibly well and proved to be one of the best series Big Finish has ever put out. They encountered new threats like the Tengobushi, while also taking on classic threats such as the Nestenes, the Silence, as well as different generations of Silurians. The previous four volumes were each their own overarching story, while this fifth volume takes a different approach to before by having four short standalone tales with very loose threads connecting them, which seems to be setting up something big for the future.
'The Dalek Transaction' by Matt Fitton is about a team of renegade Guerilla freedom fighters selling a damaged Dalek to an undercover UNIT team. The idea of this UNIT team taking on a lone Dalek is a fun concept on its own, but it lacks the excitement or surprise it should have, largely because this feels somewhat derivative of Robert Shearman's 'Dalek' from 2005. Roy Gill's 'Invocation' is a straight forward haunted house/ghost story, and it's always fun having the UNIT team thrown into smaller adventures as opposed to the bigger adventures they often face, plus there's some chilling atmosphere that does occasionally have you on edge. However, this does sort of pale in comparison with the other big stories in this collection, so this does get lost amidst the excitement.
The third story, 'The Sontaran Project' by Andrew Smith, is where things really kick into high gear as this story works perfectly for UNIT. This is a story where espionage is key and alliances are forged between the unlikeliest of allies, and all thanks to a great plot twist that keeps the listener engaged and intrigued. The sound design is fantastic, it introduces a new threat for UNIT to face for future stories, Dan Starkey continues to make the Sontarans fascinating monsters while also making them more layered, and this story also provides a great role for Osgood. 'False Negative' by John Dorney is the standout entry in this set, which also harkens back to the classic Third Doctor story 'Inferno' by having an alternative world with evil versions of UNIT. This story plays fun with that concept, especially with the evil doppelgangers of Osgood and Josh, with Ingrid Oliver in particular having a blast playing both versions of the character. This story could've easily gone either way, but this was a wonderful concluding entry for the set thanks to its brilliant execution, and it still has you keen for more stories in the future.
While this may be the weakest volume of UNIT so far, this is by no means a bad one either, as this is still a solid volume with an odd variety of stories that are done wonderfully. Jemma Redgrave still rocks it as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, both James Joyce and Ramon Tikaram are good support as Carter and Shindi, while Ingrid Oliver is still the standout as Osgood and the last two stories in the set will make you love her even more. It may have been risky of Big Finish to shake up the formula by having four individual stories instead of one big one, but it's handled well for the most part, and here's hoping the next set delivers big, especially as volume six will apparently feature both the Cybermen and Derek Jacobi's War Master. Now that's a double threat I'm interested in!
UNIT ENCOUNTERS / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / WRITTEN BY: MATT FITTON, ROY GILL, ANDREW SMITH, JOHN DORNEY / STARRING: JEMMA REDGRAVE, INGRID OLIVER, JAMES JOYCE, RAMON TIKARAM, KARINA FERNANDEZ, LUCY FLEMING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW