The first of a new series of UNIT audio adventures, Extinction is a four-part story that shows Kate Stewart, Osgood and the UNIT team investigating enigmatic billionaire Simon Devlin, who plans on launching a stock-line of new 3D printers. As UNIT continue their investigation, they discover that it’s all a launching pad for an alien invasion that is being orchestrated by the Nestene Consciousness and its army of plastic Autons.
This series has received a lot of hype since its announcement, one of the reasons being that because of the inclusion of both Kate Stewart and Osgood, Big Finish were now starting to dip into the world of Doctor Who’s modern era, but of course since then they announced a new Torchwood series and adventures starring John Hurt and David Tennant’s Doctors. It’s fair to say that Extinction lives up to its hype and more so. In fact, this four-part adventure feels like a perfect mixture of both the classic and modern eras.
You have modern-day UNIT (set before the events of The Day of the Doctor), yet the scenario feels very reminiscent of the previous Auton adventures from the Jon Pertwee era with a little nod to their 2005 story added in. Even though they were an effective menace during their first two adventures, the Autons were relegated somewhat to being your standard monster-of-the-week enemy, so having them as the focus for this kind of story sounded troubling. However, this story restores their menace factor, and the clever use of 3D printers as a means to produce plastic replacement parts, like an individual’s skull for example, which even though is kind of cool it’s still creepy and disturbing.
Extinction does a very good at being an exciting, globetrotting, action-adventure, and both Matt Fitton and Andrew Smith do a great job of maintaining the momentum and pace all the way through. Not once did the story lag or feel like padding, and it also does a great job at laying the seeds for future UNIT adventures, which should be exciting. We also have great character development for all the characters involved, and it’s not just Kate Stewart or Osgood, but also the new supporting characters involved, like Josh Carter or Jacqui McGee.
During the Christopher Eccleston/David Tennant eras, UNIT lacked that family unit that became the backbone for the UNIT stories of ‘70s, but in 2012 that all changed when Jemma Redgrave arrived on the scene as Kate Stewart. The addition of Ingrid Oliver’s Osgood a year later meant that from then on, a new UNIT family was made in Who’s modern era. Redgrave still maintains the dramatic gusto and dynamism she has in the TV episodes, and it’s great to see a Kate that doesn’t rely on the Doctor’s help. This story gives Kate a sense of agency, yet she also maintains an element of doubt within her, questioning her own leadership and wondering what her father would’ve done, all of which makes Kate more intriguing. Oliver is still a charming presence as Osgood, and we do get some nice character moments from her. In this story, she’s pretty much an adrenaline junkie, managing to thrive in dangerous situations whilst still retaining her scientific interests and always accomplishing what’s asked of her. The supporting cast do a solid job with particular standouts being James Joyce, Tracey Wiles and Steve John Shepherd, plus it’s great to see Nicolas Briggs in two contrasting roles.
If Extinction is the start of a new series of UNIT adventures, then here’s hoping it’s a long one and more. This is an incredibly solid story that succeeds on every level; the acting, the sound design, the pacing, are all excellent. Plus, it’s nice to see that when the Doctor’s too busy to save the world, we see what Kate, Osgood and their team are capable of, and by the look of this, they got everything covered just fine.
UNIT: EXTINCTION / DIRECTOR: KEN BATLEY / AUTHOR: ANDREW SMITH, MATT FITTON / STARRING: JEMMA REDGRAVE, INGRID OLIVER, WARREN BROWN, RAMON TIKARAM, JAMES JOYCE / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW