It’s finally here (as of October 23rd 2012), the first of the Doctor Who Special Releases, UNIT: Dominion. This Nick Briggs written and directed story (co-written with Jason Arnopp) features the Seventh Doctor and Raine along with a much welcomed return for Klein. This along with many new UNIT faces, some new monsters, multi-dimensional mischief and a the Other Doctor from the future is a rocking four disc story with a fifth disc packed full of extras.
I review it after listening to each disc so there are spoilers (but not the big ones) and also partly-informed opinions.
Part1: The set-up – meet a new Doctor
There’s lots to like here; we get a few new UNIT soldiers including Pete Wilson with heavily pregnant wife, Klein is wonderful and has great chemistry with a new Other Doctor from the deep future. London is prey to a living stone that absorbs energy and needs a special device from the TARDIS to neutralise and reduce in size. The resulting Dimension Node is then pocketed by Klein for UNIT.
The Other Doctor is wonderfully performed by Alex Macqueen and immediately connects with Tracey Childs as Klein whilst winding up the various UNIT officials he meets. A quick pass code and heart count later he is accepted as being a new incarnation of the Doctor.
Meanwhile the Seventh Doctor and Raine get pulled into another dimension also being attacked by an energy leeching stone (or the same one). It also seems that Ace is trying to help send a message possibly helped by the Time Lords with whom she is studying.
The Other Doctor appears briefly and tells the Seventh Doctor not to help the native Tholians, ensuring that he does.
Here to the energy sucking stone is shrunk down then used in a device to restore the balance of energy back to this depleted dimension. Instead of gratitude the previously feeble Tholians become greedy and insist that the Seventh Doctor opens the throttle on a trans-dimensional energy device to feed them even further but in so doing wreak havoc across multiple-dimensions!
We also learn of the dimensioneers, a banned set of Time Lords who wanted to regularly breach the dimensional walls!
Luckily the Other Doctor can hypnotise UNIT troops to be resistant to mind leeching and destroys the creatures.
Klein doesn’t know what to make of this Doctor but at least he isn’t the umbrella man who haunts her dreams!
Part 2: The crisis continues – beware the Skyheads!
To escape their immediate danger the Seventh Doctor and Raine enter the dimension corridor without the TARDIS and need to find a way out before they have their life energy depleted. The here from Ace again but the message is incomplete.
In London a new crisis appears – the Skyheads! These are a fabulous creation (they reminded me of the heads that appear in the Sean Connery film Zardoz) and can fly, make some fabulous noises (listen on good speakers or headphones) and breath devastating blasts of air to destroy things.
After an initial messy confrontation there is a stand-off and the Other Doctor sets out to convince the Skyheads to cease attacks and work together with humanity.
Meanwhile Klein, who still has the now pocket-sized Dimension Node, and Pete Wilson head off to Germany, which is ironic given the events of Colditz and the Klein Trilogy. Here they are attacked by hordes of massive lava spiders that trap them in webs which they pump full of lava to cook them alive. The scene where Klein is certain she is finished is a triumph of acting and direction.
The Seventh Doctor and Raine have ended up on a barren world and also encounter lava spiders. They are chased into a volcano and end up working out how to follow the spiders to a dimensional gateway.
In Germany all looks lost until the Other Doctor turns up to save the day. Klein and the UNIT soldiers are freed and set out on the now friendly Skyheads to lay waste to the lava spiders and close their portal. This while the Seventh Doctor and Raine are about to use it to come to out dimension! Klein does suggest that they were only rescued as she had the dimension node with her – the Other Doctor dismissed that idea at once.
Part 3: The crises worsens – danger all around
Luckily the Other Doctor saves the day and Klein has to face up to her worst dream – the umbrella man! Soon UNIT as a whole treats both Doctors and Raine as undesirables then has to once more beg for help with two dimensional incursions one in Japan the other in Las Vegas.
Klein and the Seventh Doctor go to the US by Skyhead and Raine travels with the new Doctor to Japan, again by Skyhead as UNIT have impounded his TARDIS. Most of this disc is taken up with these two incursions and this is used to play out some of the consequences of the basic plot. Both Doctors stress that they should be allowed to take the Dimension Node in the Other Doctor‘s TARDIS back to where everything started. Slowly this argument gathers weight but we do start to see a hardening of positions. The Seventh Doctor briefs Raine on the Nazi version of Klein and also has to remind the Other Doctor who can’t remember that far back and has also forgotten Raine as well, much to her annoyance.
In Japan our heroes are faced with another new horror, this one being a gestalt squid like creature called the Nexus. The Nexus is a massive creature capable of absorbing skyscrapers and killing the inhabitants. The idea of a giant creature in Japan is of course a bit Godzilla like but so what.
Eventually the Other Doctor suggest that they talk to the Nexus, an odd experience as it has multiple personalities and each has a face at the end of a tentacle. With some persuasion the Nexus is convinced to leave Japan and more to a holding position in the Philippines.
In Vegas things are not so good; alien cubes with ray guns are on the wiping out the local UNIT troops. analysis of a couple of bodies determines that heat may kill them. A mix of flame throwers whipped up by Skyheads to a firestorm and ray guns salvaged from a few bodies are used in a pitch battle to push the cubes back.
In a last bid action the remaining cubes conspire to self-destruct and force the dimension gate wide open; the Seventh Doctor tries to use the Dimension Cube to close the gateway but can’t manage it. The Other Doctor arrives but wants his TARDIS back before he will help. He then takes the Dimension Node and runs off into the TARIDS pursued by the Seventh Doctor both being shot at by UNIT troops. What is happening?!
Part 4 – the resolution?
This is difficult to detail without breaking many spoilers. What I can reveal is that the Tholians travel en masse to destroy humanity, Klein finds out the truth of her existence in the Third Reich and eventually most of the loose ends get gathered together. Dimension nodes probably get destroyed and the truth of how they got planted in London and the Tholian world gets revealed.
The Seventh Doctor eventually resorts to his standard methods of building rapport, honesty and trust to win the day.
This is a wonderful boxset on many counts. Nick Briggs has revisited Klein and UNIT an left us eager for more. I haven’t listened to the extras yet so I can’t say for certain how the writing was split between Nick and Jason but the product comes across fairly seamless.
Beth Chalmers as Raine is as wonderful as ever and Alex Macqueen as the Other Doctor is a performance to savour. As to Tracey Childs once more back as Klein we are spoilt with quality and she must get more releases.
The idea of a trans-dimensional tale allows the writers plenty of room to ignore the canon and let their imaginations run free. The Skyheads are brilliant and everyone needs credit for these. We do worry as to how this gets brushed under the carpet and the human race carries on as though the planet wasn’t invaded from all angles but that is a problem for another day.
The soldiers are maybe a bit under-developed with the US and German UNIT personnel being almost stereotypes at times; this is a very minor niggle. UNIT goes through two leaders neither of which I found time to comment on, but I do like the angle that the relationship with the Doctor is much less close-knit than it had been.
If the rest of the Special Releases live up to this standard we will all be very happy!
So, did you like UNIT: Dominion? Would you buy a follow up boxset? Let me know!