In The Helliax Rift, write (and producer) Scott Handcock gets to set up a new slice of UNIT and begin what will be a run of stories across multiple Doctors. In this adventure, the Fifth Doctor is on the hunt for mysterious alien signals when he runs across a UNIT team, lead by Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Price (Russ Bain), and including signals operative Corporal Linda Maxwell (Genevieve Gaunt) and Lieutenant Daniel Hopkins (Blake Harrison). How does this new setup work? Let’s chat…
The story of The Helliax Rift
First the product page description:
Daniel Hopkins thought he knew what he was letting himself in for when he joined the top-secret UNIT organisation as its latest Medical Officer.
Racing about the countryside, chasing strange lights in the sky? Check. Defending the realm against extraterrestrial incursion? Check. Frequent ear-bashings from UNIT’s UK CO, the famously no-nonsense Lt-Col Lewis Price? Check. Close encounters of the First, Second and even Third kind? Check, check, check.
But he had no idea what alien beings were really like. Until the day of the Fallen Kestrel. Until the day he met the Doctor.
The story is one of interference: the Doctor interferes with a UNIT mission, UNIT interferes with the Doctor resolving the meaning of a mysterious alien signal and both intend to interfere with (once they find out about them) the machinations of Annabel Morden and Dr Jennifer Harrison. Now the synopsis gives away little of the plot, so what I will say is the first disc takes the action in one direction, get there then the second disc takes it off at rather a cunning (if dark) angle. At times the Doctor seems out of his depth, and fails to exert his usual control over the situation. It’s a good job UNIT are around, though Price has a no-nonsense, practical if immediate solution to most problems of an alien nature, and that will include the Doctor if necessary. Scott Handcock gives us one and a half enemies and half a companion in the form of Hopkins. It all makes for a great listen and even if the ending seems tidy, there is plenty in the way of mess en route.
The story telling
As ever, it’s a great cast (director Jamie Anderson taking some credit) and as well as those named, we also get Jacob Dudman lending his vocal talents to several roles. The storytelling is fresh: UNIT don’t kowtow to the Doctor, all three of Maxwell, Price and Hopkins have edges to their personalities and they manage to be their own characters, and not just rebadges of (eg) the Brigadier and Harry Sullivan, despite Hopkins being the medic. The characters bode well for the next story (the Sixth Doctor adventure, Hour of the Cybermen), even if Maxwell is not listed. I do like how Hopkins can be a hero, a medic. a soldier and his own independent thinker, as well as the way the Doctor may help solve a situation, but brings his own complications. Good stuff!