So today Big Finish Productions, makers of a variety of audio series based on many cult TV series, most notably (of course) classic Doctor Who and a variety of their own spin-offs, made a special announcement: a brand new series starring Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart in UNIT: The New Series, beginning in November with a release titled Extinction. To say it’s made me excited is an understatement.
So what’s it about?
UNIT is an organisation that’s featured in a lot of Doctor Who stories, both classic and new. Essentially a military organisation created to fight more unusual threats, most notably extra-terrestrial, it’s been an important part of the mythology of the show since 1968 and even more-so in the early 70s, when the production team focused on more Earth-based stories to save costs. In the classic series, the organisation was lead by Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, arguably one of the oldest and closest friends the Doctor ever had. In the new series, his daughter, Kate Stewart, has lead UNIT to become a military organisation lead by its scientists, and is usually the first person to deal with the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors in the event of a worldwide crisis. This new spin-off is to focus on her character and her team while dealing with alien invasions without the Doctor’s help.
Currently, not many details have been released about the overall plot of the series, other than every six months from November onwards, a brand new 4-part season will be released, the first of which will be titled Extinction and focus on the team battling an invasion by the Autons, a popular monster from both the classic and the new series.
Big Finish have previously released 2 seasons of UNIT based more on the classic series, the first featuring the Brigadier and mostly new characters back in 2005, the second released in 2012 with the overall title of Dominion and featured the Seventh Doctor and several popular characters from Big Finish’s Doctor Who stories.
Why am I excited about this story?
The most immediate thing that springs to mind is that, while Big Finish Productions have been working with actors and characters that have appeared in the classic series for over a decade and a half, due to licensing restrictions, they have never been allowed to have any stories that included elements or actors that had only appeared from the revival that started in 2005 onwards. This meant that they could tell stories that focused on the Doctor, but only feature stories focused on his first 8 incarnations, so nothing featuring Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi or even John Hurt. They could focus on monsters from the classic series (eg the Daleks or the Cybermen, for example) or create their own, but they couldn’t use any that had been exclusively created for the new series (so no Weeping Angels stories with classic Doctors, unfortunately). In short, anything featured in the classic series was ok, but anything from the new series was off limits.
Now technically, the character of Kate Stewart had originally been created for expanded universe stories back in the 90s, but Jemma Redgrave portraying her had been exclusive to the new series, so this is really is a massive step for Big Finish. Does this mean that anything else from the new series might be appearing in Big Finish stories any time soon? Maybe, maybe not, but either way, this really is an excellent first step. Big Finish Productions have easily made some of my favourite Doctor Who stories ever, and their spin-off series have been consistently excellent, especially. I am a huge fan of Dalek Empire, Gallifrey and Jago & Litefoot especially. So if they can expand their creativity to focus on characters and monsters from the new series, perhaps even find ways of incorporating classic and new series elements into stories, then I’d more than love it. (Big Finish, if you can find a way to make a Jago & Litefoot & Paternoster Gang crossover and blow the minds of every classic/new Who series fan, please do so asap!)
But just as brilliant as that is the fact that Big Finish are doing another series of UNIT. The box set release Dominion in 2012 was truly epic, thrilling stuff. It was a story that honestly, I hadn’t been too excited about pre-release (bear in mind, I was much more looking forward to the new Eighth Doctor release Dark Eyes at the time), but it really blew me away. It had an incredible sense of scale, featuring numerous alien invasions and a wide variety of monsters, while still giving us plenty of memorable and brilliant human characters, plus a few surprises and shocks along the way. It almost felt like a New Series finale with four times the budget and a classic Doctor. While I’ve heard the first season of UNIT that was more focused on gritty, stand-alone storytelling and enjoyed it, I loved the more epic storytelling of Dominion so much more. Extinction sounds like it’s going to continue that style of epic scale and character focus, so new series or not, I’m more than happy for a new season of UNIT.
It’s going to be a long wait until November, but I’m sure it’ll be more than worth it.