Time Heals

Starring: Siri O'Neal, Nicholas Deal and Nicholas Courtney
Big Finish Productions
RRP 10.99
ISBN 1 84435 092 4
Available 07 January 2005

When the commanding officer of UNIT's UK division goes missing while transporting a dangerous cargo, political officer Emily Chaudhry is left to investigate a series of bizarre accidents. Meanwhile, the Brigadier is trying to enjoy his retirement, but it seems he must come to the rescue again...

Giving UNIT its own spin-off series is something that has been on the cards for a long time, ever since the production team of the Doctor Who TV show considered the idea in the 1970s. Big Finish has finally achieved what was long overdue, though the only familiar cast member in this instalment is Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, now actually a general (he's gone up in the world) and theoretically retired.

Who writer Malcolm Hulke once said that there were two basic kinds of UNIT story: "alien invasion" and "mad scientist". Time Heals falls into the latter camp, though the scientists in question, Meade (Alfred Hoffman) and Kelly (Stephen Carlile), are not so much mad as misguided with regard to the effects of their experiments. I might have given slightly too much away there, but for me the cause of the bizarre incidents that Colonel Chaudhry (Siri O'Neal) investigates seemed obvious.

Another shortcoming of Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett's script is the fact that Nicholas Courtney spends much of his time talking to himself. Forced to work around the absence of actress Angela Douglas, who played the Brig's wife Doris in Battlefield, the writers are forced to employ tactics such as one-sided telephone conversations.

One problem that McLaughlin and Bartlett can't really avoid is the fact that this series has already been pretty well launched by the episode The Coup, which was given away with Doctor Who Magazine. They have to build upon this foundation, which established UNIT's sinister rival organisation ICIS (Internal Counter Intelligence Service), without alienating customers who haven't heard the free DWM CD. The addition of a new character, Colonel Robert Dalton (Nicholas Deal), who is drafted in to replace the missing Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood, helps. He is unfamiliar with UNIT's remit, so he needs to have to certain key facts explained to him by Chaudhry.

However, the writers fail to get across the idea of what ICIS is, even though there are some potentially confusing references to it. The back cover blurb tries to help, by explaining that: "The UK branch of UNIT is under threat. The Government wants its own military investigative organisation, one under its sole control." But that should be the job of the script, not the cover blurb.

Despite its flaws, Time Heals demonstrates that this series has great potential. Give it time!

Richard McGinlay

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