Big Finish: UNIT: NEMESIS 1: BETWEEN TWO WORLDS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Tony’s cranking it up to Eleven.
Modern UNIT has had quite the collection of guests and well-known villains in recent years. Autons, Silence, Sea Devils, the War Master. Even River Song has popped in to spar with Osgood.

UNIT: Nemesis 1 sees the Eleven, Mark Bonnar’s Time Lord with regenerative dissonance (or 11 personalities all fighting for dominance at once) turn up to tackle the defenders of the Earth.

To make that work, what you really need is a good solid reason for him to take an interest in our little backwater world, and this set doesn’t disappoint. It has a spanking good MacGuffin to draw the Eleven into UNIT business, and once he’s here, it doesn’t take long for him to become his own source of story propulsion. That means what you get here is a set of four stories, each of which are very different, but in which the energy never really lags or drops, and the action and theme feels like it progresses in a very logical, enjoyable way.

To get the Eleven into town, step forward Andrew Smith, who in The Enemy Beyond (not Arch Enemy? Shame…) gives us a monumental stone arch buried under the sea where it’s entirely anachronistic and totally out of time. UNIT transports the arch to an Edinburgh safe house (because why wouldn’t you?), and things get sticky as Adam Merchant (James MacCallum), whose discovery the arch was, touches it.

Rule 1 – never touch the probably-alien arch until Osgood tells you it’s safe.

Mmmaybe not even then.

He gets zapped to Somewhere Else Entirely and is quickly blindfolded against the climate. Which is probably at least as well, because it stops him noticing that the crowd of people he’s with use only the one mouth. Yep – somehow, somewhere, he’s run into the Eleven. And when Osgood charges up the arch to try and get him back, the Time Lord hitch-hikes a ride to our world.

What follows is an edgy, creepy story – the Eleven loose in a UNIT base, proving his mettle among evil Time Lords by being every bit as hypnotic as the Master, while Adam has come back with something an affliction that sees him leaving web-like residue everywhere he goes.

Eww, right?

There’s a vague air of Arc of Infinity about the story – renegade Time Lord running around a named but only lightly-explored city, quite a touch of body horror, etc – as the Eleven tries to steal the arch and Adam tries to… well, basically to stay alive despite his affliction.

We won’t spoiler the end of the story for you, but it’s peculiarly relevant in our world, because the affliction seems communicable, and there’s no way of knowing how many people might be infected if it goes on. While the Eleven escapes UNIT justice at the end of this story, Kate and the gang head to Australia – where there are both alien shenanigans and the chance of an antidote to Adam’s sickness, which (spoiler alert) is actually of the Eleven’s making.

Could you argue that there’s too much Eleven here? You possibly could, but only if you accept the premise that “too much Eleven” is a real thing. Let’s not allow such craziness into our lives, shall we, it only makes people miserable.

There’s certainly some vagueness as to the arch-criminal’s exact plot, but given that he arrives relatively unexpectedly, that’s fair enough. Imagine the most incredible master criminal in the universe suddenly turning up in your backyard – that energy of getting the lie of the land, gaining their liberty and just squatting, waiting out there, while you run around trying to address a more immediate threat – that’s the energy of The Enemy Beyond.

As such it sets us up for a rollercoaster ride, while letting the Eleven prove himself more than equal to some other renegade Time Lords – a point overtly discussed in an electrifying ‘Silence of the Lambs’-style confrontation with Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave).

Essentially then, this is a belter of an introductory story, bringing the Big Bad into our world, letting him strut his stuff a little, measuring the initial capacity of our heroes to stand against him, and setting him free in the world while a more immediate and pressing threat is dealt with. It’s an initial episode with energy, forward motion, and – did we mention this? – a hell of a lot of Mark Bonnar being dissonantly brilliant.

Episode 2, Fire and Ice, by John Dorney can be summed up in four words – Ice Warriors In Australia!

First of all, that’s an exciting idea – no-one’s ever particularly dared to take the Ice Warriors to Nature’s Microwave, on the fairly sensible grounds that they come over all peculiar in anything more tropical than a British spring. So, absolutely, let’s hear what happens when they encounter an environment hot enough to bake the sense of humour out of Mother Nature herself.

Beyond that, though, you need a solid story to underpin the concept, and John Dorney’s never short of a good yarn or a good set-up. There are Ice Warriors in the area, hunting down a seeming runaway from their party. They’re an execution squad, in fact. That’s always going to raise the stakes somewhat.

And why are they hunting this lonely, lobstering Ice Warrior in the Outback? Interestingly, he was trying to improve the Ice Warriors’ tolerance to heat, but he tinkered with his own biology to check on an experiment, and now… well, does the phrase “walking bomb” mean anything to you?

So, there’s a time crunch, and an Ice Warrior execution squad. Stakes not high enough yet? OK, there’s a young vlogger, Ros Green, who befriends the walking bomb and tries to help him (Oh, we’re so sorry for this one) keep his cool, and milk him for clicks on her content.

And finally, what brings Kate Stewart and Osgood (the always-impeccable Ingrid Oliver) down under?

Harry Sullivan, that’s what. With the desperate need for an antidote for the Eleven’s chemical shenanigans, they’ve come to interrupt Harry’s investigations into a recent spaceship crash (that’ll be Captain Pyro arriving on Earth). Here, Harry (Christopher Naylor) is paired with Naomi Cross (Eleanor Crooks), and at first, it’s a little mind-melting to hear them both referred to as ‘actual companions of the Doctor’ – Osgood goes a little fangirl in their presence – because we have yet to meet Naomi in that capacity. (“Coming soon, to Big Finish – The Fourth Doctor Adventures, Series 13. For the love of stories…”).

It's a quick one to get your head around, though, and soon, it’s business as usual. Business in this case being a deal between Kate and the leader of the Ice Warriors – to minimise the potential impact of the exploding warrior and allow the honour of the Ice Warriors to be maintained.

If they also happen to have a method that allows Harry to rapidly synthesise an antidote to the Eleven’s chemical gittery, so much the better.

John Dorney gives us a new atmosphere for UNIT to inhabit, and gives us the necessary pause away from the Eleven and his machinations, so it’s believable that he has the time to COME UP with some machinations.

But far from being a filler episode, it allows UNIT to score an equaliser by Kate’s diplomacy, giving them access to an antidote to the chemical grimness of the Eleven, as well as giving us a fabulous chase episode across the Outback with Ice Warriors, Harry Sullivan and Naomi Cross – who sounds like an exciting new addition both to the UNIT team, and to the Fourth Doctor’s Tardis crew.

Episode 3 is just one of those irresistible ideas that you wait for, and dance around your writing room when they arrive. Eleven’s Eleven, by Lisa McMullin, is exactly what it sounds like – the Eleven putting a team of criminals together (though to be fair, they’re already in existence when he joins the gang in a game of dead-man’s shoes), and pulling off a series of seemingly impossible heists.

Maggie Service stars as Ava Drake, east end villain on the rise when the Time Lord joins her gang and starts dictating a distinct levelling up in the scale and the scope of their robberies. It’s only when the theft of all the lovely shiny trinkets begins to noticeably include a handful of alien artefacts that UNIT’s radar is tripped.

Cue some fabulous cat-and-mouse between Kate’s finest and Gallifrey’s most conflicted, including some joyous heist movie tech like a hologrammatic Osgood – because who doesn’t want one of those?

Cue also some real opportunities for the Eleven to show his absolute hardcore evil, both in terms of the traps he lays for Kate and Osgood, and the degree to which he turns Ava from a self-willed leader into a hopeless puppet. It’s a transition that riffs on some of the strongest villains in on-screen Who, from the Delgado Master to Jean Marsh’s Morgaine. And with the combination of Lisa McMullin on writing duties and Mark Bonnar on superb form, the Eleven can stand among the best of them.

We’ve heard Mark Bonnar’s Eleven being seriously mean before now, but on the principle that evil is more frightening on your own back door, UNIT: Nemesis 1, and Eleven’s Eleven in particular really brings out the potential of an insanely powerful character on a world that’s barely prepared for him.

Lisa McMullin for the Eleven’s new chief sidekick? Just sayin’…

And finally, there’s The Curator’s Gambit, by Andrew Smith. Since he first appeared in The Day of the Doctor, we’ve had the notion that the Curator is something a little special, and something rather sideways to Doctor Who as we know it.

The Curator’s Gambit doubles down on that esoteric element, as the Eleven comes close enough to getting the arch that Kate and the gang take the unusual step of moving it to the Under Gallery – but probably not the one you’re expecting.

As the Curator is technically in charge of the Under Gallery, the move provides a perfect introduction for his character to the UNIT audios, and while the Eleven commands the first act, pushing his danger level even further than it has reached so far, when he comes up against the Curator, he enters a kind of fun house world of quantum traps, artistic transcendentalism, and some seriously next-level cunning.

It’s the kind of thing you can imagine between Gallifreyan classmates – high-level threat and hide-and-seek taken to at least the next level, and probably the level after that.

It's delicious, like taking mind-altering drugs through both ears. Think the kind of environment that Indiana Jones would barely escape from, but set between the gloriously intense brush strokes of a painting by Turner.

As a collection, UNIT: Nemesis 1 is a tapas platter of styles and directions, from a straightforward ‘Baddie Arrival’ story with some serious menace, through an Australian race with Ice Warriors, through a heist movie starring a hugely dangerous villain being pushed (you had to know this was coming!) all the way up to Eleven, to a Matrix-adjacent labyrinth of art, perception and some Sapphire and Steel-level traps.

The set is a heady mixture that advances both the make-up of modern UNIT with the addition of an audio Harry Sullivan and a new companion of the Fourth Doctor, and redefines how evil and dangerous the Eleven can be.

UNIT: Nemesis 1 ripples with opposing energies – the cleverness and strategic wisdom of Kate Stewart’s match-fit UNIT, and the crackling malevolence of the Eleven brought into the clearest focus he’s yet achieved by virtue of his being in our world.

It’s a set that doesn’t just deliver on its premise, it re-invigorates the whole notion of 21st century UNIT and makes it buzz with new energy, while maintaining the structure and the characters who have always made it sing.

Spend the cash, strap in and buckle up – UNIT’s back, and it means serious business.

UNIT: Nemesis 1: Between Two Worlds is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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