REVIEW | UNIT: Brave New World – Seabird One

Brigadier Bambera returns in a brand new series of audio adventures which takes UNIT into the 1990s! The Brave New World saga from Big Finish begins with Seabird One: a three-hour boxset which sees Bambera build a new UNIT team ready to fight whatever the 90s throws at it. With the Millennium approaching and the Cold War over, will UNIT be able to deal with this brave new world?


1. “Rogue State” by Robert Valentine

After a disastrous mission in the wartorn republic of Valge Maja, Brigadier Bambera is ready to leave UNIT behind… but her sponsor, Dame Lydia Kingsley, has other ideas. Promoting Bambera to the head of UNIT, she sends her on a mission to prevent a terrifying Soviet-era weapon from falling into the hands of the villainous terrorist Roman Krojač. Will Bambera manage to stop this most slippery of foes and get her mojo back? And what does the future hold for her?

While the plot of Rogue State isn’t anything mindblowing, Robert Valentine‘s script does a great job at setting up the Brave New World series as a whole, particularly in the way it effortlessly gets the listener up to date on who Bambera is and what she’s been up to since we last saw her. This, accompanied by the effective introductions of other key players in the series, makes Rogue State a strong ‘season opener’, as it were.

Angela Bruce is excellent in the central role of Brigadier Bambera, completely selling the various revelations about her character in this episode, and shares a strong rapport with Alex Jordan, who plays her second in command, the sarcastic French sergeant Jean-Paul Savarin. It’s particularly refreshing to have a UNIT series where characters have individual motivations and stronger emotional scenes; in ranges such as UNIT: The New Series or UNIT Nemesis, things are often more plot-based with little in the way of character moments, so it’s good to see a change of direction with UNIT: Brave New World.

Music is handled here by Borna Matosic, who provides a brand new sound for the series, all electric guitars and drums. The opening theme is a particular highlight, but the music in general is great throughout. Equally, sound designer Jack Townley brings to life this episode’s many action sequences with flair, from the opening chase to the showdown with the voracious Chuchunyas.

Overall, while Rogue State won’t set the world on fire with its storyline, it’s an effective introduction to the Brave New World series that excels in the way it sets Bambera and Savarin up for adventures to come. Good stuff.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

2. “Time Flies” by Alison Winter

Bambera and Savarin are summoned to a genetic research institute by UNIT’s rebellious scientific advisor, Doctor Louise Rix, where they learn that scientists have been going missing. Could the mysterious Doctor Grange’s experiments be to blame? What plans does he have for the institute’s caterpillar population? And is it possible to reverse the flow of time?

Time Flies is Alison Winter‘s first story for Big Finish, and she makes a strong debut, with a tale which is both action-packed and character focused. The third member of this new UNIT team, Doctor Louise Rix, is introduced here, and Winters characterises her well, giving her and Bambera a delightfully spiky relationship, and ensuring that Rix’s traits drive the story forward at every stage.

Rix is played by Yemisi Oyinloye, who makes a good impression in her first Big Finish role. Her chemistry with both Angela Bruce and Alex Jordan is strong, and she proves more than capable of slotting into the relationship built between the two actors in the previous episode. The cast is rounded off by Silas Carson, who plays Doctor Grange in a performance both villainous and sensitive; a performance which I think holds the whole episode together, particularly in the character’s final scene.

Overall, Time Flies is a confident debut for both Alison Winter and Yemisi Oyinloye, whose writing and performance respectively ensure that the momentum of the previous episode isn’t lost as Seabird One moves into its final act.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

3. “Dark Side of the Moon” by Alfie Shaw

Louise’s old friend, astronaut Helena McNamara, has seemingly returned from the dead in a new body, and is claiming that the upcoming launch of space station Britannia will cause untold disaster. UNIT is faced with a difficult decision: believe that Helena has somehow been resurrected and stop the launch, or remain rational and face risking humanity’s safety. Does danger truly lie on the dark side of the moon? Has Helena really come back to life? Or is there something more sinister at work?

Dark Side of the Moon is probably the most high-concept of the three stories in this boxset and, as such, is the strongest, giving us a tantalising mystery with lots of moving parts to consider. It’s a very X-Files style story, with shadowy informants, ghostly goings-on and aliens skulking about in the shadows, which really fits with the 90s setting of the boxset.

With the whole UNIT team now established, Alfie Shaw is faced with the task of giving them their first proper mission together, and does a great job at tapping into all aspects of the new dynamic, particularly with regards to the characters of Rix and Bambera, who are well-served by his script, which gives them several emotional scenes to play with. Aside from the main trio, there are no real standout performances from the guest cast, though there are no weak links anywhere, and everyone involved gives it their all. It’s good to hear Liz Sutherland-Lim back as Dame Lydia Kingsley from the first story in the set; her fractious, mentor-like relationship with Bambera is one of the highlights of this story.

Overall, this is a strong finale to a strong boxset, with a thrilling cliffhanger which leaves me very excited to hear where this new UNIT team will go next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Overall

Seabird One is a confident and exciting opener to the Brave New World series, competently introducing the three main characters who, thanks to great writing and strong performances from Angela Bruce, Alex Jordan and Yemisi Oyinloye, are compelling from the get-go. These central performances, alongside three strong scripts from Robert Valentine, Alison Winter and Alfie Shaw makes this one of the most effective first boxsets to any series I’ve heard from Big Finish, and I can’t wait to hear where Visitants takes the series when it’s released later this year. Recommended.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

UNIT: Brave New World – Seabird One is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com

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