It’s been a hell of a ride for Big Finish’s UNIT: Nemesis 4 – Master of Time, and this is the final showdown with the evil Vulpreen! Most of the Earth is frozen in time, and what’s left of humanity is now in Vulpreen work camps. Our UNIT team is trapped, leaving only Kate (Jemma Redgrave) leading the resistance. And somewhere out there, as was revealed in Objective Earth, Missy (Michelle Gomez) is working in the shadows. It’s an exciting and apocalyptic setup for the final set.
But how does this set hold up alongside the others in the range? How will UNIT repel the alien invasion? And could this mark the end of our time with the UNIT range? Read on! UNIT: Nemesis 4 – Masters of Time is available on the Big Finish website or via Amazon from September 30th 2023.
WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for UNIT Nemesis – Masters of Time.
One Way or Another
This is a pretty creative opener from the legendary John Dorney. He’s among my favourite writers over at Big Finish. He keeps delivering really solid stories. Here, he’s got two separate strands of story, one with Kate and one with Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), happening simultaneously. It’s not the craziest writing trick Dorney’s ever pulled, but it was more than entertaining. Also, having Kate lead another human resistance to alien occupation after “The Vanquishers” is always a treat.
Emotions run high here, especially when you see how close they intersect. Varliss (Alisdair Simpson), the leader of the Vulpreen, also gets a few solid scenes. He truly steals every scene he’s in, and it’s not just because his voice is deepened. What he does at the end really sours UNIT’s victory in destroying the camp, making for really devastating listening. Over three complete box sets, he’s become a proper threat, and it really set me up for the rest of the set.
Interestingly, it looks as if the stories of Harry (Christopher Naylor) and Naomi (Eleanor Crooks) are finally coming to a close. Unfortunately, they get frozen in time. Alas, we know due to boxsets like Sullivan and Cross: AWOL and Far From Home with the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) that this needs to resolve itself. It’s not something that is fully resolved until the finale, but I love the way Kate carries on like they’re dead. What had me more invested was the cliffhanger – the Vulpreen has taken Osgood and Jimmy (Chris Lew Kum Hoi) to the Tower of London!
Osgood and Jimmy have been taken to the tower! It’s fitting that the final UNIT boxset features a story at such an iconic location. Sarah Grochala really pulled out all the stops with a severe touchstone of The Battle of the Tower from UNIT: Shutdown. As we know from episodes like “Day of the Doctor”, there’s a UNIT base inside. Specifically, the Black Archive is home to the deadliest weapons that have been recovered on Earth. Even with this being a busy episode, it’s Ingrid Oliver’s time to shine. She was terrific onscreen, but she’s really inhabited to the role on audio brilliantly.
Listening to her guide the Vulpreen around, creating a time loop with the memory loss filter, was genuinely funny. While waiting for Kate to save them, she’s more than capable of holding her own. It demonstrates that Kate was correct at the end of the last episode. Capturing UNIT staff in a UNIT base is a pretty stupid idea. It even calls back to the use of the battery-operated ravens, with a wonderful guest star spot from Stuart Scudamore as Ashley, a deserted soldier with a pet raven. His story is told beautifully, and the use of the raven really put a smile on my face.
The episode doesn’t work out in Varliss’ favour at all. It ends with him on the run with Lorraine (Donna Berlin), a UNIT ally under the control of Missy. While Missy is yet to appear by the halfway point in the set, she feels very present. The threat she presents feels very real, mostly through the reactions of Kate and Osgood who have faced her before. Jemma Redgrave’s acting, especially when under threat like this, is next level stuff.
The Destiny Labyrinth
This one’s a race around time and space. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a time glitch in the set, but running around Niagara Falls thousands of years ago, France in the 1500s, and a Pacific island in World War II made for an entertaining listen. The episode is supposed to build up Lorraine’s character, but she’s overshadowed. UNIT’s not a range that does a lot of time travel. This one brings out Nostradamus (Oscar Batterham). I got a big kick out of how it treated his abilities as a seer, I love things like that.
As much as I love UNIT running and shooting, there’s quite a lot of playfulness here. It’s an exciting jaunt through time, but it knows when to slow down. Lorraine especially is very well done to the credit of writer Alison Winter. An ally of UNIT, a beloved geography teacher, and under the control of Missy. This is the most in depth I can recall we’ve gone with a character under the control of The Master. It made for some tough choices for the team, and was the cause of most of the emotional moments in the episode.
I love the first half of the episode, very quickly running around a few different periods. It’s an exhilarating listen and doesn’t let you come out for air. That’s not a criticism of the back half, but it slows down a little bit. You’ve got Kini (Fiona Hampton), a fun guest and loyal servant to Missy. She has some chilling, bordering on campy, lines I immensely enjoyed. Characters like her and Lorraine have kept Missy’s looming presence alive for the last few episodes. But now it’s time for the finale, and she’s finally here.
After listening to this, I totally understand why Missy is only in the finale. Gomez is an absolute triumph returning as Missy. Writer and script editor Andrew Smith really understands the character, which is especially commendable since it’s his first time. She steals every scene she’s in, filling the listener with a nearly infectious joy. Her scenes with Osgood were particularly amazing, and yes, they do mention the events of “Death in Heaven”. It’s about time they met again, and I’m glad that UNIT gets to come out on top.
It turns out the titular ‘nemesis’ was, in fact, Missy the entire time. Given the Master’s history of taunting UNIT in the 70s (or 80s, don’t get me started), this makes a lot of sense. While this is the conclusion of the 16-episode Vulpreen arc, the presence of Missy almost makes them seem less threatening. I wish that detracted from my enjoyment, but she’s an absolute delight, which more than distracts me from it. Speaking of the Vulpreen, they’re dealt with along with Missy, gone forever (or maybe just for now). It’s a beyond-satisfying ending.
There’s a really satisfying conclusion here as the team drives off into the sunset, ready to save the Earth another day. Sure, we’ve got alien planets, time travel, time bubbles and more. It’s an epic adventure. The final scene is a bit of a tearjerker. It’s a quiet moment between Kate and Osgood, including a very explicit connection to the Seventh Doctor Adventures range. There’s not a stone unturned by the end, and it feels more like a series finale than a season finale. I’m walking away from Nemesis happy, and if this is the end, I’m walking away from UNIT happily, too.
The End of UNIT?
What a set! More than amazing, and the finale especially was some next-level entertainment. At times I laughed; sometimes, I cried. There’s not much more I could ask for. It was a beautiful ending for Nemesis, with a fitting end for the Vulpreen’s reign of terror. Each of the four episodes was full of high-octane thrills that didn’t let up until Howard Carter’s unique theme played at the end. I have nothing but praise for this set. I’m walking away from this listen, both thoroughly entertained and satisfied.
As of now, there’s no confirmed continuation of this range. Even in the behind-the-scenes extras, nobody seems to be sure if there’s anything in the works. While I’m sure we’ll see more from UNIT, such as more Brave New World sets, this is likely the end for Kate, Osgood and co., at least on audio. We know that Jemma Redgrave is returning to the TV series for Series 14, potentially even the 60th specials. Her being used so much could mean the end of Big Finish’s ability to use these characters.
Thankfully, it’s unlikely to be a recurring role on Doctor Who. Spin-offs in the wake of Russell T Davies’ return seem almost inevitable. With how far ahead they’re writing and filming, there’s a chance there’s one in production yet to be announced. Rumours of a UNIT-themed spinoff series are only getting louder, and this is a series which Redgrave would likely lead. So even if we don’t hear her on audio for a while, the future of our beloved Kate Stewart is very bright. I look forward to seeing what UNIT’s future is, be it on TV or audio. They’re a significant cornerstone of the Whoniverse!
Where to Buy
UNIT – Nemesis: Masters of Time is out now from Big Finish Productions! You can pick up your own copy of this epic set here. Available are the Collector’s Edition CD (+Download) for £24.99 or the Download only for £19.99. For news, reviews, and general Doctor Who nerdom, follow Tardis Central for more!