‘UNIT: Silenced’ box set review: The Silence return in ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventure

The modern era of Doctor Who has brought us some memorable new monsters and villains, but arguably none as deliberately forgettable as The Silence.

The Munch inspired creatures were introduced in 2011’s season-long storyline, but their lengthy grip on humanity was promptly loosened by the Doctor; turning their own hypnotic tricks against them in ‘Day of the Moon’ he ordered humanity to kill them all on sight.

It is this violent command which drives the heart of UNIT: Silenced. When the creatures are discovered by the team, they infest Kate Stewart’s organisation, with our heroes at times unwittingly implementing their schemes.

The Silence’s plan to nullify the Doctor’s command is simple, yet not instantly obvious, and centres on supporting a shambolic, outspoken anti-politician’s quest for power. Despite being an engaging orator, Kenneth LeBlanc ostensibly stands for nothing, yet inexplicably inspires unwavering support and loyalty from his fan base.

Played superbly by Nicholas Day, he convinces as a not too distorted reflection of certain real life individuals; a big personality who is short on actual policies, riding on a wave of unexpected popularity and rather all too believable in his incompetence.

Writers Matt Fitton and John Dorney make superb use of Steven Moffat’s cleverly conceived monsters, masters of post-hypnotic suggestion and memory manipulation, and grant them a new deadly agenda without the baggage of their original mission on Earth. They also build in a great conceit, as the four tales track LeBlanc’s rise and fall over a long period of time, with UNIT forced to rediscover the threat at the start of each tale.

With the ingenious Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) on top form, we loved the UNIT fightback with hastily implemented anti-Silence technology – creating a ‘jedi mind trick’ hologram generator as handy as any psychic paper pass.

The stories employ the core team of Kate Stewart, Osgood and Captain Josh Carter (James Joyce), but also bring back Ramon Tikaram’s wonderfully no-nonsense Colonel Shindi, mostly recovered from the injuries he sustained in UNIT: Extinction, and gung-ho international trouble shooter Lieutenant Sam Bishop (Warren Brown) whose outsider’s perspective becomes vital.

In the guest cast, another welcome returnee is Tracey Wiles as the persistent Jackie McGee, former television reporter turned Internet whistle-blower and a continuing irritant to Kate Stewart.

While their television presence might have dwindled to the role of boogeymen by ‘The Time of the Doctor’, this audio resurrection really offers The Silence a change to shine. Deserving of their central role here, it is fair to say we found them anything but forgettable and are hoping for further encounters.

5star

Released on 23 November 2016 by Big Finish.

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