01/08/2012. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Big Finish. 5 CDs 300 minute story. Price: CD: £35.00 (UK), Download: £30.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-612-6) cast: Simon Williams, Pamela Salem, Karen Gledhill, Hugh Ross, Vernon Dobtcheff, Andrew Fettes, Alison Thea-Skot, Adrian Lukis, Lizzie Roper, Alastair MacKenzie, John Banks, Stephen Grief, Helen Goldwyn, Duncan Wisbey and Shaun Scott.
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Counter-Measures is the name given to the team who appeared in 'Remembrance Of The Daleks' in the 25th season of Doctor Who. This saw the Seventh Doctor return to the site of the First Doctor's first encounter with Barbara and Ian, Coal Hill School, and do battle with the Daleks. The Doctor meets two female scientists from Counter-Measures early on and is aided in the fight by an RAF officer from the same team.
The boxed set of four adventures of 'Counter-Measures' brings the team back together with the added bonus of an inscrutable boss who claims to have their best interests at heart.
The result thus far is a set of four dramas of an hour each by different authors overseen by script editor John Dorney into a cohesive set which ties up a narrative arc that is concluded in the final story. The set also includes an hour of extras comprising interviews and comment from both the actors, producer David Richardson, director Ken Bentley and the four writers.
Rachel Jensen (Patricia Salem) is a scientist who specialises in AI research at Cambridge University. She worked with Alan Turing during the war at Bletchley Park, so she knows her stuff. Alison, (Karen Gledhill), also a scientist, worked as Rachel's assistant in the original 'Doctor Who' adventure. As the first play opens, they are enjoying a reunion meal, as Rachel returned to her research at Cambridge after the Coal Hill School incident. The meal is interrupted and Rachel is swept back into the unit under the command of the dubiously, oily Sir Toby Kinsella (Hugh Ross). Group Captain 'Chunky' Gilmore, (Simon Williams) also late of Remembrance of the Daleks is an RAF officer who saw active service during the war and after. He's not just muscle, though, and we come to know him better during the four plays.
The Counter-Measures group seem to be merely ticking over at the start of 'Threshold' by Paul Finch, but, as Rachel comes back onto the team, they find inexplicably advanced science in a factory in Bermondsey. As ghosts haunt the site and the plot thickens, everything starts to go bump in the night.
The team are established now as Rachel finds things get too personal at the Sen-gen facility, while investigating an agent's suicide. An experiment in 'Artificial Intelligence' by Matt Fitton also brings up memories of post war Berlin for Gilmore and a relationship crisis for Alison.
There 's nothing like a day out in the country but as our team masquerade as the men from the Ministry, they find 'The Pelage Project' by Ian Potter hides a terrible truth under its calm and orderly appearance. Industrialist Ken Temple (Stephen Grief, Blake's Seven) is keen to keep the truth under a smoke screen.
In the final story, 'State of Emergency' by Justin Richards, the team are split up. While Rachel and Alison investigate a haunted monastery out of town, Gilmore is told to stay in the city. With a new Labour Government, civil unrest is a distinct possibility and so is the prospect of our team being disbanded.
'Counter-Measures' is edge of the seat stuff as each one tackles a different aspect of the sort of cases an operation like this might encounter. It's Doomwatch with UNIT, Torchwood and Quatermass but it is definitely also its own man or, in this case, woman.
The music and sound design is excellent and the feel of the 1960s is maintained with a steady drip of references and a certain sensibility. This is quality drama, sadly lacking in any great quantity on our TV screens. The original actors from 'Remembrance Of The Daleks' are excellent and the additional characters including Kinsella and Alison's boyfriend Julian (Alistair Mackenzie) make it a well-rounded piece. Supporting actors, such as Stephen Greif in the third episode and Duncan Wisbey as Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the final episode, really make this self-contained universe hum along.
With 'Counter-Measures', 'Jago And Litefoot' and 'Graceless' all produced in recent years, Big Finish have proved that they can really 'do' drama without having to include the Doctor every time. They make a product that should be flying off the shelves.
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