I used to love watching NCIS when I was at university, back in the days before it had been on way too long and the writers didn’t know what the hell to do with it anymore. There’s nothing like a good murder mystery. I love them more when there is something paranormal at work. The formula works. I like it almost as much as Base Under Siege. It’s probably overused, whatever.
That’s probably why I like Doctor Who so much though, I suppose. There’s nearly always somebody that’s died at the beginning, and then a peculiar mystery surrounding it. Send the Doctor in to sort it, have a few mishaps along the way, add Jon Pertwee going all James Bond, and BOOM. Instant classic.* But I think that formula transfers quite well to audio, as it turns out. And that’s what UNIT: Snake Head feels like to me. Like NCIS before it sucked, only British and therefore better because the Brits have always been particularly good at writing murder mysteries. Maybe that’s an unfair stereotype, but they did give us Sherlock Holmes.
The story starts with random attacks on immigrant cockle-pickers in Southend, leaving them washed up and partially eaten in the mud. Racial tensions running ridiculously high throughout the story (which leads us later into the next). Evidence of human sacrifice in a local Saxon burial ground. And an archaeologist.
Well, they’re always trouble, aren’t they?
Colonel Emily Chaudhry and Colonel Robert Dalton of UNIT are investigating the mysterious deaths of the cockle-pickers and get pulled into a real life ghost story. Sort of. Everyone is suspect at some point or other, and Colonel Dalton has a lot of trouble accepting the truth of what’s really going on. And a really good monster. Nearly all my favorite monsters are the ones based in some sort of mythology. The vyrkolak is great, without straying too far into Buffy territory. The story is tight and neatly written with a very small cast and it works very, very well.
Chaudhry and Dalton play off of each other beautifully in their bickering and even manage to work well together occasionally. They trust each other now and they’ve formed a relationship that will carry us into the next story. Plenty of red herrings are thrown out so that every time you think you’ve solved the mystery for yourself, you’re wrong. I like that.
The problem I sort of had throughout this story, though, was that it seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with the previous story. Time Heals left loads of loose ends that needed tying up, and this did almost nothing to move them along. I’m assuming the reasons for this will be come clear later, and for that reason, I can simply enjoy this story for what it is. A fantastic murder mystery with a nice healthy dose of the paranormal.
Money well spent once again. Thanks, Big Finish.
Next: UNIT: The Longest Night
Check out the entire original UNIT series on the Big Finish website.
* I’d also argue that same case for Peter Capaldi’s Bond-moment in Death in Heaven. Permission to SQUEE!!