The Doctor and Raine receive a distress call from an alien world. They are also contacted by Ace in Gallifrey of some enormous danger. When the TARDIS lands, the Doctor meets a future incarnation of himself, a rather rude bald man who also insists that the Doctor not get involved in the distress call. The beings on the planet are dying, their life force drained away by a device that is sucking up their energy. In a fit of pique, the Doctor refuses to follow anyone’s advice and insists that he must stay true to his nature. Harnessing forbidden Time Lord dimensioneering knowledge, the Doctor reverses the node’s function and saves the lives of the aliens, but also creates a cataclysm of a higher order than he has ever known.
Meanwhile on contemporary Earth, Elizabeth Klein is operating as the scientific adviser to U.N.I.T. She is attempting to unravel the mystery surrounding an incursion of weird unidentifiable creatures only to find herself face to face with an old friend with a new face, The Other Doctor. Klein had encountered the Doctor several times before, in an alternate future where the Nazis won WWII and later when she used the alternate Eighth Doctor’s TARDIS to travel back to the past where she met the Seventh Doctor and Ace in Colditz castle.
A complicated fan favorite character, Elizabeth Klein went on to feature in an absolutely superb trilogy of stories with the Seventh Doctor. Klein was determined to bring about her world of the Third Reich at any cost, leading the Doctor to wipe her memory, giving her a chance at a new life. Uneasy about the situation, he visited her on several instances to make sure she did not revert to her previous nature. Unfortunately, the Doctor was not as subtle as he had thought in his visitations, leading to Klein developing a persecution complex over the ‘umbrella man.’
U.N.I.T. deals with the arrival of massive cherubic heads from another dimension with its usual show of force, leading to a massive misunderstanding until the Other Doctor takes control and uses mesmerism to calm the ‘skyheads’ into cooperation. In sharp contrast to this behavior, he also welcomes the slaughter of mind leeches that are similarly displaced from the other dimensions. Each arrival of other dimensional creatures proves more disastrous than the last yet the Other Doctor and Klein manage to stay on top of the situation. He seems eager to help, but The Other Doctor continually insists on the return of his TARDIS and access to the node that had opened the portal in the first place. He seems to have abilities far in advance to any version of the Doctor we have seen (or heard) previously and Klein has her doubts about his motives.
When the Seventh Doctor and Raine manage to crawl through an interdimensional tunnel into contemporary reality, they meet the Other Doctor once more, happily riding a skyhead as a cowboy would ride a horse. The two do not get on, but they must work together to defeat the several concurrent invasions of the Earth. Unfortunately, U.N.I.T. refuses to deal with the cause of the problem which would involve giving over access to the TARDIS to the Doctors and instead insists on handling the symptoms by combating the exiled creatures.
Briggs and Arnopp have crafted one of the most amazing audio adventures I have ever heard. The ideas are out of this world and addressed as truly alien rather than monstrous. Both Doctors realize that creatures may not be malevolent at all, but are more likely scared and confused. Nonetheless U.N.I.T. is true to form by reacting as one would to a pest in one’s house; with more force than is needed and out of sheer panic. The death and destruction heightens and soon the noose tightens around the Seventh Doctor’s neck as it becomes clear none of this would have happened if he had just listened to the council of himself and the Time Lords and left the situation alone.
The relationship between the Seventh Doctor and Klein is especially compelling here as the Doctor so deeply believes in her better nature yet is unwilling to trust her absolutely. The differences between him and this Other Doctor are also key to the story as they deal with their challenges in different ways that betray their true characters. Klein is in the middle about who she can trust, if either of them, while U.N.I.T. scrambles to understand and defend the planet from creatures that are so incredibly different that they defy the physical laws of accepted reality.
Sylvester McCoy squeezed this set in to his busy schedule filming the Hobbit and is in fine form. Set in the waning years of this incarnation, there are many concepts that are tied together, such as the timing of the Klein trilogy, the return of Raine and of course the placement of Ace on Gallifrey where she apparently is studying to be a Time Lord. I am quite taken with Beth Chalmers as the delectable Raine Creevey, the posh crook. I look forward to hearing more from her as this is likely the bridge to another set of Seventh Doctor/Raine adventures. Briggs and Arnopp deal with the large supporting cast masterfully and it never feels like it is detracting from the plot or action (a lesson the new series could learn from).
Dominion is like a year-long story crammed into four bumper-length audio CDs that are full of wild beings, tense drama and side-splitting comedy. The Other Doctor feels a bit forced at first, but I soon warmed to him and became enthralled by him by the end.
There is so much to love about U.N.I.T.: Dominion but personally I found Alex MacQueen to the real gem. His performance as ‘The Other Doctor’ is among one of the best guest appearances in Big Finish’ history. His effervescent personality is almost definitely a dig at the BBC Wales Doctor, a wonderfully bubbly eccentric with a steely determination to fight alien menaces. Raine calls him for what he is on the spot, brilliant but an arrogant ass. For almost the first three installments, the Seventh Doctor and Raine are stuck in a transdimensional tunnel, leaving the bulk of the action to The Other Doctor and Klein. Dealing with U.N.I.T. forces, the Doctor is eager to chastise the military for their ineptness, ‘Well done, Colonel Lafayette. Good job escalating the situation.’
It is difficult to discuss much of MacQueen’s performance without revealing a key plot element, but I will say that if the BBC Wales team does not run with this, they are incredibly foolish. I will say that even after having the revelation ‘ruined’ part way through, I was even more entertained by his performance and found it to outright iconic.
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