The Helliax Rift review (Fifth Doctor/UNIT audio)

The Fifth Doctor meets a whole new UNIT team in The Helliax Rift. (Credit: Big Finish.)

The Fifth Doctor meets a completely new UNIT team while investigating a mysterious crash landing, in this month’s brand new audio story The Helliax Rift!

The Helliax Rift kicks off a brand new trilogy of stories for the regular Big Finish audios. The Fifth Doctor, currently travelling on his own, is reunited with UNIT. And he gets to meet a brand new team, too.

However, things aren’t as easy as they used to be with UNIT. Particularly since Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is no longer working for the organisation. As a result, the Fifth Doctor finds himself working with people who don’t think of him so highly as “UNIT’s scientific adviser”.

In particular, the Commanding Officer he meets in The Helliax Rift, Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Price, is extremely difficult to deal with. Not only is he very stubborn, but he also sees things in very black and white terms. As a result, Price and the Doctor do not get on one bit.

However, the Doctor’s and the Brigadier’s relationship started out as shaky, too. Particularly when the Doctor was exiled to Earth in his Third incarnation. While they eventually became the closest of friends, they had some major disagreements, initially. It’ll be interesting to see whether Lewis Price will develop and grow to respect the Doctor more over time.

A new friend

While the Doctor meets no old friends in The Helliax Rift, he does make a new one. Lieutenant Daniel Hopkins, while not exactly in awe of the Doctor either, is more open-minded to his approach.

Over the course of the story, he essentially fills in the companion type role. He’s constantly supporting the Doctor, and he keeps an open mind about aliens. As a medical officer, he’s already more keen to save lives rather than end them, too. Is he someone ready to join the Doctor on his travels?

It has to be said that Blake Harrison gives a really endearing performance as Daniel. His character may be a soldier, but he also has a big heart, too. Harrison really knows how to play these aspects equally well. It’s fantastic knowing that he’ll be showing up in other stories later in the year.

An unusual UNIT story

UNIT stories are usually known for epic battles between humans and monsters. Many of the stories in the Third Doctor era featured soldiers shooting at monsters that were immune to bullets.

That’s not to say that they’re always black and white in their approach, however. Doctor Who and the Silurians, for example, was full of shades of gray when it came to its depiction of the titular monsters. After all, they weren’t something as simple as an alien invader. Instead, they were the original inhabitants of Earth who simply wanted their planet back.

But The Helliax Rift is still more unusual and subversive than most when it comes to UNIT stories. There’s rather strong emotional content in it, too. Despite being heavily based in sci-fi, the story itself will be one that many can relate to.

Scott Handcock really has written a fantastic story here. It’s an almost perfect blend of what both Classic and New Series fans want. It may be firmly set in the Eighties in tone and presentation. But it also has the heart and humanity more often seen in the New Series.

The Helliax Rift is a really strong start to the new UNIT trilogy. Interestingly, however, the trilogy won’t continue for a few months yet. This is actually quite surprising, as Big Finish trilogies are usually told consecutively. So it’s intriguing to see Big Finish trying something different this time.

Regardless, The Helliax Rift is a very strong story in its own right, and another worthy entry in the regular series of Doctor Who audios.