UNIT: Cyber-Reality review (Doctor Who spin-off audio)


Kate Stewart and her UNIT team need all the help they can get when they face the Cybermen. Including the help of one of their greatest enemies: the Master…

(Photo credit: Big Finish Productions.

Image obtained from: Big Finish Productions.)

In the latest box set of the audio series UNIT, the team have to face multiple threats – including the Cybermen and the War Master!

UNIT: Cyber-Reality is just a little bit different from some other UNIT series. Not as much as the previous box set, Encounters, which focused on several different threats of an episodic nature, rather than one big four part adventure.

But Cyber-Reality feels somewhere in between those two styles. While both the Cybermen and the War Master are heavily advertised on the front cover, the story takes its time to introduce both of those enemies. In fact, they’re not the only enemies to appear, as the box set deals with some major loose threads from Encounters.

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While the stories of Encounters felt more standalone overall, there was a small overall arc to them. Specifically, “the Auctioneers”. A group of people who specialize in acquiring alien technology before selling it to the highest bidder, they were something of a key threat in the last series.

Regular character Sam Bishop was also missing. It wasn’t known what he had been working on at the time. However, the ending of Encounters hinted that he had found something on the Auctioneers.

Game Theory

It’s from this slight cliffhanger that UNIT: Cyber-Reality begins. Encounters had featured the Auctioneers as a background threat, more than anything. But in Game Theory, they’re the main threat of the story. UNIT has been a problem for the Auctioneers in the past. And they want to teach them a lesson.

After being away last series, it’s great to hear Warren Brown back as Sam Bishop. The character is as likable as ever. As straightforward and direct to solving the problem as he always is, he’s usually a very capable officer. But the threat of the Auctioneers may be more dangerous than he initially imagined.

Osgoode and Kate are also threatened by the Auctioneers, in a big way. With Sam held hostage, they have to rescue him. The only way to do that is by playing the game the Auctioneers have set for the two. But with such high stakes, could even the brilliant intelligence of Osgoode be enough to solve it?

Game Theory is a great way of introducing several key concepts to this UNIT box set. But it also introduces these concepts in a way that feels both standalone and at the same time, resolving  (partially, at least) a key thread from the last series. A great opening episode for the new series.


The second episode features the team exploring a virtual world. The previous episode had explored virtual reality in an interesting way. But this concept is developed even further, as the team is brought digitally to a real world.

But what kind of world is it? And where are they, exactly? There’s a really great mystery that Guy Adams has written for this episode. Which is why it’s very important that not too much is given away, as the mystery is such a key part of the story.

The listener may be able to tell where it’s going, of course. Especially given both the box set’s front cover and the name of it! But it’s interesting finding out all the answers to what’s going on.

It’s also great to hear Josh Carter, Colonel Shindi and Osgoode working as a team in this strange setting. All of them have their strengths, and it’s great to hear how well they work together. After six series, all of the UNIT characters have formed into a great team. Telepresence is really great at showing this. Especially as it’s right before everything goes horribly wrong.

The Master joins UNIT in battle against the Cybermen. But can he ever truly be trusted?

(Photo credit: Big Finish Productions.

Image obtained from: Big Finish Productions.)

Code Silver

As you can probably imagine from the title, this episode finally focuses on the Cybermen invading. It’s fantastic to hear, particularly as it feels like an incredibly high-stakes battle.

Of course, it only really focuses on a few characters. Most significantly, this episode features Kate and Josh working together, fighting the Cybermen off. They’re not a combination that you hear much from, and it’s one that works very well.

While Josh is struggling to keep his emotions in check while so many people he knows are dying around him, or worse, Kate focuses on ending the invasion, whatever it takes. She can come across as cold and focused at times. But we’re also given an idea of just how difficult it is to be the boss of UNIT.

Osgoode is also a key part of this episode, but in a very different way. We see an interesting side to her in this episode, one that we’ve never really heard of before. We also realize just how important she is to the team.

Code Silver is a great episode that features a lot of what UNIT does best. It features an exciting battle, incredibly high stakes and great character exploration. A real highlight for this set.

Master of Worlds

As you can probably tell from the title, this is the one where the Master shows up. Specifically, the incarnation of him that fought in the Time War, as played by Derek Jacobi.

The Master is hardly what you might call “friendly” in this episode. He really doesn’t care what happens to the Earth, either way. But he does want to survive, and that’s something that helping UNIT would ensure.

Jacobi is as charming as the Master as ever. He’s clearly a psychopath, but he also comes across as so likable. However, he isn’t afraid to get nasty and mess with our heroes’ heads just for the sake of it.

Perhaps some of the best scenes from the episode are when he’s taunting Sam Bishop. He really tries to get into Sam’s head and focus on his insecurities. It’s a great moment that highlights how nasty the Master truly is. Something that’s especially important when he’s reluctantly trying to save the world in the Doctor’s absence.

With UNIT taking place before many key Doctor Who episodes, it’s also interesting hearing a previous encounter between Kate, Osgoode and the Master before Dark Water/Death in Heaven. Understandably, there are a few hints of foreshadowing throughout. Particularly between the Master and Osgoode…

Overall, UNIT: Cyber-Reality is another strong entry in the UNIT series. It features a great mix of build-up, atmosphere and action. It’s also great to hear such an incredibly fresh take on an old enemy. Another highly recommended listen from Big Finish.

Next: Doctor Who review: Relative Dimensions (Eighth Doctor audio)

Have you listened to UNIT: Cyber-Reality? Are you a fan of either the Cybermen or the War Master? What’s your favorite UNIT story so far? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.