Big Finish Productions
UNIT: Snake Head

Written by Jonathan Clements Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2005

Starring Nicholas Deal and Siri O'Neal

Synopsis: A mobile phone call to the emergency services, a body found on Government land and an ancient burial site unearthed at an archaeological dig all point toward an odd mystery by the coast…


Yawnathon... by Joe Ford 6/5/05

What is it with these hard hitting Big Finish series.... like UNIT and Sarah Jane that promise stories of London based terrors that sees them packing off to the country (or the seaside in this case!) so quickly? Is it because the writers cannot bear the thought of Doctor Who related material going without sinister monsters in idyllic British locations?

I found the first twenty minutes of this story REALLY hard going and not just because the writing was lacking. There was no real effort with the performances either with O'Neal or Deal sounding slightly bored with the material themselves. When the regulars fail to keep you interested the story is already fighting a losing battle and I found the childish banter between Dalton and Chaudhry completely unbelievable and trying. This is especially disappointing as their relationship started on exactly the right foot in Time Heals and to see it degenerate into such lazy (lack of) chemistry does not bode well for the remaining two CDs in the series.

The scripts themselves are hardly a thrill a minute with the most exciting thing to happen in the first half hour being a trip to a Chinese takeaway. Once you reach the end it is clear how writer Jonathan Clements has structured the story to have all the elements of the plot fall into place at the right times by having them well discussed during the first half but it leaves the story overly talky and slightly boring. Besides, immigrants and asylum seekers is hardly the stuff of great stories and the mixing these potentially unPC ideas with a vampire tale is extremely odd indeed. It remains unclear why UNIT would be so interested in such a minor case except that it perked Chaudhry's interest and the nearby archaeological dig fits the UNIT profile of being the cause of a certain amount of paranormal phenomena. Does that mean UNIT has someone pop up to every dig in the country? Or just the ones which discover fresh corpses?!

There is a quick mention of the Silurians, which came completely out of the blue. Being set in the near future it is entirely plausible that contact could be made with this species and co-habitation of the planet could work. It would certainly be a more interesting story than this to listen to.

The guest performances weren't up to scratch either with Big Finish audio supremos Toby Longworth and Ian Brooker failing to make much of their parts this time around. It doesn't help that Dr Hendrick is an arrogant bastard whose racist opinions wipe away any charm the character might have had and Goran turns up so late in the play it is hard for him to make any impression at all except that he is a bit bland for a foreign Vampire Hunter. And don't get me started on Kevin, the Chinese cockney wide boy who irritates from the word go. Ian Hayles should be kept away from the microphone in the future, I am fairly certain the scene where he thinks Chaudhry is an officer come to check up on the validity of his wife's green card is supposed to be hilarious but it winds up sounding rushed and rude and uncomfortably amateurish.

So with none of the characters keeping me interested did the story develop at all into anything interesting? Well, yes actually and most of the good work here goes to John Ainsworth's direction which tries to convince you something worth listening is going on despite the fact that there isn't. He does his best with the first half, adding lots of sound effects so this trip to the seaside sounds authentic but there is little going on for him to express his talents unlike Storm of Angels. However he makes up for it when the pace picks up in the second half especially when they start hunting the Vampire. The climax of the story is extremely good and got my heart thumping like a good'un, all the action with Chaudhry in danger in the grave is exciting stuff and highlighted by her frightened breathing which overwhelms the soundtrack and reminds you how frightening this all is. The voice of the Vampire is really rather scary and another nice touch, its ear-piercing shrieks as it is pursued and killed really sends chills down the spine. Ainsworth spotlights the mounting tension by letting his actors really go for it in a brilliantly tense scene over the phone between Chaudhry and Doulton, the only moment when they really make an impact.

Snake Head is hardly the worst CD to be released by Big Finish but it is practically forgettable throughout with just a few moments of wonder at the climax. I don't really have much to say about the story really, for good or for ill, it's just sort of there...