The Rings of Ikiria finally brings UNIT regular Mike Yates to the forefront of a Big Finish. It’s funny to think that Richard Franklin, who was such a big part of the Pertwee era, has only just joined the flock. But never mind that, he’s here and he’s got a cracking story to tell. Sometimes however, it can be down to the way you tell it rather than what you’re actually telling.
Rings is a solid UNIT story, one that translates well onto its audio format. All the ingredients are there to give the listener that warm familiar Barry Letts era hug that we sometimes crave. The Third Doctor, the Brigadier, Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton and a mysterious alien entity that has come to earth offering goodwill and glad tidings but is actually harbouring some far more insidious and nasty plans. There’s even betrayal in amongst the UNIT ranks themselves, way before Mike Yates made it the cool thing to do. The pacing of both episodes is short, sharp and sweet and the removal of the Doctor to create a far more Mike-Yates-centred-story is done in fine fettle and with a good explanation that goes on to tie up well at the end of the story. There’s even a cliff hanger to part one of this adventure that you’ll be clearly able to picture and left wondering why they didn’t think to do it in the Doctor Who production office in the 70’s.
Franklin recounts this retroactive story will energetic glee, clearly happy to be part of Big Finish’s world and happy to add new layers to the character of Mike Yates that we might not have thought about when the character was on screen. What’s interesting is gaining an insight into the inner thoughts for the character of Yates. He’s a man who works a lot of his job it seems, based on his trust of the Brig and the Doctor as well as his associated UNIT colleagues. In this story, his trust is everything and it’s all he has left to survive on at one point, which is slightly at odds with his decisions towards the end of his UNIT career. Quite how a man who had so much faith in his friends could turn around and decide to have so little is a bit of a mystery. Yes, there were factors that contributed to this that we saw on screen but if this story is anything to go by then it would be interesting to have a few more Mike Yates stories that tell the characters decent into darker realms.
With each different actor that tells a Companion Chronicle, we’re treated to a new and interesting performance. Some are direct and effective impersonations, some are characteristic tics relayed in the actors voice. Franklin’s take on the characters is fun but a bit strange when all is said and done. The Brigadier sounds like he’s halfway through eating when he’s talking, the third Doctor sounds like a doddery mix of his first four incarnations that’s about to sneeze and Sargent Benton’s accent has gone totally West Country. But that’s a minor gripe that in no way stops the story being fun after all, not everyone’s an impressionist.