Audio Drama Review – The New Counter-Measures: ‘The Movellan Manoeuvre’

by Rachel Bellwoar

The Movellan Manoeuvre
Directed by Ken Bentley
Written by John Dorney
Starring Pamela Salem (Rachel Jensen), Simon Williams (Group Captain Gilmore), Karen Gledhill (Allison Williams), and Hugh Ross (Sir Toby Kinsella)
The Robot Helper 2000 is more than a supped-up vacuum. It also cleans and does the dishes, but the Counter-Measures Group aren’t worried dishwashers will become obsolete. They’re worried Lady Suzanne Clare (Carolyn Seymour) has something bigger planned – that the Robot Helper 2000 is a weapon in disguise.
This isn’t the first time the Counter-Measures Group have tangled with Lady Claire (and if the alien entangling device had worked they wouldn’t be in this position), but unless they can prove there’s something wrong with the Robot Helper 2000 (and there must be if Lady Clare is involved) they can’t stop her from putting it out in stores across the UK.
The first thing to know about The Movellan Manoeuvre is it leads right into The Dalek Gambit. While Roland Moore wrote the latter story, he also acted as the script editor on Movellan (and vice versa, with Dorney acting as the script editor on Dalek). While it’s not urgent that they be listened to back-to-back – in the sense that Movellan has no problem working as a standalone – if you’d rather treat them as a two-parter, this is your heads up to buy them both.
One thing the New Counter-Measures series could use is an intro like the one The Sarah Jane Adventures had, where each episode would start by re-introducing the characters. Since this isn’t the first Counter-Measures story, it doesn’t really fall on Dorney to explain who everyone is but you can get to the end of Movellan and not be able to answer the basic questions, like what is the Counter-Measures group?
They only appeared on Doctor Who once, during the 60’s set serial, “Remembrance of the Daleks.” The “new” part in New Counter-Measures refers to the series jumping forward a decade to the 70’s, but while that’s useful information to know (and can make starting a new series less intimidating), the 70’s bear very little on this story and it’s easy to follow, even if you haven’t heard of them before
It’s like flipping on an episode of Law and Order. You don’t need to watch them in order and the cast is small, so once you learn to tell Rachel and Allison’s voices apart, it’s not difficult. Sir Toby is the M (James Bond) or Charlie (Charlie’s Angels) of the group. Allison is Rachel’s assistant. In the interviews at the end Gledhill mentions that she’s adventurous, but you don’t really see that side of her in this story. Mostly Allison helps on the tech-side of things.
Captain Gilmore and Professor Jenson are both terrific. Jenson is the head scientist but, instead of her job restricting her to a lab, she’s always joining Gilmore on undercover missions. Gilmore is the most convinced the Robot Helper 2000 is bad, but his fervor starts to impair his judgement, and it makes for some unpredictable choices. Joe Meiners’ sound design allows Dorney to change character perspectives without having to spell out what’s going on and the music by Nicholas Briggs pulls listeners into the action.
They’re not a team that gets everything right, but that’s what makes the Counter-Measures Group so engaging. The Movellan Manoeuvre is available to purchase from Big Finish.

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