Blurb: UNIT is accustomed to dealing with visitors from space, but nothing has prepared them for Ikiria, an alien artist bearing gifts. Could Ikiria’s designs be something more than aesthetic?
As the Brigadier turns against him, Mike Yates goes on the run. Can he save the world? Or will he just learn an important lesson in betrayal?
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Captain Mike Yates. Published by Big Finish Productions and released June of 2012.
Setting: Earth: Sark, Channel Islands, United Kingdom. UNIT dating makes the precise chronological placement of this story iffy but it's during the first or second year that the Doctor is with UNIT, which I would place in 1970-71. It is unclear from the details given when or why Mike is narrating the events of the story.
Continuity: This story takes place between Inferno and Terror of the Autons. Liz has already left UNIT, so this story takes place after the audios The Blue Tooth and Binary as well as the novel, The Scales of Injustice. It is unclear whether this happens before or after The Devil Goblins from Neptune. Several times Mike refers to being seconded to UNIT and that he never felt as if he belonged before joining that organization (see Vengeance of the Stones). Mike thinks that Mercer was with him during the cleanup after the Silurian affair (see The Silurians). UNIT's Hercules jet is mentioned (see The Invasion).
Canonicity Quotient: This story mostly works but Mike seems to be far closer with the Doctor than the beginning of Terror of the Autons would imply. Otherwise this story could fit soundly into the UNIT era. 0.97.
Discussion: Richard Franklin hasn't done many audio stories, but I am really happy that he did this one. The Rings of Ikiria gives us a glimpse into the early times of Mike Yates with UNIT and because of that time period it's forced to give us a story that is almost entirely about Mike. This isn't a bad thing. As we've seen from the TV series, Mike is one of the more complex characters that we get in Doctor Who. The story starts off with a fantastic cliffhanger and then goes backwards in time to explain how Mike gets to that point. It's a perfect device for setting up our interest in the story as things are a little slow to start. Yet, as soon as Ikiria starts giving out rings it starts to become clear to the listener what is about to go on.
This story is about Mike's estrangement from his friends in UNIT. Being such an early tale that might seem odd, but I think that it works. At the end he's reconciled to them but I am sure that a suspicion remains. It's this that may have been exacerbated by BOSS' control and I think that as such it feeds right into the arc that occurs with Mike during the end of the Pertwee run. I really like how this story helps to convey the paranoia to the listener through the first person narration and even I became convinced that the Brigadier was under the control of Ikiria. I also really liked the evocative imagery, describing Ikiria as being painted like a geisha and the descriptions of Ikiria's other works of art - the faces in the landscape and the soldiers turned into statues. It really helps to keep your imagination going as you listen to the story. I also like subtle mentions of things such as the Hercules jet that gives you a feeling of UNIT's resources, which was something that the Pertwee era usually had a problem doing, so it's nice to see that addressed her.
I really appreciated the sound landscape on this one. Felicity Duncan is fantastic both as Ikiria and Corporal Mercer. Her voice sounds seductive and alluring, which is exactly what you want for the part. You get to feeling like you know why Mike just for a moment wonders what it would be like to go off with her. I also like the military music that underscores Mike's narration. While I've criticized other audios for using similar music that was because the music didn't match the story. In this case it fits dead on and helps your overall immersion into what's going on. I will say that the one thing that doesn't work to well on the audio side is Franklin's impressions of his costars. The Doctor and the Brigadier are just awful. I do like his Benton though. It's a little over the top but at least it's close enough. Still, it's difficult on these companion chronicles for the actors to impersonate everyone 100% correctly so I give this one a pass for that. It is Mike telling the story after all.
I do have a few criticisms on the plot. Why does Ikiria target Mike from the beginning? She produces Mercer ostensibly from his memories, so it seems as if he's part of her plan on the Earth. Yet other than having Mercer suggest that Mike wear the ring a few times when the situation calls for it she doesn't seem particularly interested in him. The other thing that doesn't make much sense is why doesn't Ikiria know that the Brigadier isn't wearing one of her rings? Surely she would notice if she thought a command to him if he didn't execute it. That's assuming that the rings don't work both ways in which case she wouldn't sense his mind. I'll give the story the benefit of the doubt and assume on-way communication but that still leaves a problem. Overall, though, I really love this story and it matches the flavor of the Pertwee era perfectly so I can forgive a few plot issues.
Final Rating: 9/10
Recommendation: A tale of paranoia and innocence lost, The Rings of Ikiria impresses as a prequel to the Mike Yates arc. It does what the companion chronicles are good at by getting you into the head of the character and finding out what makes them tick. It's also a really great story that would have fit squarely into the Pertwee era while also being a nice change of pace to the usual armies of aliens attempting to conquer the Earth. I definitely recommend it.