Gallifrey- Enemy Lines

Posted in Audio by - December 13, 2017
Gallifrey- Enemy Lines

Released May 2016

Big Finish’s long journey into exploring the drama both on and surrounding Gallifrey has taken many interesting courses during its run, beginning as a tale of politics and deception that struck at the very hearts of Romana and the past of Gallifrey as she struggled to maintain her presidency and eventually shifting to a narrative of alternatives as Gallifrey succumbed to the dogma virus and all hope seemed lost. With the odds defied and those many threats facing Gallifrey averted, ‘Intervention Earth’ reinvented the franchise by streamlining its briefer episodes into a more action-oriented approach that put politics more firmly in the background. With ‘Enemy Lines,’ Gallifrey attempts to combine eras into one cohesive experience that casts the events of ‘Intervention Earth’ in a completely new light as Romana must reconcile the thoughts and actions of her present and future selves.

‘Enemy Lines’ picks up where ‘Intervention Earth’ left off, namely with Narvin and Ace trapped in a TARDIS running out of air and summarily sentenced to execution when Time Lord forces finally find them. The Gallifrey series has never been one to shy away from paradoxes and alternate realities, and, for better or for worse, this series quickly reveals that all of ‘Intervention Earth’ took place in a timeline that should never have existed. The events that ultimately resulted from the previous series were so catastrophic that the third incarnation of Romana decided that the only possible fix was to send Braxiatel back in time to stop her second incarnation from regenerating at her appointed time in order to begin a chain of events that puts all of the key players at completely different locations than where they were initially meant to be.

While the use of paradoxes always carries with it a sentiment of being cheated out of the drama that should build from previous events, the new timeline carries in it plenty of satisfying drama both closer to Gallifrey and beyond. Following Romana’s decision to relinquish her Presidency to again distance this timeline from the averted one, the temporal society is blindsided when a bomb explodes in the Capitol during the inauguration ceremony. The new President Livia is thus handed a precarious situation as Gallifrey’s stature among time-faring acquaintances is hobbled and the mystery about how deep the conspiracy surrounding the terror attack goes gains precedence, and Celia Imrie deftly meshes the uncertainty that follows the unexpected assumption of power along with the determination needed in a leader in order to position Livia as a believable and well-rounded character that can be trusted to serve Gallifrey’s best interests.

Lalla Ward and Louise Jameson have been the hearts of this range since the beginning, and after a brief absence in ‘Intervention Earth,’ they easily carry the plot on Gallifrey as they piece together the truth behind the explosion that hinges on an action seemingly performed by an individual who could not possibly have been involved at that time. Jameson, in particular, excels in the final episode as a very particular version of Leela who powerfully and scornfully recounts to Romana the life she may have led and the wrongs she may have righted away from Gallifrey while trying to understand her own position here and Romana’s own thought processes. Not completely forsaking events of ‘Intervention Earth,’ Sophie Aldred returns as Ace within the CIA ranks, and she and Sean Carlsen’s Narvin make a genuinely effective double act while again showcasing just how useful humans can be even when surrounded by more powerful races and awe-inspiring concepts.

Though the ultimate revelation of the true conspirator is hardly surprising given the small core cast but needed impact for the plot, the breadth of the conspiracy and its multiple points of attack are quite impressive and give a true sense of scale and scope that reaches far beyond the Capitol that housed so much of the excellent drama of the earliest series. The presence and history of the mysterious Watchmaker of Time Lord past who slowly makes her presence known to resolve the intrinsic paradox present no matter the means only further adds to the mystery and intrigue surrounding events, and Eve Karpf imbues a sense of majesty and danger to make this character one of the more fascinating and dangerous in Gallifrey’s long history.

Though the use of paradoxes and reset buttons of sorts will always be controversial, especially here as so many events and character moments of both ‘Intervention Earth’ and ‘Enemy Lines’ are nullified, the material and events involved in bringing those aspects to life holds together wonderfully, and thrusting Miles Richardson’s Braxiatel back into a role of importance works superbly by forming another anchor to what has occurred across so much of Big Finish’s varied audio history. Still, the plot remains intriguing throughout and the superb direction and sound design that amplify the uniformly incredible performances make for a thrilling listen, even if the reset means that the dramatic consequences don’t quite hit the highs of earlier offerings.

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