Gallifrey Series 02

Posted in Audio by - November 23, 2017
Gallifrey Series 02

Released April – August 2005

With life on Gallifrey returning to normal following the Timonic Fusion Device that threatened Romana’s presidency with impeachment and revealed the continued existence of Andred, the second series of Gallifrey opens as Romana opens up the famed Academy to citizens of outside alien races that have the potential to master temporal capabilities and finds herself surrounded by the political fallout and machinations of those around her as danger quickly escalates.

Writer Gary Russell proves throughout the opening instalment, ‘Lies,’ that he is extremely adept at incorporating past continuity of Doctor Who quite seamlessly. While most of the references to stories from Romana’s tenure on television and appearances on audio are mostly superficial, though, it’s notable just how much artistic freedom is taken to retcon Romana’s seemingly superfluous regeneration from actress Mary Tamm to Lalla Ward in order to position the malevolent being Pandora as a credible threat. With a thrilling extended cameo from Tamm, it is revealed that Gallifrey’s ancient Imperiatrix- a power-seeking being with more in common with Romana than she would care to admit- gained influence over her character while still on Gallifrey, and that the hasty regeneration was, in fact, a forced attempt at purging the evil influence from her mind. Though this is assuredly a controversial move, it does at least offer a fitting explanation for the change even if the evidence for it in the televised serials around it is glaringly absent.

Regardless, the lingering possibility of Pandora regaining form adds yet another layer of intrigue to this story full of conspiracy and shifting loyalties and alliances since Romana does not know if she can even fully trust herself. Indeed, the greatest strength of ‘Lies’ is that it is able to give each character plenty of time for development as Braxiatel proves himself to be Romana’s most loyal Gallifreyan confidant following her controversial decision to open up the Academy, Narvin attempts to remain true to himself and his position while expressing obvious displeasure with Romana’s decisions, Leela and K9 do their best to understand this dangerous threat from Gallifrey’s past, and Andred tries to rediscover himself after his regeneration and time spent pretending to be someone else. Though Brenda Longman’s Pandora is sadly limited to making threats from the Matrix here and so is not able to truly showcase her potential, ‘Lies’ nonetheless confidently and competently introduces its major players and ideas and sets the scene well for events to follow.

With that said, however, Stephen Cole’s ‘Spirit’ diverges quite wildly from everything that has so far occurred in the Gallifrey series, still introducing mysterious dangers to Gallifrey but choosing to do so while focusing quite intimately on the unique relationship that has developed between Romana and Leela. With Leela dejected following the discovery of her husband’s lies and Romana tired of separating friend from foe while trying to justify her actions, the two travel to the protected presidential retreat of Davidia for a bit of relaxation. But when a mysterious time vessel arrives carrying only one passenger whose hands are crushed, tongue is ripped out, and mind is destroyed, the fates of Gallifrey and of these two companions are squarely called into question.

It’s not much of a stretch to suggest that Leela and Romana are two of the most distinct and disparate companions in Doctor Who’s long history, and the shared mental experiences of the two as they attempt to communicate with the broken man are fascinating, not only as they address more thoroughly what kept Leela on Gallifrey at the end of ‘The Invasion of Time’ but also as each gets to experience life through the other’s eyes. While it’s quite surprising to get an intimate character study at this point in the series, ‘Spirit’ is a remarkable two-hander that makes the most of its vivid setting and intriguing central mystery to offer greater depth and understanding for the range’s two leads- one human and one Time Lord- and to continue to layer both questions and answers going forward.

Justin Richards’s ‘Pandora’ continues with the mystery of the missing TARDIS that should not exist and the unidentifiable Time Lord who cannot communicate within it as the past, present, and future, conspire to destroy Gallifrey. With new Castellan Wynter desparate to make a name for himself and Castellan Narvin and Inquisitor Prime Darkel eagerly waiting for Romana to make a mistake, the ancient Pandora again lays in wait while trying to find a foothold to assert itself once more.

Though the sheer brutality of how the so-called broken man came to be in that state is quite extreme, Richards uses K9 to great effect to offer fascinating glimpses into the puzzle of this being’s identity, a thread that offers a thoroughly entertaining break from the political discussions that otherwise pervade the story. That is not to suggest that the politics are boring, however, as Lynda Bellingham’s Darkel in particular dominates every scene she is in to assert herself as a much more tangible and overt threat to Romana and her entire presidency by placing important suggestions to easily-influenced people at the right time. While the questionable loyalty of Narvin, undoubted ambition of Wynter, uncertain motivations of Braxiatel, and the dramatic reuniting of Leela and Andred in which Louise Jameson can fully express her character’s anger and grief also provide suitable throughlines that progress the plot ably and emotionally on multiple fronts, ‘Pandora’ is very much the Inquisitor’s time to malevolently ascend, surpassing even the titular foe in the process.

While still focusing on the political machinations of Darkel, Steve Lyons’s ‘Insurgency’ again changes course by telling a tale of the erupting Time Lord isolationist policies and overt racism that has resulted from the newly open borders and policies. As Darkel and others like her insist that incorporating other cultures onto Gallifrey will weaken the Time Lord society and its power as a whole, Lyons taps into persistent tensions that underlie current events throughout the world and paints a brilliant picture of a dangerous and paranoid time on Gallifrey where even students of the Academy are used as pawns.

It’s great to see the racial tensions come back to the forefront after focusing so prominently in the opening ‘Lies,’ lending a sense of cohesion to this set and allowing Lalla Ward to wonderfully show the dogged strain Romana is experiencing from Darkel, Narvin, Pandora, and society in general as a result of her decision. This is a leader on the verge of hysteria, and the scenes in which she interacts with Pandora who suggests that Romana stop pandering to those around her and to instead lead a dictatorship are palpable and powerful. Likewise, Louise Jameson again excels as Leela takes on a tutor role in the Academy and navigates the flagrant xenophobia with class, showcasing her morality while learning that it is okay to sometimes ask for help when needed. Yet as more lives are horrifically put at stake, the tension is wonderfully raised for the finale as Darkel finally steps out of the shadows and directly challenges Romana for the Presidency.

Stewart Sheargold’s ‘Imperiatrix’ is tasked with closing the events of this second series, showcasing rising opposition to Romana’s policies as the attacks on Gallifrey become ever stronger. While Leela and K9 rush to try to uncover the identity of a terrorist to avoid further bloodshed, Romana enters into a risky bargain for control with a figure from her past while trying to avoid the dangers and inevitability of a future she has already seen. Following a bombing at the Academy and the subsequent threats of attack from other spatial and temporal superpowers if their people are not returned, the sense of panicked danger is at its highest right from the outset.

Quite rightly, Romana is the spotlighted character here, and it’s incredibly powerful and surprising to hear her use the might of Gallifreyan law to proclaim herself as Imperatrix in order to halt the deepening inquiry into her recent actions that Darkel planned to parlay into her own bid for the Presidency, in the process deftly shedding light on Darkel’s own manipulative backstabbing that fronted her darker intentions. Although Leela is not quite as prominent here as in previous stories, her exploration into the bombing is equally fascinating and at times surmising, and she finally receives poignant closure to her tumultuous relationship with the re-emerged Andred that has been simmering through this series in the most heartbreaking of ways. As strong as ‘Imperiatrix’ is as a whole, however, the final few moments will be the lasting legacy of this second series as the third is set in motion by reintroducing a surprisingly power-hungry first Romana, answering the questions of the present by bringing up plenty of questions about both the past and future.

Gallifrey series two is an impressive collection overall, surprising in the course it takes to tell its overarching story but excelling with its constant inclusion of politics, dangers, mysteries, backstabbings, and dramatic characterizations. Life on Gallifrey continues to become ever more dangerous, and the dramatic conclusion proves that there is a wealth of unexplored potential for the series going forward as past and present collide.

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