Gallifrey Series 03

Posted in Audio by - November 29, 2017
Gallifrey Series 03

Released May – August 2006

The third series of Big Finish’s Gallifrey begins with Gallifrey at war with itself following the emergence of Pandora in the form of Romana’s first incarnation. In Stephen Cole’s ‘Fractures,’ this faux Romana seeks to control the population through mind control and the power of manipulative persuasion while the true Romana fights back to weaken her foe’s power by destroying integral parts of the Capitol. When one such attack goes badly wrong, however, Romana’s own base is left exposed and Leela is left blinded, leading both to take desperate measures that could forever change the course of the future.

Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward are both superb in ‘Fractures,’ the former as a charismatic dictator trying to fortify her support and the latter as a desperate rebel hearing strange voices in her head and struggling to regain her own position of power as her world continues to fall apart around her. These are both quite atypical performances for these actresses within the confines of Doctor Who, but both handle the task admirably and create a sense of uneasy tension as the balance of power remains contested. At the same time, Louise Jameson gives an incredibly powerful and emotional performance as Leela steadfastly remains strong and optimistic about her vision returning following exposure to flash weaponry until finally breaking down when a surgeon tells her that her vision loss is permanent. Cole does a magnificent job with presenting what initially seems like an unwinnable position for Romana, but the slow revelation that K9 is working to take down Pandora from within her own ranks along with the introduction of the Anomaly Vaults holding the mysterious Aesino who is a creature with near-infinite clones taken from one second in her future offer a tantalizing glimpse of what may yet come in this continuing battle of such grand scope and dichotomous morality.

Stewart Sheargold’s ‘Warfare’ continues the story of Gallifrey’s Civil War and wraps up the intriguingly experimental Pandora storyline in the process, exploring the fissures both in the surrounding civilisation and in the individual psychological identities on display. Though some of the action sequences are rather too generic to be wholly effective, the emotion and characterisation is first-rate, and hearing Mary Tamm finally have the opportunity to reprise the essence of her own Romana incarnation as Pandora and the second Romana both try to cope with the fragments of different voices in their heads is a welcome development that dovetails nicely with Romana’s realisation that her earlier self is aiding her in the fight against Gallifrey’s returning first Imperiatrix.

Perhaps even more important that the central battle between Pandora and Romana, however, is the continuing development of the secondary characters on either side, and both Narvin and Darkel in particular shine as they gain even more prominence. At this point, Narvin is likely the most honourable of the Time Lords, putting loyalty to the office of the President above his hatred for Romana and different moral code, and Darkel continuing to secretly scheme against Pandora to whom she has overtly pledged allegiance shows an undying sense of self-preservation and self-aggrandisement that is sure to manifest even more overtly following the satisfying downfall of Pandora that deftly weaves in K9 as a double agent, the might of the clone Aesino creature introduced in ‘Fractures,’ and the destruction of the Matrix itself.

Paul Sutton’s ‘Appropriation’ begins to deal with the aftermath of the war, returning the series to the more political-based stylings upon which the first two series of Gallifrey were predicated. With the conflict having destroyed so much of the Time Lords’ history and culture, the Gallifrey presented here is vulnerable and desperate in a wholly unique manner not yet seen, and Romana desperately strives to remain as true to the Presidency as she can despite being imprisoned and tormented by Darkel after her gamble as Imperatrix faltered and Darkel seized the opportunity to further her own public perception in her quest to attain the Presidency for herself.

Much like the preceding story, ‘Appropriation’ succeeds admirably in bringing secondary characters to the forefront, compensating for the fact that the devastating fallout of the loss of the Matrix is hardly touched upon and that the return of the other temporal powers is only casually discussed as they wait like piranhas to attack the weakened Gallifrey. Stephen Perring excels here as the power-hungry but scrupulous Matthias as he negotiates with the other powers and slowly manoeuvres himself into a position to declare himself a candidate for the Presidential election, and Sutton does well with showing the weight that the Presidency takes upon the bumbling Valyes as events become ever more earnest. Because of the character-driven drama and excellent performances, even the rather tedious nature of explaining who legally has the right to be President in these tumultuous circumstances is tense and exciting, and the emergence of a new player in Matthias is earned by story’s end and filled with potential.

With events on Gallifrey seemingly back to normal despite the vacuum at the top of its power structure and the destruction of the Matrix, Justin Richards’s ‘Mindbomb’ centres on the first Presidential election to take place on Gallifrey in millennia. This is traditional Gallifrey at its finest, full of pomp and circumstance no matter the situation, and Richards manages to employ the conniving and manipulative natures of the characters to deftly explain who has power and who is eligible to stand for election, a fact that is hotly contested even at this late stage. Without ever taking itself too incredibly seriously, ‘Mindbomb’ features Matthias and Darkel going head to head after Matthias uses the technicality of law to get Romana impeached and imprisoned after lobbying against Darkel’s own efforts to do the exact same, setting the stage expertly for the important and dangerous actions and backstabbing about to unfold.

Though it’s perhaps unsurprising that the story borrows from ‘The Deadly Assassin’ and Darkel is shot, triggering an investigation into the identity of the assassin as well as into who would stand to benefit the most, Lynda Bellingham and Stephen Perring are superb alongside each other as both their characters each try to gain the upper hand over the other through lies and deceit. At the same time, the process leading up to the election speaks to the merits and weaknesses of the British political system, unafraid of pointing out the more ridiculous aspects of diplomacy and politics when appealing to the public in the process. Of course, the biggest moment is the triumphant return of Miles Richardson as Braxiatel, still with Pandora seemingly locked away in his mind, a powerful figure who is able to turn the letter of the law and recent developments to his favour as he rightfully claims the title of President for himself. Ending the political rollercoaster with Matthias again gaining power does seem a bit too safe following the preceding story, but the final moments and Pandora’s emergence with devastating consequences certainly amplify the tension as the third series approaches its end.

Whereas the preceding two stories may have faltered in this regard, Alan Barnes’s ‘Panacea’ bluntly shows Gallifrey in ruin and decay following its war and an outbreak of the dogma virus that zombifies Time lords upon regeneration, its great society overtly compared to the pig rats that spread the virus and Romana herself an outcast in the Outlands, her power usurped and her ancestral home of Heartshaven little more than a desolate and devastated shell of its former self. With all notions of elitism gone as even the most powerful succumb, President Matthias must turn to none other than villainous rogue, Mephistopheles Arkadian, to strike a deal.’

‘Panacea’ effectively compares Arkadian’s criminal endeavours with Braxiatel’s, even as the former tries to amass Pandora’s stockpiles of weapons for profit while the latter tries to prevent Gallifrey’s downfall in an impending battle in the future, blending the boundary between right and wrong to some extent and successfully questioning the morality of both courses of action. Arkadian is a unique presence in the world of Gallifrey, and his possible ties to Free Time and his undoubted irreverence provides the perfect foil for the Time Lords who suddenly find themselves so desperate and downtrodden. Unsurprisingly, Leela plays a rather pivotal role in this story in which the world she never truly seemed at ease in crumbles around her. Indeed, Louise Jameson delivers possibly the most effectively emotional speech of the entire series as she speaks to the memory of her husband, Andred, noting that the Outlands is where Gallifrey’s future lies and where the Time Lords can learn from other, lesser creatures how to carry on in such a changed world. Despite the overwhelming darkness throughout, this moment is contrasted quite nicely by the rising suns Narvin and Matthias together witness, symbolizing a continuing hope for a brighter future despite these dark days.

‘Panacea’ does sometimes seem a bit slow and circuitous in the route it takes to reach its blistering conclusion and cliffhanger where Romana is thrust squarely back into an intriguing position of importance thanks to Braxiatel’s scheming, but the state of Gallifrey rightly takes centre stage and creates an oppressed atmosphere of defeatism with only slight glimmers of hope peaking through when most needed. This third series was originally intended to be the final one, and the iconic and imagery-laden poignant scenes peppered throughout make for a fitting conclusion to what has been a sometimes-uneven but altogether exciting initial look into the politics and world of Gallifrey without the Doctor present.

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