Gallifrey- Time War Volume One

Posted in Audio by - February 24, 2018
Gallifrey- Time War Volume One

Released February 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The Gallifrey series has always been one of Big Finish’s most important, proving from the outset that characters old and new could carry a prolonged and developing narrative set firmly within the crux of the Doctor Who universe without the involvement or opinion of the Doctor to influence the outcome or bias the perception of events. The result has been an incredibly complex and rewarding chronicle that proved its value and uniqueness straightaway by delving into the intricacies of politics and deception on a global and temporal scale, painting assumed heroes and enemies in shades of grey along the way to prove that right and wrong is anything but black and white. While the Gallifrey saga has previously taken Romana, Leela, K-9, Braxiatel, and Narvin- among many others that jas even come to include Ace- throughout time and space and even through the Axis into shunted alternate realities, the story now boldly goes into the one time period it has not yet touched upon, the Time War with the enemy Dalek might at its most dangerous.

‘Celestial Intervention’ by David Llewellyn expertly describes the state of this rebuilt Gallifrey preparing for the inevitability of war as the triumvirate High Council led by President Livia, War Council fronted by General Trave, and Celestial Intervention Agency headed by Coordinator Romana try to jointly guide Gallifrey into the future while best securing its preservation, utilizing notions such as loom research and TARDIS plantations to highlight where the overall focus rests at this time. The earliest series of Gallifrey excelled when dealing with the planet’s strict isolationist policy as temporal powers expanded and the known universe continued to become smaller and more interconnected, and it’s strangely satisfying to see that those sentimentalities remain even when the long-standing ally Phaidon Warpwrights are all but eliminated in the Daleks’ continuing quest for all-encompassing dominion. With only some five thousand members of the planet surviving, Gallifrey’s elite are tasked with deciding whether or not to provide asylum to their fallen comrades as their own danger becomes ever more imminent. Even this decision of basic welfare and compassion becomes the emphasis of political motivations, though, as discussions about these survivors being the weakest and most cowardly of the Phaidons emerge and the General is secretly encouraged to sway the War Council to vote yes and to guide events to trigger an election to find a President more suited for war and the necessary steps entailed.

Secrets have always lain at the heart of Gallifrey and those in power, however, and the War Council bargains with its swing vote to ensure that it is able to proceed with its schemes in complete secrecy, an ultimatum that Romana does not take lightly but must accept to ensure her own position at the CIA is safe. Realising that war is all but inevitable but insisting that the horrors of an unencumbered War Council must not come to fruition, she sends her War Council liaison Leela to uncover the darker plans stemming from the Death Zone itself with the help of emergency overrides, and the truth she stumbles upon shows just how desperate Gallifrey has already become as it begins the process of bringing its greatest minds back from the dead within a pocket dimension the Daleks must never find. With so many pieces already put in motion as an optimistic President is surely destined to confront a reality in which her promises to not use Gallifrey’s greatest weapons is not possible, ‘Celestial Intervention’ is the perfect opener to this monumental set that should only grow in scope and scale.

In ‘Soldier Obscura’ by Tim Foley, Braxiatel takes Ace to the deadly region of spacetime known only as the Obscura, the remain of a temporal battlefield so paradoxical that even looking at it causes madness and destruction, in order to locate an ancient space station upon which he has based one of his many contingency plans. The sole occupant of this station is Danna, Braxiatel’s old mentor and one of Gallifrey’s best shots and strategists who is learning to accept that age is beginning to catch up with her and that she is not as proficient as she once was. This could have easily been a rather one-note character in many other circumstances, but Zulema Dene manages to imbue an incredible amount of emotion into this guardian who takes great pride in her monastic duties but yearns so dearly to know that she is not truly alone. Miles Richardson and Dene have an immense chemistry together that manages to hint at their characters deep connections stemming from so far in the past, combining effortlessly with the superb chemistry between Sophie Aldred and Richardson as Ace once more finds herself in the presence of a secretive Time Lord and making the ultimate resolution all the more emotionally impactful.

The hold of the ship being filled with hundreds of dead Daleks is a magnificent visual that early on hints at the true danger of the space around them, and Danna noting that the Daleks started to look different some twelve years ago as they started modifying themselves and sacrificing their own purity in the process of developing a means of steering through the Obscura energy further emphasises the lengths that both sides in this Time War will go to in order to ultimately succeed. Given the furtive nature of Time Lords and of Braxiatel, in particular, it’s perhaps no surprise that he comes under suspicion as the danger becomes much more immediate, first when he refuses to turn off a jamming signal that seems to be jamming no signal and later when he is heard negotiating with the oncoming Dalek forces. When the lies and truths behind Braiatel’s actions are exposed in front of friend and foe alike, Ace brands him a coward and unknowingly triggers a surprising parting of the ways despite their joint orders from Romana, providing an emotionally charged ending to a visually and viscerally thrilling and tense action piece that steps away from the pure politics of Gallifrey and further fleshes out Braxiatel’s complicated past.

The Time War has begun in earnest, and Romana has enlisted the Master to undertake a dangerous mission to find Finnian Valentine who has intelligence that could end hostilities once and for all in ‘The Devil You Know’ by Scott Handcock. The initial scenes in which this uneasy alliance is agreed upon radiate with a distinctive combination of respect and distaste the Master and Romana have for each other, and the Master’s demand to use his own TARDIS after being offered his freedom and Roman’s counter that in exchange he must agree to have Leela accompany him at all times portrays a subtle but menacing game of one-upmanship that works exceedingly well given how strong their respective wills are. Romana knows how intelligent and ruthless the Master is, but it’s a potential scapegoat with exactly those principles that she needs in this situation, and Lalla Ward and Derek Jacobi shine together to set the scene perfectly.

Leela, of course, has come across the Master on several occasions before, and she provides the perfect lens through which to examine how the Time War has changed her foe from the raw hatred of Geoffrey Beevers’s scarred version she knew to Derek Jacobi’s focused incarnation now standing before her as they travel to a world at the centre of a temporal detonation where Finnian Valentine is not quite the sole survivor they expected to find. A uniquely tense interrogation follows in which Leela and the Master take turns using their own styles before finally uniting to find the answers they so desperately need, and Leela is quite shockingly confronted with the possibility that she has become much like the Time Lord politicians who take no direct action in the war, a suggestion that strikes at the very heart of her very proactive character. With the Master easily able to read the minutest of expressions to separate lies from truth as he always keeps his own promises, this extended interrogation is an undoubted highlight for both Jacobi and Louise Jameson that never forgets the long history of distrust belying the two, and the discovery of a powerful energy source on the world of Arcking acts as a perfect prologue to ‘The Good Master’ in Big Finish’s The War Master- Only the Good set while also leading to the shocking departure of Leela whom the Master leaves in a precipitously precarious position as she begins the inexorable journey that The War Doctor fourth series deftly describes. Though like in the preceding story the politics and machinations are put in the background to focus on an individual tale featuring known characters in the heart of the war, ‘The Devil You Know’ further throws Romana’s plans into flux and uses its riveting performances and atmosphere to maximum effect to keep anxiety high as the finale looms large.

After two intriguing adventures afar, ‘Desperate Measures’ by Matt Fitton continues the events on Gallifrey set in motion in ‘Celestial Intervention’ as President Livia seeks to resign with her honour intact so that another can lead Gallifrey through war. Using a technicality relating to a recent emergency measure passed, Romana and Narvin give her that opportunity which will allow her to still name her successor and force the War Council to name its own candidate and expose its agenda if displeased. Romana furtively suggests that Livia does not want to be associated with the imminent news that the Daleks are closing in on Project Revenant or the sacrifices thus far made to ensure its continuation, and she eventually decides to run for President herself, knowing full well that she will have to sacrifice her current regeneration in order to do so legally. However, when Livia names war hero Admiral Valerian as her successor, much to the obvious glee of Trave, it seems clear that Romana was just an unwitting pawn in a much bigger puzzle. These are the sorts of machinations and double-dealings that made Gallifrey so powerful early on, and it’s immensely rewarding to see that- after everything Romana and company have gone through over the years to get to this situation- deceit and politics are just as prevalent as ever even when the common good should be the paramount focus.

With Valerian promising straightforward truth and action in war while Romana runs on a stance of diplomacy and allies to find peace, the debates and statements that ensue speak perfectly of the dichotomy of the Gallifreyan people, and both David Sibley and Lalla Ward imbue an incredible amount of passion into their performances to confirm just how dedicated each character is to his or her chosen cause. Indeed, Romana has gone so far as to open up secret channels with the Dalek Emperor, trying to find a path of peace forward where the web of time is protected even if it means allowing the Daleks to continue their quest for dominion as before. Unsurprisingly, the Daleks take this offer as a sign of weakness and redouble their efforts, but nothing remains secret on Gallifrey and Romana soon finds herself the victim of her own words. As the enemy advances on Revenant with intent to turn it to their own advantage, Romana and Narvin learn that even their allies cannot be trusted and discover the true intent of the plans in motion right beneath their gaze, looking to the past to boldly lead Gallifrey into its darkest hour.

The writing, acting, directing, and sound design must all be commended for creating a tense intimacy to affairs despite the vast scope of the repercussions of each action both taken and not. The first volume of Gallifrey- Time War is fearless in its presentation of the dangerous state of affairs both on Gallifrey and afar, using the dynamic of Romana not being President to progress a unique agenda while slowly uncovering the bigger plot surrounding her. With the exact fates of Braxiatel, Ace, and Leela unknown as cross-range continuity continues to develop different locations and situations within the monumental conflict, the Time War fittingly continues to be one of the more fascinating time periods the world of Doctor Who has more thoroughly begun to traverse and explore. With the most renowned figure from Gallifrey’s past returning to lead its people forward once more, the scene is set for a momentous continuation as the narrative moves even more boldly into darker and ever more dangerous territory.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.