Gallifrey- Time War Volume Two

Posted in Audio by - March 23, 2019
Gallifrey- Time War Volume Two

Released March 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The first volume of Gallifrey- Time War fearlessly brought forth a fascinating introduction to Gallifrey’s involvement in the nearly incomprehensible conflict that would come to wreak such havoc on the Time Lords, Daleks, and universe at large. Laden in danger both physically and politically with no individual life safe from the machinations and treacheries at hand on all fronts, the first series effortlessly brought one of Big Finish’s most fascinating franchises into the mythology of the modern television series with Romana struggling to do her very best for Gallifrey and the rest of the cosmos while outside of the presidential role she held for so long, the surprise return of Rassilon at its conclusion presenting arguably her greatest challenge yet.

The second volume begins with ‘Havoc’ by David Llewellyn, and the current state of affairs on Gallifrey is quickly laid bare as Romana’s Celestial Intervention Agency vies for some form of control alongside Rassilon’s High Council. Though there is a brief semblance of an uneasy unity when Rassilon absolves Romana of her crimes after being provided with an unedited recording that refutes previous evidence against her, that façade is quickly fractured when an unregistered TARDIS lands and its pilot murders another Time Lord. As thoughts wonder about the possibility of a Time Lord from the future returning to alter the course of established events, Rassilon uses the resultant fear to call upon an arcane precedent that allows him to dissolve the Chancellory Guard to form his own security force to be headed by the loyal Mantus. To Rassilon, any world not claiming allegiance to Gallifrey will be invaded and strategically used for its own aims, and with his tyrannical reign taking hold on Gallifrey already, the malice and menace layered in his proclamations carry incredible weight that Terrence Hardiman delivers emphatically.

Naturally, such a profound shift of power as the Lord President acts so unilaterally comes with consequences, and Bovari who had been tersely reassigned from her role in the Guard is furtively able to provide Narvin with the biodata from the time of the murder, eventually revealing that Rassilon’s rule is not universally accepted with accolades in the future. As paranoia and deaths continue to mount through fear and Rassilon’s attempts to stamp out any and all forms of resistance, Romana realises that revealing the identity of the unknown Time Lord just may be the only way to ensure that the CIA can remain at least a clandestine front of the resistance she is hoping to mount. This is understandably not a decision that Romana takes lightly, and it naturally causes a great deal of consternation for those around her, but as the culmination of these tense events that highlight the shifting landscape on Gallifrey in the present while hinting at further danger to come in the future, it’s a fitting choice that again proves that no person is safe and that truly anything is possible.

In Una McCormack’s ‘Partisans,’ the world of Ysalus has become a strategic target for the Time Lords and the Daleks alike due to the abundance of a rare oil that is vital to the Daleks’ time travel efforts. However, Ysalus is experiencing a horrendous war of its own with innocents caught in the middle of the two opposing xenophobic factions, and Romana sends Narvin and Eris in under the guise of being weapons suppliers to subtly shift the direction of the war to favour the foreseen outcome that will result in peace rather than one of utter destruction that would then allow the Daleks to capitalise. Unfortunately, the War Council has its own strategy, and the resulting loss of millions of lives is deemed acceptable because of the trap the Time Lords will then be able to spring on their unsuspecting foes, and Aladra as its representative has no qualms about steering events to that fateful destination as Ysalus finds itself an unwitting pawn in a much bigger game.

Sadly, Gallifrey is certainly no stranger to setting up and sacrificing pawns to advance its wartime efforts, but it nonetheless resonates overpoweringly that this ancient civilisation that for so long remained so dedicated to pacifism and monitoring is now so willing to take these extreme efforts with little compunction. Yet just like the Eighth Doctor and then the War Doctor, it’s likewise a relief that all of Gallifrey is not so single-minded in its focus and there remain individuals willing to find another way. Although Ysalus is something of a test run to see if Romana’s means of resistance is feasible given that Rassilon has eyes everywhere, Romana and Narvin remain firmly eye to eye in their acceptance of the danger they willingly court to prevent what they feel would otherwise be Gallifrey’s inexorable downfall morally if not also physically. On the Ysalus front, Abra Thompson gives a spectacular performances as Ysta who must come to terms with the much broader scope of events she finally finds herself in the middle of, and her absolute response to the horrors she now faces is shocking and proves that even pawns can take meaningful action that is totally unexpected and resonant. There is little in terms of resolution here as Narvin places Ysalus in a temporal freeze, but this is yet another effective off-world example of the breadth of the Time War and the politics and beliefs that continue to shape actions both near and afar regardless of consequences.

‘Collateral’ by Lisa McMullin picks up the narrative as Gallifrey learns that the freeze on Ysalus has been lifted, ostensibly by the Daleks and thus allowing the scavenging Scythes to gain a foothold. However, with small fractures forming even within the War Council itself, Romana and Narvin soon learn of a resistance movement on Ysalus fronted by a woman named Knyla who seemingly knows all about them. Indeed, she claims that she has been working for some five years to move her people into evacuation zones for the Time Lords to safely remove them as instructed, and when Eris is revealed to be the person who set this plot in motion, Romana like Ysalus itself finds herself in a race against time to help as many innocents as possible. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the Scythes are not the only threat to be overcome, and Narvin and Romana slowly piece together the fact that Rassilon himself ordered the lifting of the freeze and the manoeuvring of the Scythes into place in order to further his own political agenda, namely showing the full power of Gallifrey by any means including removing this planet from time and space at the moment of its very creation.

Even as the actual conflict on Ysalus once more doesn’t become a major focus while the bigger machinations from afar instead take centre stage, Carlyss Peer gives an impactful performance as Knyla who has been working tirelessly to fulfill the plan for promised salvation. The passion and determination fueling this character is clear from the outset, and even if her more flirtatious relationship with Eris seems somewhat ill-defined, it adds another layer that prevents her from becoming simply another generic cipher needed to progress the plot. As the terrain continues to shift around her and any semblance of a plan becomes an exercise in improvisation and resolve instead, the heartbreaking futility of war reaches an entirely new scale, and a lasting voice resonating through the cosmos forlornly becomes the perfect symbol of all that has been lost and the steadfast action that must continue into the future as battle lines are drawn afresh.

As volume two draws to its conclusion in Matt Fitton’s ‘Assassins,’ a deadly race that has evolved at the very heart of the Time War and the events on Ysalus has breached Gallifrey’s defenses with the death of Rassilon its only goal. Shockingly, Romana is likewise thinking the unthinkable and is willing to take the ultimate action to steer Time Lord society away from the brutal course Rassilon has established. With the War Council set to absorb the Celestial Intervention Agency to provide a unified front under the Lord President, however, Narvin finds himself the subject of particular interest as Mantus provides him a most intriguing offer to step out of Romana’s shadow and regain his full complement of Time Lord capabilities. To support his moral dilemma, although Narvin and Romana have a long and complicated history together that has been supremely well-handled in its progression to unlikely but steadfast allies, it’s refreshing to see that they are not of the same mind on all matters and that Romana’s deadly proposition is a step too far for Narvin, a step that a most unlikely source is more than open to accepting.

Although the actual Sicari threat isn’t all too clearly defined and the actual confrontation with Rassilon concludes far too quickly, this race and its achievements nonetheless serve as an incredibly effective means of highlighting just how far Romana is willing to go achieve her own aims, in the process providing another perfect example of just how distinctly the Time Lord mindset has changed during the Time War regardless of underlying motivations and morals. She understands implicitly the type of man Rassilon is due to his origins and her previous interactions with him so long ago, and the convoluted means she employs to bring about one final attack is staggering, albeit a moment that is surprisingly snatched away at the last moment to allow Rassilon the chance to regenerate and become all the stronger. Rassilon has unwaveringly been moving Gallifrey into a more warlike state with loyalty to him paramount, and this sequence provides the final impetus for him to eliminate all semblance of politics from the world going forward and to firmly set Gallifrey on a collision course with its inevitable fate. With Romana and Narvin exiled with no hope for peaceful return and Mantus’s sliver of a lead on Leela’s whereabouts within the Time War itself their only hope, the scene has been set aptly for the upcoming third series with the universe in an increasingly dangerous and tenuous state and with hope an increasingly diminishing commodity.

Gallifrey has always been at its strongest when politics are at the forefront, and although this volume doesn’t attempt to capture the layered nuance of the franchise’s earliest installments, the conflicting persons in power and their actions that at times run in parallel while at others brutally intersecting make for a fascinating journey that firmly establishes the new state of affairs on Gallifrey as well as the Time Lords’ new trajectory in the universe at large. With even the honourable Romana proving to be susceptible to the mindset change that the Time War has brought out in everyone, nothing can be assumed as fact, and this brilliantly opens up any potential course of action as Rassilon’s reign continues. With distinct and frightening parallels to current events and their possibile outcomes, the uniformly excellent performances, direction, and sound design bring this dangerous world to life vividly. As Lalla Ward and Seán Carlsen continue to dominate in another thrilling installment, the bar remains high for the eventual and highly-anticipated continuation that looks to bring past and future together with a bang.

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