Released March 2009
Big Finish’s Key 2 Time trilogy concludes with ‘The Chaos Pool,’ an excellent production that not only ties together lingering threads from this set of stories but also hearkens back to the original search for the segments of the Key to Time.
‘The Chaos Pool’ is notable for several reasons, perhaps most famously for bringing Lalla Ward back into the fold as the packaging brazenly shows. Yet writer Peter Anghelides succeeds in completely subverting expectations about her character as he masterfully introduces Teuthoidian slug-like race from the beginning of time and their battle against a foe from the end of time. Although some of the dialogue felt a bit off for someone of Romana’s stature as President of the Time Lords and it was certainly perplexing that the Doctor was unable to telepathically communicate with her, the revelation that Lalla Ward’s presidential character in question is, in fact, Astra rather than Romana is a brilliant bit of misdirection. This works not only as a link between the two sagas but also as a dramatic core as she remains ageless, unwittingly sucking the life out of the very people whom she leads.
However, in another twist that will undoubtedly have both its supporters and detractors, Anghelides actually does eventually bring Romana herself into the production, claiming that she is, in fact, the sixth segment of the Key to Time rather than Astra once again. Following the events of ‘The Armageddon Factor,’ the sixth segment apparently took hold of Romana’s first iteration, causing her regeneration without her knowledge. This attempts to explain the rather bizarre regeneration sequence at the beginning of ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ while at the same time linking Romana directly to the Key to Time and the universe at large. More importantly, though, this revelation poses with the Doctor with the impossible conundrum of having to choose to save his friend while dooming the universe or to save the universe while allowing his companion to sacrifice herself. It’s a tense and personal predicament which the Doctor rarely faces, upping the stakes significantly.
Peter Davison and Lalla Ward are absolutely perfect throughout the story but their natural chemistry shines in the scenes which they share together. Each scene is constructed magnificently to build upon preceding events and drama, leading fluidly and naturally to a truly monumental climax that turns this story into a true blockbuster. Despite the continued presence of the Black and White Guardians as well as the Grace, it truly is the Doctor, Romana, Amy, and Zara who hold the fate of the universe in their hands. Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington both continue to excel as the living tracers who are influenced by their surroundings. While Amy has always been the better of the two and takes the predictable route of doing good, Zara remains a bit of wild card right up until the very end, though the choice to have her pair up with and learn from the Doctor just as Amy initially did is incredibly effective.
In the end this is a story that manages to overcome the substantial burden of continuity as well as the weight of its own twisting plot, tying together several loose ends while telling an entertaining tale in its own right. Bolstered by strong sound design and direction, ‘The Chaos Pool’ achieves everything that a concluding story should. Even if the outcome of the universe surviving is completely inevitable and predictable, ‘The Chaos Pool’ is easily the strongest of the three stories and a delightful note on which to end the Key 2 Time saga.