Time in Office

Posted in Audio by - September 17, 2017
Time in Office

Released September 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Over the years, Big Finish’s annual anthology release has gained a reputation for being one of the most exciting and often experimental releases within its flagship range. For 2017’s ‘Time in Office,’ a slightly different approach is taken as Eddie Robson is tasked with writing all four of the distinct but related one-episode stories rather than tasking four authors with writing for an overlying theme. Yet as the Fifth Doctor finds that he can no longer evade his responsibilities as the Lord High President of Gallifrey imposed on him following the disappearance of Borusa, anticipation and expectations have rarely been so high as the themes of power and confronting one’s past come into focus upon Gallifrey itself.

The first episode opens with Leela sending a warning message to the Doctor that the Time Lords are recalling him to Gallifrey as he attempts to return to Frontios. With Tegan held in a containment field and threatened with erasure of her memories of her time spent with the Doctor, the Doctor quickly finds himself entrenched in the formalities of assuming high office. Needless to say, his inauguration address is distinctly atypical as the normally mild-mannered Fifth Doctor plays the subtle political rebel and declares his intention to change the very foundations of Time Lord culture itself. Of course, all actions come with consequences, and the Doctor soon finds that even the office of the President is not immune to outside influence that calls into question the morality of the bestowed leader as past, present, and future collide.

With Tegan having been saved from memory erasure by being given an ambassadorial position, the second episode jumps forward to a diplomatic mission in which the Doctor must appease his people by making a formal appearance on a warring planet that retains an intriguingly uneasy truce with Gallifrey. But as the Doctor and Leela must confront the actions of their pasts and the Doctor refuses to give into the mounting pressure of demands for recompense, it’s Tegan who proactively steps into the spotlight and squarely takes on the burden of responsibility, creating an uncertainty of faith while acting as a lone wolf without official sanction for her actions. As discussed in the previous episode as well, the Doctor is hardly a unanimously accepted figure for the Presidency, and it’s intriguing to note the continued discussions about his potential fate that bolster the truly emotional and engaging performances by all three leads.

The next episode sees the Doctor more confidently settling into his role, but the true politics are somewhat less prevalent here than earlier. Instead, the focus for the majority of the episode is again on Tegan who agrees to a date of sorts with a young Time Lord who fashions himself as a young Doctor, willing to forego Gallifrey for a life of adventuring and righting wrongs. But as the their excursion takes an unexpectedly comical turn before turning deadly serious, the Doctor firmly proves that he has not lost his mastery of improvisational adventuring even as his own past is again called into question on multiple fronts.

The final episode finds the Doctor firmly imbedded in his Presidential duties, touring the brand new Capitol building built to meet his policies alongside Tegan, Leela, and others. Strangely, the very foundation and design of the building seem to be constantly shifting, ultimately resulting in a genuinely surprising revelation that rewrites prior assumptions while again delving squarely into the Doctor’s past and exploring the impact of his emotional words and pleas previously expressed. Confronted with the prospect of near-unlimited power, though, the Doctor stays true to himself, not allowing a different interpretation of his words and the accidental faith he has inspired in others to supersede his own morality and instead choosing to remain the hero the universe at large truly needs as he finds an excuse to finally wriggle free of the political power invested in him.

‘Time in Office’ is tonally a much lighter release than is typical for Big Finish, and Robson certainly has no qualms about portraying Time Lord society in a less than favourable light. Anchored by Peter Davison’s wearier take on the Fifth Doctor, Janet Fielding’s proactive and strong Tegan, and Louise Jameson’s Leela who is gradually finding her way on her adopted homeworld, ‘Time in Office’ presents a collection of genuinely engaging tales that are limited only by their brief time allotment. With plenty of winking nods to continuity regarding the likes of Time Lord biology, the fate of the famed Raston Warrior Robot, and even death by a giant statue of oneself, this is a wholly unique release- directed wonderfully by Helen Goldwyn- that will be sure to satisfy lovers of both Gallifrey and the experimentally offbeat.

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