I’ve been putting this discussion off for a long time. I bought the first couple of sets a while ago when Big Finished announced that they weren’t going to do any new pressings of physical CDs once those they have in stock are sold. The business model has changed; most people buy downloads these days. New releases with still be available on CD, but there will be fewer made and they won’t be kept in stock as long. The non-Doctor series are generally less expensive than the ones that actually feature the Doctor (any Doctor), but I waited too long to buy The Sarah Jane Chronicles on CD (thinking they would “always” be available) and now they are sold out.

The Gallifrey series is Timelord-centric and features Lalla Ward as Romana, Louise Jameson as Leela, and John Leeson as K9. The reasons I’ve been putting off listening to are 1) I thought it might be political, dry and boring (especially without a Doctor), and 2) I tend to enjoy the more recent (post 2007) releases, and this series began in 2004. But now with more than a year between Doctor Who seasons on TV, I’m looking for something to fill the gap. I’ve already re-listened to everything “Time War” releated, but I blew through those pretty quickly. So rather than starting a new Sixth Doctor “season” at this time, I thought I’d start a series I could really sink my teeth (ears, whatever) into.

Here’s a list of what’s ahead.

GALLIFREY:

1.1 – Weapon of Choice
1.2 – Square One
1.3 – The Inquiry
1.4 – A Blind Eye
2.1 – Lies
2.2 – Spirit
2.3 – Pandora
2.4 – Insurgency
2.5 – Imperiatrix
3.1 – Fractures
3.2 – Warfare
3.3 – Appropriation
3.4 – Mindbomb
3.5 – Panacea
4.1 – Reborn
4.2 – Disassembled
4.3 – Annihilation
4.4 – Forever
5.1 – Emancipation
5.2 – Evolution
5.3 – Arbitration
6.1 – Extermination
6.2 – Renaissance
6.3 – Ascension
7.0 – Intervention Earth
8.0 – Enemy Lines

GALLIFREY: THE TIME WAR:

1.1 – Celestial Intervention
1.2 – Soldier Obscura
1.3 – The Devil You Know
1.4 – Desperate Measures
2.1 – Havoc
2.2 – Partisans
2.3 – Collateral
2.4 – Assassins

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Added this to the list.

Thanks, Bob!

1.1 – WEAPON OF CHOICE:

“The Time Lords of Gallifrey were the first to map the Web of Time. Now, under the reforming gaze of President Romanadvoratrelundar, the oldest civilization is ready to shed its monopoly, sharing its secrets with a coalition of the Temporal Powers the Monan Host, the Nekkistani and the Warpsmiths of Phaidon among them.

“But the coalition is a fragile one, and despised in some quarters. When a team of Time Technology Assessors makes a horrific discovery on the barren moon of Kikrit, it seems their enemies are arming themselves to strike at the alliance. Has a terrorist group really acquired a temporal weapon so terrible the Time Lords forgot about its existence?

“In search of the truth, Romana sends the woman called Leela and the robot dog K9 to the enclave of Gryben, a reception centre for temporal refugees. But the truth is war's first casualty and the fallout could destroy them all.”

COMMENTARY: As I suspected, as I feared, the “Gallifrey” series is heavy on political intrigue but somewhat light on action (if the first episode is any indication). I listened to it twice in order to make sure I caught all of the twists and turns, and even so I’m not certain I caught them all. Before I started listening to it at all, though, I watched a few key Romana/Leela-centric TV episodes to remind myself of the status quo. Things are pretty much as I remembered them, with the following exceptions.

Romana: When last we saw her on TV, she stayed behind in e-space following “Warrior’s Gate.” As this story opens, she is already on Gallifrey serving as president, but there is an earlier Six Doctor & Evelyn story for 200, now available only as a down load, which is the first Big Finish to mention Romana and it does mention that she has been “missing for 20 years.”

Leela: Leela stayed behind on Gallifrey after “The Invasion of Time” in order to be with Andred. Now her husband is missing under mysterious circumstances (it is hinted that he deserted), and Leela finds herself at loose ends.

K9: there are two K9s.

A weapon that supposedly doesn’t exist, the timeonic something-or-other, described as “napalm” to a timeline, was outlawed because its effects could not be controlled has been reported stolen. It turns out the Timelords did build a prototype, but it was supposedly dismantled. Meanwhile, a rebellious faction which call themselves “Free Time” are led by a woman named Nepenthe on the planet Gryben. There are lots of twists and turns, but it turns out that an unknown faction (possibly other Timelords) has manipulated Nepenthe in an effort to discredit Romana. In the end, Romana enlists Leela as her personal bodyguard, and Coordinator Narvin is forced to convene impeachment proceedings against Romana.

I listened to 1.1 twice before I posted, then I listened to 1.2 twice and 1.3 once, but that was over a week ago. Problem is, I’ve been too busy lately to find even a few minutes to type up a reaction. I promised myself I would never again let my posting speed dictate my reading or watching (or in this case, listening speed), but that is exactly what I have done. Ironically, I have come around to the concept of more intrigue-oriented (as opposed to action-oriented) stories, but I haven’t listened to any for more than a week. Going forward, I may just write a brief reaction to these summaries (which I prepared in advance months ago. Let’s see what I remember about…

1.2 – SQUARE ONE:

“In a climate of unease and mistrust, the great time-travelling powers of the universe are holding an historic temporal summit. The meeting will take place on a planetoid impervious to outside attack or internal subversion.

“But while President Romana walks a knife-sharp political tightrope into dangerous territory, Leela and K9 find themselves attending the summit in unexpected roles. They are hunting for evidence of Free Time activity, but find instead terrors of a different kind - time and time again...

‘What impossibility stalks the planetoid? Who is manipulating time? Can Leela and Romana discover the truth - or will they find themselves sent back to square one for all eternity?”

COMMENTARY: Basically, a great summit is to be held. But due to the threat of terrorist activity, the highest-ranking delegates will not attend in person due to security concerns. Romana sends Narvin in her place, but she also sends Leela undercover as an exotic dancer. Leela meets another dancer, then later finds her murdered. Something happens and time resets. Leela finds herself repeating the same actions with vague feelings of déjà vu. She resolves to keep her friend under close observation, but this time one of the delegates is killed. The next time though the events she has even stronger feelings of déjà vu. She contacts Romana before reality resets itself once again. Romana arrives in person. Her TARDIS pieces the causality bubble around the planet, thereby making herself paradoxical and giving her a massive headache. It turns out that Narvin’s own assistant has a device which she has been using to reset time whenever something goes awry until a desirable outcome can be achieved. Ironically, this wasn’t even the real summit. It was a public one to decoy the Free Time terrorists while Romana and the other high-ranking delegates held the real summit in secret. That he was used as a decoy does not sit well with Narvin, despite the fact that Romana gave him public credit. Next episode, the impeachment procedures against Romana begin. I plan to listen to it a second time before I post, so it may not be until next week.

GAH! It’s only Monday and I’m already falling behind!

1.3 – THE INQUIRY:

“President Romana has been called to account for her actions. But the only evidence that she has responded to a real and present danger has disappeared. To clear her good name she is dependent on the testimony of the very people who want to see her publically humiliated and her power removed.

“While Leela tries to discover truths of her own, Romana is forced into an uneasy truce with her rivals at the CIA. But at least she can be sure the inquiry will be handled in a fair and proper manner. Or can she? When the investigation itself triggers danger and time is quite literally running out for all of Gallifrey's power and knowledge, just who can Romana trust?”

COMMENTARY: The titular inquiry is being held to determine President Romana’s culpability in the detonation of a timeonic fusion device in episode 1.1… a device that never was detonated because it now never existed. (Don’t worry… even one of the characters says, “My head hurts.”) Making everything even more urgent, a data bomb is set to be detonated from within the Matrix. Romana knows something about the fate of Leela’s husband Aldred, but I’m not sure even she herself knows what. Aldred set up a meeting with Braxiatel. Suspecting a trap, Braxiatel sent Torval in his place. Torval was killed, but regenerated. Aldred’s fate is unknown, but he is presumed dead. When Torval refers to Leela as “Savage,” she replies, “My name is Leela, weasel-mouth.” In a nice bit of continuity with the TV series, the Inquisitor (Darkyl) is played by Lynda Bellingham, “Sagacity” from the Sixth Doctor’s trial.

1.4 – A BLIND EYE:

“Earth, September 1939. With Europe sliding into war, a young Englishwoman, her loyalties torn, comes to a terrible decision. But what does the intergalactic secrets broker Mephistopheles Arkadian want with the fascist sympathizer Cecilia 'Sissy' Pollard on the last day of her life?

“Still searching for the facts about the Gryben debacle, President Romana makes a deal with the devil. So begins a chain of consequence that can only end in tragedy for the passengers aboard the Vienna to Calais Transcontinental Express, the woman called Leela included.

“By journey's end, the truth will out but at what cost to Romana and Leela? To Gallifrey's empire, even?”

COMMENTARY: After 55+ years we’ve got a pretty good idea what the Doctor is all about, but what about the other Timelords? That’s what this series sets out to answer. After some initial reluctance to begin listening to this series, I have determined that whatever it may lack in action it more than makes up for in “timey-wimey.” Time travel is often discussed in terms of trains running on parallel tracks. This story takes a literal approach to that metaphor, but places both trains on the same track.

Arkadian is an “intergalactic secrets broker” who is pulling a shady deal by arranging an “intervention” in Earth’s timeline, but when he discovers someone else is intervening in his intervention, he enlists Romana’s help. Pivotal in these schemes and machinations is Cecilia Pollard, sister of the Eighth (and the Sixth) Doctor’s travelling companion, Charlotte Pollard, also played by India Fisher. Surprisingly, both Romana and Leela know Charley, apparently personally, but I don’t recall them ever having met. I have never posted about the Eighth Doctor’s “Travels with Charley,” but she was fated to have died aboard the airship R-101, a fate from which the Doctor saved her, thus causing her to become a conduit of negative time.

Sissy Pollard is destined to take her own life aboard the Vienna to Calais Transcontinental Express, but it is Arkadian’s plan to create another conduit for negative time by saving her life. He sends a telegram to the train station which causes a slight delay, but something happens to cause him to believe another Timelord’s hand is involved. In the main timeline, the train leaves the station on time, but in another band of time, it is slightly delayed. It makes up lost time by travelling faster, but because of the intervention by the Timelords, when the one train catches up to the other they merge and become one, with two versions existing simultaneously. Sissy is a member of the LEF (the League of English Fascists). She is not necessarily a bad person, but she is entitled and stupid enough to be easily manipulated by her boyfriend, Erich.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

You will remember that Leela’s husband, Aldred, reportedly died in a fight with Torvald, and Torvald regenerated. It turns out that “Erich” is actually Torvald from a point in time before he killed Aldred and before he regenerated. Leela wants to kill Torvald in any case, but if she kills him in his previous incarnation before he kills Aldred, what will that do to the Web of Time? The question becomes moot, however, when it is revealed that Torvald didn’t kill Aldred, Aldred killed Torvald, then her generated and took his identity. Aldred claims he was in the throes of regeneration and not thinking clearly, but when Leela learns that Aldred has been alive all along, witnessing her grief and still not revealing himself, she rejects him.

When Sissy learns how she was manipulated and of the shame she brought to her family name, she commits suicide as history records. This is a nice little resolution to the mystery of Aldred’s fate which has been running behind the scenes of this first set of four stories.

I always thought Leela's husband was called "Andred", not "Aldred'.

It does appear to  be "Andred".

Thanks. I was telling Tracy about this plot yesterday and I kept messing up, getting myself more and more confused, saying it first one way, then another. That confusion carried over to this morning. "Andred." Got it. (He may not be in any more at this point, though, I don't know.

2.1 – LIES:

“Some time has passed since the events of the Timonic Fusion Device threatened Romana's presidency with impeachment, and life has calmed down on Gallifrey. Well, apart from Romana's latest scheme, the opening up of Gallifrey's famed Academy to the students of alien races with the ability, or the potential, to harness temporal powers.

“Unfortunately, deep below the Capitol, Leela, confused and morose over the truth about her husband Andred, disturbs a malevolent power. Something from the Dark Days of Ancient Gallifrey.

“Something that wants to be reborn and will use any and every means that is at hand. Including the past of Gallifrey's incumbent President…”

COMMENTARY: This episode has two Romanas: one played by Lalla Ward and the other by Mary Tamm. Did you ever wonder why Romana chose to regenerate, apparently for no reason whatsoever, at the beginning of “Destiny of the Daleks”? Keep reading.

The pre-theme teaser sequence is set during Romana’s academy days. She is very close to her tutor, Braxiatel. In the present, Cardinal Braxiatel is practically her only ally. Castellan Wynter is loyal… for the time being. Leela has taken some time off to come to terms with what she sees as Andred’s betrayal. Andred is now fully himself and wants to reconcile with Leela, but he is definitely an opponent of President Romana. Inquisitor Prime Darkel and Coordinator Narvin are definitely her political enemies.

President Romana, Leela and K9 find themselves in a partition of the Matrix, where they meet younger version of Romana and a disembodied voice which refers to itself as Pandora. Pandora asserts that the young Romana had ambitions to become Emperiatrix, also President Romana has no memory of it. Romana accuses President Romana of “murdering” her. Eventually they learn that Tutor Braxiatel hypnotized Romana with a subconscious desire to become Emperiatrix. But then she went away with the Doctor where he could not track her.

There’s sometning about one of the Romanas (I not sure which) once seeing a vision of herself becoming Emperiatrix. I don’t recall this from TV (although I may have forgotten), so I’m assuming it’s from an earlier audio. Something happened when Romana encountered the Black Guardian to bring Romana;s buried memories to the surface. She was still subject to Braxiatel’s post-hypnotic suggestions, however, and something about her regeneration caused the memories to be buried once again. So now we know!

It was also these post-hypnotic suggestions which caused her to return from E-sapce, return to Gallifrey and, shortly thereafter, seek out the Presidency. We also learn that Braxiatel is in touch with various regenerations of himself from the past and the future. Romana is left not knowing who she can trust.

2.2 – SPIRIT:

“Leela is tired. Tired of the backbiting politics and intrigues in the sterile society of Time Lords. With the fate of her husband now known, she feels lonely and out of place on Gallifrey.

“Romana is tired. Tired of justifying herself and her policies to a hostile council. With the line between allies and enemies beginning to blur, she persuades Leela to go with her to the presidential retreat of Davidia, a protected paradise.

“Then an anomalous time ship arrives, carrying a single passenger. His hands are crushed, his tongue torn out, his mind destroyed. Is this broken man a victim of some terrible crime or part of a trap now primed and ready to spring? After this strange encounter, Romana and Leela may never be the same again.”

COMMENTARY: Because of the Pandora presence, Romana is no longer able to access the Matrix lest it corrupt her. This is a severe liability for the President. Leela has allowed herself to become discouraged by recent events. She misses her home and wishes to return. Romana takes her to the presidential retreat of Camp David Davida with the intention of convincing her to stay. Besides, they both could use a vacation.

Their stay is interrupted by the arrival of a severely injured Timelord in a mysterious TARDIS. A check of the registry confirms the TARDIS is still docked in its bay, nor can its recent travels be tracked. The mind of the Timelord who piloted it has been destroyed (telepathic contact is not possible), his face burned off (he cannot be recognized), his hands crushed (he cannot write) and he has bitten off his own tongue (he cannot speak). It is a wonder he hasn’t regenerated. Apparently, he has held off regeneration through sheer force of will. Under normal circumstances, Romana would consult the Matrix, but she is susceptible to the Pandora entity. Her only option is to force regeneration.

While she considers her course of action, she and Leela continue with their plan to emerge themselves in a sort of sensory deprivation tank, but one filled with highly oxygenated, semi-sentient water. They submerge the Timelord, too (whom Leela has dubbed “the broken man”), but first she has prepared a poultice of herbs to help him heal. Something with the way the poultice combines with the sentient water causes Romana and Leela to switch personalities. There is some transfer of knowledge as well, but other than that, their respectice memories remain intact. It’s just that Romana behaves as Leela would and vice versa.

They learn a lot about each other’s problem-solving techniques, and through the course of the plot they learn that forcing a regeneration would have triggered dire consequences, which is why the Timelord, whoever he is, mentally willed himself not to regenerate. His is put in stasis, but by the end they still don’t know who he is, what happened to him or why he is there.

2.3 – PANDORA:

“A rogue TARDIS that should not exist... A mutilated, comatose Time Lord who cannot be identified... A new Castellan desperate to make his mark... Evils of the past, events of the present, and echoes of the future conspire to destroy the very heart of Gallifrey's civilization.

“Only Romana can understand it - but she is haunted by her own ghosts. Only Leela can sense it - but she has unfinished business. Only Braxiatel can stop it - but he cannot begin to guess the personal cost.

“With both Narvin and Darkel waiting for Romana to make a mistake, the President must take decisions that will change Gallifrey forever. And an ancient evil is ready and waiting for just that moment?”

COMMENTARY: This is exactly the kind of story I expected this series would feature, full of political intrigue. What I didn’t expect was that I’d enjoy it as much as I am. It’s not difficult to follow, but it is difficult (for me, anyway) to summarize. Gallifrey is divided into three branches of government, designed to provide checks and balances to the others. There is political infighting even among supposed allies, and everyone pursues his or her own agenda. Suffice it to say that everyone betrays everyone else.

Cardinal Winter, with perhaps the best of intentions, is manipulated by Inquisitor Prime Darkel into using Braxiatel’s stolen access codes to access the Matrix. The possibility exists that, when the Pandora creature was partitioned off within the Matrix, that a part of itself may have escaped and ensconced itself within a Timelord’s mind. When Winter accesses the Matrix, that actually happens. The “Broken Man” had been infected with some sort of regenerative virus. It is unknown what this virus does, only that it is triggered by a Timelord’s regeneration.

Leela spots the Broken Man sneaking into the subterranean vaults below the citadel, yet when his stasis chamber is checked, he is still frozen inside. It soon becomes obvious that the Broken Man is, if fact, Cardinal Winter. He steals a TARDIS and the time loop is closed. Romana promotes Cardinal Braxiatel to chancellor, and Braxiatel promotes Leela to Castellan. Braxiatel is able to trap the Pandora creature within his own mind, but at the cost he must remove himself from Gallifrey. Inquisitor Prime Darkel then replaces Castellan Leela with Andred.

This is the third part (of five) of this arc, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

2.4 – INSURGENCY:

“They are the brightest minds of their generation; the architects of tomorrow. And now, they have the chance to attend the finest, most exclusive school known to the temporal powers. After millennia of secrecy, the Gallifreyan Academy has opened its doors to off-worlders…

“But the experiment is failing. As interracial violence erupts in the corridors of learning, somebody is using the students as pawns in a political power game - and, while Tutor Leela struggles to unravel the motives of her ex-husband, Andred, President Romana may be falling under an ancient spell.

“It's a dangerous time to be a stranger on Gallifrey.

“It seems that not all Time Lords want to share their secrets…”

COMMENTARY: This episode explores the ramifications of Romana’s policy of opening the doors of the Academy to off-worlders by introducing several student characters. Ultimately, this story leads to Inquisitor Darkel initiating a special election and running against Romana herself.

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