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.
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
5.2 – EVOLUTION:
“Before the fall of Project: Massillon, the Regenerators of Gallifrey committed atrocities upon their slaves in the name of science. As Leela discovers the results of one such crucible, Romana and Narvin are pushing forward ways to discover the secrets of time travel, and jump-start their new Gallifrey’s evolution.
“However, science isn’t always the way forward, and in a society built upon the foundations of amorality and fear, a backward step may be the only solution…”
COMMENTARY: A brilliant young scientist is on the verge of creating time travel. His methods are different from those of Rassilon from the main universe, but Romana pins her hopes on his success. Then it is revealed, not only that he has unethically used slaves in his research up until now, but the death of the former slaves is a necessary component for his technology to work. The Outsiders end up capturing the technology and sacrificing some of their number to escape into the future, taking the secret of this method of time travel with them.
5.3 – ARBITRARION:
“Romana’s secret is in danger of being exposed by those she trusts, and the only hope of escape is through the Axis. But will Lela’s forthright determination to see justice done, whatever the costs, mean their chance to get home will be lost forever…?
“And if they are able to regain access the Axis, is the world they left behind any better than the society they have built here?
“Time will tell.”
It has now been almost a week since I listened to this one, but I was too busy last week to type up a reaction. The details have started to fade, but I want to move on. Basically, a political opponent has deduced that Romana is an imposter. Everything comes to a head when they have the opportunity to return to their own universe. In order to do so, she would have to decide to abandon this Gallifrey to revert to its wicked ways. There is a clever solution to this conundrum, but just as they are about to leave, the Daleks invade through the Axis and declare that this Gallifrey and all Gallifreys are under their control.
“Romana’s proud new Gallifrey is falling – the Daleks have come through the Axis from one universe, preparing to conquer all others. Swarming through the corridors of the Capitol, the Daleks seek, locate and exterminate everyone they find – because they are searching for something, a something they believe will give them domination over the entirety of existence. And it can only be found on this particular Gallifrey.
“Whatever happens, wherever Romana, Leela and Narvin go, the Daleks will pursue them until they have what they want.
“But elsewhere, someone else in another reality has a plan of their own, and is waiting for the right moment to confront Romana. Is this salvation or the ultimate betrayal?”
6.1 – EXTERMINATION:
“Having infiltrated the Axis, the Daleks have secured access to a myriad alternative realities and, with them, countless Gallifreys… every one with secrets to be plundered.
“As her new world falls to the might of the Dalek invasion force, Romana finds herself struggling to keep her friends alive as the Capitol collapses around her.
“Against all odds, there may be a way out - back to the Axis and, potentially, back home. But desperate times call for desperate measures and, ultimately, sacrifices...”
COMMENTARY: This is a fairly by-the-numbers Daleks episode, but an enjoyable one. What makes it different is that it presents the Daleks from the POV of each of the main characters. At the end, Romana fakes her death and records her farewell message to these Gallifreyans in the hope they will continue down the path she set. Then, using the Axis and the cure for the Dogma virus they have made from the DNA of the “Regenerators,” they set off to return to their own universe.
6.2 – RENAISSANCE:
“Returning to her original homeworld, Romana finds Gallifrey to be cold and empty… the corridors of the Capitol lie silent and the wastelands are populated only by a handful of primitive monsters.
“Her only hope lies with the appearance of a strange young woman: a woman with a masterplan so devious it makes Romana’s own masterplans look decidedly not-devious-at-all…
“How far would Romana go to save her world? Would she risk the Web of Time? And who is the mysterious stranger watching from the shadows…?”
COMMENTARY: Romana returns to “the one, true Gallifrey” to find it a wasteland. She encounters a woman in the devastation and, in short order, learns four things about her: 1) she is a Time Lord, 2) she is from the future, 3) she is President of the High council, and 4) she is a future incarnation of Romana herself. Romana III has spent centuries trying unsuccessfully to restore Gallifrey, and now (because reasons) it is too late. She has returned to the present in order to change the future, and she is not concerned at all about the Web of Time. It took her centuries just to restore the Citadel, and she has brought it back with her to convince Romana II to accept her help.
Romana (II) reluctantly agrees. They both decide it would be best if the remaining populace do not know that Romana is working with her own future self, so Romana III assumes the name “Lady Tray” (from “Romanadvoratralunda”). Neither is particularly happy being forced to cross her own time line and, once the citadel has been secured, Romana approaches Narvin about having her future self banished. Unbeknownst to Romana, however, “Lady Tray” has already suborned Narvin. Narvin accuses Romana of (something), giving her the choice between banishment and death. She chooses banishment, and Leela opts to travel with her.
Romana secures an old Type 40 TARDIS from somewhere, and as they prepare to depart, they are both struck by how willingly they seem to be accepting of this turn of events. Meanwhile, a shadowy figure is observed lurking in the background, but no one can quite confront him. There are lots of call-backs to classic episodes of the TV show. It is established that Romana III is now something of an anomaly. Even if Roman II regenerates and even if she becomes someone who looks like Romana II, she will not become “Lady Tray” because she regenerated centuries from now and never experienced these events.
Romana and Leela decide to confront Lady Tray, but something about two of the same Time Lords being so close to the Eye of Harmony causes Romana II to regenerate. Also, (because reasons), Romana regenerating at this time under these circumstances will cause Gallifrey to be further devastated. The episode ends with Romana in the throes of regeneration.
6.3 – ASCENSION:
“Romana’s sacrifice sees Gallifrey restored to its former glory, but at a terrible cost.
“As the Time Lords begin to reclaim their stronghold, Leela and Narvin find themselves trapped in a decaying reality… and only K9 can help them.
“As old friends fight to reunite, new threats lie in wait…
“Because Braxiatel was right: war is coming.”
COMMENTARY: As it turns out, Romana wasn’t regenerating after all, she was being transported to the Council chamber by persons and for reasons unknown. When Romana left this universe for the alternate Gallifrey, she turned the Presidency over to Matthias, but he is now out of the picture. When Romana appears it is taken as a sign (by some) that she should be reinstated as President, but she refuses. As the situation progresses, Romana becomes convinced that she is actually in the fictional reality of the Matrix… and the Matrix is decaying.
As it turns out (and I am skipping a lot here), it is Leela and Narvin who are trapped within the Matrix and it is up to Romana and K9 to free them before they wink out of existence. The figure who had been lurking in the background last episode ends up to be the “Archivist.” [I don’t think it’s the same Archivist who later becomes the Eleven (as a matter of fact, I’m sure of it), but wouldn’t it be cool if it were?] Romana must make the decision to either save the Matrix (and all of Gallifrey), or her two closest friends. Romana III ends up being a creation of the Matrix as well, but an echo of a true future version of Romana placed there by Romana herself.
The cure for the Dogma virus is extreme: every Time Lord will revert to his or her previous incarnation with no memory of years lived in their current incarnation. With the help of Romana III, Romana tricks the Dalek task force into a pocket of the Matrix, then seals it with herself inside, trapped with the Daleks for all time. With the task force defeated, the invasion is thwarted. Narvin floats the idea of destroying the Daleks before they ever come into being, but K9 informs him that the history of the Daleks is too integral to the Web of time. (Even Leela knows the Dalaks cannot be eradicated in the past.)
In desperation, Narvin takes it upon himself to destroy the Daleks on his own. He goes to one of the newly “un-regenerated” Time Lords and takes advantage of his confused state to send him on mission, supposedly approved by President Mathias. He then sends the Time Lord into the past, to deliver these orders to the (Fourth) Doctor at the beginning of “Genesis of the Daleks.” After that, when he sees Romana, he believes his plan has succeeded, but she reveals to him that the Romana “trapped” inside the Matrix is actually a construct, just as Romana III had been.
The set ends on an ominous note, the clear implication being that Narvin’s attempt to wipe out the Daleks is what will ultimately lead to the Time War. ADDENDUM: The interview disc explicitly states: Narvin started the Time War. Set 6 was intended to be the end of the series. For a long time, Big finish was forbidden from using the Time War. For this set, they were given permission from the BBC to allude to it and lead directly into it. They even got permission to use Time War-era Daleks on the packaging (which I didn’t note until it was pointed out to me).
Romana III, BTW, is played by Juliette Landau, the daughter of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. She played Loretta King in Ed Wood and Drusilla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer among many other roles. She is American, but wanted to play Romana English. Yesterday I accidentally misspelled “Romanadvoratrelundar” and purposefully misspelled “Lady Tray.” The role wasn’t listed on any of the CD pacjaging, and I wanted to spell it like it sounds, but it’s probably spell Lady Tré or Lady Trey.
Gary Russell, the producer of Gallifrey, is a huge The West Wing fan (I also learned from the extras), and set out to make Gallifrey as much like The West Wing as possible. It shows. I don’t miss Doctor Who not being on television at all. Not only is this not the last of the Gallifrey series, there are two more releases before the Time War even begins. Intervention Earth brings Ace into the cast.
7.0 – INTERVENTION EARTH:
“Romana is approaching her final term of office, and hopes to leave her world in a state of peace and harmony. Narvin is concerned about the implementation of a controversial Precog programme, one that seeks to predict the Time Lords’ future. Ace is an operative for the Celestial Intervention Agency, having learned the art of interference from one of the best…
“And somewhere, across the stars, an ancient force is stirring: one of the Time Lords’ greatest heroes is returning to our universe. But he may also prove to be their greatest threat.
“When the history of Earth is threatened, and an ancient conspiracy reaches the heart of Time Lord government, can even Romana’s closest allies truly be trusted?
“Time will tell… but by then, it may already be too late.”
COMMENTARY: A new regular character is introduced to this set: Ace. The story begins with a voiceover from Ace. She is an operative of the CIA and has her own TARDIS at this point. I’m not sure where that’s from, whether from books or earlier audios or is new to this set, but it suits her. The Romana in this story is Romana III (Juliette Landau), but I’m sure of the exact Timeline. Is it during the Time War? After? I know that Lalla Ward plays Romana in Gallifrey: Time War, but that’s still two sets away. I’d have to check the timing of the release, but I think it was bevfore Big Finish were given permission to deal with the Time War. Because it features Romana III, it must take place at some point “in the future,’ but Big Finish doesn’t like to box themselves in by nailing down continuity. I think we can assume it takes place after the Time War without mentioning the Time War. If Big Finish had specified the timeline, they might have been forced to cast Juliette Landau as Romana when they were given permission to deal with the Time War.
Another new character is a Time Lord called Rexx, who partners with Ace then quickly betrays her. He plants evidence to suggest that Ace has stolen the Hand of Omega. Rexx takes her to a planet which had been decimated when its sun became a black hole. Ace soon learns the planet is Earth and the year is 2015 C.E. Rexx assures her this is not a fixed timeline, however, and can be changed. He is working to free Omega, but Omega needs a Time Lord body to serve as his “vessel” in the positive matter universe.
8.0 – ENEMY LINES:
“In the distant future, President Romanadvoratrelundar will do anything it takes to save her world, even if it means sacrificing her allies and friends…
“In the distant past, President Romanadvoratrelundar will also do anything it takes to save her world, even if it means sacrificing her own life in the process…
“Unfortunately for Romana, there is no easy option.
“With the threat of impending war, and negotiations still ongoing, the Temporal Powers are growing restless. Every day, they find their future slipping away from them. Every decision they make proves critical. And no one can escape the fact that sacrifices have to be made…
“Time is running out… and it’s running straight to Gallifrey.”
COMMENTARY: “Intervention Earth” featured Juliette Landau as Romana III and ended on a minor cliffhanger with Ace and Narvin standed without a TARDIS. At the beginning of “Enemy Lines,” a TARDIS appears, but instead of rescue the Time Lords within accuse Ace and Narvin of treason and destroy them with a time torpedo. Part one is narrated by, I guessing, a member of the sisterhood of Karn. She then shifts the focus to the past and Romana II.
“Intervention Earth” was released in 2015. “Enemy Lines” in 2016 and “Gallifrey: Time War” began in 2018. I suspect that, after set six, Big Finish made plans to continue the “Gallifrey” series at two different points alone the timeline, one for Romana II and one for Romana III. If so, that would be similar to what they’re doing with the Eighth Doctor with “Ravenous” and “The Time War.” Once they got word that they would soon be allowed to tell stories set during the Time War, I suspect they abandoned their plans for a Romana III series and relegated “Intervention Earth” to an alternate future timeline.
Part one ends with Braxiatel (from Romana III’s alternate future timeline) being sent to contact Romana II in the past to rewrite Gallifrey’s history. That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.
8.0 – ENEMY LINES (continued):
Romana was supposed to have regenerated in part one, however, her own future self set in motion the series of events that would render her own time line an alternate one. A ship of the Monan Host has been destroyed, but who is responsible? The Gallifreyans? The Monans themselves? Someone else? In part two, Romana steps down from the Presidency in order to head up the CIA so as to better investigate the matter. She appoints herself Coordinator and makes Narvin her deputy. She names Livia, a political rival, as her successor, just to speed the process along. Livia appoints Braxiatel as liaison between the office of the Presidency and the CIA, in other words, a spy.
In part three, Narvin is assassinated. In part four, the Monan Host abandons their embassy on Gallifrey, and Gallifrey for a political and military alliance with the Warpwrights of Pridon. In part four, Leela is put on trial for the destruction of the Monan ship in part one.
I think, when Gallifrey set six was released back in 2013, long before Big Finish were given permission by the BBC to deal with the Time War, they were perfectly content to let “Genesis of the Daleks” stand as the catalyst of the Time War and, as far as the Daleks are concerned, that still may well be so. But once they were given permission, they decided to delve into the beginnings more deeply. The unnamed war (originally intended to be the Time War, I’m sure) from Intervention Earth is what Romana III sent Braxiatel from the future to prevent. Enemy Lines is very political, very complicated, and it deals with all of the time travelling races, not just the Time Lords and the Daleks.
8.0 – ENEMY LINES (continued):
“Enemy Lines” is a complicated story. I really need to listen to it a second time to pick up on more of its nuance. The woman I originally speculated might be one of the sisterhood of Karn is actually a figure from Gallifreyan history/folklore known as The Watchmaker (not so much an historical figure as a “boogieman”). The whole thing ends up with the Watchmaker and Leela and Romana from alternate universes hashing it out. Either Romana chooses to regenerate in episode one or she doesn’t. The Watchmaker reveals that either decision ultimately leads to the destruction of Gallifrey. It is Leela who comes up with an alternate solution when she determines that the resolution hinges not on Romana’s decision, but her own. Doing so means a sacrifice for Leela, but now both false timelines have been wiped out and Gallifrey is back on track.
I pulled into the parking garage this morning just minutes shy of completion, but decided to post a reaction anyway. Usually when I do that there’s some sort of twist revealed in the final scene, but I’ll take my chances.
NEXT UP: THE TIME WAR
THE TIME WAR: This week I have been listening to the first set of Gallifrey: Time War. I’ve listened to it once before, but that was before I listened to all of the previous “Gallifrey” stories discussed in this thread. My intention had been to get up to this point, then listen to it a second time and post about it here, within the context of the larger “Gallifrey” discussion. After that, I anticipated having to make the decision to continue the Gallifrey: Time War discussion here or on the dedicated “Time War” thread. But I’ve just re-read what I wrote about set one on that other thread and I’m happy with what I wrote so I’m going to let it stand. Obviously I didn’t have a clue who Braxiatel or Narvin were, but other than that I think I did a pretty good job. I enjoyed it more than I did the first time around, but I don’t think I could add anything I didn’t say before. So, next week, I plan to continue on to set two of Gallifrey: Time War, but I will post about it on the “Time War” thredad and close this one down.
Thanks to those of you (both of you) who have followed this discussion.
A blast from the past Jeff.
I'm listening to this very first Galifrey offering at the moment and am about half way through... it's a bit dry.
I loved hearing Leela by Louise Jameson again and felt she was still spot on character-wise but I felt Lalla Ward was more Lalla than Romanna. YMMV.
Other than Helen Goodwin (I think) playing Nepenthe everyone else blurred into each other and I'm not very invested in the plot but I do want more on the mystery of what happened to Lewis's husband! (I'm not going to get it am I?)
I can't decide if I want to buy/listen any further...
Jeff of Earth-J said:
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 can't decide if I want to buy/listen any further..."
If you're looking for some guidance/advice I can tell you this: the Gallifrey series did grow on me.
After episode 2.3 I said this: "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.'
After 3.1 I said this: "If I would have known this series was so good, I wouldn’t have put off listening to it for so long."
And after 3.3: "Gallifrey done well makes Doctor Who look like the spin-off."
Having said that, though, there are Big Finish series I enjoy more. the "alternate universe" Gallifrey stories were good but, after Big Finish was granted the license to do actual time War stories, ultimately pointless. Speaking of which, I have another Gallifrey: Time War set awaiting review, but I haven't decided to post it here to the "Gallifrey" discussion or over in the "Time war" discussion. Either way, I suppose both of you who are interested will find it where ever I post it.