For a long time, Big Finish had been prohibited by the BBC from doing any stories set during the Time War. I was pleased when that restriction was lifted, but disappointed when I found out I’d have to wait nearly two years before those stories would be released. Now my wait is very nearly over; the first set arrived in the mail today.

Initially, the Eighth Doctor Time War set was planned as a one-off complement to the War Doctor series. Sadly, the death of John Hurt means that there will be no more of those forthcoming. Soon it became clear that there was too much potential in the Time War to let the series come to a premature end. Soon there will be new series of The War Master (December) and Gallifrey: Time War (February). Also there are plans to up the Eighth Doctor box sets to three per year for the time being, one for the Time War and two for the Doom Coalition sequel.

According to Big Finish’s Vortex magazine: “There will be new regular characters in the Time War, too. When the saga opens, the Doctor is already travelling with Sheena (Olivia Vinall), who is a new companion for us but someone he has been with for a while. And then a second new friend will explosively enter his life—Bliss (Rakhee Thakrar), a refugee scientist. Listeners who follow our War Doctor stories will also need no introduction to Olistra (Jaqueline Pearce), here proving she has been a thorn in the Doctor’s side for far more years than we might have imagined.”

We have already heard some Eighth Doctor stories set during the Time War (in the Diary of River Song series and elsewhere), and we’ve seen him regenerate in the mini-episode “The Night of the Doctor”. As showrunner Steven Moffat once said of the audio range, “We saw how the Paul McGann Doctor died—now it’s time to find out how he lived.”

EIGHTH DOCTOR: THE TIME WAR
  The Starship Theseus - p1
  Echoes of War - p1
  The Conscript - p1
  One Life - p1

THE WAR MASTER
   Beneath the Viscoid - p1
   The Good Master - p1
   The Sky Man - p1
   The Heavenly Paradigm - p1

GALLIFREY: THE TIME WAR
   Celestial Intervention - p2
   Soldier Obscura - p2
   The Devil You Know - p2
   Desperate Measures - p2

THE TIME WAR 2
   The Lords of Terror
   Planet of the Ogrons
   In the Garden of Death
   Jonah

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GALLIFREY: TIME WAR

“Four new chapters in the Gallifrey saga.

“The Time Lords and the Daleks have opposed one another across millennia. But now, their conflict tips into an all-out Time War, and nowhere across the universe of spacetime is safe.

“Battle plans will be drawn, allies recruited, and innocents caught in the crossfire.

“Gallifrey is going to war, and the cosmos will never be the same again.”

This set features Lousie Jameson as Leela, Lalla Ward as Romana, Sophie Aldred as Ace, and Derek Jacobi as The Master. There are 14 discs of the first Gallifrey series which ran for three seasons between 2004 and 2006. A “second” series of Gallifrey stories began in 2011 and ran for five additional seasons ending in 2016. It is from this series that Gallifrey: Time War continues.

I have avoided the “Gallifrey” series for two reasons: 1) There are still plenty of actual Doctor Who stories I need to listen to, and 2) I was afraid the series would be bogged down with political intrigue. But when it came time for Gallifrey to enter the Time War I couldn’t resist, so I’ll be starting this series presently with season nine.

CELESTIAL INTERVENTION (by David Llewellyn):

“The Temporal Powers are under threat. It is only a matter of time before the Daleks attack. Now CIA Coordinator, Romana must protect the interests of Gallifrey, while dealing with demands from President Livia and an increasingly powerful War Council. As allies are whittled away, the Time Lords are drawn into a conflict they can no longer avoid…

COMMENTARY: Romana is a former President of the High Council, now Coordinator of the Celestial Intervention Agency (commonly referred to as the “Agency”). Her Deputy Coordinator is Narvin, and Leela is one of her most trusted aides. President Livia has recently been assassinated and regenerated (a plot point from the previous set, I assume). The main action is a three way power struggle among the High Council, the Agency and the War Council. President Livia is something f a moderate and is caught in the middle.

One of the Agency’s drones went off course and discovered a secret War Council base on Gallifrey. Meanwhile, a supposedly derelict space ship drifted into the orbit of one of Gallifrey’s allies, after which all contact was lost. It was a sneak attack by the Dalaks which wiped out most of the planet’s population except for 5000 refugees. What to do with these refugees becomes a political sticking point. I don’t know how much the writer of this episode is influenced by international politics, specifically by American politics, but I see a lot of parallels. For example, in arguing against granting the refugees asylum on Gallifrey, the leader of the the War Council point out that the planet “won’t be sending their best people; they’ll be sending the weak, the injured and the cowards.” Sound familiar?

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes political manipulation in this one, too much to go into here. The Daleks don’t even appear, but by the end of the episode, the Time War has officially begun. As I mentioned yesterday, I have avoided the “Gallifrey” series in general until now because I thought it might be too political. That is the case, to a certain extent, but that may be a strength depending on what the individual listener is looking for. If one wants a break from the news he won’t find it here; if one likes true-to-life political intrigue in a futuristic setting, this is the series in which to find it.

Interesting.  There's a lot more of this stuff out there than I realized.

SOLDIER OBSCURA (by Tim Foley):

“Braxiatel has always planned for contingencies. As hostilities escalate, he takes Ace into a deadly region of spacetime – The Obscura – to locate an ancient research station. But Ace is about to learn more about Irving Braxiatel than anyone should know. Some soldiers are ready for this fight, but some will not make it through the first round.”

COMMENTARY: Ace did not appear in the previous episode except for a few minutes at the very end foreshadowing this one. This is Ace’s story and is more action-oriented than “Celestial Intervention” was. Ace is partnered with a Time Lord named Braxiatel. While Romana is concerned with the home front, Braxiatel has been tasked with exploring more esoteric means of combat. “The Obscura” is a rip in space-time, a temporal instability left from the conflict of early days of time travel on Gallifrey and is of strategic importance. In charge of the research is Braxiatel’s mentor, Danna, a sort of a cross between Yoda and Granny Goodness.

Time Lords can make it to the Obscura only with difficulty, and only because they are following a beacon. Even so, Braxiatel and Ace arrive 12 years later than they were supposed to. Danna has hundreds (284 to be precise) dead Daleks in the station’s hold. Dalaks have always attempted to come across, but starting 12 years ago, the ones which arrived were all modified in certain ways, such as having metal wings organically affixed to their outer casings. Danna likens the Daleks attempts to gain access to the Obscura to the practice of driving sheep across a minefield in a conventional war.

Every once in a while, a Daleks makes it through alive, but they never live more than a week or so afterwards. Danna has one such Dalek imprisoned now. If the Dalek were to survive and somehow contact the others, the Obscura would fall into the hands of the Daleks.

Ace has a chance to work one on one with Danna. Later, she discusses Danna’s relationship to Braxiatel with him. He reminds her of the analogy about the sheep in the mine field and tells Ace that once Danna led him to a minefield but didn't tell him it was a minefield, only to be careful. “What are you telling me?” Ace wants to know. “Only to be careful,” Braxiatel replies.

They soon discover that the Dalek has escaped ad has summoned a Dalek fleet. Did Braxiatel release the Dalek for reasons of his own? I don’t know. That’s where I stopped listening.

I gather the name "Braxiatel" goes back to a throw-away line in the Fourth Doctor TV story "The City of Death", which was expanded upon in various non-canon sources.

I was wondering about that. (This set doesn't have writer's notes.) A Time Lord named "Irving"?

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (by Scott Handcock):

“The Time War has begun in earnest, and Romana must think the unthinkable. For a most dangerous mission, she selects the most dangerous warrior – the Master. But he will not be alone. Leela accompanies her old enemy as they begin an unusual interrogation. What does Finnian Valentine know? And can Leela and the Master ever truly be on the same side?”

COMMENTARY: In desperation, Romana enlists the Master’s aid. She sends him and Leela on a mission to find Finnian Valentine, who has information regarding some sort of super-weapon. For reasons I’m unclear about, Valentine exists as two separate beings. (I’m going to have to listen to this one again.) The scenes between Leela and the Master must practically write themselves. Leela uncovers the information they were looking for, but doesn’t plan to let the Master know. But the Master has uncovered it on his own and betrays Leela. The Master causes her to be swept out of his TARDIS into the Vortex, and goes off on his own without reporting back to Romana.

DESPERATE MEASURES (by Matt Fitton):

“The Dalek Emperor attacks a vital Time Lord outpost. Victory would be a devastating blow to Gallifrey. Romana is caught in the machinations of a President who sees control slipping away. Is it time to bargain with the War Council, or perhaps to parlay with even more dangerous parties? The Time War has barely begun, and for Gallifrey, desperate times are already here...”

COMMENTARY: The Daleks appear in this one as hostilities officially begin. Like the first story in this set, it is largely political. President Livia is ill-suited to be a war-time president and she knows it. She wants to step down, but she wants to be able to name her own successor and do it in such a way as to cause as little turmoil as possible.

To bolster Gallifrey’s numbers, The War Council’s plan is to resurrect dead Time Lords. They also institute extensive conscription measures, depriving Romana of Narvin, her primary advisor. Livia appoints a hawk from the War Council to be President, but it’s unclear who might be really pulling his strings. Romana has served as President before and is prevented by law from serving another term in this incarnation. Reluctantly, she throws her hat into the ring, agreeing to undergo forced regeneration if elected.

I have not yet finished listening to this story.

I posted the above last Friday, as I mentioned, before I had finished listening to it. I finished it that afternoon, then forgot to update this this thread with the cliffhanger ending on Monday. As it turns out, the War Councils' wasn't simply to resuurect any ol' dead Time Lord, but one in particular: Rassilon.

Rassilon (played by Timothy Dalton) turned up hearty and hale in "The end of Time," the last David Tennent episode, with little explanation. Here's how/why/when he came back from the dead.

As soon as I finish with the Sixth Doctor’s “Travels with Charley” and “Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter,” I will be back here with “Eighth Doctor: The Time War – Series 2.” I am here today because Big Finish just announced three more sets of Master stories set during the Time War. They are…

The War Master – Series 2 – “The Master of Callous” – DEC 2018

The War Master – Series 3 – “Rage of the Time Lords” – JUL 2019

The War Master – Series 4 – “Anti-Genesis” – DEC 2019

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