The Time War rages in Volume 3 of Gallifrey: Time War. The fight for survival begins, as Romana and Narvin are flung far away from the safety of Gallifrey, in more ways than one…
As Big Finish’s Time War Saga continues, unsure if an end is in sight, the teams behind the sets must now find new and unique ways to keep the stories from becoming similar to each other. Whilst this mentality is easier for other ranges, Gallifrey, given it’s moniker of Doctor Who meets The West Wing, would seem to be a little harder to branch out. Although our core cast of Ward, Jameson and Carlsen are still together the action has moved away from the Time Lords’ home planet. Instead the trio are stranded, crossing the universe to escape the maniacal Daleks and, following last year’s set, Rassilon.
Whilst this does draw it away from what made the original series interesting to begin with, the more claustrophobic tales and minimal cast can make for some good smaller scale, character building episodes. The question is do they pull it off?
Hostiles by David Llewellyn
The set starts off with what is perhaps the best example of that claustrophobic tale mentioned earlier. Fleeing from Gallifrey after Rassilon’s power grab, Romana and Narvin escape into the time vortex, unsure of their destination. But soon they come across a derelict TARDIS and attempt to seek assistance. Only, they’re about to discover that their people are capable of the most horrendous actions…
David Llewellyn’s stories are always destined to be good ones. Having written for it first back in 2012 but also worked with series director Scott Handcock on many ranges such as Torchwood, Dorian Gray, and the Big Finish Original Cicero. Here both manage to convey the fear and tenseness of a base-under-siege style tale, making it claustrophobic, despite the described giant wreckage the characters find themselves in.
The main cast of Lalla Ward and Sean Carlsen bounce off each other brilliantly as always. It almost feels like no time has passed for them, making you forget that they’ve been doing this for 16 years. Alongside the duo, the supporting cast of Leah Harvey and The Prisoner’s Mark Elstob excel with their performances. Elstob ventures out of the comfort zone we have seen him in for many of his releases, going above and beyond to make his performance impactful.
Nevernor by Lou Morgan
Relative newcomer Lou Morgan enters the writer’s chair for her first Doctor Who-centric script for Big Finish (depending on how one views their Torchwood range). Fleeing further, Romana and Narvin find themselves on a bizarre, impossible planet, but are taken in by a kind and loving family. Something is waiting for them all out in the darkness. Something that the old woman with the family knows, and something that the Gallifreyans will be powerless to help with…
Morgan goes for a sometimes overlooked angle with war stories, focusing on the impact to the regular people and families not involved. But, with a war that can bend the fabric of reality, involvement in it is only a matter of when, rather than if. Morgan showcases how ordinary people can become unwillingly, and unknowingly, involved.
Again, Ward and Carlsen are a perfect pairing, with this episode giving them opportunity for more character discovery. Lucy Reynolds, Wilf Scolding and Suzanne Bertish all add to this emotional and heart-wrenching tale. But this is only where the heart-wrenching truly begins…
Mother Tongue by Helen Goldwyn
Big Finish mainstay Helen Goldwyn takes on the next tale, reintroducing the main missing regular from the last set. But rather than reintroduce her to the narrative proper, she decides to give us some personal time with her first. Leela is lost, alone, and for the first time in many a year, truly afraid. Then she wakes up, safe and sound but in a life she cannot recall. Now a mother and guardian to potential heirs, she must learn the truth about the mysterious Trell. But time itself has decided to become her enemy…
As with Morgan’s episode, Goldwyn gives us a personal tale that not only gives us an insight into a main character, but also expands on the Time War’s effect on normal lives and those not involved. Goldwyn has added in a few twists of her own, making the end result more tragic and gut-wrenching. Sam Hallion, Will Kirk, Sarah Douglas, Maxine Evans and Wilf Scolding are all amazing in the supporting cast, and given the nature of the story, all get a chance to show the ranges they are capable of.
But the highlight has to be Louise Jameson as Leela. As with The Crowmarsh Experiment, this story helps expand Leela as a character, showcasing her growth both in the original television series, and across her many appearances in Big Finish media, and as such, becoming one of the definitive stories for the huntress.
Unity by David Llewellyn
Llewellyn returns for the set’s finale, with one big reunion listeners have been waiting for and another that will potentially destroy them. After many failed attempts, Romana and Narvin seem to have located Leela. They discover ravagers trying to survive, and scavengers trying to profit. Amongst all this there are creatures that the trio would hope they’d never come across again. The Time War has come to Unity, and with it, so have the Daleks…
Llewellyn gives us a tense thriller with high stakes. There’s the plight of the secondary characters. The relationships between the regulars. Plus the looming terror of the Daleks’ return. But the standout moment for this story has to be the ultimate cliffhanger, not just for the story but the set, which dare not be spoiled here. It will leave you as a gibbering emotional wreck with the last fifteen minutes, and then a terrified stiff following the last fifteen seconds.
The supporting cast are at their greatest here. Lorna Brown and Omar Austin excel as the family Leela has taken responsibility for. Robert Jezek goes full on southern prospector and making it work so well. Lucy Reynolds, Will Kirk and Wilf Scolding round off a superb cast of acting talent. Performances of the night have to go to the three leads, back together as if no time has passed. Plus, Nicholas Briggs gets to take his voice modulator out as the tyrannical pepperpots, adding a whole new devious skillset to their repertoire.
The Time War era of Gallifrey is something that has gone from strength to strength. Continuing what it was initially known for, but also branching out and taking risks. The first set featured the kind of political espionage and mystery the first few original stories did. The second volume was a full blown political thriller with assassination attempts and double crossing between friends as well as enemies. Now, this third set has helped to change genres again; an on the run chase to find a lost member and escape the horrors of war.
The stellar sound work and music of Russell McGee and Ioan Morris respectively is once again pinpoint perfect, showing exactly why they were drafted in for these sets. Under Scott Handcock’s direction and Matt Fitton’s mastery of script-editing and boxset showrunning, this set has helped to further heighten the tension as to where the series can go next…
The only thing is, we know where the story ends for one of our characters. The era of the War Council and Cardinal Ollistra are fast approaching. Can the next set really be the chronological end for Gallifrey? As a wise little Scottish Doctor once said, “Time will tell. It always does…”
Gallifrey: Time War: Volume 3 is available to purchase on CD and Download now from the Big Finish website, and will be available from other stockists later in the year.
Romana and Narvin are exiles, driven from Gallifrey by Rassilon’s regime and cut adrift amid the horrors of the Time War. Their one remaining hope is that they can find their friend: Leela was also lost in the maelstrom of battle, but she is fighting to survive…
3.1 Hostiles by David Llewellyn
Exiled from Gallifrey, Romana and Narvin are fleeing from their own people and the Time War. Seeking refuge on a derelict wreck they find they are not alone. And that Time Lords have enemies everywhere…
3.2 Nevernor by Lou Morgan
Narvin and Romana reach the distant, rural world of Njagilheim. But even here the Time War follows – and there are more things to fear in the Vortex than warships and weapons. The Orrovix have caught a scent and they are hunting…
3.3 Mother Tongue by Helen Goldwyn
Leela was thrown into a Vortex ravaged by the Time War, lost in space and time – but the Trell have shown her mercy…
She finds herself in another realm, another life. One where the warrior is also a mother. Where she must help her son to choose the path to avoid his world’s destruction.
3.4 Unity by David Llewellyn
On a dusty frontier world, destiny awaits Romana…
Betrayal, deception and death are the currency on Unity. And as the Daleks close in on their target, there will be a price to pay.
- Lalla Ward (Romana)
- Louise Jameson (Leela)
- Seán Carlsen (Narvin)
- Omar Austin (Rayo)
- Suzanne Bertish (Aldis)
- Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)
- Lorna Brown (Veega)
- Sarah Douglas (Drah)
- Mark Elstob (Qatal)
- Maxine Evans (Renucha)
- Sam Hallion (Sholan)
- Leah Harvey (Trellick)
- Robert Jezek (Jarred McKenzie)
- Will Kirk (Kraumer)
- Lucy Reynolds (Agata)
- Wilf Scolding (Ivar)
- Written by David Llewellyn, Lou Morgan and Helen Goldwyn
- Cover Artist: Tom Newsom
- Director: Scott Handcock
- Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
- Music: Ioan Morris
- Producer: Scott Handcock
- Script Editor: Matt Fitton
- Sound Design: Russell McGee