Gallifrey. Home planet of the Time Lords in the constellation of Kasterborous. Sanctuary for the observers of space and time. Sworn never to interfere, only to watch. But, then, rules are made to be broken…
Gallifrey is one of Big Finish’s longest running Doctor Who audio spin-offs. Starting in 2004, the Gallifrey series follows the machinations of the political top brass within The Capitol of the Time Lord’s homeworld. It stars Lalla Ward and Louise Jameson as Romana and Leela respectively, both of whom reprise their roles for this ninth series. But, for the first time, the series delves into the continuity of the revived TV show and takes on the Time War. The set promises to be both a continuation for existing fans and a jumping on point for newcomers. Does it deliver on these promises?
Celestial Intervention by David Llewellyn
David Llewellyn ushers in new Gallifrey with an interesting look at how the world of the Time Lords have changed. But how some dark deeds remain the same. After a secret war facility is uncovered, unbeknownst to the CIA, Gallifrey is thrown into a game of ethics when a refugee ship seeks asylum on the planet. As discussions between the High Council, War Council and CIA go on, Romana suspects the council has ulterior motives. The question now is, after sending her War Council liaison Leela to investigate, what will they discover? Despite brandishing Time War on the box, this story more or less confirms that we are building up to the declaration. Making it one of the rare stories set early in the Time War. Llewellyn structures it as a foreshadowed evil, rather than have war declared outright in the first episode, and it works. As the tale of political intrigue, double-dealing and industrial espionage unfolds, the sense of looming war is ever-present. Slowly creeping ever closer despite our protagonists attempts to halt it. Ward, Jameson and Séan Carlsen as Narvin slip back into their roles ass if they’d not been away while the rest of the cast engage the listener in this strong introductory tale.
Soldier Obscura by Tim Foley
Following on from two stellar Torchwood stories in Aliens Among Us, Tim Foley presents us with a more personal piece than the last episode. At the behest of Romana, former Cardinal Irving Braxiatel and Ace travel to a secluded part of space and time: The Obscura. There they meet up with Irving’s old tutor, Danna. But they also happen upon something unsettling. The Daleks are coming and Irving knows how to stop them. But can he bring himself to do it, knowing what will happen? Foley expertly gives us a small, but highly effective base-under-siege type tale, with a steady drip-feed of information about the characters and their relationships to each other to gradually increase the stakes. Sophie Aldred and Miles Richardson as Ace and Brax work immensely well off each other and Zulema Dene excels as Danna. But commendation must be given to Nicholas Briggs, who has managed to find even more creative ways of making the Daleks sound more and more terrifying and unnerving.
The Devil You Know by Scott Handcock
Director Scott Handcock takes on writing duties for this next story alongside the glorious return of Sir Derek Jacobi as The War Master. Against Narvin’s pleas, Romana seeks assistance from Gallifrey’s deadliest renegade, The Master. He and Leela must find a man of key importance to the war effort. With both Leela and The Master working toward the same goal, they soon locate him…and then they discover the terrible secret that makes him so important. Like Foley, Scott Handcock tells a brilliant story with a very small cast. A powerful character study blended with a tidy up of loose plot threads in preparation for the finale. Handcock’s skills as a writer shine in this tale while the cast bring their all. Bryan Dick does a fantastic job as Valentine while Louise Jameson and Sir Derek Jacobi are a natural fit: the gentle savage and the ruthless sophisticate. Jacobi once again showing us just how manipulative, devious and downright terrifying he can be as The Master…
Desperate Measures by Matt Fitton
Fitton closes off the boxset going full circle back to machinations in the citadel of Gallifrey. The Time War has arrived in force and Gallifrey is already feeling the full effects of it. As Romana takes desperate measures to cease the fighting, the High Council and War Council have sought solutions of their own. A new President is to be elected and Romana has put herself forward. But the council has another candidate in mind that will turn the tide of the war. But for good or ill? Returning to the political intrigue of the first episode, Fitton closes off this first volume with a story of smear campaigns and desperation on both sides. Ward and Carlsen are outstanding, as well as the guest cast of Pippa-Bennett Warner, Paul Mark Davis and David Sibley all going above and beyond to deliver the performances of their lives. While Nicholas Briggs gives us more Daleks than you can shake a gunstick at.
The amount of work that went into this release is nothing short of admirable. Not only to give us four amazing stories with brilliant writing and expert direction from Scott Handcock. An immensely engaging score and sound design from Ioan Morris and Russell McGee and stellar performances from every member of the cast. Those alone would be a compelling enough reason to check out this box set. But to pivot an established series to tie into the established continuity of the Time War without losing its own identity is something special. Veterans of the Gallifrey series will find a fantastic continuation of the characters and plots that have captivated them for over a decade. For newcomers, it’s a brilliant starting point that hints at bigger pictures across the past, present and future.
But that’s not all! We keep our reviews spoiler-free so you can get a taste for the release but still enjoy the surprises. However, we’ve also dug into the spoilers at the bottom of the page. So scroll down or click here to check that out.
Blogtor Rating: 10/10
This title was released in February 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until April 30th 2018, and on general sale after this date.
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.
1. 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…
2. 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.
3. 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?
4. 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…
Written By: David Llewellyn, Tim Foley, Scott Handcock and Matt Fitton
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Louise Jameson (Leela), Lalla Ward (Romana), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Seán Carlsen (Narvin), Miles Richardson (Braxiatel), Derek Jacobi (The Master), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Livia), Paul Marc Davis (Trave), Ebony Wong (Karla), David Sibley (Valerian), Zulema Dene (Danna), Bryan Dick (Finnian Valentine), Guy Adams (Beglis) and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer Scott Handcock
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Everything below this line is riddled with spoilers. You have been warned.
As said previously, this set succeeds in tying all the elements of the Time War together as much as it can. There are two ways it succeeds.
Firstly, in how it deals with departing characters. Three of the major characters presented in this set all make their farewells in this series that are pretty soul crushing. But it also sets them up for when we next hear about them on TV or in other audio dramas. Foley and Handcock write two heartbreaking exits for some of the longest running characters.
Secondly, the final reveal in ‘Desperate Measures’. Fitton not only surprised with the final reveal of Rassilon’s return but also cleverly foreshadowed it with snippets of dialogue that could easily have been overlooked. It’s a true testament to how good Fitton is at weaving arced plots together.