Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
Big Finish, already being all over the Time War, now brings the Gallifrey gang into the fray.
Celestial Intervention by David Llewellyn
We kick off with Romana II (Lalla Ward) embattled with the War Counsel and trying to convince President Livia (Pippa Bennett-Warner) not to trust them to work in the shadows. But as war between the Timelords and the Daleks is finally about to be officially declared is it too late to keep Gallifrey from losing its way?
This story is a really good scene setter for the story to come. As someone who hasn’t listened to Much of the Gallifrey sets I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it really has its own feel to it and I’m guessing the tone is more arched than the usual given the stakes Gallifrey itself is facing. Leela (Louise Jameson) gets to play some real conflict between loyalty to her friends and her new role. And the president who was never meant for war times adds nice tension when the War Counsel looks to be over powering her and furthers Romana’s troubles and the plot.
Soldier Obscura by Tim FoleyWe now follow Ace (Sophie Aldred) working on a mission with Timelord Braxiatel (Miles Richardson) into the mysterious Obscura. A region that if you even look at you will die. Working on a few scantly drawn maps they make it in to find an old friend of Braxiatel’s who guards a weapon they don’t seem keen to tell Ace the details of. Many Daleks have washed up dead inside the base they are in, inside the Obscura, but one has come through alive and that maybe enough to bring a whole fleet after them. With Ace doubting Braxiatel’s motives, can she survive him, the Obscura and the Daleks?
This is a nice turn on Ace’s relationship with the Timelords. We’ve seen her manipulated (sometimes quite cruelly) by the Doctor, but we’ve always known she’s really in safe hands. Here we don’t. It’s certain Braxiatel is playing some game, but as he isn’t the Doctor it takes away the usual safety net to add extra drama.
The Devil you Know by Scott Handcock
The War Master (Derek Jacobi) returns, this time callled forth by Romana of all people! But desperate times call for desperate measures. So Leela is sent as his companion come guard. They are sent after Finnian Valentine (Bryan Dick) who holds vital information for the war effort. But what they find is 2 Finnian’s, both real, but not the same. Time weapons can have strange results. No matter for the Master; who see this as a perfect opportunity to have 2 takes at interrogation. One of them is bound to survive and talk.
This is a very nice idea and story. The War Master is genial enough in his delivery to confuse Leela who is used to a less subtle version. I was uncertain at the idea of Romana calling the Master, but it’s well justified, if not wrong minded of her character, in the plot. Bryan Dick does a marvellous job of the never easy task of playing 2 characters; with an added wrinkle of them being the same person having lived a different life. Derek Jacobi plays with relish this perfectly written version of the Master who takes such pleasure in the game of destroying someone as opposed to just trying to get to an end goal.
Desperate Measures by Matt Fitton
Bringing this set to a close this story takes us back to politics on Gallifrey. As the President decides to step down, encouraged to by Romana & Narvin (Seán Carlsen), Romana reluctantly agrees to run; promising to regenerate if she wins as she has already served in this body. The War Counsel has other plans of course and they don’t mind what the have to do to take power.
It’s lovely to have the spectre of this maybe being when Romana III comes in. The War Counsel, chiefly here represented by the presidential candidate Valerian (David Sibley) really feel like a threat and it plays very well into the idea that in a war can you keep your conscience? President Livia feels like so many other political leader and her saying at one stage about things being “strong and stable” is not lost on me. And I will of course not give it away, but there is a great tease at the end of things to come.
This is highly entertaining. It’s nice to follow the different stories and different characters as an omniscient observer, following the war through more than one persons story. This leaves so much room for diversity of stories. Although Romana & Leela definitely bookend things and pop up most of the time, one story can be Ace’s, another the Master’s but it feels still like one set. I can’t wait to get back to Gallifrey in the next set. 10/10.
Buy it on CD or download here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-churchill-years-volume-02-1473
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