Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Gallifrey, series 1

Am sitting on Eurostar en route to London and ultimately Bath, where I am staying tonight and speaking at a conference tomorrow. I managed to get through the four plays in the first Gallifrey sequence this week, and they are fun and enjoyable if not necessarily great works of literature.

Let's face it, for someone like me who is a child of the Fourth Doctor era, the only two companions who matter, apart from the incomparable Sarah Jane Smith of course, are Leela and Romana. And K-9. And, er, K-9. The idea of putting Louise Jameson, Lalla Ward and John Leeson (and John Leeson) together with a half-decent script is so obvious in retrospect that you wonder why it wasn't done as a series much earlier (OK, it had been done in Marc Platt's novel Lungbarrow, and in a Big Finish play I haven't heard yet).

The four plays have the common themes of President Romana grappling with the difficulties of a stolen "time-onic fusion device", and of Leela trying both to come to terms with and to solve the disappearance and probable death of her husband Andred. Much flinging around of Time Lord lore, the rivalry between the Celestial Intervention Agency and the Chancellery Guard, and the Borusa-like character of Cardinal Braxiatel.

However each has a quite different setting. 1.1 Weapon of Choice has the Time Lords dealing with a crisis on a refugee planet, and reflected interestingly on the topic of humanitarian military interventions. 1.2 Square One features Leela going undercover as an exotic dancer at a summit of the Time Lords and their fellow time-travelling powers; it also has the gimmick of certain scenes being repeated due to a time loop. 1.3 The Inquiry has certain resonances with both The Deadly Assassin and (I suspect) the Trial of a Time Lord (with which I remain blissfully unacquainted); I felt it was the thinnest of the four. And finally 1.4 A Blind Eye has the peculiar but well-realised setting of the Vienna to Calais train on the outbreak of World War II. (And here am I on the Brussels to London train writing this, and hoping for a less eventful trip.)

It's fun, but not very deep. There is a risk of turning Leela into a one-joke character, which is generally just about averted (except, frankly, in Square One) by giving her the Andred back story. Romana as president is as sharp and sassy as ever, but we lose a certain amount of potential narrative tension by knowing that she is always in the right. K-9 is as ever, and the other characters give their best.

I particularly liked the first and fourth of these four plays, both of which are by Alan Barnes, who hadn't previously registered on my consciousness as a Who writer. I will look out for more of his stuff, and listen to more Gallifrey as well.
Tags: doctor who, doctor who: audio, doctor who: spinoff fiction, writer: alan barnes

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