Chapter Fourteen - Panacea

Starring: Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson and John Leeson
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 10.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84435 208 1
ISBN-10: 1 84435 208 0
Available 28 August 2006

Gallifrey is ruined. The great and good of her once-mighty Capitol gather in disease-ridden shanty towns outside its walls. Her "friends" in the Temporal Powers anticipate her total collapse, her people's extinction, and the beginning of a new galactic order. The Time Lords' new President has a drastic scheme to restore his world to its former glory, but can a cure for all Gallifrey's ills really be found in the hands of entrepreneur, adventurer and self-confessed swine Mephistopheles Arkadian...?

I won't go into specifics, but I really must mention the ending to this audio drama. You see, despite being the last instalment of the third and supposedly final series of Gallifrey, Panacea ends on a cliffhanger.

It's probable that writer Alan Barnes intended this conclusion not to be taken too seriously. It's rather like the ending of the original Italian Job in that respect. This would certainly fit in with the light-hearted tone of several lines of dialogue during the preceding narrative, including numerous instances of K-9 (John Leeson) being overly literal and/or nit-picking what others say; Romana's (Lalla Ward) line, "I'm an ex-president, get me out of here"; and practically everything that is said by Mephistopheles Arkadian (Hugo Myatt making a welcome return).

Alternatively, perhaps these events will be picked up in another series, possibly a Paul McGann Doctor Who audio or even a Bernice Summerfield adventure (the front cover gives away the fact that Miles Richardson puts in another appearance as Braxiatel). Maybe the BBC will permit Big Finish to bring all of these series together in a saga that will finally tell the whole story of the Time War and the roles that the various Temporal Powers played in it (but I doubt they will).

Certainly there are strong hints that the conflict with the Daleks is imminent. Braxiatel warns that something bad is coming, a catastrophe far worse than anything the Time Lords have previously encountered or even imagined. The Daleks get a name-check and Arkadian also mentions some metallic clients of his. Incidentally, Brax's potential solution to Gallifrey's problems is markedly similar to a plan of the Eighth Doctor's, revealed in the novel The Gallifrey Chronicles.

Aside from all that, and a visit to Romana's ancestral house of Heartshaven (which, like the Doctor's house in the New Adventures novel Lungbarrow, has well and truly gone to seed), this is a surprisingly low-key affair for a final chapter. But then, how can you top the Time War that we all know is coming?

As I indicated earlier, Panacea does not in all fairness offer what can be described as a satisfying conclusion - it certainly isn't a resolution. However, it's a good listen overall, so I wouldn't pan a CD like this.

Richard McGinlay

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