Chapter One - Weapon of Choice

Starring: Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson and John Leeson
Big Finish Productions
RRP 9.99
ISBN 1 84435 088 6
Available 09 April 2004

A party of time-technology assessors uncovers disturbing evidence of a deadly temporal weapon, which may have fallen into the hands of terrorists. In search of the truth, President Romana dispatches Leela and K9 Mark I on a undercover mission to the planet Gryben, a reception centre for temporal refugees...

When the television spin-off show K9 and Company was produced back in 1981, it was suggested by some critics that, instead of presenting Sarah Jane Smith and a new model of K9 in some Scooby-Doo-style exploits, it might have been preferable to tell the continuing adventures of Romana and K9 Mark II or to assign Leela and the original K9 as agents of the Time Lords. Well, this new mini-series features not only Romana (Lalla Ward) and Leela (Louise Jameson), but also two K9s (both John Leeson).

Following on from events in Big Finish's 40th anniversary Doctor Who audio drama Zagreus, this series sees Romana continuing her term of office as Gallifreyan President. As such, she fulfils more of a desk-bound "M"-type role than an active one, at least during this instalment. However, Leela is very much the heroic agent of the Time Lords that was previously envisaged, and Jameson ably rises to the challenge. The savage's sense of honour contrasts well against Romana's haughtiness, with the two K9s acting as go-betweens. Hugo Myatt provides excellent and amusing support as a dodgy dealer called Arkadian.

Doctor Who book readers may recall that Leela, Romana and their respective robot dogs previously appeared together in the New Adventures novel Lungbarrow, in which Leela was revealed to be pregnant by her Time Lord husband, Andred. However, it is not impossible for this mini-series to co-exist with Lungbarrow. It transpires that Andred has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, so perhaps the child was with him at the time, or maybe Leela suffered a miscarriage.

As well as providing a field day for continuity-obsessed geeks such as myself, there's also a moral aspect to the story. The presence of a holding centre for time-travelling refugees, the activities of a team of temporal weapons inspectors, and a suicide bomber all echo the diplomatic difficulties that the Blair administration is currently facing with regard to the tricky topics of immigration and the "war on terrorism". Scriptwriter Alan Barnes rounds off his tale with a well-crafted political twist.

It's early days yet, but this series shows good potential.

Richard McGinlay

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