Chapter Two - Square One

Starring: Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson and John Leeson
Big Finish Productions
RRP 9.99
ISBN 1 84435 089 4
Available 01 May 2004

In a climate of unease and mistrust, the major time-travelling races hold a summit on a planetoid impervious to outside attack and internal subversion. Working undercover to hunt for evidence of Free Time activity, Leela and K9 Mark I find terrors of a different kind - time and time again...

There's an element of Groundhog Day in this instalment, as Leela (Louise Jameson) finds history repeating itself, though she doesn't have to relive the same day as many times as Bill Murray's character did. Finding the cause of the time loop is, of course, not a straightforward matter, and writer Stephen Cole manages to keep us guessing, just as Alan Barnes did in the previous volume.

It is clear that this series is going to touch on Time Lord stories from across the gamut of Doctor Who's history. Quite apart from obvious reference points such as The Invasion of Time, in which Leela stayed behind on Gallifrey, we hear an atmospheric background sound effect from The War Games. The very concept of this mini-series relies heavily on one of Cole's previous audio scripts, The Apocalypse Element, which introduced President Romana (Lalla Ward) to the Big Finish range, as well as the idea of the trans-temporal alliance, with member races including the Monan Host. The writer also hints at a possible future for Gallifrey, as depicted in his co-authored novel The Ancestor Cell, when the delegates speak of races whose careless deeds erased their very existence.

It's a shame that Co-ordinator Vansell was killed off in the Doctor Who audio drama Neverland because the current Co-ordinator, Narvin (Sean Carlsen), has been given a similarly unscrupulous personality. Still, this isn't the first time that a Gallifreyan character has been replaced by an analogous stand-in - think of Chancellors Thalia and Flavia, or Maxil and the nameless Commander in The Five Doctors.

Romana and Leela make a good team, complementing each other nicely. Whereas the aristocratic Romana has a keen grasp of complex strategies and conspiracies, Leela has the finely honed instincts of a hunter and is able to read the body language of potential foes. By the end of this story, the President seems to have gravitated from a grudging respect for the savage's abilities to something of a fondness.

We also have some wonderful bitchiness going on between the two K9s (John Leeson), as Mark II refers to his predecessor as "the inferior K9". It's good to have the opportunity to catch up with so many of the Fourth Doctor's old companions, since Tom Baker has made it clear that he is not interested in re-creating his era on audio.

As long as the series can maintain this standard, I shan't be Monan.

Richard McGinlay

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