AUDIO DRAMA
Gallifrey
Chapter Six - Spirit

Starring: Lalla Ward and Louise Jameson
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 10.99
ISBN 1 84435 122 X
Available 24 May 2005


Since they are both tired of backbiting politics and intrigue, Romana persuades Leela to accompany her to the protected paradise of Davidia. Then an anomalous time ship arrives, carrying a hideously injured passenger. Is this broken man a victim of some terrible crime or part of a trap now primed and ready to spring...?

I wonder whether the folks at Big Finish are at all annoyed with Russell T Davies. It could be argued that his new version of Doctor Who has effectively invalidated not one but two of the company's spin-off series. First of all, the episode The End of the World revealed that Gallifrey had been destroyed, then the two-part Aliens of London/World War Three put paid to UNIT.

Still, we didn't see the entire staff of UNIT get killed by the Slitheen, so Emily Chaudhry and/or Robert Dalton may well have been elsewhere and survived the attack. As for the Gallifrey series, we must of course assume that these adventures are set before the planet's destruction, just as readers of the BBC's Eighth Doctor novels have been assuming for years.

Romana (Lalla Ward) tries to get to know Leela (Louise Jameson) better in this instalment, during which they both learn to strike a balance between their respective extreme views. Romana's "superior" technical knowledge and cynical denial of the spiritual is contrasted with Leela's "primitive" worldview.

Writer Stephen Cole also throws in a neat explanation for why Leela hasn't aged much over the last 25 years. However, some fans would argue that centuries should have passed since The Invasion of Time, based on the Doctor's stated age in various stories. I theorise that Andred and Leela must have done a bit of TARDIS travelling during their marriage and accidentally skipped forward a few centuries after one particular trip.

What starts out as a seemingly leisurely change-of-pace episode becomes something more sinister with the arrival of the "broken man". His features burned, his tongue torn out, his hands crushed and his mind destroyed, there is no way to identify who this victim is. Since he appears to have travelled back from Gallifrey's future, he could even be a character that we already know. I am reminded of the classic 2000AD comic strip The Dead Man, in which a burned and amnesiac victim turned out to be someone very familiar indeed.

The question of the broken man's identity is not resolved here, so this CD does not function as an individual story in its own right, but it does promise intrigue for instalments yet to come.

Richard McGinlay

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