This might be the most epic single release that I’ve reviewed here on GallifreyArchive. Gallifrey: Enemy Lines is a three hour epic spanning six episodes. To conquer such a massive story, I’ve decided to break the review into two parts. The first part focussing on the first three episodes and the second part, due tomorrow, will focus on the latter three. Whilst I’ve not heard any of the Gallifrey range from Big Finish before, I have to admit that I was super keen to listen to this story, I just hope that I’ll be able to understand enough of the previously established plot and universe to enjoy the story. Do I succeed in that endeavour? There’s only one way to find out, read the review…
In the distant future, President Romanadvoratrelundar will do anything it takes to save her world, even if it means sacrificing her allies and friends…
In the distant past, President Romanadvoratrelundar will also do anything it takes to save her world, even if it means sacrificing her own life in the process…
Unfortunately for Romana, there is no easy option.
With the threat of impending war, and negotiations still ongoing, the Temporal Powers are growing restless. Every day, they find their future slipping away from them. Every decision they make proves critical. And no one can escape the fact that sacrifices have to be made…
Time is running out… and it’s running straight to Gallifrey.
It seems that Ace is no longer merely one of the Doctors companions, nor is she merely just a normal 20th century human anymore; instead Ace is now working for the CIA, and is stranded with Coordinator Narvin (I’m assuming the reason is in Gallifrey: Intervention Earth) who are both supposedly guilty of High Treason. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Yes, I’m indirectly quoting the Chuckle Brothers. Deal with it. Now, I’m not sure but the relationship between Ace and Narvin seems very cosy, and I’m not sure if they’re romancing one another or yet.
There’s a character in the opening too who seems to be narrating the events from afar, which reminded me a lot of Rassilon’s narration in The End of Time; and boy is it effective.
There’s a real sense from the opening minutes that Enemy Lines isn’t going to be a fun romp at all. Everything seems to be going to poop and Romana seems to know this; this is a woman in power who is struggling to keep everything together. Romana seems to have lost all hope, and is seemingly on a suicide mission to try and rectify everything that’s gone wrong.
Leela and Romana seem to be locking horns at the start of the story; with Romana disagreeing with Leela’s savage behaviour; it’s an interesting way of conveying the whole nature versus nurture element into Leela’s character; could it be that once a savage, always a savage? It’s a really intriguing question that I hope will be explored more in regards to Leela’s persona.
Romana believes that theres a conspiracy going on and that Gallifrey could well be corrupt; but there are greater things afoot. Things that could potentially be catastrophic for the President. Whilst Romana panics about how to progress towards her and Leela’s immediate goal (it’s so hard to be vague), Leela manages to offer up some much needed comic relief by using her brawn instead of Romana’s brains to solve a dilemma. Sadly, brawn can’t solve everything; sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword.
There’s a lovely poignant moment between Romana and Leela in which they talk about the Doctor and how that renegade Time Lord changed their lives. Leela seemed especially thankful for the Doctor bursting into her life and shaking it up, and it really struck a chord with me whilst listening; mainly because this poetry was coming from Leela, a character who up until this point was written in such a way that didn’t give her opportunity to be as eloquent and profound as this. David Llewellyn really manages to give Leela more and more deserved layers after all these years.
The conclusion of the first episode is very reminiscent of Steven Moffat’s era of Doctor Who in the sense that it’s all very timey-wimey. It seems as if Ace and Narvin’s timeline is ahead of Leela and Romana’s and that they’re slowly meeting in the middle. It’s hard to understand but it makes sense…ish.
The second episode begins with a lot of exposition; and I mean a lot. Luckily for me, there’s seemingly a cult in Gallifrey that worship Omega to get my teeth sunk into. Now, I understand that some Whovians haven’t dabbled in Classic Who, and I must say that if you haven’t got much knowledge in Gallifreyan history (which, coincidentally is a very catchy Trock song that’s now stuck in mu head), then I feel like some of the references in Enemy Lines will either go over your head or just alienate you from the story, which is a real shame for those people.
Braxiatel, another Time Lord seems to be Romana’s right hand man, and reminded me a lot of Littlefinger from Game of Thrones; he seems to be the sly and slippery type that will try and influence people in power for his own personal gains; I hope I have a good judgment of character.
Whereas the first episode of Enemy Line was a bit of a sci-fi caper with some very dark undertones and a dash of timey-wimeyness; the second episode seems to focus a lot more on the political nature of Time Lord society and their seeming inclusion of alien species. There’s also a great shake up in the Time Lord’s hierarchy within the second episode that I feel may upset diehard Gallifrey fans, but it’s a shake up that is with its reasons.
With Romana’s growing influence amongst the CIA (the Celestial Intervention Agency), Narvin seems to throw a strop that he’s no longer top dog at the CIA.
One thing I love Big Finish for, in this release as well as many, many others, is the way they allow time for relationships and dynamics between characters to come to the fore. It’s all well and good having Dalek invasions and big explosions in every single Doctor Who related story; but without characters that you sincerely care about and are emotionally invested in, then there’s no point at all. Luckily for us, Big Finish writers seem to understand this, and boy does it make you more engaged in the story. Even if you’re like me and you’ve never listened to any Gallifrey before, (something I am strongly considering remedying) I implore you to listen to Enemy Lines to see the humanity in these characters that can often appear godlike or perfect in our eyes.
I know earlier in this review I said that Braxiatel reminded me of Littlefinger from Game of Thrones; but the more I listen to Enemy Lines, the more I think that the whole tone of the story is reminiscent of Game of Thrones, which is great if you’re a fan of both Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. (Wow, this paragraph says ‘Game of Thrones’ a lot doesn’t it?) There’s politics, death, intrigue, a complicated backstory and extremely well written characters, all of which seemingly have a destiny that they’re heading towards.
Narvin is seemingly Jon Snow. That’s all I’m going to say on that matter. The third episode opens up with Gallifrey in its worst position yet, the whole planet is seemingly defenceless.
Ace has been sent to Outpost Delta, seemingly to be out of the way in an attempt to try and distort one of the potential timelines that was foretold. It seems to me that within the first three episodes, Ace is severely underused; which is a crime. I hope that the latter half of Enemy Lines includes more Ace!
The third episode feels a lot like a crime show with a dash of added legend and prophecy thrown in. One thing I must admit I’ve really liked about Enemy Lines so far is the way that each episode seems to have a slightly different genre, whilst still propelling the story forward.
In my opinion, the third episode is the one which is the most political and arguably the most expositional of the first half of the Enemy Lines story. There’s talk of someone, or something, called the Watchmaker, seemingly a Time Lord or Time Lady who is woven throughout Gallifreyan folklore and whisperings. Great name for a Time Lord or Lady too, I must admit.
This is totally unrelated to anything I’ve really talked about thus far, but I must admit that I giggled like a schoolgirl when I heard ‘The Rod of Rassilon’. I’m such a child.
The conclusion of the third episode is the most action-y of the lot; it’s a bit like Die Hard on Gallifrey. I told you this story spans loads of different genres. Boy does this conclusion set up a lot, not only for the next three episodes, but the future of Gallifrey as a planet and as a Big Finish series. Wowza.
Make sure you check back tomorrow for the second half of my Gallifrey: Enemy Lines review!
Rating (Episodes 1-3)
Should you want to purchase Gallifrey Enemy Lines, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £14.99 on CD or a £12.99 download which you can purchase here.