Gallifrey: Enemy Lines Review

Enemy Lines

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. 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…

Synopsis
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.

Review
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.

The fourth episode opens with Ace, which is great as I said in Part One of the review that I felt she was totally underused as a character in the first half of Enemy Lines. Sadly though, it’s not long before we’re back at Leela and Romana’s seeming trial and investigation. Give us more Ace, damnit!
Now, I know I’ve said that Enemy Lines has reminded me of a lot of things, whether it be episodes of Doctor Who or other TV shows; the fourth episode has a very strong Trial of A Time Lord vibe to it; for obvious reasons.

When we return to Ace, it’s nice to have a bit of backstory as to how she managed to leave Earth and begin working for the Time Lords; I normally seem to mock the expositional scenes, especially when they’re so shoehorned in, but in this case, as a newcomer to the Gallifrey range, I didn’t mind it at all. It was also nice for there to be references to Survival, which of course is the last time we saw Ace on screen.

In my opinion, the fourth is the weakest episode so far (I’m writing this just after finishing the fourth episode), even though we get some absolutely ace Ace moments. There’s one revelation that is detrimental to the plot, but it takes far too long for it to come into fruition.  It seems that the fourth episode is setting up the events of the final two more than anything, which is a shame, as I’m sure a lot of the time could have been used more interestingly; even if it is using a lot of timey-wimey stuff.

The concluding few minutes of the fourth episode are by far the most exciting and exhilarating, with some real death-defying moments from certain characters that are filled with twists and turns and moments that make your heart(s) stop momentarily.

The fifth episode (now we’re officially in previously uncharted territory in terms of a Big Finish release we’ve reviewed on the site. Never before has a story been more than four parts) will seemingly focus on Romana and Leela attempting to be reunited with Ace, who seems to be in a sticky space situation. That’s a name for an Iris Wildthyme story if I’ve ever heard one; ‘Iris Wildthyme and The Sticky Space Situation’. Big Finish, please make this happen.

David Llewellyn, who wrote Gallifrey: Enemy Lines does something that not many scriptwriters can do; he managed to make exposition really interesting to me. The tale behind the Watchmaker is absolutely brilliant, and feels as if it would perfectly fit into Time Lord folklore. You can really imagine that the legend of the Watchmaker would be told around a campfire or in the whisperings of the Academy with the younger Gallifreyans.

Romana seems skeptical as to whether the legendary Watchmaker is seemingly a part of events, both that are imperative to Romana’s personal timeline as well as part of the events on Gallifrey; with the Eye of Harmony growing stronger by the moment. The only problem is that the only way to find out is by going into a pocket universe which could be catastrophic.

Right in the centre of the fifth episode, we get a nice wallop in the stomach that, if you’re a fan of the Classic era, will probably leave you feeling winded for a long while. Especially now Big Finish is considered canonical in the Doctor Who universe. Wow. That’s all I can really say without ruining it for you. And you deserve to feel the pain that I felt without any preparation.

The standout performance in the fifth episode, and arguably the whole story of Enemy Lines is undoubtedly of the character Plutus, played brilliantly by Tom Allen. Allen’s performance of a character who is so smug, so sly, so slimy and so dislikable is utterly magnificent. It takes a good actor to make you love their character, it takes an exemplary actor to make you hate them.

If this story wasn’t timey-wimey enough, the conclusion of the penultimate episode certainly makes sure that it is. Think of the beginning of The Big Bang and you won’t be far off the events. That’s all I’m going to say on that matter.

The sixth and final episode has an awful lot of loose ends that it needs to try and tie up. Apparently the best way in doing this is by opening the final episode with a whole other plot strand and timey-wimeyness. Now, the concept of a multiverse isn’t explicitly mentioned in the moments in question; but I recommend that you read up on the multiverse theory to try and understand the plausibility of some of the events.

Leela and Romana’s relationship is seemingly the tentpole of this entire story, and it’s brought to the fore in the final episode. I’m surprised how personal and intimate the final episode is. Then again, they say the eye of the hurricane is the most peaceful. Leela is portrayed as beautifully eloquent in all of Enemy Lines, which is a real treat to hear; but it’s especially prominent in this episode.

Even though the final episode is incredibly personal; Llewellyn manages to remind you that you’re actually listening to a story that’s set in the Doctor Who universe(s) by mentioning a war a planet had with the Sycorax, last seen in The Christmas Invasion and will be soon heard from again in Harvest of the Sycorax, part of July’s Classic Doctors, New Monsters box set from Big Finish.

A certain character from the character comes and crashes the party rather literally. I won’t say who as I don’t want to spoil it for you; but boy is this person/thing much more powerful than I think anybody in the story anticipated. You know it’s bad when the Cloister Bell tolls.

Don’t you just love it when things come full circle? Well in this case, Enemy Lines come full circle in the sense that we go right back to the first episode and we see exactly what the repercussions of Romana’s actions are. But, naturally, it’s not that simple. It’s timey-wimey.

I wish I could say that the conclusion of Enemy Lines was bittersweet; but truth be told, that would be a lie. A total and utter lie. Not for the reasons you might think, but a solitary, manly tear may have been shed. Of course, with this being a Big Finish release, it doesn’t fully tie up everything; and I feel like the story of Gallifrey may have a few more chapters yet…

Overall, Gallifrey: Enemy Lines is a story all about remedying paradoxes, attempting to do the best for a whole planet who is teetering on the verge of war and political dishonesty. When you spell it out like that, it goes to show just how human this story actually is. I wouldn’t recommend that younger Whovians listen to Enemy Lines, as I feel like the majority of the plots and themes would either go over their head or potentially bore them, as there’s not many big explosions or alien invasions. If though, you like a more personal or political story; then this could well be the release for you.

 

Rating 

88%

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.

 

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