Big Finish Productions
Gallifrey: A Blind Eye
|Written by||Alan Barnes|
|Starring Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson and John Leeson|
|Also featuring Miles Richardson, Sean Carlsen, Andy Coleman, Hugo Myatt, India Fisher, Susan Engel, David Warwick, Daniel Hogarth|
|Synopsis: Still searching for the facts about the Gryben debacle, President Romana makes a deal with the devil. So begins a chain of consequence that can only end in tragedy for the passengers aboard the Vienna to Calais Transcontinental Express, the woman called Leela included. By journey's end, the truth will out but at what cost to Romana and Leela? To Gallifrey's empire, even?|
Big up Romana! by Joe Ford 16/6/04
I really, really wanted to like this CD. After all every one of the Gallifrey series has been a winner, a natural extension of the story that began in Weapon of Choice, a powerful drama in its own right and an acting showcase for Louise Jameson and Lalla Ward. Fortunately (or should I say unfortunately) the series finale is every bit as good as the others, perhaps even more so and manages to bring the story to an intimate AND epic conclusion (unfortunately, because this may be the last we see of this unique series and it would be a lot easier to say goodbye if it had just been crap).
Twists. I love 'em. Especially the ones that manage to take a story you have been reading/watching/listening and transform that story into something else. Remember Invasion of Time episode four when the Sontarans turned out to be behind everything after all. Or when Sabbath was revealed at the end of Anachrophobia, playing about with the timelines willy-nilly? How about in Sometime Never... when the skel... ahh but that would be telling... you get the picture though. Sometimes when a story is less than enthralling (I refer you again to The Invasion of Time) a good twist can make you sit and pay attention in a way you haven't been for a while. There is a brilliant twist at the end of A Blind Eye that ties away one hanging plot thread in the most dramatic of fashions. So much so I didn't care much about the gripping plot unfolding around but merely wanted to discover more about this cleverly integrated twist. I already have a heavy desire to re-listen to the entire series through its sheer quality but this extended character arc and built in shock factor will make that subsequent listen a very rewarding one.
Besides this A Blind Eye is another confident piece that pulls together the main players in the Gallifrey series (Romana, Leela, Toravald, Narvin although surprisingly not Braxiatel) with the added bonus of two characters, one of which caused great amusement in Weapon of Choice (Arkadian, the corrupt dealer of... well just about anything) and one who will be a huge bonus to those who follow the Doctor Who series avidly (Cissy Pollard, sister of Charley the 8th Doctor's companion). Plant them all in another (this time unusual, a locomotive in the 1930's) non-Gallifrey setting (this series only setting one of its four in the planet, may account for its success) with more meddling with time and you have another recipe that promises success. And you also have a reviewer who promises to not use brackets again in this review.
Dealing with each character in turn, such as they deserve...
Romana, President of Gallifrey and in constant threat of being overthrown, blasted into alternative dead end timelines and spoken to rudely (oo-er!). If you were looking at a reason why this series has rocked then look no further than the impressive Lalla Ward, who unlike her ex husband has stayed in touch with the series and continued to make her character as cherished as she was in the 70's. Her rich, aristocratic voice and formidable personality makes Romana a character you cannot ignore. She makes every scene an important one and if anyone is not paying attention to her deliberations and wishes she will make you listen! Some have commented that she is too icy and distant in this role but it is all blown out of proportion (usually by me) as usual, there are some sweet scenes with Leela, some hilarious bitch fights with Narvin and an extremely memorable opening where she treats Arkadian with all the respect of a dormouse that has run off with the last slab of cheese when she was just about to have it on some crackers. I especially enjoyed when she pulled her robes up in the last act and demanded all this tinkering with time HAD TO STOP. At that point I can't think of anyone scarier in the entire Doctor Who series.
Leela, savage of the Sevateem and anchor for the series. People have questioned the use of Leela in these audios but I feel she is essential for their survival, she provides an alien presence, a less than pleasant opinion of the Time Lords and their machinations. I love how unnecessary she appears in this story, there merely to provide a bodyguard for Cissy but then the story takes a huge lurch for the unexpected and she turns out to be the sting in the tale. Watch this space folks, it'll blow you away...
India Fisher's plumy accent is unmistakable and when I first heard her I thought they might be cleverly trying to tie in Gallifrey with Neverland/Zagreus. Instead writer Alan Barnes takes a far less predictable route and takes us on a journey to meet Cissy, her sister, an arrogant, selfish and rude little Nazi who is only out for number one. What a terrific character, so outwardly horrible and demanding and yet just a frightened little girl when things get dangerous. It is astonishing how Barnes initially makes you like this character and manages to twist your perceptions throughout. By the end you will be routing for the final, heartbreaking scene, given Cissy's allegiances and actions towards the end of the story. If only Charley knew...
Gotta love Arkadian, not quite the Glitz I thought him to be as he clearly is willing to stoop a bit lower and it uncertain whether his actions were for good or bad in this story. I like that, this bouncy, lovable guy who brilliantly winds up Romana throughout appears to be leading the President up the right path but with the ambiguous final scene between them leaves a huge question mark over his loyalties. Was he responsible for the near catastrophe in Weapon of Choice...?
Unfairly there are lots of questions like this left hanging in A Blind Eye and a new series should be commissioned just to tie them up. I'm not getting my hopes up, after all we saw nothing of Sarah Jane and her motley crew again did we and they were beginning to show a lot of promise.
A Blind Eye again proves that dramas involving Gallifrey can be successful if only you take a step away from all the mythic foundations of the planet and concentrate on the here and now. Setting this story in a 1930's locomotive gives this story a strong individual feel, the juxtaposition of having galactic superpowers playing out their politics on an antiquated train thousands of years ago is just weird enough to actually work. Indeed, a clever time travel twist in the middle of the story opens out the story to considerably more than just one train as a location and splits up the characters so they can follow their own stories.
Gary Russell has surpassed himself with this series, easily the best mini-series he has created yet. The idea of a Gallifrey series may have left me cowering under my desk until it went away but his execution of those ideas leaves me breathless with what other possible spin offs he could achieve. The direction and post-production improved with each release, where things may have seemed talky and slow in Weapon of Choice, events were dramatic and exciting in A Blind Eye with Square One and The Inquiry bursting with clever ideas and intriguing twists in between. The series can be taken as a whole or listened to individually although I would recommend the former (wait if you like because Big Finish have a habit of selling off their mini-series cheap after about eight months!!!) as there are some lingering plot threads that give the series a strong sense of unity.
Clearly it is not fun to be President of Gallifrey but it is immense fun to watch Romana trying to keep the universe in check. With friends like K.9. and Leela and Braxiatel they have colourful adventures. And with monsters like Narvin and Torvald to fight against it is never a dull place. Let's hope their adventures continue, this is the best Big Finish have been in yonks.
A Review by Jamas Enright 15/4/05
The last story in this current run is A Blind Eye, and I think I'd like to turn a blind eye to this story. (Not to mention that a really aggravating aspect of this audio is the constant references people make to other people 'turning a blind eye' to this, that and everything else! We get the point already, please stop ramming it down our throats!)
This is a very depressing story on many levels, not the least of them the last ten-to-twenty minutes. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be some kind of series cliffhanger, but I doubt people will be eagerly clamouring for the next story if they are anything like this one!
The events in this story involve a train, a young woman, and the train again. The woman is one Cecilia Pollard, sister to the well known Charley, so it's not surprising the author is Alan Barnes (although I'm not sure which way the causal link flows). She gets some... interesting personality traits, although I have to say it's nice seeing the writer taking a chance with writing a character like this. Certainly wouldn't be something you could get away with trying with her sister.
Cecilia is the pawn of Arkadian, and I was pleasantly surprised when he turned up again (yes, he's mentioned on the blurb so I'm not revealing anything, but I don't read the blurbs. If you want to remain completely in the dark when you hear these audios, why are you reading this review?). This story is wrapping up events from Weapon of Choice and The Inquiry, but I wasn't expecting his role to be so involved. Still, a nice piece of interweaving of characters.
In a casting choice that on one hand is obvious and the other hand baffling in its lack of real reason, Cecilia is played by India Fisher (yes, Charley of the Paul McGann audios). In many ways Cecilia is played exactly as Charley, and it's only those particular character traits that enables the listener to tell them apart (sort of like two characters being differentiated only one saying "I'm evil!" every few minutes). Hugo Myatt returns as Arkadian, still in Stratford Jones mode. Susan Engel plays Ms Joy (Joy who?), no stranger to playing weird women in Doctor Who as she was last seen wearing a cloak of feathers in The Stones of Blood. David Warwick plays a character I don't want to talk about too much, but just want to say that I was ahead of the story when certain revelations happened, and there are some amazing conceits employed. (And, yes, Daniel Hogarth turns up in Minor Role #17.)
Despite how depressing A Blind Eye is (and the ending is very depressing), I have to confess to a certain level of curiosity as to how events will turn out. So, I guess, that's what really counts, and I'll be tuning in for the next series of Gallifrey...
As a whole, as I've said time and again, Square One stands out a very much an independent story, and could easily serve as a template for what these stories could be. The rest of the 'season' is a political thriller with time paradoxes thrown in to show how that Time Lords are involved. A common thread throughout these stories are how Romana is a very different President and how everyone disagrees with how she presides (although everyone is, admittedly, only a few people due to Big Finish audios not exactly casting thousands). This leads to an easy story of conflicts, but can't really be considered challenging and stretching in terms of character development. Hopefully, the next series will try a few different story ideas and show off the full potential of the Gallifrey series.