Big Finish Productions
Gallifrey: The Inquiry
|Written by||Justin Richards|
|Starring Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson and John Leeson|
|Also featuring Miles Richardson, Sean Carlsen, Andy Coleman, Lynda Bellingham, Daniel Hogarth, Trevor Littledale, Stephen Mansfield|
|Synopsis: President Romana has been called to account for her actions. But the only evidence that she has responded to a real and present danger has disappeared. To clear her good name she is dependent on the testimony of the very people who want to see her publically humiliated and her power removed.|
Defend yourself... by Joe Ford 14/6/04
Woah. Things are getting complicated. And who's surprised with Justin Richards in the writing chair? There are lots of questions to be answered. What has happened to the Timonic Fusion Device that was used to hold Gallifrey to ransom? Where is Leela's husband Andred and why does everybody assume he is dead? Is there an enemy within the Time Lord capitol itself (groan)? With the three stories so far the writers have managed to weave a complex web of intrigue and possibilities. There hasn't been storytelling on this scale in Big Finish since... well ever! The series is proving to be a breathtaking mix of heavy ideas and clever strategies, the sheer fact that it involves the Time Lords seems to be raising everybody's game and they are producing their best scripts. Certainly this is the best BF script Justin Richards has written and it's easily on par with his superb work in the BBC books.
Admittedly this story did not turn out to be what I was expecting. With the appearance of the Inquisitor on the cover and a title like The Inquiry I was expecting a Trial of the Time Lord-esque story, a story framed by scenes of the Trial of the President. This is not the case and what we get is even better. Rather than focus on the inquiry the story instead opts to leave the questions about Romana's action until the climax. It deals with her trying to find the facts of the case before they are used against her, a race against time to clear quite a few names.
Briefly the story concerns the efforts of Romana and company preventing the destruction of the Matrix by a bomb hidden in its works. It appears that it is possible that a Timonic Fusion Device was activated in the past, a weapon built by the Time Lords and tested. There is just one problem with this information the Matrix reveals... it never happened. Braxiatel prevented the test ever taking place, so it appears as though the Matrix is lying. But the Matrix never lies does it... and when they try and get in there to discover the proof the clock starts ticking for a bomb that could destroy the repository of knowledge forever...
It is another strong story with a dramatic idea at its core. The Matrix has always been treated as a fantastic device; all the brain cells of the dead Time Lords jumbled together to record present events and predict future ones. Imagine the loss to the Time Lords should the bomb explode, would they lose their advantage in the temporal power stakes?
But Romana has troubles of her own to deal with as well. Since she called the bluff of the Free Time organisation in Weapon of Choice and suspected their threat of a Timonic Fusion Device was a hoax she has been called to take account for her militaristic actions against the Monan Host and Gryben. Why did she order the battle TARDISes to surround the planet if she suspected there was no such device? Were these the actions of a wise ruler?
I love a story with lots of troubles to solve and Richards sets about solving them with brisk efficiency. Not only does he answer all of the above questions but he remembers to tell a good story in the bargain with lots of suspense and characterisation that has come to typify these Gallifrey audios.
At times this has the feel of a bloody good episode of Alias. If any of you have ever watched the show you will no it is a cracking blend of action and espionage. Its key elements, betrayal and deceit are vital to The Inquiry's success, every character is put under the microscope and given a possible motive for plotting the downfall of the President. Politics raise their ugly heads and it appears that Gallifrey is as corrupt as it ever was and a feeling of unease exists throughout. I found myself suspecting even the least likely of characters as the plot weaved through them all to point the finger.
Imaginative storytelling should be a given in Doctor Who, a series that can explore any subject but recent years have found Big Finish wanting. So it brings me great joy to inform you they have recovered their wits with this mini-series, the resolution to The Inquiry (like Square One) is entirely unexpected but very clever, almost a disappointment until you realise how each of the three story has been inextricably linked to lead to this climatic point. And there are still answers to find...
Miles Richardson is a quality performer and it is great to see him taking such a large role in the action. Braxiatel is Richards' own creation so it makes sense that he should shine under his pen; he brilliantly sets up his role in the Benny series here and provides a gorgeous kiss to the past in City of Death. While I am still not entirely sure of the man's motives (no matter how much he convinces he is on the President's side Richardson still plays as though he has something to hide...), he is the star of the show, ruthless and cunning and much more humane than you would expect.
Leela takes a back seat as this is Romana's story and her struggle to prevent the blackening of her name provides her a real excuse to get angry and demanding. Much like Colin Baker in the Trial scenes Lalla Ward has never been better than when she is passionately defending herself. Her presence in these audios is very welcome and I truly hope we see more of her soon, there is gravity to her performance that sucks you in.
Add to all this Gary Russell's dramatic direction that proves he really has his heart in this project and an urgent "to be concluded" final scene this overall package could well be the best Gallifrey CD yet. It would be, if the others hadn't been just as good.
Quality the likes of which we haven't seen for years.
A Review by Jamas Enright 12/4/05
I have to say (and I know most people won't want me to): she's back, and it's about crime! Yes, that's right, Lynda Bellingham reprises her role as Inquisitor, although she's given the rather daft name of Darkel. However, if I recall The Trial of a Time Lord), her character was pretty much that of a judge. For some reason, here her character is more that of a prosecutor, and Braxiatel is the one officiating and passing judgement. Eh? Did neither writer Justin Richards nor director Gary Russell see anything odd about this? (Apparently not.)
Anyway, this story follows on directly from the events in Weapon of Choice, and we finally learn the truth of some events. Although 'truth' is somewhat debatable as time paradoxes come into play. There are a few problems with this story, and I'm not sure if it's typical episode three problems, but a lot of this story comes across as pointless. Some moments are built up, then completely undercut for no apparent reason (hear, for example, the K9/power subplot).
Speaking of K9, he has an even more powerful plot device role in this story than ever (and that's saying something). He's suddenly able to eavesdrop on conversations and access classified records with barely a wag of his tail. And it's not even as if some of the plot points are particularly hard to guess, although we can finally place the Braxiatel timeline (although it's a very odd placement).
I haven't mentioned the inquiry in the above events, and there's a reason for that. The audio, despite the title, doesn't mention it much either. Not that there's really a lot of Romana in this either, the focus more on what Braxiatel and others did. Leela is also sidelined, although she gets to progress the Andred arc further.
Lynda Bellingham doesn't get to feature too much, not surprising considering what I've said above. Daniel Hogarth finally gets to play someone more normal (for whatever that means), taking the role of Time Lord Glower. The Archivist is played by Trevor Littledale, who last appeared in Weapon of Choice. Now, I'm all for Big Finish re-using actors in other roles (see, for example, Daniel Hogarth), but at least try to distinguish their roles a little. Trevor Littledale's two performances sound so similar that one is led to believe that there's a Time Lord who is Archivist by day and Outsider by night!
The Inquiry is mis-named and a standard middle-of-the-arc story. Whether that's a good thing or not I hardly like to say...