Big Finish Productions
Gallifrey: Lies

Written by Gary Russell Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2005

Starring Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson, John Leeson and Mary Tamm

Synopsis: Deep below the Capitol, Leela disturbs a malevolent power. Something from the Dark Days of Ancient Gallifrey. Something that wants to be reborn and will use any and every means that is at hand. Including the past of Gallifrey's incumbant President…


Madness! by Joe Ford 19/6/05

Well that is one of them over and done with at least. When I heard Gary Russell would be writing an audio and a book this year I was extremely apprehensive. After all he has been responsible for penning some of the worst material to have ever spawn from Doctor Who, works with the reputation of Invasion of the Cat People, He Jests at Scars and Zagreus. On the plus side with the release of Lies we have survived one relatively intact.

Gallifrey is the perfect avenue for Gary to write for Doctor Who considering his obsession with past elements of the show; indeed I was quite surprised he has not turned up on the upcoming release schedules earlier. The vomit of continuity is already there in the core elements of the series so he does not have to create them himself (ala Zagreus/He Jests at Scars). You've got Romana (I and II in this story), Leela, Andred, Braxiatel, two versions of K.9., the Inquisitor and plenty of excuses for mentions of the Doctor and these various ex companions travels with him. When is Craig Hinton going to turn up on the series... he is the next logical step!

I was extremely pleased with the first series of Gallifrey, particularly with the depth and understanding they manages to give the infernal planet. The cast was very talent with some of the best characters from the TV series coming together and creating a fascinating ensemble cast. Add in some ingenious use of time travel, some clever plotting and gradually improving production values this was clearly the first Big Finish spinoff that deserved a second shot. Imagine my surprise when I heard of the second six part series with all the cast returning to their roles? Sheer delight!

On the evidence of this release I should imagine the second series will be as much of hit as the first. This is not because Gary Russell has written a masterpiece that blows your socks off... far from it; I fully expect this to be the weakest of the season but if even his amateurish scribblings cannot bring down a series I can well imagine it is practically writer-proof.

The mix of characters is wonderful with Inquisitor Darkel and Braxiatel getting a far bigger slice of the action than last year. Season one set up all these fascinating characters (Romana admires Leela, Leela mistrusts the Time Lords, Braxiatel is devoted to Romana, Narvin wants to depose Romana, Andred has betrayed Leela and created a rift between them, Darkel wants to see an end to Romana's benevolent reign) and it looks like season two will see them bear some dramatic fruit. Gary basically uses his season opener to re-introduce us to all the characters, remind us what happened last year and allow us to see where they all are now and where their allegiances lie. As such it feels very much like a DS9 season opener except without gobsmacking dialogue, the calm before the storm you might say.

Because when all is said done about how interesting the set up of this series is, Lies is really a load of salty spunk, disgusting and indigestible. Mostly because it is totally plotless and obsessed with the past (I gave up counting the references but when mentions were made about the events of Neverland and Arc of Infinity I almost started crying) and loaded with Gary Russell written dialogue cheese.

Not only that but it contains ANOTHER of Gary's awful revisionist moments where he dips into the continuity of the series and provides the answer to one of its mysteries with his usual heavy-handedness. Not content with turning Rassilon into a one-dimensional bully with no brains at all and the TARDIS into a violent, backstabbing monster that tries to expel the Doctor he now provides the explanation for Romana's unexpected regeneration in Destiny of Daleks! And it's a real doozy! How totally crap is this... apparently some matriarchal ex-president was hiding in the Matrix waiting for someone who will fulfil her dreams of conquest by taking over her brain. Romana I apparently came into contact with this ice queen and had her mental influences shoved inside her head but Braxiatel managed to suppress it with mental blocks. However the gripping climax to The Armageddon Factor has the universe in flux for a while and Romana's close vicinity to the Key to Time's dispersal forced the mental blocks to fail and the evil ex-president attempted to take control. So Romana forces a regeneration to keep her buried. What the fuck is this? Why can't they just leave the past alone and stop screwing around with what we already know? I would rather stick with the comedy regeneration sequence actually just being Romana playing a joke on the Doctor than this rubbish! It is a pointless addition to the mythology of the series and supremely irritating. What's next? Leela did not really love Andred but stayed on Gallifrey anyway because Doc Seven paid her a visit during The Invasion of Time and told her she needed to be there for some big event at the climax of this series of Gallifrey?

However I should not blame the series for Russell's appalling script and at least it's better than He Jests at Scars, it has a beginning, a middle and an end and it is ultimately all explained well. Who cares if the answers are bleah as long as we get some?

Lies is punctuated by some top-flight performances from the best ensemble cast since the Benny audio series. Lalla Ward and Louise Jameson continue to add layers to the already brilliant Romana and Leela and they compliment each other very well, so much so I think I would rather see them paired up with each other than Tom Baker's fourth Doctor. Mary Tamm makes a surprise appearance in the story (well hardly, she is on the cover, albeit blurred beyond recognition for some bizarre reason) and it is as if she has never been away. The Romana/Romana scenes aren't as spectacular as you would imagine but Tamm acquits herself well with a clear enthusiasm for the project. I certainly would not object to a return appearance of the first Romana with a script from a superior writer. Lynda Bellingham is superb as the boo hiss villain Darkel, I foresee exciting things from her in future releases. She is like the Kai Winn of this series, deliciously mischievous and using politics as her weapon. And of course Miles Richardson excels as Braxiatel, as fulfilling a character as the Doctor himself these days and considering the state of the Doctor Who audios, sometimes far more interesting.

So there you have it, the most disappointing Gallifrey release yet despite showing great promise for the future. I am very excited about future releases but somebody please get Gary Russell away from the typewriter.