“The Inquiry”

theinquiryI’ve been busy the past couple of weeks, what with Thanksgiving and other distractions, and I’ve gotten completely hooked on Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, so I haven’t had much impetus to write. Oh, and we just watched the third season of Grimm, which has been rather disappointing: its season-long arcs have been boring and it’s cut down on what it used to do best, which are its wesen crimes.  So, I haven’t had much chance to listen to many audios or watch episodes, and in fact, I listened to “The Inquiry” about three weeks ago, so this will be a short review, about the things I remember.

Lots of spoilers.

“The Inquiry” is the third audio play in the “Gallifrey” series. At the beginning of the audio, Romana discovers that someone has planted a data bomb in the Matrix, the Time Lords’ main computer, which holds all of the data of the history of the universe and the experiences of past Time Lords. It was rigged so that anyone looking into a specific event would set off the bomb, which would destroy a large part of the Matrix. It was already ticking, so there was only a certain amount of time to figure out who had set it and what to do about it.

Romana had been investigating the Timonic Fusion Device that had been stolen and used to blackmail her in “Weapon of Choice”. It was a device that the Time Lords had tried to build (codename Project Alpha) but abandoned because it was too dangerous, so she was trying to figure out why it existed now at all, so she went to the Matrix to find out the circumstances surrounding the project’s cancellation, and that triggered the timer on the data bomb. In his subsequent investigations, Narvin discovers that Braxiatel had set the bomb. When confronted, though, Braxiatel denies that he had done so.

With Leela’s help, the three Time Lords separately investigated the event and pieced together what had happened. The final test of Project Alpha had actually occurred and destroyed a planet and civilization, and the Time Lords covered it up, and Braxiatel planted the data bomb to prevent anyone from discovering the truth. However, these events also never happened, as someone sent in droids to steal the device before it went off, and the Time Lords covered that up by claiming that they had cancelled the project at the last minute. Since the Matrix exists outside of time, it recorded the true events and had the data bomb in it. Romana and Braxiatel then return to the event, stop the droids, and allow the real history to unfold.

I found this audio to be both interesting and dull. The acting and characters were superb as usual, but since a lot of it had to do with explaining a past event in detail, it got to be more talky than I usually like. One major thing that you learn in this is that Braxiatel has been secretly buying historical artifacts from civilizations across time and the universe, to preserve them in an extensive museum called the Braxiatel Collection (first referenced in “The City of Death”). Watching these civilizations fall, he’s been doing this to preserve some of the universe, to remember them. It’s a fascinating insight into him, as he’s showing that he’s willing to break from Time Lord laws and has some similarities to his brother.

Leela also has some of her story developed in this audio. You might remember that she’s mourning the loss of her husband Andred and upset with the Time Lords because they either won’t tell her what happened to him or won’t go find out. She starts to look into the Time Lord archives, and she finds that  Andred’s data is gone and that the last person to access it is Torvald, Narvin’s right-hand man.

I am still very much enjoying “Gallifrey” (though I’m taking a detour right now to listen to “Dark Eyes”, which I’ve been assured is brilliant), and I’m really getting to love the four main characters, but this one was not as interesting as the first two. I’m still looking forward to the rest, though.

 

 

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“Square One”

squareone“Square One” is the second audio play in the first “Gallifrey” series. There’s really not much more of an introduction I can give for it here, so let’s just go to the description and discussion, shall we?

A few spoilers ahead. I’m not going to describe the whole plot.

While the Temporal Powers are responsible for overseeing time, lesser time-sensitve races want their say in the way the the universe is governed, and to work these things out, the Powers schedule a summit, where issues can be discussed and treaties can be forged. However, since the Powers, as well as the other races, really don’t trust each other all that much, they don’t want anyone, especially Gallifrey, to dominate the proceedings. So, they draw up a set of rules by which the summit must operate. The high leaders of the Powers or other races may not attend the summit, but instead must send lesser individuals to represent them. The actual proceedings are to be broadcast to the universe, but nothing outside the summit chamber may be released, so that the delegates can feel secure about meeting with other races and making treaties and alliances without the media watching. During the summit, the delegates cannot leave the planetoid, so entertainment is brought in to give them relaxation and recreation. Contact with their homeworlds would be limited. All of the security is handled by a secure network of droids, and any other computers or androids that are brought in have to be connected to the network, and any advanced circuitry disabled. The summit itself is organized by a Time Lady named Hossak.

For the Time Lords’ part, Lady President Romana sends Narvin as the Gallifreyan delegate, but she suspects that there is more going on, and she sends Leela to the planetoid with K-9, posing as an exotic dancer (Leela, not the tin dog). Arriving at the planet and settling into her role, Leela doesn’t find anything untoward, except for a very lecherous Nekkistani delegate named Flinkstab who tries to appropriate her for himself, until she finds another dancer, Lexi, dead. Though she realizes that the only person who could have done it is Flinkstab, she’s discovered with the body by the security droids and is immediately accused of the murder. And then she arrives at the planet and settles in to her new role, and when she meets Lexi, she realizes that she saw her dead. Later that night, as she’s dancing, Narvin is having a discussion with Pule, a delegate of the Unvoss, when Pule’s drink explodes and kills him, and the Time Lord is accused of the murder. And then Leela arrives as the planet and before settling into her new role, she knows that she’s living through the same day over and over, and contacts Romana to come figure out what’s happening.

The episode is an enjoyable story, with plenty of machinations and schemes to unravel. So far in this series, I am really loving how well-drawn the characters are. Narvin, who, as a more traditional Time Lord than Romana or Braxiatel, is always convinced of his superiority and is insulted to find that Romana used him to her ends. He rants and sputters at her about it, and she calmly shows him how she’s made him look better, not worse, for the role he played. Romana and Leela two strong women, completely opposites of each other but equally capable. Leela is not clever, but she sees clearly where others do not and is steadfastly moral and always brave. Romana is savvy and not blinded by the grandeur of being a Time Lady, and though she knows that her people don’t agree with her on a lot of things, she’s strong enough to stand against them when she needs to. And, having had more contact with other civilizations than most of the Time Lords have had, she’s more able to understand and predict the other Temporal Powers’ attitudes and actions.

I think one of the things that really appeals to me about these “Gallifrey” audios is that the audience is not being persuaded to think that the Time Lords are right or good. Since the story is being told from the Time Lords’ view, we have a predilection for thinking so, but as things progress, we start to see how petty and manipulative they are, and some of their goals are not necessarily good for anyone but themselves. This allows for a deeper exploration into the Temporal Powers, and makes for far more satisfying political storylines.

I’m very happy so far: I was eager to start listening to this series, and after two episodes, I’m still excited to hear more. I will say that audios take a lot of energy and concentration to listen to, because there aren’t any visual effects to distract you, so there are no pauses and the 1.5 hours of a play is thick with important dialogue, so I can’t really listen to more than one every couple of days, but I’m definitely loving them when I can.

“Weapon of Choice”

Gallifrey_Weapon_Of_Choice“Weapon of Choice” is the first in the Gallifrey range of Big Finish audios. I don’t know if it’s significant or not, but the Gallifrey range does not bear the name Doctor Who, possibly because the Doctor isn’t a main character in this line (perhaps he appears sometimes, but I’m not going to comment on that now). The series, as far as I know, is set mainly on Gallifrey (surprise!) and is centered around Lord President Romana and the politics of the High Council. I’ve been looking forward to listening to his range for a good two to three months now, and I finally received the CDs for the first three series in the mail (they weren’t available for download), and well, here we go!

Spoilers, of course, though more about the general series itself than the episode.

There’s a bit of backstory that comes out in the episode that you need to know. In order to oversee time, the Time Lords form a coalition called the Temporal Powers between them and three other time-sensitive races, whose names I can’t remember except for the Monans. As you can probably expect, there’s a lot of political maneuvering between the races, as each has its own goals and schemes, but the big point is that the Time Lords aren’t the only ones watching over the universe anymore. One of the things that the coalition did was establish a planet where lesser races were sent if they attempted unauthorized time travel. (Not the whole race, just the individuals who were involved.) The planet’s name is Gryben, and when the coalition investigates the offending people’s case, if the people do not agree to abandon their pursuit of time travel, they are confined to Gryben for the rest of their lives. Thus, Gryben is a rather lawless place, full of multiple species just trying to survive. Among those people, a group of dissidents called Free Time have arisen, trying to rebel against the Time Lords and their allies to obtain the right to use time as they want.

At the beginning of the episode, a Free Time dissident steals an experimental weapon called a Timonic Fusion Device and takes it to Gryben. This was a device that the Time Lords had once tried to build but found that it was too dangerous and unstable and had abandoned it, and they had thought that all knowledge of it had been eradicated, but obviously not. The other Temporal Powers don’t trust the Time Lords, that their intentions were noble (after all, the only way anyone could have built one now would be if the Time Lords were behind it, right?), and Romana has to get the weapon back. She sends a CIA agent named Torvald, Leela, and K9 to the surface of Gryben to infiltrate the Free Time movement, and there they find an even more sinister plot hatching.

The story itself was interesting and compelling, but what really made the episode was that it set up Gallifrey and its politics. Personally, I don’t know much about the Time Lords other than what I’ve seen in the TV show, but there’s a huge history and storyline going on there, and it is fascinating learning about it. So here’s a bit of the characters and setup.

The thing about the Time Lords as we’ve seen in the TV show and audios is that they’re imperious, conservative, and so absolutely sure they’re doing the right thing. They do have a reason to be this way, of course, since it was revealed in “Zagreus” that Rassilon decided what the future until the end of the universe should be, and so their defense and maintenance of the Web of Time boils down to making sure that what Rassilon chose is what happens. They’re used to being the overlords of the universe and expect that everyone will accede to them. With this coalition of Temporal Powers, though, they’ve ceded some of their power to other races, and now they have to work together with them.

Romana is at the center of this. She’s a strong, clever Time Lady, but it’s very obvious that she’s learned from the Doctor to see things from other angles and to consider other viewpoints, to care about things other than the rules that Rassilon laid down and the glory and power of the Time Lords. As Lord President, she walks a fine line of setting Time Lord policy while also trying to change Time Lord attitudes towards what she feels is a better path. She’s a fascinating character, because she doesn’t wholeheartedly embrace the Doctor’s ideals (and that’s a good thing, by the way: the Doctor is as insane as the Master, by Time Lord standards [and to be honest, by human standards as well], and his beliefs and motivations are not what Time Lord policy should be based on), but she definitely incorporates some of his viewpoint into hers while maintaining her own steely personality and values.

Then there’s Coordinator Narvin. He’s the head of the CIA (Celestial Intervention Agency), which is a secretive organization dedicated to preserving the Web of Time at pretty much any cost. They do the things that the Time Lords can’t be seen to do, due to their non-intervention policy. Narvin advises Romana, but he is a straightforward action type, often unable to grasp the political maneuvering that surrounds the Lord President and the Temporal Powers.

Cardinal Braxiatel rounds out Romana’s inner circle. From the audio itself, you can tell that he’s a wise Time Lord, someone who knows what’s going on throughout Time Lord society, and has extensive knowledge of history. An interesting tidbit that is not mentioned in the audio (but you would know if you were familiar with other audios, particularly the Bernice Summerfield line) is that Braxiatel is the Doctor’s older brother, and has always been fascinated with exploring the universe and investigating history, though he approached the idea very differently from his younger brother. Romana relies on him for advice, as she knows that he’s got his fingers everywhere (like Petyr Baelish in A Song of Fire and Ice, though not greedy or amoral).

Lastly, we have Leela, the Sevateem human and former companion of the Doctor who left him and remained on Gallifrey to marry the Time Lord Andred. In this episode, Leela is trying to find her path after Andred vanished without a trace. She interpreted the Time Lords’ claim that they didn’t know what happened to him as a lie and began to distrust them. Romana convinces her to go on this mission for them, and afterward, became Romana’s bodyguard. She provides a straightforward, honest, and blunt foil to the maneuverings of the Time Lords.

With these four characters driving Gallifreyan politics and relations with the other Temporal Powers, the Gallifrey range holds quite a bit of promise of drama and adventure that’s far different from the regular Doctor Who fare, and I’m very much looking forward to all of this storyline.