“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.