Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Time In Office
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September has been another great month for Doctor Who, with Big Finish releasing a whole host of stories; the sixth series of Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor adventures ended with The Thief Who Stole Time (check out our review here), we had new Second Doctor stories with the release of the latest 'The early Adventures' The Night Witches, more adventures with Big Finish companion Bernice Summerfield and another short trips A Heart on Both Sides with Sarah Sutton's Nyssa. And after all that, we've had two great releases in the Doctor Who main range two; another Seventh Doctor adventure in The Silurian Candidate (check out our review here) and Peter Davison back as the Fifth Doctor in Time In Office.
This is a particularly special release for Doctor Who fans; not only does it feature Janet Fielding as Tegan, but it also unites her and the Fifth Doctor with former companion Leela (Louise Jameson) in a story that serves as a sequel to The Five Doctors and gives audiences four individual, but interconnected, Gallifrey-based stories.
Time In office, written by Eddie Robson and directed by Helen Goldwyn, has been released on digital audio and CD. It's available for Big Finish customers now and goes on general release on the 31st October. Here's the synopsis...
"The Doctor's adventures in time and space are over. The Time Lords have recalled him to Gallifrey – but what he faces on his home planet is worse than any trial. Following the disappearance of President Borusa, the High Council condemned him to the highest office - and he can't evade his responsibilities a nanosecond longer...So all hail the Lord High President! All hail President Doctor!
Rassilon save him. This time, there's really no escape."
My son Ben, the biggest Doctor Who fan this side of Gallifrey, will be joining me again to the review this latest release. Spoilers of course, if you haven't listened to it yet...
Baz Greenland (aged 36)
Time In Office is simply superb and one of my favourite (in not the favourite) Big Finish Doctor Who release this year. While still following the standard twenty-five minute, four part formula, the scale of the narrative, designed as interconnected episodes rather than one single story, make it feel like one of the bigger box set releases. Not only does it serves as a very strong sequel to 25th anniversary TV special The Five Doctors, it has a lot of fun exploring the politics and culture of Gallifrey (with plenty of nice odds to the climate of the 21st century too), while also being a whole lot of fun. And the trio of the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Leela is superb too.
To say the first story is the weakest is too harsh. It's a great scene-setting piece that sees the Doctor and Tegan recalled to Gallifrey, sans Turlogh, placing it nicely mid Frontios. Reunited there with Leela, we see the true impact of what President Borusa did, pitting the various Doctors in the death zone. The talk of unravelling his controversial policies for years is a rather 'on the nose' to how many are probably feeling now (post Trump / May...take your pick). But it works, not only because we see the chaos it has caused in the Time Lord elite, but also in the lower classes. Starting with the call in talk show at the beginning, we see a side to Gallifrey rarely explored in the TV series and it adds some well-deserved depth to this society.
But it's not all political commentary in part one (AKA Period of Adjustment). While the reunion with Leela is welcome and heartfelt, it's the humour that wins through, from the Doctor forced into an inauguration ceremony without a moment to think, bustled along by Sheri-An Davis' primary aide Castellan Lowri, to the Tegan problem as she is refused citizenship (another sly political dig). I loved Leela's suggestion that she marry President Doctor (there's mileage for a whole story there alone), but making her a human ambassador was a fun twist too, something which she quickly takes advantage in the subsequent stories.
If part one is centred about the proclamation of the new Timelord President, then part two (AKA Past Indiscretions) deals with the Doctor's first state visit. Here writer Eddie Robson really gets to make great use of the audio premise with an omnipotent alien race who's power is fuelled by the worship of them by other aliens. There's a great little story too for Leela who encountered one of these aliens during her travels with the Fourth Doctor in Feudal Japan, killing the brother of the alien head of state. Tegan too has fun in her new role, saving the day in the military TARDIS, which is a grand an imposing idea in itself. I would have also have loved to have seen Leela fashion the motorised lawn mower into a tank, but alas, it was not to be,
The third part (History Repeating) is perhaps the most fun, as the Doctor finally kicks off his legislative plans to broaden the criteria for Gallifreyans becoming Timelords. There's a great debate about elitism in there, with one young Gallifreyan protesting the class system and the sheer snobbery of characters like Julie Teal's Chancellor Vorena demanding purity. We even get a knowing, post modern twist as young Timelord Scandrius (Tim Sutton) steals a TARDIS and kidnaps Tegan as his companion, his goal to aspire to be the Doctor who has himself become part of the establishment. There is also some well-needed peril as Scandrius accidentally threatens to destroy all life on Gallifrey when his TARDIS plummets back into the past and almost wipes out all life on the planet, forcing the Doctor to pick up a sporty little TARDIS number and pursue him to save the day.
Finally, part four (Architect of Destruction) delves into the public face of the presidency as the Doctor, Tegan and Leela are shown around the new Gallifreyan capitol building. There's a fun exploration of Timelord technology again, not least in the reveal that the entire building is an immense TARDIS designed by Vorena to give the Doctor the ultimate power to travel through time and impose order on anyone trying to take advantage of lesser races. Naturally, the Doctor refuses and there's a rather cruel fate to Vorena as she plays her hand too far and finds herself trapped in a time loop forever. The 'haunted house' premise is well done but the resolution is perhaps a little too quick, the Doctor escaping Gallifrey with Tegan (Leela chooses to remain behind) after actually embracing the opportunity for change his role has given him.
In fact, if there's any issue with Time In Office, it's that it's over too quick. I would have been happy with ten interlinked parts, each exploring different aspects of the Fifth Doctor's brief tenure as Timelord President. Still, what we've had is a true delight and is a great addition to the Doctor Who range for Big Finish. I just hope we can get a sequel to this some day...
Ben Greenland (aged 11)...
Time in office is honestly the best Big Finish release ever. Can any others beat it? (I am looking at you, 10th Doctor adventures vol 2) Here are my reviews of each part.
Period of Adjustment
I like how at the beginning they touched on the idea of different gender time lords. Obviously that wouldn't even be possible before 2014. This story is set during Frontios, but they throw us into it straight away. When Leela calls the TARDIS, the Doctor doesn't seem to surprised to see her, and wonders if she wanted a chat! I understand the reluctance of the Doctor to become president. Leela's suggestion for a marriage between the Doctor and Tegan is hilarious. By the end of the episode, all hail president Doctor. And Ambassador Tegan ...
You can tell time has passed, as we join them as they are off to meet an ambassador of a species. The Doctor and Leela have already met them though. The title becomes clear when they are about to be killed, while Tegan gets to play the hero and save everyone.
WARNING! THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS OF THE TIME LORD SCANDRIUS ARE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
Part one sees the Doctor makes a policy for a new academy and this part tells the tale of that policy's results. The Doctor visits with Leela, Castellan Lowri and a student who floods the whole place. Meanwhile a time lord called Scandrius kidnaps Tegan and plays the role of the Doctor. Although technically, landing on a planet made of toothpaste and nearly killing them by wiping out all life on Gallifrey, they remain unscathed. Told you it was a stupid action.
Architect of Destruction
It was interesting to see how they created a living TARDIS to give it to the Doctor. As the capitol awakens, the Doctor and co. became trapped and I wondered if Leela was right and the Doctor would take the TARDIS and save the universe. When the Doctor admits he bluffed, Vorena is destroyed as the capitol crumbles. There was a nice hint to the Time War when the Doctor said that if Gallifrey was in huge huge danger they would have to call him back...
Overall Time in Office was a huge hit. The second half was more interesting but it felt like a story worthy of the highest praise of the High Council of Gallifrey. Louise Jameson was as good as ever and it was nice to see Leela interact with a new Doctor. I'm looking forward to Behemoth next, which is apparently going to be a pure historical...
Between track two and three we are given the Time in Office music suite, full of pomp and grandeur, that truly captures the awe and majesty of Gallifrey...
At the end of the audio, we're also given a trailer for the next entry in the Big Finish Doctor Who main range, The Behemoth, starring Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor in what is rumoured to be a pure historical adventure.
Finally the interviews with the cast and crew an informative and entertaining as ever; there's still a great rapport between Peter Davison and Janet Fielding after all these years and Louise Jameson gets to enjoy playing off a different Doctor. Director Helen Goldwyn in particular is very insightful and obviously passionate about her work, making these interviews just as engaging as the story itself.
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Last updated: 29/09/2017 08:01:03