Written By David Llewellyn, Una McCormack, Lisa McMullin, Matt Fitton
Directed By Scott Handcock
Executive Producer Jason Haigh-Ellery Nicholas Briggs
Released by Big Finish - March 2019
The second volume of Gallifrey: Time War picks up not long after the previous set left off, with Romana grasping to keep some control of the Celestial Intervention Agency as the newly resurrected Rassilon consolidates his control of Gallifrey and the Time Lords as President Eternal, and with a war as an excuse, it is increasingly easy for him to take that control.
The opening episode (Havoc) is something of a slow start for the set. Not that it is bad, but it is all about set up rather than building up to a big climax. It is mostly just setting the stage for this new era of Gallifrey, with a resurrected power hungry and angry Rassilon at the top of the pack. Romana is acquitted for treason at the beginning of the story, but her troubles in this new environment are just beginning. And really, if you go back years in the Big Finish canon, she only has herself to blame. Back when the Eighth Doctor adventures with Charley were the closest thing the franchise had to new performed stories, Romana was involved with a plot by Rassilon attempting to resurrect himself and perform some evil deeds, and she tried to keep that under wraps. Now she is stuck having to bow to this bitter old nut as he seizes control of the society he helped found.
In the second episode, Partisans, Romana discovers that there is a planet that will one day be of strategic importance to the war against the Daleks, but they need to go back centuries during that planet's own war, in order to make sure the outcome is one that benefits Gallifrey. There are two possible outcomes, total destruction of all life if one faction wins, or let the other faction win with survivors. But the War Council also gets involved, and their tact doesn't gel with Romana's plan...and is closer in style to a genocide. Ultimately, Narvin finds another way, but even his way feels dire. He freezes the planet, sealing them indefinitely before their own destruction. The consequences of the Time War are already taking hold, and it is still early days.
Collateral, the third episode, picks up this thread with the time seal being broken, and someone calling through. With the seal broken, their war rages on, and an alien race called the Sythes are feeding on the planet's resources, and that could potentially help the Daleks out. A woman named Nyla contacts Gallifrey, but she also sends out a message warning the Universe to stop the Time Lords. Rassilon decides to obliterate the planet from Time itself and keep the Daleks from gaining any benefit...but Romana is determined to keep that from happening. Rassillon achieves his end goal, but not before their warning about the Time Lords gets out there, and the Sicari are on their way.
The boxset wraps up with Assassins, which has this race called the Sicari attempting to infiltrate Gallifrey and take out Rassilon. The Sicari seem to be a race created by the Time War itself, with weaponry that is Time Lord in origin, though quite modified. The story culminates with Romana attempting to assist them in taking out Rassilon, as she can see he is on the road to totalitarianism and very likely the ruin of Gallifrey. Ultimately, her attempt fails, and Rassilon not only survives the attack, but is then able to use this as the perfect way to get Romana out of his hair. She is set for execution, but is given the chance to escape from a Rassilon sycophant who doesn't want her becoming a martyr. She and Narvin are put into an old TARDIS with it's course headed into the heart of the Time War...they may seem doomed, but Romana is determined to get out of this scrape and find Leela, who has been lost since the first boxset.
Overall, I really liked this set. Not really a bad episode in the bunch. The first Gallifrey: Time War set was more scattershot in focus really. Now I liked that set, but it was all about the various things that lead to the war truly beginning and, ultimately, the resurrection of Rassilon. This set feels more focused, and instead of four distinct stories leading to the same end goal, this time it feels like one long story built episode by episode. Both are quite good, but I think I give an edge to the second set in terms of overall quality. If you, like me, have enjoyed Big Finish's foray into the Time War, then this set is another winner.
Filters: Gallifrey Big Finish Audio Time War 2