11 March 2015

Gallifrey: Intervention Earth

Many people aspire to try new things as part of their New Year's Resolutions. I did much the same, in a smaller way. Come January, I pre-ordered both this and Dark Shadows' Bloodlust, each from series I'd never heard before. As an introduction to Gallifrey, this performs pretty well. From Intervention Earth, it seems to be an adventure series akin to parent programme Doctor Who with a political spin. 

Ranging from Gallifrey to Earth and (far) beyond, Intervention Earth certainly isn't small-scale. That applies to the scope of storytelling too as well as the settings; many of the characters are taken far outside their comfort zones, friends and foes alike. We begin with political machinations in the Gallifreyan Capitol, as the Adherents of Ohm begin to pull the rug out from beneath the High Council's feet. Although it's a relatively leisurely start compared to what comes later, it eases me as a new listener into this world. 

There's many intriguing characters in Intervention Earth, and some satisfying twists regarding their identity - in one case especially. After two episodes, we get a complete twist as the action moves first to Earth, then Omega's dimension. The characters that Narvin meets on his hunt for Ace are a particularly enjoyable pair, and it's fitting for this epic, cinematic style of tale just how far we travel. In fact, this is quite reminiscent of modern Bond films in structure. And in my books, that's a very good thing indeed.

Having missed out of Gallifrey Series 6 and Luna Romana, this is my first experience of Juliet Landau's interpretation of Romana, and I must say she's excellent. Landau exhibits all the characteristics of the two previous incarnations we know of whilst making the Time Lady completely her own. I certainly wouldn't want to cross this President! The creation of this future incarnation poses an interesting prospect now that Gallifrey has growing significance in telly Doctor Who. We could in theory get new adventures for Romana on audio and TV, if the powers that be so wished - as with Jemma Redgrave in the newly-announced UNIT: The New Series. Series mainstay Narvin, voiced by Sean Carlsen, is also enjoyable. I doubted he would be a villain, but Carlsen gives it just enough edginess that you're not quite sure.

This very much feels like the beginning of a new era though. The political dealings I've been lead to believe Gallifrey concerns itself with over the years are slowly phased out across the first half of the story, leading to stories set further from home. Each character has their own flaws and concerns independent of the main plot, making them feel more like the rounded personalities they ought to be. And of course, come the end of Part Four, all of our leads have a rather large, more immediate problem to resolve. And as for whose TARDIS Romana finds herself taken to...

As well as making this a pleasing overall narrative, writers Scott Handcock and David Llewellyn pepper their script full of lovely lines and character quirks. I already feel at home in this range, and when this story is continued, as it surely will be, I'll be there. Neil Gardner's sound design (and theme tune) is as reliably neat and effective as Handcock's direction. And the soundtrack, provided by Ioan Morris and Rhys Downing, is really exciting too. The faster-paced segments were particular highlights for me, and of the four accompanying score tracks, the first and last have to be my favourites. Percussion is a rarity in Big Finish soundtracks, but when it's used as well as it is by Morris and Downing, it makes me wish it was used less sparingly.

All in all then, this is a great introduction to the Gallifrey range, and although parts are subdued, this is all part of the larger narrative Handcock and Llewellyn want to tell. Even Ace, a character who I'm historically not fond of on audio, is given some pleasingly challenging material here. And while Omega is given less prominence than I expected, I'm sure that won't be the case in future releases. Although the whole story shines (the 25-minute format really works) I must praise Juliet Landau most highly from the main cast. She gives a fascinatingly deep portrayal of Romana, one which I'd love to hear explored more. I can't wait to see where this is taken next, as this really can't just be left. Topped off by a stunning cover from Tom Webster, this is a release I heartily recommend you pick up.

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