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Audio Drama Review
The search for the final segment of the Key to Time takes the Fourth Doctor and the First Romana to Ancient Rome. The Time Lady is appalled when her companion prefers to watch the latest Plautus comedy rather than complete their mission, and is even less delighted to meet the playwright himself. But all is not what it seems, either on stage or behind the scenes... In the far, far future, the Second Romana is destined to have her own encounter with a legacy of Rome. But Quadrigger Stoyn has been waiting, and his actions will set Romana on a collision course with her own past. Stoyn wants his final revenge on the Doctor, and only Romana stands in his way – both of her...
I have to admit that the Quadrigger Stoyn arc hasn’t really floated my boat. The character just isn’t that interesting to me, despite the sterling efforts of actor Terry Molloy, while the implications of the Doctor’s culpability in Stoyn’s misfortune are uncomfortable yet seldom truly explored.
However, this final part of the trilogy, a double-disc release, offers something far more enticing – a multi-Romana story. Luna Romana was originally going to feature both Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward (as producer David Richardson reveals in his sleeve note), but the tragic death of Tamm in 2012 caused the idea to be shelved for a time, before being reworked to incorporate a future incarnation of Romana (played by Juliet Landau, alias Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer), previously heard in the Gallifrey VI box set. Her talk of battle TARDISes and of Gallifrey facing its “darkest hour... again” invites speculation that this is the Romana who fought against the nameless Enemy and Faction Paradox in the Eighth Doctor novels. Her inspection of an old Quadrigger station prompts her to recall an earlier and happier time in her lives, an adventure during her first incarnation... and so Landau fills in respectfully for the absent Tamm. Indeed, the first Romana pretty much gets the first episode to herself, as, barring the framing narrative, Part One takes place entirely during the Key to Time season.
It is not until the second episode that Ward’s Romana enters the fray. “This is where it gets complicated,” as she tells her younger self. The convoluted nature of Matt Fitton’s plot is comparable to the same writer’s The Wrong Doctors, but actually I found this a little more difficult to follow, partly as a result of it becoming a tale of three Romanas rather than just two, and partly as a consequence of it not being a full-cast drama. Both Landau and Ward have a go at voicing the Doctor’s line, but wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Tom Baker, now a Big Finish regular, could have appeared? There is still lots of fun to be had, though, including the above line purloined from Amy Pond, a sly reference to the Fourth Doctor comic strip The Iron Legion, and an ignominious treatment of K-9.
Stoyn also suffers some genuine hardship here, which makes his desire for revenge seem more believable than it did in The Dying Light, in which he came across as less sympathetic because he seemed to have done nothing with his centuries of time except plot revenge. What is also very welcome is that the Doctor finally admits to a degree of blame and regret regarding Stoyn’s fate. This comes as something of a surprise to Romana, and to the listener, given the Fourth Doctor’s usual attitude of immature disregard and apparent rejection of responsibility.
The story ends as it began, with the future Romana vowing never to forget the Romana she once was. What started out as a vehicle for Mary Tamm has become a fitting tribute to her. The substitution of Juliet Landau could have been awkward, but in fact it works surprisingly well. The trilogy that began as part of the celebrations for the Doctor’s anniversary ends up being all about Romana.
What have the Romanas ever done for us? Loads!
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