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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Time in Office


Starring: Peter Davison
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 809 7
Release Date: 30 September 2017

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 the Doctor 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…

Time in Office is a refreshingly different story.

To start with, there’s the structure. This isn’t so much a four-part serial as a linked series of single-episode tales. The first sees the Doctor (with Tegan, on their way back to Frontios after leaving the Gravis on the uninhabited planet Kolkokron) recalled to Gallifrey and coerced into accepting the role of President – at least until a more suitable replacement can be found. The second episode involves delicate negotiations with a race that once fought a war with the Time Lords. The third features a rather ineffectual wannabe wanderer in space and time (Scandrius, entertainingly played by Tim Sutton), who wants to pick up where the now desk-bound Doctor left off. And the concluding part revolves around an architectural trap reminiscent of the recursive occlusion in Castrovalva.

Then there’s the long overdue meeting of Leela (Louise Jameson) with the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and Tegan (Janet Fielding). Ever since Arc of Infinity, in which Leela was name-checked but did not actually appear, it has felt like a wasted opportunity that the warrior of the Sevateem never put in an appearance during the Doctor’s numerous return trips to his home world. Eddie Robson’s scripts redress the balance. Leela has, of course, starred in numerous Gallifrey audios set during the time of the Eighth Doctor and later, but this is the first time that she has been reunited with the Doctor during the era of the classic television show. There’s a particularly good rapport between her and Tegan: though they are from very different walks of life, each is strong-willed and savvy in her own individual way.

Which brings us to the tone. Stories set on Gallifrey have a tendency to be rather po-faced, be they the often doom-laden return visits featured in the television series (old and new) or the political thrillers of Big Finish’s Gallifrey spin-off range. However, taking his cue from The Deadly Assassin, the writer has made Time in Office a political satire. There are real-world parallels aplenty as a fawning newscaster debates a constitutional crisis, the Doctor stirs up trouble by giving lesser educational establishments Academy status, Tegan has to take a citizenship test in order to be allowed on Gallifreyan soil (or else face a memory wipe and deportation), the President and his entourage try to avoid igniting a war, and a prestigious new building proves to be even less stable than the famously wibbly-wobbly (though not timey-wimey) Millennium Bridge. We are not quite in sitcom territory (a genre in which Robson has form, having penned Welcome to Our Village, Please Invade Carefully), though you might almost want to call this Yes, Lord President.

The writer also makes good sport of the complexities surrounding Gallifreyan history in Doctor Who mythology. He pokes holes while simultaneously tying them up – an impressive feat. For example, why was Leela allowed to stay on Gallifrey when other human companions were not? Simple: because she married a Gallifreyan – an option that provides Tegan and the Doctor with a difficult choice… Many of the more contentious issues form part of Tegan’s citizenship test, which includes questions such as whether Time Lords are born with one heart or two, and how many regenerations a Time Lord can have. Tegan suspects that the latter may be a trick question!

Amid this knowing use of continuity, it is strange that Robson should stumble at the hurdle that is Acting President Flavia. The characters in this story state that Flavia has long since retired, to be replaced by another Acting President called Tuvoli (whom we never actually meet). This is despite the fact that Flavia was in power during the Terrance Dicks novels Blood Harvest and The Eight Doctors, which took place in the eras of the Seventh and Eighth Doctors. However, this was already a contentious area, since those books disagree with certain other titles in the same range, so it is understandable that Robson should wish to chart his own course for this audio adventure.

The ending is also a mite abrupt – but aside from that, a splendid time (in office) is guaranteed for all.


Richard McGinlay

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