Doctor Who (Main Range) #230
Time in Office episodes 1 & 2
written by Eddie Robson
Its the annual Big Finish short story collection and this time its a comedy with the Fifth Doctor taking up the role of Lord President Of Gallifrey. Its a comedy, thank goodness, because I'm the sort of fan who finds Gallifrey painfully dull unless its either not the main focus of the story (The Three Doctors, Heaven Sent) or a vehicle for Romana and Leela to kick ass. Giving Davison, a brilliantly funny actor, a chance to stretch his comedy chops in this po-faced setting with Tegan and Leela on hand to puncture any remaining pomposity seems like as good an idea as any.
So, on to the episodes:
Period of Adjustment
The lack of Leela in The Five Doctors is something of a longstanding grudge. Apparently Louise Jameson made it known she was available for the filming but JNT decided there was no way to include her, which just goes to show either the man's lack of imagination or the weight of his inferiority complex about Philip Hinchcliffe. Finally, though the accounts are being balanced as Eddie Robson uses old friend and longtime Gallifrey resident Leela as the bridge between the Fifth Doctor and Gallifrey's bureaucracy.
For those concerned: Andred is away from the capital with the Chancellery Guard moping up the mess in the Death Zone, you can listen to this without fear of encountering the wettest man on Gallifrey. Let's face it, the romance of Leela's departure only works when you don't think too hard (or at all) about the fact she chose to stay with Andred and not the Outsiders or Rodan.
Anyway, the first episode is mostly what you'd expect: a couple members of the High Council trying to get a square peg Doctor into the round hole of the presidency and a secret Time Lord agency trying to stop him making any reforms whatsoever who he has to outsmart. More innovative and satirical is a subplot where Tegan is refused residency on Gallifrey because she's been involved in toppling alien governments, a plot point that considering the Doctor is President comes off as subtle as a brick. Sadly, Leela's suggestion that Tegan marry the Doctor to gain residency isn't pursued even though it clearly has so much more comedy potential than just the Doctor's muted horror at the idea.
There's also a rather nice framing device of a Gallifreyan political debate show, which is such a charming idea and never more so than when the host declares he has nothing against women because he used to be one a couple of regenerations ago.
I adore Tegan Jovanka but even these days its rare for the character to get the sort of agency she deserves. She is brash, headstrong, stubborn, determined and almost always, always wrong. This episode, by contrast, has her do the heavy lifting on defusing a diplomatic situation whilst the Doctor, Leela and their babysitter/bodyguard Castellan Lowry are trapped in a very uncomfortable situation.
The Doctor and company are representing Gallifrey at a war memorial ceremony but it turns out that back in the day the Doctor and Leela killed the alien ambassador's brother when the guy was trying to conquer feudal Japan. Sadly, they couldn't stretch the budget to getting Tom Baker in for the flashbacks but its a fine story of consequences, again something we tend to give presidents and the like a pass on.
Aside from some fantastic comedy moments of running away (such as Leela speculating on weaponising a ride-on lawnmower) the best bit of this story of Tegan Jovanka 007. From impersonating a god to questioning the logic of her plausible deniability where it comes to “stealing” a TARDIS, Fielding is fantastic. There's also a wonderful moment where, having read the briefing pack, she gets to talk over the Doctor during the big infodump which sounds like a moment of profound catharsis for both actress and character.
Castellan Lowry, meanwhile, slowly reveals hidden depths as she vents her frustration about her charges and confesses to not liking time travel for some reason. I'm looking forward to seeing how that resolves but that'll have to wait for tomorrow as its almost time to post this and, given the story's format, I can do this in two parts.