Gallifrey: War Room 1 – Allegiance audio review

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War Room is the latest iteration of Gallifrey, chronicling the events of Doctor Who‘s Time War. 

As the last boxset of Gallifrey: Time War wrapped up, it left our heroes in desperate straits. With the resurrected Rassilon dominant, in the form of the belligerent Richard Armitage, attempts at resistance crumbled. Romana was captured and consigned to the Matrix, ransomed to ensure Leela’s good behaviour.

Meanwhile, fan favourite Narvin was seemingly lost in action…

Gallifrey War Room 1 - Allegiance cover art

With the accent still on the political, the Time War action now shifts to Gallifrey’s War Room; glimpsed in ‘The Day of the Doctor’, it is where the conflict is overseen while Rassilon contemplates higher things…

The Last Days of Freme

The first tale establishes this world, bringing Leela back into the conflict as an unwilling combatant. She’s under the orders of Cardinal Ollistra (Carolyn Pickles), Rassilon’s right-hand woman. This is an earlier incarnation of the sublime schemer, revived as a Matrix projection but confined to the Capitol. Meanwhile, we’re told the Jacqueline Pearce incarnation remains at the front, bedevilling the War Doctor.

Leela first mission for Ollistra concerns the fate of the planet Freme. She’s despatched with the spiky Commander Veklin (Beth Chalmers) and The General (Ken Bones) to destroy the planet and its people in order to stop them becoming Dalek allies. Naturally, Leela seeks to find another way and proves her worth in the process.

Lou Morgan’s script sets up this new iteration of Gallifrey, populated with familiar characters from various Time War strands. Despite all the setup, she also creates a compelling story on Freme, with their leader Argatro (Daon Broni) standing out. However, the real treat here are the scenes between Leela and Richard Armitage’s Lord President who drips demented passion as he bangs on about ascension. Apparently, he recorded his scenes ahead of time, when working on Gallifrey: Time War 4.

The Passenger

Having proven her worth, the second tale sees Leela working directly for The General. Consequently, she’s on hand when a Dalek ship is detected heading for Gallifrey. She forms a bond with its amnesiac Time Lord passenger Cato Kelgoth (Nicholas Rowe), as we slowly discover what happened to him. We’re loathe to say more as it would spoil the story.

David Llewellyn’s thought-provoking tale also brings the Time Lord Cardinal General Rasmus (Chris Jarman) into the mix, a familiar voice from the Eighth Doctor Time War series. While he’s of equal rank to Ollistra, he’s clearly no particular fan of her scheming.

Collateral Victim

Rasmus and Leela get a chance to properly size each other up in Alfie Shaw’s story. After the Time Lords detonate the whole Norvis galaxy, to save it from falling to the Daleks, a single planet puzzlingly returns.

Despatched to understand this enigma, the pair – along with Veklin – investigate and find themselves trapped in a desperate temporal puzzle.  This is a clever tale which puts loyalties on the line and demonstrates the limits of Leela’s latitude in her new role.

The First Days of Phaidon

Finally, writer Sophie Iles steps up to a full-cast audio with a terrific closer. This story Again features a lost planet, freshly reappeared, however, Phaidon returns just in time to collide with a Gallifreyan time ship from the pre-TARDIS era. An added complication is the planet itself; home to Time Lord allies the Warpwrights, Phaidon was one of the Time War’s early casualties.

With both the Daleks and the Time Lords keen to get hold of the ship, and the ancient weapon it contains, Ollistra despatches Leela and The General. As is a Dalek patrol.

Across the tale, we get to see The General in action – defying Ollistra’s orders to aid the Warpwrights when she refuses to send reinforcements. It also provides an emotional reunion for Leela and Narvin (Sean Carlsen) – it’s no spoiler, he’s on the cover! Oh, and we just adored his TARDIS!

In Summary

While we know Gallifrey’s eventual fate in the Time War, Allegiance does an excellent job of drawing the strands together. Away from the actions of the War Doctor, who’s busy on the front lines, we see the morally dubious actions of a society who are prepared to do anything to survive. And yet, despite their compromises, we cannot help rooting for the likes of The General and Rasmus, who fight the Dalek threat by any means necessary.

What’s particularly interesting is the role Leela plays; she begins as an unwilling accomplice, but grows into a position where her unique skills and instincts are invaluable. There’s no moral compromise with her though, Leela remains steadfastly on the side of hope – always seeking to save rather than destroy. While Louise Jameson may have played the role for more than four decades now, she always bring something fresh to the part and hers is the standout performance across the set.

Based on the evidence of War Room 1: Allegiance, Gallifrey remains on both political and personal form. A great start to a new era.

Four Stars

Gallifrey – War Room 1: Allegiance is available on CD and download from Big Finish.