Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Inquiry written by Justin Richards and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: President Romana has been called to account for her actions. But the only evidence that she has responded to a real and present danger has disappeared. To clear her good name she is dependent on the testimony of the very people who want to see her publically humiliated and her power removed. While Leela tries to discover truths of her own, Romana is forced into an uneasy truce with her rivals at the CIA. But at least she can be sure the inquiry will be handled in a fair and proper manner. Or can she? When the investigation itself triggers danger and time is quite literally running out for all of Gallifrey's power and knowledge, just who can Romana trust?

Presidential Babe: As the Doctor says in The Ancestor Cell can you imagine trying to fit Romana’s full title on a name badge at a conference? Lady Romanadvoratrelundar (my spell checker had a tough time with that one!), President of the Supreme Council of Gallifrey and all her Dominions, holder of the wisdom of Rassilon, preserver of the Matrix and guardian of the legacy of Omega! What a mouthful but well done for Lalla Ward for making it seem effortless. The Inquiry has begun into her decisions during the Gryben crisis and because a Timon Fusion Device is impossible to create Romana is said to have…overreacted. Narvin lists her crimes with hilarious straightfacedness, Compassion, Intuition, Emotion, Honesty, Integrity, Pragmatism and Extreme Competence. I loved her little gesture for Leela, unable to sanction the access of his DE but quietly telling the technician turn his back and lose her whilst she gets the chance to study it. Romana is loyal to her friends and will not arrest Braxiatel until she has proof of his crimes. Once again she steps out of the story to investigate, I love that Romana is not content to just observe events but is willing to play an active hand in them. She is proven to be reckless with it, forcing the data bomb to explode to discover the truth. And three cheers as she gets fabulously bossy with Leela here (‘Don’t question it, just do it!’).

Noble Savage: Whilst this story offers revelations aplenty there is still time for Leela to impress once again with her sharp observational skills. She doesn’t understand why she has to state who she is to the court when they already know her name or why she has to answers questions about previous events when what’s done is done. She would make a good politician! She wonders if the Matrix can tell her what happened to Andred as she is starting to believe that he is dead. She wonders is K.9 is a pessimist or realist. Narvin tells her a painful story of Andred coming to him and declaring that Leela’s influence has made up his mind that Gallifrey should remain pure; she had convinced him that no other race could aspire to Gallifrey’s level of civilisation. The revelation that Torvald killed Andred leaves Leela knife raised ready to slaughter him. She knows more about the art of war than he does and she has unfinished business with him…

Great Ideas: Its another multi layered, twisting script bursting with revelations. The knowledge of the prototype TFD and its detonation exists within the Matrix, impossible since it never happened. Project Alpha, the birth of the TFD was supposed to herald a new era of temporal engineering. Whilst probing the Matrix for information about the TFD K.9 discovers and triggers a data bomb. It contains a virus and its virtual detonation will proliferate every system and poison the Matrix. The Matrix sees but doesn’t always remember, it makes decisions about the priority of what it predicts and sometimes chooses to ignore facts. Braxiatel is revealed to have made 4739 transactions of artwork, sculptures, buildings…the beginnings of the Braxiatel Collection. He has been acquiring pieces clandestinely, knowing he would be punished for saving priceless works from Time’s ravages. It transpires that the High Council failed to heed Braxiatel’s warnings and detonated the TFD with devastating consequences. The transduction barriers collapsed, the Timonic wave rippled outwards crashing on the planet Minyos (Underworld) and aged 100 million inhabitants to death in less time than it takes to swallow (wow). A civilisation Gallifrey had encourage and nurtured was decimated. In the timeline where the device was detonated servitors working for a mysterious power went back in time and stole it, rewriting history. Only the Matrix, a device outside of times events, remembered and Braxiatel planted the data bomb to proof that the detonation did happen, to encourage investigation. Romana decides to stop the device from being stolen thus negating the threat to Gallifrey (with the device detonated being the only one in existence the Free Time movement cannot hold them to ransom) and the threat to the Matrix (Braxiatel would not need to plant his data bomb if the device was detonated, Gallifrey would be aware of its own crimes). Never mind that 100 million people need to die. That done history has put her house into order, the device the Free Time movement have is only a fake. Braxiatel’s Collection will be the envy of the universe, a repository of knowledge second only to the Matrix.

Standout Performance: I’m such a shameless Lynda Bellingham fan (if there was ever a gay icon in Doctor Who The Inquisitor is up there!) so it is a genuine thrill to have her back. It’s another impressive piece of casting in an already powerful cast. She doesn’t have much of importance to do here but she will soon become one of the most deliciously loathsome politicians Gallifrey has ever seen. Hurrah!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Thank you Cardinal you have given us much to think about!’ ‘He has?’ ‘Clearly.’
‘Be quiet K.9, you’re not listening, remember?’
‘Our own weapon was stolen and used to threaten us.’
‘As history intended…’

Audio Landscape: The attack is appropriately loud and destructive with explosions and crackling flames. The matrix access voice is northern! I loved the creepy but cute art dealer’s voice! There are wind blasted ruins. The data bomb explodes with a horrific echo. Servitors and stasers make a fine action scene.

Standout Moment: I love how the script unravels so beautifully at the climax to reveal just how tautly plotted the story is. It’s a barrage of revelations.

Result: A superb script, extremely wordy and almost flat for its first half but coming to life with a vengeance in its conclusion. Justin Richards is the perfect writer for the Gallifrey series, like its inhabitants his prose is often cold and clinical, he wields high concepts like a weapon and his plotting is tighter than a gnat’s ass. Here he manages to run with the threads of the series (the TFD, Romana’s political nightmare, Leela’s search for Andred), bridge a gap in continuity for a much loved character he created (Brax’s Collection), add some weight and juicy disclosure on a much derided story (Underworld) and provide a classy analogy of Oppenheimer’s nuclear detonation. It’s a class act and the performances are superb, although there is little in the way of atmospherics. Very clever stuff. With Romana furious that someone attempted to hold the Time Lords to ransom and rewrite their history I am eager to see what happens next: 9/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:

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