Wednesday, 21 June 2017
"You see no magic in anything."/"You see it everywhere."/"Then which of us is wiser?"
Stephen Cole's Spirit is, for the most part, a two-hander between President Romana and her bodyguard Leela, with only small appearances from the rest of the supporting cast. At this stage in Gallifrey, with ambitious arc plots firmly in place, it makes a lot of sense to slow the pace down a little and do a character piece focussing on your two leads, and fortunately the result is much stronger than Cole's effort for the first series. Spirit convincingly looks at the relationship between Romana and Leela from several different perspectives - as mystic to sceptic, as two former friends of the Doctor's, as President addressing her bodyguard, as someone not used to surviving in the wild speaking to someone who is. Better still, it mines Leela's former troubles and anxieties - grief at losing Andred and disappointment when he returned a different person - for all they're worth, selling the idea from the off that she is fed up of Time Lord machinations and wants to leave Gallifrey as soon as she can. It might be my favourite thing Stephen Cole's written (discounting The Wormery, which feels more like Paul Magrs in any case).
Gallifrey's second season - at five releases, one story longer than its first - kicks off with Lies by director of the range (and then-BF supremo) Gary Russell. I am not, generally speaking, a fan of Gary Russell's writing; he's a great director and producer, but his scripts themselves tend to leave a lot to be desired - an overuse of continuity being the typical shortcoming. And yet Lies is actually pretty solid. What it has in spades is a sense of scale and atmosphere I often found lacking in Gallifrey I. From the haunting strands of those opening chords, as a young Romana, still in her first incarnation, trespasses into the Capitol's ancient Vaults and is called back by her Tutor, Irving Braxiatel (who I thought was Paul McGann's Doctor for a weird moment), to the moment she hears a shadowy female voice addressing her as 'Imperiatrix', we begin in an intriguing fashion which seems to set up a newer, more expansive arc plot, a storyline that's intimately connected to Romana herself and to her history, as well as to the past of Gallifrey itself.