The initial trilogy of Gallifrey series seemed to end on a cliffhanger that might never get resolved; a couple of years ago, we finally learned what happened to Romana and her friends in the intriguing Gallifrey IV – quite rightly described as Gallifrey Unbound – but series V returns us to the politics of the Time Lord capitol. Sort of.
This isn’t the Gallifrey we know from the TV series: the New Gallifreyans have the power of regeneration but not time travel, hence are known as Regenerators. The outsiders were slaves, but have now been freed, and are led by Leela. Romana and Narvin have taken the place of their counterparts – but a few people suspect that not everything is as it should be.
James Peaty’s Emancipation sends us back into the politics that characterised the early stories; Una McCormack’s Evolution sees a potential for time travel but it may come at too high a price; David Llewellyn’s Arbitration focuses on one man’s past crimes and the cost of pragmatism. All of them give good roles to the three leads – Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson and Sean Carlsen – and there’s a particularly juicy guest star role for Barnaby Edwards as a Machiavellian Regenerator with a nasty little secret in his past.
All of the off-worlders have to query their own motivations throughout the trilogy: what is driving them to the actions they’re taking? Are they trying to atone for sins of the past – whether on Gallifrey or elsewhere – or do they genuinely have altruistic reasons for their actions? It’s to the credit of the writers and producer Gary Russell that these questions aren’t addressed openly, but as subtext throughout the piece, giving the three hours of drama a depth that is sometimes lacking.
And as for the cliffhanger? Well what else could happen to lead into the final series? Can’t wait to hear Lord Zakar cosying up to the new arrivals…
Verdict: Another great box set, and a return to form for the Gallifrey saga. 8/10