Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 10/17/17 6:29 pm
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At first, this seemed like a refreshing change of pace. It felt like a more or less self-contained story, albeit one with substantial ties to previous continuity. I prefer that to the more serialized approach. This seemed like a nice, self-contained story about dealing with a lingering threat leftover from previous events. When Romana discovers that the original Dogma virus is still spreading through the population of Gallifrey, she begins a clandestine investigation with the help of her remaining friends. Meanwhile, President Matthias is negotiating with Mephistopheles Arkadian to sell a weapons cache leftover from the civil war. Eventually, these two stories link up, and Arkadian offers a cure for the virus in exchange for the weapons.
That's when it all starts to go wrong. After all, this isn't just another episode of "Gallifrey". This feels like it's trying to be a final episode (and it would be the final episode until the release of "Gallifrey IV" more than four years later). The final act of the story features a clumsy attempt to retcon the whole of the series into a kind of prelude to the Time War (which was the hot new thing in "Doctor Who" continuity when these stories were written). I suppose something like this was inevitable. I mean, with the revelation in the new series that Gallifrey was destroyed in the Time War, the "Gallifrey" audio series was bound to address this in some way. I don't particularly like how they did it.
For one thing, ending the story on a cliffhanger seems like an odd choice. Even worse, it's not even a terribly effective cliffhanger. The one thing that works is how everyone almost instinctively looks to Romana to come up with an answer. That's actually quite lovely. And, despite the fact that she is no longer President and has no formal authority of any kind, Romana steps back into a leadership role without a moment of hesitation. That's a nice send-off for the character, even if it isn't an ending.
Basically, I feel about "Panacea" the way I feel about the whole "Gallifrey" series. The cast alone justifies the purchase price. It's a wonderful ensemble, and they all play off of one another extremely well. But the story is overly complicated, it doesn't hold up well to scrutiny, and it really isn't about anything. It's sufficiently entertaining, but ultimately rather shallow and unsatisfying.