Gallifrey review: Is Square One enough of a fresh take on an old genre?

In the second episode of Gallifrey, Leela finds herself trapped in a time loop. But does this episode stand out compared to what’s to come for the Doctor Who spin-off?

I’m going to make it clear right now: out of all the episodes in the first three seasons of Doctor Who spin-off series GallifreySquare One might be the weakest. But here’s the funny thing – that’s actually not saying that the episode is bad. Not in this particular case.

In fact, it actually says a lot about how strong the rest of Gallifrey really is. It also says a great deal about how much it improves over time. Because Square One is only the second episode of the series, after all. It’s nice to get the weakest episode of the first three seasons out of the way so soon.

But what does make Square One a weaker episode, at least by comparison? Well, it’s not so much the story itself. Continuing from the opening episode Weapon of Choice, the story of delicate negotiations held at a temporal summit is interesting, and the regulars are used well in this story. (Well, except Braxiatel, who doesn’t feature quite as much in this one.)

We’re also given a fresh take on the “time loop” genre. That’s not a spoiler, by the way. If the title itself wasn’t a clue, then the very beginning of the story definitely is. And the time loop is used quite well in the story, too.

A story less connected

So what makes Square One a weak story, at least by Gallifrey‘s standards? Well, it’s a more standalone episode compared to most other Gallifrey episodes. And that’s not what Gallifrey is. At least, not at its very best.

Gallifrey works really well when it acts as a true serial. When it develops major ongoing plot threads, or explores the characters on a deep level. While these things do happen in this episode, not nearly to the same extent as for the rest of Gallifrey, overall. So it leaves just a little less impact than many other episodes as a result.

Still, Square One is an enjoyable listen. Both Leela and Narvin are given excellent dialogue during the summit (especially when the latter is almost killed). There is an admittedly intriguing mystery in the story, too. The episode makes it clear that a time loop is a key part of the story. But who or what is causing it? And more importantly, why? Following how Leela, K9 and Romana solve the mystery makes for a great listen.

On the whole, Square One is an episode that feels just a little less essential compared to the rest of Gallifrey, but it shows just how strong the Doctor Who spin-off really is when this is one of its weaker stories.

Next: Review: It Takes You Away – a creepy horror story or a strange fairy tale?

Have you listened to this episode of Gallifrey? Do you agree with this review? What are your favorite stories involving time loops in the Doctor Who universe? Let us know in the comments below.