The Key2Time trilogy was introduced with a Companion Chronicle (much as was Jago & Litefoot) in this case the Simon Guerrier story The Prisoner’s Dilemma. This therefore needs to be considered as both a stand-alone story and in terms of how it connects to the Key2Time trilogy.
From the Big Finish product page:
A new adventure with the Seventh Doctor as told by his companion, Ace.
Two prisoners meet in a prison cell. Zara is searching for the segments of the Key to Time; she was only born yesterday but already she’s killed hundreds of people. Ace is more ambitious: she was going to kill everyone on the planet.
What have they got against the people of Erratoon? They go peaceably about their simple assignments, beneath their artificial sky. They share their meals and leisure time and they never ask questions. Are they even real?
Ace and Zara will only survive if they can trust each other. Or perhaps if they sell each other out… If not their awful punishment is to become just like everyone else.
As I already knew from the trilogy, Zara has been created by the Grace (though actually isn’t called Zara yet) to get three parts of the Key to Time. She is kidnapped by and quickly falls for the wonderfully named Harmonious-14-Zinc who abducts her with the use of a Time Bracelet. She later becomes jealous of his affection for Magda and in a very short space of time goes from a blank character to the anti-hero Zara who would oppose Amy in the trilogy.
Ace, meanwhile is on a mission for The Doctor and is following Zinc and Magda aware that they are meddling in time. Of course both Ace and Zara end up in prison, escape, are recaptured, find a key segment, kill enormous numbers of people and in Ace’s case end up with a memory wipe. Here and there we spot glimpses of the Seventh Doctor tidying up some of the mess and rescuing Ace at the end though not necessarily restoring all her memories.
This is a strangely told tale even by Companion Chronicles standards. The first half is told by Laura Doddington entirely from the Zara perspective with Ace being second fiddle. The second half is then led by Ace and in the end it works this way as Ace gives us the back story behind the Zinc/Magda story. Despite that and the usual fine performance and direction as a whole it was a weird setup and for me was unsatisfactory though if every tale was constructed the same way I’d be the first to complain.
This does give us an intro Zara to (sort of) match the way the Judgement of Isskar leads us into the Amy character. Apart from that it could have remained back story though I suppose for completists it does show how the lake segment was captured.
This is certainly not a must listen in respect of the Key2Time trilogy – I haven’t listened to Graceless so can’t talk about how one informs the other. I didn’t mind this story though like many of the third series it doesn’t shine as a classic. It does leave a ‘what happened next’ feel but nothing that would have made me rush out to buy the Key2Time if it wasn’t main range. Ace is poorly served in this story and her memory loss does hide a multitude of continuity sins.
What did you think? Let me know!