The War Master: Master of Callous (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 7 January 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The War Master: The Master of Callous (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: James Goss, Guy Adams

Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Derek Jacobi (The Master), Silas Carson (The Ood), Maeve Bluebell Wells (Cassandra King), Samantha Béart (Martine King), Simon Ludders (Elliot King), Pippa Haywood (Teremon), David Menkin (Herschel), Barnaby Edwards (Jaques), Richard Earl (Sassanby), Kai Owen (Porrit), Joe Shire (Calia), Angela Bruce (Mother), Wilf Scolding (First Soldier) and Tom Forrister (Second Soldier). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer Scott Handcock

Script Editor Nicholas Briggs

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Derek Jacobi returns to the role of the Master for the second set of stories, this time it is four episodes that follow a single storyline, as opposed to the slightly more episodic nature of the first box set.  The story takes place on a colony planet called Callous, in which a small group of artists attempted and sort of failed to make a home. Their livelihood depends upon a mine, and the story revolves around this mine, its contents, the people who give everything to make the mine viable, the planetary governor who wants to take everything she can from the inhabitants, and the Master who has his own secret plans and machinations.  In short...it is an excellent story. I recommend this box set, there will likely be SPOILERS ahead, so reader beware.

The opening episode, Call for the Dead follows Elliot King, the frustrated would-be leader of Callous, whose long attempts to make the mine worthwhile have yielded very few positive results, and the Governor bleeds him dry whenever she gets the chance.  He has spent so much time trying to make the mine earn just enough money to keep up with his payments that he has basically lost his family...his wife and daughter moved off-world, and while his wife is very ill, his daughter misses him daily. Meanwhile, he is being stalked by an odd with a ringing telephone, and when he finally answers the call, the Master is on the line.  Without getting too deep into it, Elliot decides to take his own life not long after his chat with the Master, and whatever plans the Master has are clearly set into motion.  Elliot's daughter Cassie and her wife Martine come to Callous to take over where her father left off.  Only Cassie is more adept with the mine than her father ever was.  He was an artist trying to make a living digging in a mine, as she went to school specifically to learn how to mine properly.  But when she too runs into trouble...another Ood phone call comes her way, only this time the Master offers his help.

The set continues with The Glittering Prize, and this time the Master is posing as Mr. Orman, a kindly gentleman helping Cassie to get the mine working.  They strike a substance that could make them all rich...but if the Governor finds out they have it, she is sure to come and attempt to skim even more profits off their hard work.  The Master offers his help yet again, helping them plot to sneak the substance off the planet and hide it from the governor until they can safely make their money off of it.  But the substance has a psychic side effect, as it slowly can drive people mad or hallucinate, and it seems to drive the Ood workers completely out of sorts.

The Persistence of Dreams focuses solely on Martine as she tries to keep her sanity guarding the substance.  She is accompanied only by an Ood bt finds herself hallucinating about her late mother, Cassie, Mr Orman and more...never knowing what is real and being driven to the brink of sanity by the awful substance. When the Ood seems to go mad as well and attempt to kill her, she launches herself into space, and hopes that hope can reach her in time...but of course, the Master has other plans.

The set is closed out by Sins of the Father which sees the Governor arrive on Callous and demand the substance because someone tipped her off that they had found it.  She has captured and is torturing the Master daily for answers, but no mere Governor can really get anything out of the Master! Cassie has been cast out by most of the inhabitants of Callous, who blame her of much of their current woes, particularly the homicidal Governor who intends to kill them all for answers.  But the Governor didn't count on her prisoner actually being someone of influence.  She didn't count on his control of the Ood, or his ability to escape his chains...and the Master's plan finally comes into focus. He just needed the substance. Callous just happened to be his best route of getting the rare stuff, and he has beaten everyone before they even knew he was a threat.

The story concludes with the Master meeting a Time Lord to sell off the substance so the Time Lords can build a new weapon against the Daleks.  It seemed almost odd to me that the Master would do all this for such a petty thing as money and helping the Time Lord cause. Just seemed off...but then a smaller item was thrown in for his payment. The Chameleon Arch.  It nicely tied in with the very item he was using when we first met this Doctor on TV (and actually used at the end of the previous box set, putting this one ahead of that timeline wise), and makes all his efforts in this story seem perfectly worth it for his character.  It may have been a mild hassle putting all those pieces into place, but he got what he truly wanted out of it. An eventual escape from the Time War.

This is an excellent set, that somehow managed to top the first War Master set. And that was a tall order, as that first set was wonderful. I am already excited for more, as Big Finish have clearly been chomping at the bit for years to tell Time War tales, and they are reveling in it with every chance they get. Whether they focus on the War Doctor, the War Master, or just seeing the seeds of the war in the Eighth Doctor or Gallifrey sets. In all attempts, they have made some exciting stuff.






Doctor Who - Short Trips 8.10 - I Am The Master - Big FinishBookmark and Share

Sunday, 9 December 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
I Am The Master (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer Ian Atkins; Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Geoffrey Beevers; Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Geoffrey Beevers (The Master)

"There is a message for you. It comes from a long way, from a dying world. No, not a dying world. A killed world. And the message is from the killer.

Please attend carefully. The message that follows is vital to your future...
 
However much longer that may be."
 
I am the Master is a story told by Geoffrey Beevers, in full character as the version of the Master that the fourth Doctor went head to head with in The Keeper Of Traken. The Master here is still the shrivelled, burnt cadaver that he was in that story, a character that Beevers seems to enjoy recreating with absolute relish.
 
We visit the Master whist he is in a very reflective mood, sharing his innermost secrets and desires. He discusses being a Master-chef (poisoned no end of people), and when he gave Master-classes in music (wonderful music....burnt people's ears off when they heard it).
 
The main crux of the story involves his triumph over the planet Glox, a very Earth like civilisation that the Master tears apart....essentially for fun. Nudging them over centuries, in slightly the wrong direction. The story is deliciously devilish, and a joy to hear Beevers smugly let the story unfold, using his smooth and sumptuous tones.
 
There are many a sly dig at not only the Doctor (past and future - well to this incarnation), and rather randomly David Attenborough (!), the story is darkly humorous throughout, but is also a morality tale that good and evil can actually be very similar....all really depending on which side of the fence you find yourself.
 
I am the Master is a solid and very enjoyable listen, that somewhat takes a sidestep from the usual format, and gives the listener a very interesting insight into one of the Doctor's greatest foes. The with a slightly longer runtime of forty-two minutes - this only benefitted the story.
 
You can download I Am The Master HERE from Big Finish for £2.99.

 






U.N.I.T Series 6- Cyber RealityBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 30 May 2018 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
UNIT: Cyber-Reality (Credit: Big Finish)

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)
R
eleased  May 2018
Running Time: 5 hours

The sixth series of U.N.I.T, entitled ‘Cyber Reality’, sees a return to the format of one ‘blockbuster’ story across four one hour episodes as opposed to the previous series which featured single hour stories only loosely connected. Of course the big bad this time are the Cybermen, though the cover spoils another Who villain who makes his appearance in the final story. The regulars all reprise their roles, with Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart, Ingrid Oliver as Osgood, James Joyce as Josh Carter, Ramon Tikaram as Colonel Shindi and Warren Brown as Sam Bishop and the series picks up directly where the previous left of, with U.N.I.T on the hunt of the mysterious auctioneers…

Game Theory- Matt Fiton

‘Game Theory’ opens the series and sees U.N.I.T being put taught a lesson by the Auctioneers who seek to try and attempt to keep them out of their business once and for all. It’s a thrilling series opener, with Kate Stewart and Osgood being forced into a sick game that presents the Auctioneers as a palpable threat and a powerful foe. Meanwhile Warren Brown gets to take the spotlight after being conspicuously absent last series. His role here is an interesting one and although towards the end his segments do tend to get…repetitive, however intentionally so they do tend to drag. Unfortunately, the story is let down somewhat by a semi-obvious plot development but it’s at least interesting. A brilliant series opener and one of the highlights of the set.

Telepresence- Guy Adams

Picking up directly where the previous story left off, the U.N.I.T team are investigating some strange technology that sees’s Osgood, Shindi and Carter embarking, ‘virtually’ into a strange deserted desert-like world. It’s a deliciously creepy tale that is incredibly imaginative in its imagery, with strange metal worms bursting out of the ground and attempting to convert our heroes. There’s a genuine feeling of danger throughout, of something extremely malevolent and dangerous lurking (quite literally) beneath the surface. Of course, the listener knows who the secret rulers of this planet are, but that doesn’t make the build-up any the less effective and I kind of wish we could spend a little more time in this cyber-ruled post-apocalyptic nightmare. Another success for the sixth series of UNIT.

Code Silver- Guy Adams

Again following on directly, Code Silver sees an offshore UNIT base (which we’re told should be familiar to fans of The Sea Devils) invaded by a new breed of Cybermen. Guy Adams really works wonders with the Cybermen here, managing to do the impossible and bring something new to the table. He uses the idea of the Cybermen utilising modern technologies to its logical conclusion and we’re presented with a rip-roaring action fest that features Kate Stewart and Josh Carter trying to compete with a cyber-force that is constantly updating and bettering itself. A rip-roaring adventure.

Master of Worlds- Matt Fitton

Unfortunately, after three incredibly strong stories, what should be the explosive finale ends up being my least favourite. Now as a story, it’s not bad, not bad at all. As a season finale? It’s terrible. Why? A simple reason- the inclusion of the Master. Now I should say that in fact Derek Jacobi was actually my favourite thing in this story, if not the entire box set. This is my first experience of his version of the Master on Audio and he is incredible. Fitton also gives him some incredibly juicy moments but that’s just the problem. The Master is introduced only in this story and suddenly all the attention is on him. The result is that the other elements that have been built up throughout this series (and to an extent the last) are suddenly pushed aside. Indeed one particular element that felt should have been central to the plot had about two minutes and was dealt with in at least thirty seconds of those. It’s a shame really as the Master elements are the best part of this story but they result in a weak finale to the set. Big Finish really should have held off and had the Master as the villain for an entire series.

All in an all another amazing set of stories. Unfortunately, the last episode does let it down somewhat but it’s still an amazing set of audio dramas and whilst it may not work as a series finale, it still works as a brilliant showdown between UNIT and The Master.






Short Trips Rarities: The Switching (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 18 December 2017 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
Short Trips Rarities: The Switching (Credit: Big Finish)

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Simon Guerrier
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Read By: Duncan Wisbey
)Originally Released: September 2017

 

An unapologetically slight tale, The Switching jettisons having much of a plot at all in favour of some fun character moments grounded in the UNIT family dynamic.

Though the blurb makes a half hearted attempt to play coy, and the script takes its time to say it out loud, it’s pretty clear from the off that we’re getting a classic Freaky Friday scenario with a Time Lord twist. In a way, it’s such a perfect idea it’s almost a surprise we never saw a version from Letts and Dicks on screen though I’m not sure Jon Pertwee’s pride could have taken playing across from another actor doing their best impression of him. As it is, we get Duncan Wisbey doing a remarkable job of capturing the Third Doctor’s sibilance and that slightly ragged edge to his voice. Except this isn’t the Third Doctor, of course, but the Master.

Surprisingly charming and pragmatic as he makes a nuisance of himself at UNIT HQ, it’s a reminder that, back in the day, the Master didn’t tend to kill unless it actually advanced his agenda. Instead, quickly discovering that the Doctor’s TARDIS is in parts all over the place and not fit for making an escape from Earth in, he restricts himself to having a bit of fun at his best frenemy’s expense.If there’s a flaw, it’s the Master’s surprise that the Doctor is clearly so habitually rude and disrespectful to his UNIT colleagues (everyone reacts with slight suspicion as to why ‘the Doctor’ is being so nice and pleasant to them). It feels like the Master should know the Third Doctor better than that. All the supporting characters are perfectly drawn, however, with Jo in particular note perfect.

Essentially a throwaway novelty, it’s nicely wry humour and talented and flexible reader this is well worth the handful of coins and half hour of your time it will cost you.