Masterful (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 19 February 2021 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Masterful  (Credit: Big Finish)

Writer: James Goss, Geoffrey Beevers, Simon Guerrier, Trevor Baxendale

 

Director: Lisa Bowerman, Nicholas Briggs, Ken Bentley

 

Featuring: Geoffrey Beevers, Mark Gatiss, Michelle Gomez, Derek Jacobi, Eric Roberts, John Simm, Alex Macqueen, Milo Parker, Jon Culshaw

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released: January 2021

Running Time: 4 Hours (Standard Edition)

8 Hours (Limited Edition)

It has been 50 years since the Master made his first appearance in Terror of the Autons, and as such, the character is being celebrated by Big Finish in a big way. Almost every incarnation of the Master still alive comes together in the story “Masterful.”

Before we begin, can we just discuss how difficult it can be to discuss multiple versions of the Master? With the Doctor, we have definitive numbers, but the Master never really got that. This issue is only complicated by the multiple Masters from spin-off media where their placement in the timeline is not always clear. Sure there is the “War Master” and “Missy” but do we call Simm “Saxon”? I will likely just use the actor’s name to help clarify which incarnation is being discussed, with the War Master and Missy being possible exceptions.  

At any rate, this story involves the Simm Master bringing several of his past incarnations together, as he claims he has finally won and is the ruler of the universe. Missy shows up and is bent on exposing him to be just as big a failure as the rest of them, and scatters the Masters in time. But they all seem to land somewhere connected to the same planet and event.  

All of the Masters together is really what this is all about.  Almost all the TV Masters (up to Missy) are represented with Beevers, Simm, Jacobi, Gomez, and Roberts reprising their roles.  The Ainley Master is brought to life (sort of) by Jon Culshaw.  Delgado’s Master does not appear, as the Time Scoop meant for him has accidentally taken Jo Grant instead (well...he did PUSH her into it).  In addition to those incarnations, we also get two Big Finish originals: the Alex Macqueen Master who appeared alongside McGann a few years ago and the Mark Gatiss Master from an Alternate Universe (from the Unbound series from even longer ago).  Milo Parker also appears as the first incarnation of the Master, who is still a teen and hasn’t quite gone completely evil yet.  

Having all these Masters bounce off of each other is the real joy. I must say I find the meta-humour that comes with Missy doesn’t always work for me. Too often the joke seems to be “boy I sure am an evil mustache twirler, huh?” and it feels like it is always undercutting the character’s impact.  At least they tried to do something more with her in Series 10, but in general, this was her characterization.  Too self-aware for my tastes. I could’ve used more Simm in the story, as I think he is a great incarnation.  Give me a boxset with him battling Tennant or even a later incarnation!  For my money, the best story for any Master once they are separated is the Beevers version.  His tortured and decaying body, constantly in pain but somehow finding some form of possible happiness?  That is interesting stuff. 

As a standalone story celebrating the Master?  This is good stuff.  It showcases what a varied character he has been throughout his many portrayals over the years.  It is a shame that Delgado and Ainley are both gone, it would be so nice if they could be better represented...but having Katy Manning there is a nice way to nod to Delgado, and Culshaw’s impression is pretty dead on.  But I think this is a good story to celebrate 50 Years of Obeying the Master.  

If you are considering opting for the Limited Edition version of this story, you get three bonus stories - two previously released Short Trips, and a new three-part enhanced audiobook that takes place in the UNIT years and features the Delgado Master. 

The First Short Trip, titled I Am the Master and is written and read by Geoffrey Beevers, as he details a bit about himself and one of his many schemes. Beevers is really good in the role, and it makes me wish we got a bit more of him on TV.  I like Ainley and all...but Beevers could have been great with more time in the role.  The Second Short Trip, The Switching is about the Delgado Master, still imprisoned by UNIT after the Daemons, managing to perform a body swap with the Doctor, hoping to escape Earth and leave the Doctor trapped in a prison cell to pay for the Master’s crimes.  It’s a fun little story. The boxset comes to an end with the three-part Terror of the Master read by Jon Culshaw.  It’s a solid adventure that feels very much in tone with the era in which the Master originated.  I could easily picture this story as a TV story in that era.  And as a tribute to Delgado and the era that invented the Master...I think it is fitting.  

This is a big boxset with a lot of content to enjoy.  If you enjoy the Master, Big Finish has given the character quite the tribute.  I think if you are curious which version to get, I would say most fans would get plenty out of the standard edition version.  The Masterful story is more than enough to satisfy the craving for a Master tribute.  Terror of the Master is enjoyable enough, but if you want a fitting tribute to the original Master?  It may honestly be just as well to just watch a classic serial featuring Delgado.  His debut season is soon to be released on blu-ray, pick that up instead.  The two Short Trips are both older releases and you can pick them both up now for about $5.  But I do recommend fans of the Master give Masterful a shot...it is a nice way to celebrate the Master’s big milestone. 





Time Lord Victorious: Genetics of the Daleks (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 5 February 2021 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Time Lord Victorious: Genetics of the Daleks (Credit: Big Finish)

Writer: Jonathan Morris

Director: Jamie Anderson

Featuring: Tom Baker, Nicholas Briggs, Pippa Haywood, Joseph Kloska, Clive Mantle, Andrew James Spooner, & Nina Toussaint-White

 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released December 2020

Running Time: 1 hour

The Fourth Doctor gets in on the Time Lord Victorious action, sort of. This story does feature Daleks but in terms of the TLV business, that is mostly used as a warning of what the Doctor can become. This is not really an adventure where time is askew or involves some ancient creature from the Dark Times...but it does feature a Dalek telling the Fourth Doctor of what kind of person he may potentially come...the Time Lord Victorious. 

Tom Baker is quite good here. I remember when he was first returning to the role on audio, I felt he still had it but you could tell he was so much older than when he was the Doctor on screen. I’ve not had the pleasure of listening to all of his output since he began reprising, but based on this? He has really settled back into the role perfectly...and sounds as if we were back in 1976.

In the end, there isn’t much to say about this one.  It is yet another slick production from Big Finish, with a great performance from an all-time classic Doctor, and (of course) the Daleks.  It feels very disconnected from the Time Lord Victorious series (despite actually name dropping Time Lord Victorious), and can easily be enjoyed as just another fun Tom Baker/Dalek adventure. 





Time Lord Victorious: Mutually Assured Destruction (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 2 February 2021 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Time Lord Victorious: Mutually Assured Destruction (Credit: Big Finish)

Writer: Lizzie Hopley

Director: Scott Handcock

Featuring: Paul McGann, Nicholas Briggs, Samantha Béart, and Wilf Scolding

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released December 2020

Running Time: 1 hour

Big Finish closes out their “Eighth Doctor Trilogy” for the Time Lord Victorious event (though he will make one more audio appearance in “Echoes of Extinction” which will also feature the Tenth Doctor), and it is a decent story. The Eighth Doctor is still stuck with the Daleks, though they don’t initially seem aware he is on their ship. They are trying to connect the TARDIS to their time ship. 

It is basically the Doctor trying to get the best of the Daleks in their own ship, trying to save a couple survivors of a planet they wiped out as well (who also allude to a “Dark One”)...and the Strategist is still trying to make deals with the Doctor while increasingly butting heads with the Time Commander. 

I enjoyed this story. Not so much for being a part of a larger “event” but because it was a fun adventure with the Eighth Doctor and the Daleks. McGann is, as always, a fun Doctor to listen to. And while the Daleks have certainly had more than their fair share of stories with him in recent years (from the end of his Lucie Miller adventures through Dark Eyes, and more recently in the Time War series), Big Finish still knows how to execute a good Dalek story. 

Granted it still feels like we are teetering on the edge of whatever the Time Lord Victorious story is all about...the bigger picture feels sort of lost on me at this point, with all stories I have thus far taken in feeling like they are hinting at or building to something else. It is now beginning to feel like everyone contributing is trying so hard to keep the audience from being alienated, trying to make it clear enough as to not need other material, that in the end, it is feeling less like a big interconnected story, and more like random adventures that may share some story elements. 

Maybe at some point, I will be able to dive deep enough into all the TLV stuff that it will all make sense and feel very exciting. I look forward to that moment. 





Time Lord Victorious: Short Trips: Master Thief / Lesser Evils (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 1 February 2021 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Master Thief / Lesser Evils (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Sophie Iles & Simon Guerrier 

Directed by Lisa Bowerman

Narrated by Jon Culshaw

 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released: October 2020

Running Time: 80 Minutes

The Master, two incarnations actually, gets in on the Time Lord Victorious action via this Big Finish release featuring two Short Trips, both read by Jon Culshaw. The first features the Delgado version of the Master, while the second follows the Ainley version. 

In the first tale, “Master Thief,” the Master has stolen the de-evolution weapon featured prominently in the second Eighth Doctor TLV story, “Enemy of My Enemy,” and now is inflicting it on several people on a planet, but as he does so he begins to lose his edge. Disintegrating his enemies into a pile of primitive ooze has somehow softened him, and it ultimately leads to his downfall. 

The second story, “Lesser Evils” has less focus on action and the Master ripping through anyone in his way, and is a far smaller character piece. The Master is quietly defending a race from the Koturrah...but why? 

I enjoyed both of these short little entries, though I am unsure how important they are to the overall Time Lord Victorious story. Then again with every entry trying hard to not rely too much on other media in the story, who is to say what is very important to the whole thing? Culshaw is a solid narrator, his versions of each Master is good (his Ainley is very good, and while his Delgado doesn’t sound perfect, he captures something of the essence). For quick bite-sized adventures in this big arc, they are worth your time. 





Doctor Who Comic #2 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 27 January 2021 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who Comic #2 (Credit: Titan)

Writer: Jody Houser

Artist: Roberta Ingranata

Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini

34 Pages

Published by Titan Comics - December 2020

The second instalment of Titan Comics’ latest Doctor Who comic picks up where we left off, with the Thirteenth Doctor still jailed with the Fam and (as well as) Pete and Jackie Tyler, and the Tenth Doctor arriving to this alternate version of Rose, who does not recognize him.  He slowly gets on her good side and gets her to join him in the TARDIS so they can fix what has gone wrong with time.  For example, Rose has a happy picture with her family, one that doesn’t even make sense in their current reality being dominated by Sea Devils. 

For the Thirteenth, she tries to get within the good graces of Pete and Jackie, hoping to uncover some answers as to how this history has unfolded. They are rescued from the jail by a Skithra, one of the nasty bug alien people from the Tesla episode in Series 12, but this Skithra isn’t nearly as evil.  They all pile into their respective TARDIS and take off to try and find the source of the time deviation.  Sadly...both TARDIS begin to crash into each other or converge within the Vortex!  

Cliffhanger time! Will they all survive?  Well, yes.  Obviously.  But it should be fun to find out what happens next.  

This is a definite “middle episode.”  One that needs to build up to the conclusion, but doesn’t have a ton of interesting details.  It is a solid read, but I look forward to having the full story. 





Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of My Enemy (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Enemy of My Enemy (Credit: Big Finish)

Writer: Tracy Ann Baines

Director: Scott Handcock

Featuring: Paul McGann, Nicholas Briggs, Rachel Atkins,  Samantha Béart, Jacob Dudman, Raj Ghatak

 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released November 2020

Running Time: 1 hou

The second Big Finish instalment of Time Lord Victorious seems to play in that specific sandbox a little more than the first outing. This one has it all, Daleks trying to work with the Doctor, timelines all askew…and the Doctor caught in the middle. 

The story has the Doctor held prisoner by the Daleks and forced to help them. This is essentially the same set up that the Titan Comics story had. This time the Daleks claim to want to go in peace with a race of aliens from a planet that is meant to be a barren wasteland. The people of this planet have a genocide weapon that wipes out a whole race by breaking them down into cells and letting them evolve from scratch. It is pretty clear that the Daleks plan of coming in peace is just a ruse to get at this ultimate weapon. 

This is maybe the first time in my experience with the Victorious stories that I have felt it was losing me. Don’t get me wrong, it is a well-produced adventure, with plenty of good story elements...but I think despite the idea that the multi-media event is something new and grand...a lot of it feels fairly typical Doctor Who. Planets and Civilizations that shouldn’t be there, timeline shenanigans, crazy sci-fi weapons that need to be stopped and...Daleks. Big Finish is good at producing Dalek stories, but they’ve become a tad old hat. Not only have they had a constant presence on TV (they’ve not missed an appearance, even a brief one, in a single series since 2005), and on Big Finish they have faced off with the Eighth Doctor a lot. 

This is a solid adventure, well-produced and acted, a decent entry in the overall Time Lord Victorious event.  The only problem is that in general, I am seeing a trend with the Time Lord Victorious. It is starting to just feel like standard Doctor Who with a fancy label on the cover.  I’m curious to see where they take it, but so far it doesn’t feel like it is going in any incredible new direction. I found myself not as invested this time around, but it isn’t bad by any standard.