Derek Jacobi is back in a third audio boxset from Big Finish as the War Master, the most evil man in the universe in times that would try a saint! As if that weren’t enough, this time he is joined by the Eighth Doctor himself, Paul McGann.
These are four really different stories from the ones in the last two sets. The Master is clearly on a mission from the get-go to somehow use people, but his machinations always keep you guessing. With the Eighth Doctor, it is clear he is having to make some concessions and do good where he can when he can’t ultimately save the day as he usually would in the Time War. So is this War Master just doing evil where he can? There is more to it than that, but certainly these stories show how he enjoys toying with people for the sake of it, something Jacobi takes great relish in performing.
The scripts by Tom Foley and David Llewellyn are all really well paced and nail the characters to a tee, with the ever steady hand of Scott Handcock at the tiller as director and producer. The Master they bring is the one at the heart of the character started so long ago by Delgado, the true opposite number to the Doctor.
The first two stories deal with people who are trying to do the right thing in trying situations. The stories begin firstly with World War II, with a hard working land girl called Alice (Katherine Pearce) being down trodden by a middle class local girl who has returned home and thinks she is above hard work, then being offered extra ordinary powers by a local priest. Then in the second story we meet a girl named Ester (played by Taj Atwal) who can become any material she wishes, stuck making ends meet in a travelling show – a show the Master, in another disguise attempts to buy, as only the first step in his awful plan. Both get caught in webs spun by the Master more intricate than ever before.
In the last two stories of this set we find out the ends to which the Master has been leading to, as he finds the Doctor on his trail. When a monster of the Masters creating gets loose is his plan going awry or has this all been part of a very long game? Either way, can the Master and Doctor escape the Rage or the Timelords themselves?
Usually I like to break down the stories one at a time, but this feels more connected and really plays like one continuous piece, with individual stories being part of something greater, and so satisfying.
The guest cast is wonderful with familiar Big Finish voices such as Paul Clayton and Mina Anwar well as new voices you will want to hear in other sets in the future.
What we end up with is two hours of being toyed with as an audience as the Master toys with his pray and two hours of twisting and turning toward a great pay off, portrayed by two actors, both legends in their own right inside and out of the Doctor Who world.