MY BIG FINISH JOURNEY PART 15: MASTERFUL
A confusing, but enjoyable 50th anniversary story for the Master.
The master is my favourite villain in Doctor Who. I think he is the biggest threat to the Doctor, and I think he has some of the greatest episodes in the 57 year history of the show. I have grown up watching the likes of John Simm, Michelle Gomez and Derek Jacobi play the iconic role. But it was only a few years ago, when I got into classic who and came across Roger Delgado, Anthony Ainley and Eric Roberts who were also iconic and incredible in their own way. Masterful brings classic who and modern who together as well as versions of the Master on big finish. I think the best thing this anniversary special did was bring as many incarnations as possible of this famous character together and develop them in one story. It’s exactly what fans want to see. Everyone wanted to see how Michelle Gomez would deal with Derek Jacobi or John Simm with Eric Roberts. I personally loved listening to some of the master’s that I either hadn’t come across before or seen very little of. However, the story was incredibly confusing which did subtract from the overall enjoyment of it. There were also several incarnations of the Master who unfortunately weren’t as involved as others which was a shame.
The first part starts off with all the master’s meeting in a castle at the end of a universe. This was one of the best scenes of the story as you get to hear lots of incarnations come together. However, I loved John Simms entrance the most. Of course, he would be the one setting it up. He wanted to create a paradox and steal the other incarnations lives. This plan was quickly foiled by the rest of the group. They came up with a good reason why Roger Delgado’s Master wasn’t there too. They used a time scoop to try and get him, but he pushed Jo Grant in instead and she ended up involved in this story as well as Kamelion. It was great to see other characters that had an involvement in this characters 50 year history as it added a bit of spice to the narrative. John Simms master had used a creature, or something called the death particle which went out of control. This is the area in which the plot got very confusing and I found it hard to follow. This energy matter chased after them, so they teleported, causing them to be thrown into separate worlds. Whilst this helped the narrative move forward some incarnations just disappeared till much later or hardly featured at all. I will get onto each individual Master in a bit. However, for the second half of the first part until the second half of the of the third and final part they all had their own unique problems they had to deal with. Some of these situations were great while others were ridiculously hard to follow. Jo Grant ended up dying from the hands of Missy, Kamelion tricked John Simm, Eric Roberts, Milo Parker, and I think Anthony Ainley’s into going into a Tardis. Kamelion then blew up and killed them which felt very anti-climactic and rushed. Then the other master’s and Missy ended up back at the castle where the creature was revealed to be the last evolution of the Master. They all kill each other to prevent any of it ever happening which I felt was convenient as it was literally just a big reset button. Masterful ended pretty abruptly with just the end credits. I think the writer, James Goss started with writing all the incarnations and then created an idea for the plot afterwards as it felt very unoriginal but at the same time far too complicated and hard to follow for the average listener. The music and sound effects were incredible throughout and the dialogue itself was great and had some really well written character pieces. The pacing was also a plus about the episode as it slowed down for dialogue and then switched to an action scene to keep the story moving and the audience engaged.
I will start with John Simms’s Master first just because he’s my favourite. I thought John Simm eased back into the role after three years away. He was as cruel as ever, as funny as ever and I loved how much revenge he wanted. He was the one I was more excited to see as he’s always been my favourite. He ended up with Derek Jacobi with most of the adventure which. They played off each other extremely well however my only problem was that John Simm came part of that sub plot late on. The sub plot with him and Derek Jacobi was extremely hard to follow and John Simm ended up dying in a very easy way which made him just look stupid. Derek Jacobi on the other hand came across as the most intelligent of all the incarnations. He seemed to always be one step ahead of every other Master especially John Simm’s. As I have only ever seen him in Utopia where he was human for most of it, I loved seeing him properly involved in an episode. I want to listen to more of his stories straight away. So, while I loved John Simm being back, I felt he was poorly used in most of the story which is the opposite to Derek Jacobi who I also loved but was in it a lot more and was used much better.
Missy was exceptional in this story. Over the years I have slowly grown on her. I remember absolutely despising her back in Dark Water/Death in Heaven but now I have come to really like how funny she is and her unique portrayal of this iconic character even if there are a few very cringe moments. I thought the inclusion of Jo Grant was amazing since she was in Terror Of The Autons (1971) which was the first story to feature the Master. John Culshaw did a great impression of John Pertwee when Kamelion turned into the Third Doctor to help Jo escape the death particle or whatever creature it was and then she found Missy. They had some really nice dialogue together where Jo tells Missy that she is a nice person and there’s good in her. I was really enjoying this sub story up until the point Mark Gattis’s Master got involved. I didn’t really understand the point in including him as his Master wasn’t fleshed out and I felt it confused the story as I didn’t know if it was Mark Gattis or Anthony Ainley’s Master. Anthony Ainley was in the first part I was sure of it, but he wasn’t included enough which was a shame as he played the character for the whole of the 80s. The story just got very confusing with these characters which was a shame because it had real potential. Also killing off Jo Grant made the ending of a big reset button incredibly predictable.
While these two sub stories did seem confusing and rushed the two other sub plots were a lot slower pace and worked a lot more. I have never heard a big finish adventure with Alex Macqueen as the Master but wow he was brilliant. I am so glad he was in this anniversary special because I felt like I had seen loads of stories with him in by the end of it. He was cunning and evil and extremely intelligent and just some of his lines were amazing. He teleported onto a refugee ship which was running out of supplies. He got control over the ship in a very clever way and found a young Master played by Milo Parker in the control room. Whilst it was nice seeing a younger version of the character, I found Milo Parker a bit average at playing the part. You didn’t dislike him, but he didn’t really feel like the Master and I found him a bit boring. However, I did really enjoy this third sub adventure.
The final sub story was mainly focused on Geoffrey Beevers Master who I believe appeared in Keeper Of Traken (1981). I never really cared about this Master until now. He had a perception filter to make him not look like he usually does a decaying corpse. He ended up in a little house with a women who liked him a lot. While all the other master’s wanted power and destruction you could see he was just happy being loved. It showed that he isn’t completely evil too. Even thou there was no threat it was still a really enjoyable sub story as it developed his Master so much. I want to listen to more big finish stories with him in in the future. The TV movie is one of my favourite classic adventures. I just love Paul McGann. Whilst everyone says Eric Roberts was awful as the Master, but I always thought with the right writing and if you take away the campness and how over the top he was he would make an excellent Master. The scenes he was in were excellent and I thought he was one of the best however, he was hardly in Masterful. He spent a whole part not even in it and then turned up at the end just to be horrible to Geoffrey Beevers Master and then he died in the exploding Tardis. I think he was wasted potential, but I think he is returning to big finish so I can’t wait to see that.
To conclude, Masterful was a good 50th anniversary of my favourite villain. It did wonders for some of the incarnations and made me interested in some of the ones I hadn’t seen before. However, some actors were wasted in this, mainly Eric Roberts. I loved seeing my favourite incarnation played by John Simm back too. Some of the scenes and dialogue were incredible but the overall story was hard to follow with a confusing plot. The music and sound was outstanding, and I think the writer, James Goss did a overall good service to the 50 year old villain.
I rate Masterful a 7/10.
Written by: JACOB MOORE
Hi I am Jacob and I am one of the writers for this website. I do big finish and classic reviews as well as news articles. I hope you enjoyed the review 🙂