Books & Literature

Audiobook Review: Masterful by Big Finish

SCI-FI: A special release marking the 50th anniversary of the first TV appearance of the Master in January 1971.

A masterclass in writing and how to do multiple versions of the same character effectively.

The Master is celebrating. He has finally defeated the Doctor and has summoned his other selves to participate in a party. Celebrations, however, take a turn for the worse when an entropy cloud previously released by the Master catches up with all of them, splitting them off on separate adventures with themselves. Can the universe hold that much concentrated evil? 

One of Doctor Who’s most iconic villains (outside of the Daleks and the Cybermen) made their debut in 1971. 50 years on from that story and Big Finish have rounded up a large number of onscreen and audio versions of this character to create one of the best crossover events in recent memory. This is the story of the Master meeting his fellow Masters—and of course the illustrious Missy.

Eight actors play the ubiquitous Master in this set and the writing could not be better. Oldest surviving Master, Geoffrey Beevers, teams up with TV versions portrayed by Sir Derek Jacobi, Eric Roberts, the unflappable Michelle Gomez, and new recruit to the Big Finish fold, John Simm, to represent the more well-known versions of the villainous Timelord. They are joined by Big Finish stablemates Alex McQueen, Milo Parker, and Mark Gatiss as versions of the Master portrayed only in the Big Finish universe. Like multi-Doctor stories, there is always a chance that the story gets put to the side somewhat and can become confusing. Fortunately, James Goss’s wonderful script balances humour, tension, and action quite nicely.

With so many wonderful leading men (and ladies) it would seem overkill to throw in more, but indeed Big Finish does. Katy Manning returns as Jo Grant (the first companion to meet the Master and the companion who made her debut in the same story that the Master did). Jon Culshaw dives into his bag of impressions to give us not only a brief glimpse of the Master as played by the late Anthony Ainley but also Kamelion and a pretty spot-on Third Doctor impression. The remaining supporting cast does an outstanding job of filling their minor roles without being overbearing. Particular commendation goes to Gina McKee (The Lumiat) and Abigail McKern (Kitty).

Ken Bentley does an outstanding job directing traffic and manages to keep the story moving along while occasionally allowing there to be moments of quiet for some reflection. The wonderful sound and music design by Joe Kraemer is of the usual high quality we have come to expect from the Big Finish studios.

This story is available in two versions. The standard edition contains only the three one-hour episodes while a deluxe edition includes three Master-based Short Trips and bonus interviews as well. 

As 2021 begins, Big Finish has, through this release, declared that this product is going to be as good as ever (if not better). This set certainly is a fantastic way to begin the year.

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

Released by: Big Finish 
Release date: January 2021
RRP: $45 (CD), $20 approx. (Standard Edition -Download)

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