Books & Literature

Audiobook Review: The War Master: Hearts Of Darkness, by Big Finish

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SCI-FI: Recruited by the Celestial Intervention Agency to track down his oldest enemy, the Master finds himself thrown into a mission that will take him into deepest Dalek territory.

SCI-FI: Recruited by the Celestial Intervention Agency to track down his oldest enemy, the Master finds himself thrown into a mission that will take him into deepest Dalek territory.
3.5

Having announced that the previous set of adventures featuring Sir Derek Jacobi as the War Master would be the last, it is obvious with this, the fifth volume, that Big Finish likes to spread small mistruths. This, however, is not a criticism. It is a very welcome entry into the Big Finish library. 

As with previous volumes, the story is presented over four episodes. David Llewellyn and Lisa McMullin have penned these scripts and, while some of it feels a bit bloated, it pays dividends for the patient listener.

The Edge Of Redemption sees the Master employed by the Celestial Intervention Agency to find the Doctor. He is dispatched to a planet called Redemption where he attempts to lure the Doctor into stopping a heist. Of course, when he is recognised by a survivor of one of his previous schemes, things turn pear-shaped. This is a lot of set up with not much immediate resolution.

The second story, The Sacramancer, adds to the padding but is intriguing nonetheless. It finds the Master aboard a Pirate ship where he is expected to meet the Doctor. Luckily, there is a big twist at the end that turns the whole story on its head and redeems the somewhat plodding momentum.

The third story, The Castle Of Kurnos 5, is a confusing but entertaining episode that gives us a deeper understanding of why the Doctor is being pursued. The final story, The Cognition Shift, is easily the most entertaining of the four, concludes the other stories, wraps the immediate story up, and allows for further adventures to come.

This story is held together by the wonderful performances of both Jacobi as the Master and Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor who seems to delight in playing second fiddle to Jacobi. Both men put in outstanding performances of the highest calibre and they are the glue that holds this set together.

There is a very large cast that all do well with their respective roles but particular highlights include Seán Carlsen (Narvin), George Fletcher (Grondak), Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo (The Scaramancer), and Julia Sandiford (Ilya). Scott Handcock once again proves his mettle as director, keeping the action flowing when needed and trying to keep the interest up through some of the longer passages of the script. He is once again aided by an amazing sound design from Joseph Meiners and a pulsing musical score by Ioan Morris.

The extensive bonus interviews fill an entire disc and really give the listener a keen insight into the making of this set.

Big Finish is to be applauded for bringing back this combination of Doctor and Master and wrapping it in a story that, while confusing at times, gives a satisfying result for the listener.

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

Released by: Big Finish
Release date: October 2020
Approx RRP: $45 CD, $20 digital download

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