‘The Two Masters’ trilogy concludes in an eponymous final chapter. The Seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy, is tracking an infection in time that he must cure while thwarting an opportunistic time-cult and untangling the Master’s timeline. This epic tale that may prove to be Big Finish’s best work in an already stellar year.
Whereas the previous two entries started out sedate and built up gradually, this story throws you right into action with a frenetic first half. The score and sound design does a lot of the heavy lifting in the opening few minutes. Director Jamie Anderson wisely gives the music ample space to set the atmosphere and pace of the story. Once the plot kicks in, the relentless onslaught of explosions, weapons fire and breathless dialogue. The listener is thrown into a story that is as gripping as it is loud.
Despite what we predicted in our ‘Vampire of the Mind’ review, the story has been carefully arranged so that you can almost always tell which version of the Master is speaking and when. Having the two masters works against one another in the first half – for reasons that will become abundantly complicated – made it easier to distinguish them by which had the upper hand in each conversation. That said, there’s a twist towards the end of part two that shoves another layer of complexity onto the confusion of having multiple Masters mixing-and-matching Doctors over the course of the trilogy.
A Nod to Roger Delgado
Luckily, writer John Dorney proves himself to be the master (pun intended) of the timey-wimey. He crafts a complicated story loaded with paradoxes and timelines that jumbled up causality in a way that somehow makes sense. A lesser writer may have shied away from the aforementioned twist, but Dorney absolutely pulls it off. The superb dialogue between the Doctor and two Masters explains everything clearly without it ever feeling like exposition. The final reveal casts a whole new light on last two stories that will have you kicking yourself for missing the clues. There is one particular plot point requires a somewhat detailed knowledge of classic Who lore and may prove confusing to anyone not familiar with the Master’s history. However, it serves as a lovely nod to the late Roger Delgado, the original Master, and doesn’t detract from the enjoyment if you miss it.
The Masters Steal the Show
The cast all turn in the excellent performances we’ve come to expect from them. Almost all are Big Finish veterans. But it’s Beevers and Macqueen who steal the show as the titular two Masters. Certain elements of the story stretch their acting talents. The amount of time the two have spent honing their performances together absolutely shines through. Between that and the script, the interactions between the two Masters contains an entertaining inversion of the Doctor’s incarnations. Whilst the Doctor’s personas may bicker when they meet up, they always pull together when the situation demands it. The Master’s myriad minds get on like a house on fire (which they likely started)…that is, until it comes to deciding which one of them will be the Master in their plan for conquest.
Near Perfect Story
The only weak link in this whole thing is Jemima, an orphaned Rocket Men crew member who fills the companion role. In the first half of the story she’s really little more than a device to advance the plot and justify exposition. Her motivations are unclear, she has no distinct personality and, though Lauren Crace gives a good performance, Jemima verges on annoying at times. Even the story seems to forget her, sweeping her out of the way in the second half until a brief coda near the end which feels a little unearned. But that’s a minor complaint in an otherwise neatly-crafted script.
This concluding entry is definitely the best part in the trilogy, delivering a satisfying payoff for the last two month’s build-up. The story is grand, the stakes are high (as befits a meeting of this magnitude) and the performances are exhilarating to listen to. Everyone involved has brought their a-game to this production and the result is one of the best sagas in Big Finish’s history.
Blogtor Rating – 10/10