It’s not so surprising that the idea of different incarnations of the Master meeting each other has not been done before. With each one driven by a (literally) single-minded desire to dominate, it’d be hard to have them interact without egos getting in the way. But Big Finish is not known to shy away from a challenge and so we get this first entry into what will become ‘The Two Masters’ trilogy: ‘And You Will Obey Me’, starring Peter Davison and Geoffrey Beevers.
In the first few minutes, the story floors you with a surprisingly tense scene over what could easily have been a hopelessly banal setup, helped along by the performance of the actors and the editing. Incredibly, writer Alan Barnes does a spectacular job making a village auction over an ornamental grandfather clock seem like the most exciting thing in the Universe. Admittedly, if you’re familiar enough with Who lore, it helps that you know exactly what that grandfather clock is from the start and the story makes no attempt to cram in a reveal of the Master’s TARDIS as though we’re meant to be surprised. The auction is interspersed with the introduction of the Fifth Doctor, companionless (their absence is explained later on), and a flock of supporting characters for the story.
Geoffrey Beevers reprises his role as the Master, the only surviving actor to play the character in the classic series, specifically, his crispy and emaciated form from ‘The Keeper of Traken’. Though it’s a little ambiguous, this story may explain the change of actor from Peter Pratt (the first “crispy” Master) to Beevers and gives his incarnation a bit more of an origin story, which will appeal to the completists in Who fandom. If, like me, this is your first time listening to Beevers as the Master, you’ll find his enthusiasm for the part infectious as he relishes over every line. His performance admittedly borders on hammy at times, but that feels like a deliberate choice to keep things consistent with the Master’s on-screen characterisation.
Despite the strong introduction and competent escalation, the second half is at times a little difficult to listen to, with new elements and an accelerated pace that makes the story feel a bit uneven. Much of the third episode is rapid-fire exposition, flashbacks and new plot points hastily introduced to get everything in place for a slightly overcomplicated finale.
It seems like the pacing problems could have been solved with more time, just to spread things out a bit, since there’s an impressive range of ideas on display. We get new monsters in a pair of enormous dragonfly bounty hunters — one of them called the Dragon Master (Yes, there are two antagonists referred to as Master in this story and it jumbles the plot even more) — but they’re almost totally extraneous to the story. They refer briefly to their limited lifespans and how that informs their hunter culture. Hopefully their species, and the other fun concepts Barnes has dreamed up for this story, will reappear in a Big Finish play of their own very soon.
‘And You Will Obey Me’ gives the impression that the trilogy, continuing next month in ‘Vampire of the Mind’ with Colin Baker and Alex Macqueen as the Doctor and Master respectively, is going to be connected more through themes than plot. This Fifth Doctor story reaches a natural conclusion and slots neatly into the Master’s established television timeline. The sheer number of things you’d have to remember for the plot thread introduced here to continue would make future stories hard to swallow. Nevertheless, if the next chapters of this trilogy are as varied and inventive as this one, the upcoming clash of two Masters is certain to be an explosive one.
Blogtor Rating – 6/10
The Master: wanted for crimes without number, across five galaxies.
The Master: escaped his pursuers. Last known location: rural Hexford, England, Earth.
The Master: dead and buried in an unmourned grave, in a lonely churchyard.
Written By: Alan Barnes
Directed By: Jamie Anderson
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Geoffrey Beevers (The Master), Sheena Bhattessa (Annie), Alex Foley (Colin), Peta Cornish (Helen/Jade Nymph), Russ Bain (Mikey/Grigor), Tessa Coates (Janine), Nick Ellsworth (Gomphus/Auctioneer). Other parts portrayed by the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs