For the third Christmas in a row, we are given a wonderous, demented and terrifying outing for the most dangerous and psychotic Master of all; The War Master.

Originally consigned to a single set and a few cameo appearances, the popularity of Sir Derek Jacobi’s return proved to be a fruitful endeavour. Three more volumes of his series, and appearances across Gallifrey, UNIT, River Song, and two encounters with the Eighth Doctor. But now, as his main saga comes to a close, can this really be the end of the War Master’s story? We know he is due for at least one more tale, but is his chapter done?

From The Flames by Nicholas Briggs

The Master is dying. All he asks, as one final request, is to be buried on the planet he calls home. But when his TARDIS arrives, Coordinator Narvin has other ideas. He wants to make sure the Master is well and truly dead. Because even in death, you cannot trust him. But when Narvin learns of what the Master has discovered on his travels, a nightmarish weapon that even the Daleks will not use, he takes a journey to make sure no one, not even the Master, alive or dead, can use it…

The War Master: Anti-Genesis: Seán Carlsen (Narvin), Derek Jacobi (The Master) and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)
The War Master: Anti-Genesis: Seán Carlsen (Narvin), Derek Jacobi (The Master) and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

Nicholas Briggs starts us off with a hell of a premise. It’s the Master, so you know he has a plan. It then becomes a case of how does he get out? Briggs sows the seeds of the boxset’s arc perfectly by intricately teasing the plan that the Master has formed, until those final five minutes when you realise what is happening and partly cannot believe that he would do something THAT drastic.

The cast give their all, notably Seán Carlsen returning as Narvin displayinh a range matching the nightmare his character endures. Pippa Bennett-Warner also reprises her role of President Livia. Gavin Swift as Crazlus embraces the Igor-ish role with feverish ease. Franchi Webb plays Lamarius, a condemned prisoner finding herself involved in Narvin’s mission against The Master’s scheming. Rounding of the cast are Class’s Jordan Renzo, Daniel Brockelbank, Zaraah Abrahams, Vikash Bhai, Chistopher Harper and Ben Crystal. Each gives their all even for a small part. And it’s often the smallest parts that give the biggest surprises…

The Master’s Dalek Plan by Alan Barnes

(Get it?)

A long, long time ago, in one of the seven galaxies far, far away, a terrible war rages on. For the last millennium, both sides have only known conflict, battle and death. On one side, in the Kaled dome, a terrible explosion has shaken the people to their very core. But in this destruction, something new arises. A higher up of the Kaled elite has determined a way of ending the war and ensuring the survival of the Kaled race. Is this the last hope of Skaro, or does Sorvad have something more devious planned?

Once you have listened to the end of the last story and the very beginning of this, you will know precisely why this set is known as Anti-Genesis, if the cover didn’t tip you off instantly. Barnes makes no delay paying homage to one of, if not THE, best Doctor Who story ever made, but not only that. He also manages to take the twisted imagery that Terry Nation conjured up back in 1975 and make it even more horrifying. Once the Master’s plan is fully realised and you see just how far he is willing to go. Once the realisation of what is occurring hits it leaves the listener with a horror that only a saga like this can dream up.

Most, if not all, of the previous cast return, some in different roles, alongside new members Richard Clifford and Will Kirk. Even Nicholas Briggs gets a chance to be someone other than the Daleks… but even then, he cannot escape the calling…

Shockwave by Alan Barnes

The Daleks are worried. The unwritten, unbreakable rule of the Time War has been transgressed. But not by any side. By one being. A being so demented and determined, that the Daleks feel the slightest fear in what he is capable of. To bring the war back to some semblance of normality, the Daleks obtain a partial truce with the Time Lords to discover the foundation of this plan and stop it. And the Daleks have brought help… help from another universe. After all, who knows the Master better… than himself?

The War Master: Anti-Genesis: Mark Gatiss (the Alternative Master)
The War Master: Anti-Genesis: Mark Gatiss (the Alternative Master)

Barnes continues the madness from the previous episode by giving us a balanced switch back between the Master’s growing success and the ongoing effects of his actions on both sides of the Time War. Without wanting to give away a lot of very good moments, the episode attempts and very much succeeds in showcasing a lot of different elements without making any one outstay their welcome. Plus, furthering the twisted homage Barnes pays to Genesis with moments that again, once the realisation hits, leaves the listeners with images of unspeakable horror that only the War Master can pull off.

The ensemble cast return once more, balancing multiple roles each within the same episode. Although Nicholas Briggs returns as only the Daleks this time, Barnes’ writing helps elevate some of them, one especially, to more than just some shouty mass-murdering tanks. But the highlight, save for the titular lead, is Mark Gatiss taking on the role of the Unbound Master, following David Warner’s Unbound Doctor into our universe and truly evoking the deviousness that the earlier Masters he is based on are known for. It is slightly sad that Sam Kisgart could not have returned to the role but Gatiss slips into it with so much ease, it is very difficult to notice any difference.

He Who Wins by Nicholas Briggs

The creator of the Daleks, the destroyer of the Doctor, the lord and ruler of the most powerful force in the galaxy and soon to be Master of the universe.

The Master has won. So, what happens now?

The grand finale has arrived, and with it, the task to wrap everything up not only for this set. The challenge is to tell a good story, be a fulfilling finale, and potentially close up the saga altogether. So, without spoiling anything, does Nicholas Briggs do this?

Yes. But not in the way you are expecting.

This is not some grand bombastic finale where the stakes have risen to their highest point and that if nothing is done, the world will end. That has already been done. Instead, this is more character driven and focused, looking at the mentality and nature of the protagonist and seeing if what they have achieved is what they really want. Some may be disappointed by this route but not only does it work, but it is understandable why they went for it. It doesn’t try to top the preceding finales because it knows it can’t and so gives us something different and something necessary. Add to that tale, the ensemble cast’s final bow in the set, with special mention for the stellar performances from Gatiss and Briggs, and the War Master’s story finally comes to a close. For now at least…

Masterful Manipulation

But out of all the performers across the four episodes, the greatest has to once again be the title role. Sir Derek Jacobi shows us not just here, but across all his performances in the role, why he deserves that Sir in his name. Ranging from determined, to deceitful, to psychotic, to being downright terrifying. It may be a far cry from the vast majority of roles he is known for, and a very far cry from the kindly and sometimes childlike Professor Yana we were introduced to over a decade ago. Under the watchful eye of director, producer and co-script editor Scott Handcock, Jacobi has given us a stellar performance across all four sets and finally undoing the criminal injustice of his few minutes in Utopia, for as good as they were, he definitely deserved more. And now, he has given us more.

The War Master: Anti-Genesis: Sir Derek Jacobi
The War Master: Anti-Genesis: Sir Derek Jacobi

Finally, the important work of others must not be understated. Not only are we given one more opportunity to cast our ears upon Ioan Morris’ brilliant theme tune, but the sound design and music from Richard Fox and Robert Harvey is elevated to a grand level in this set. Not only does it showcase and heighten the Master’s grand manipulation of a sacred and untouchable time, but also, invoking the era of that same time, paying tribute to Dudley Simpson’s and Dick Mills’ sound work from all those years ago, creating a grand love letter to one of the greatest pieces of television ever made.

The Final End?

So, is this it? Is this the end of the War Master? Oh, you should know by now. This may be the end of this saga, but there are many more tales in store for the most devious and terrifying incarnation of all. And you know you will not be able to keep yourselves away from them. After all…

I am the Master…

And you will obey me…

The War Master: Volume 4: Anti-Genesis is available for purchase on CD and Download from the Big Finish Website now, and will be available from other stockists early next year.

The War Master: Anti-Genesis
The War Master: Anti-Genesis

Synopsis

A brand-new four-part adventure featuring the Master’s exploits in the Time War.

In a Time War, there is a crime that not even the Daleks would dare consider. But the Master has more than considered – and he is ready to commit…

When his TARDIS returns to Gallifrey carrying his corpse, a chain of events ensues that will change established history. Old friendships will be destroyed and dark alliances formed, as the Master exploits a terrifying truth.

Even for the two most powerful races, time can be rewritten.

4.1 From the Flames by Nicholas Briggs

After the Master’s TARDIS returns his remains to Gallifrey, in accordance with his final wishes, an intricate plot begins to change the nature of the universe forever. But even in death the Master threatens life. And only CIA Coordinator Narvin can hope to stop him.

4.2 The Master’s Dalek Plan by Alan Barnes

As the Master inflitrates the Kaled scientific elite, the Time Lords seek to counter his interference. But while Narvin and President Livia try to stabilise the past, a new and horrifying future dawns in the wastelands of ancient Skaro.

4.3 Shockwave by Alan Barnes

With all known history threatened, the Daleks take desperate action to preserve their established legacy. When they cross dimensions to recruit an alternative incarnation of the Master, an uneasy alliance is formed… But can either side truly trust the other?

4.4 He Who Wins by Nicholas Briggs

The Master has achieved an ultimate victory. But at what cost?

Cast

  • Derek Jacobi (The War Master)
  • Mark Gatiss (The Other Master)
  • Seán Carlsen (Narvin)
  • Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)
  • Zaraah Abrahams (Kaled Corporal)
  • Pippa Bennett-Warner (Livia)
  • Vikash Bhai (Arfor)
  • Daniel Brocklebank (Yaren)
  • Richard Clifford (Novar)
  • Ben Crystal (Soogasor)
  • Christopher Harper (Kaled Guard)
  • Will Kirk (Uglen)
  • Jordan Renzo (Insloy)
  • Gavin Swift (Crazlus)
  • Franchi Webb (Lamarius)

Credits

  • Script Editors: Scott Handcock and Nicholas Briggs
  • Sound Design: Richard Fox @ FoxYason Studios and Robert Harvey
  • Cover Artist: Tom Newsom
  • Director: Scott Handcock
  • Executive Producers: Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery
  • Music: Robert Harvey
  • Producer: Scott Handcock
  • Written by Nicholas Briggs and Alan Barnes
  • Theme Music by Ioan Morris

The War Master: 4. Anti-Genesis is available now from the Big Finish website. The title is priced at £22.99 on CD and £19.99 to download. The Big Finish App, available on Apple and Android devices, also makes listening even easier. It is a free app to download, just search in your app store.

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