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The War Master (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Nicholas Briggs, Janine H Jones, James Goss, Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Starring Derek Jacobi (The Master), Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks), Jacqueline King (Nius), Deirdre Mullins (Osen), Mark Elstob (Glortz), Rachel Atkins (Major Desra), Hannah Barker (Phila), Jonny Green (Cole Jarnish), Jacob Dudman (Arcking 12 Computer), Emily Barber (Elidh), Robert Daws (Anvar), Nerys Hughes (Mrs Wilson), Jonathan Bailey (Marigold Lane Computer)

Released December 14, 2017

Derek Jacobi only made one appearance as the Master on television (ignoring his earlier non-canonical appearance as a Robot Master in the Scream of the Shalka cartoon), and for the most part, is true persona was hidden away. We really only got a brief glimpse of Jacobi as the actual Master, but it sure was a memorable 5 minutes!  So memorable that I still remember that moment when I first saw him declare himself the Master vividly, a whole decade on.  And while I loved Simm's fresh modern interpretation that followed, it was hard not to wish for just a bit more from Jacobi as the mad Time Lord. And hey...that is just where Big Finish is meant to come in. They don't disappoint.  I will warn, I don't delve to deep into anything, but there may be some SPOILERS ahead. Reader beware!

The set opens with Beneath the Viscoid, with the Master being hidden away from the Last Great Time War in a capsule under the viscous water of an ocean world. The Daleks are pursuing the Master and his TARDIS, but his TARDIS is leaking temporal energy. The Master poses as The Doctor, using the Doctor's reputation to gain the confidence of the team that finds him, but can he play both the humans and the Daleks for fools and find a new escape from the War?  Right off the bat Jacobi is excellent, though honestly who would doubt an actor of his calibre delievering anything less. You get the impression that he wanted to take a bigger bite out of the role than he was allowed time for in Utopia.

The second story in this collection, The Good Master, has the Master settled into the role of a medical doctor on a planet that is somehow protected from the effects of the Time War. He is posing in this do-gooder role for the exactly the reason you'd expect from somehow control whatever power is keeping this one planet safe, the consequences of tampering with that be damned. Jacobi is again excellent, showcasing his range within this role, often playing his Master as a kinder gentlemen, before relishing in the moments where he goes full-on evil. 

The Sky Man is the third entry on the boxset, and it may very well be the best episode of the whole venture, which is somewhat odd considering that the Master's part is f not very promnient. But it is what the Master is up to behind the scenes that makes this such a great Master story. Taking Cole Jarnish, a young man from the previous story, along with him, the Master allows him the choice to save a single world that will soon be lost in the Time War.  They land on a quaint planet of farmers, all of whom stopped using technology fearing it would bring about their end (as they can see stars going out in the sky). Cole wants to save these people.  He goes abut fixing up worn out techology around the place, and falling in love with a girl.  But when everyone begins to get sick from some kind of fallout from the War...Cole attempts to save them all, including the woman he loves, by encasing them in Suits of Armour. He essentially makes a kind of Cybermen-type race by mistake. And he regrets his decision immediately.  

The events of The Sky Man lead directly into the final story The Heavenly Paradigm. The Master has a scheme to end the war, using a major Time Lord weapon which has been hidden away on Earth, in hopes that the Daleks will not find it.  The device will essentially take away all choice in the universe, making sure that only the right choices would be made by every individual.  Take the concept of Turn Left, which saw Donna seeing what her life had been if one day she turned right instead of left.  The choice she made had major repurcussions, she had to turn right for certain events to unfold...and this story bacisally has a device that says "let's make sure everyone Turns Left."  That is the kind of high concept weirdness I want in Doctor Who, particualy in the Time War storyline.  tTo power the machine, the Master needs a battery, and the only battery that will do is a paradox, say someone who was never meant to live and then went onto to save another race that was never meant to live and accidentally created monsters. Of course, The Master's latest scheme to use the Time War to his advantage and find a way to rule the Universe doesn't really pan out, and it leads him to hide away as Yana as we saw in Utopia

One of the things that I've rather enjoyed about Big Finish digging into the Time War, is that the story ideas can go in weird directions, play with Time, and have this weird ethereal element to it. They aren't just having battle scenes between Daleks and Tiem Lords, but they are telling stories that show what happens on the outskirts of this war, and the weirder effects of Time changing around characters and messing up the universe. The War Master: Only the Good is an excellent set of stories.  Jacobi is fantastic in the role, and it is lovely to hear him get a real full performance in the role. The stories in the set are fantastic, and for anyone who always wanted a little bit more of Jacobi in the role, here is your chance! This particular boxset can't be recommended enough.  

Filters: Audio Big Finish Only the Good