Having recently discussed Geoffrey Beevers’ incarnation of the Master in Planet of Dust during our Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Ravenous 4, it seems fitting to review his most prominent audio appearance in Master, a Seventh Doctor story from Big Finish’s Main Range. This story forms part of the villains trilogy with Omega and Davros, and like those audios it explores the character of a Classic Doctor Who villain – in this case, the Master. This audio is undoubtedly controversial as it sheds light on the nature of the old friendship between the Doctor and the Master and also adds some interesting ideas of its own to the Doctor Who universe. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most celebrated audios in Big Finish’s back-catalogue, and one of Geoffrey Beevers’ best performances as the Master.
The setting for this story is odd indeed, as the Master is living as a Human called John Smith on an Earth colony from the future called Perfugium with seemingly no memory of his previous life. He invites his friends Victor and Jacqueline Schaeffer for a dinner party, during which the friends discuss death, murder and other macabre things. There is a constant talk of death in this story, from local murders that are a talking point among the colonists to the motivations that drive people to commit terrible crimes. The small-scale nature of this story is somewhat reminiscent of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, as each of the characters are duplicitous and superstitious which creates some interesting dynamics for conversation.
This is where the choice to include Geoffrey Beevers’ incarnation in this story becomes clear, as he is a phenomenal voice actor who gives a very distinctive performance. His incarnation is immediately recognisable to most people because of his burned or rotten appearance, as Beevers’ first appearance in the role was as the decaying Master in The Keeper of Traken in 1981. On audio, however, he is distinctive for a completely different reason, as Beevers’ voice has almost become the definitive voice of the Master as he is the last living actor who played the Master in Classic Doctor Who. His delivery of classic cackling villain dialogue is excellent, but in this story what really shines is his range as an actor as he plays a much more reserved character here.
Another aspect of this story that comes into play often are the mentions to Zagreus, Doctor Who’s 40th Anniversary Special, which is the audio that the villains trilogy leads up to. We reviewed this story in our Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 4, Part 2, and discussed its reputation for being inaccessible to those who are not versed in the lore of early Big Finish and Classic Doctor Who. Small references to the Time Lord nursery rhyme about Zagreus appear throughout Master, which seems somewhat incongruous, but this doesn’t impact the story. It also makes some sense considering the controversial revelations that this audio contains, though to explore that too much would delve into spoilers.
Some people might have already noticed the comparison between this story and the New Series TV story The Family of Blood / Human Nature, despite this audio being released over four years earlier. Both stories feature a Time Lord seemingly becoming Human and forgetting their previous life, almost taking on a completely different personality in this new form. Both this audio and that TV story are loosely based on a novel called Human Nature, which also features the Seventh Doctor. The key aspect of this story is that the Master takes on a completely new persona, and the Doctor has some fascinating conversations with ‘Doctor John Smith’ about the nature of evil, adding to the richness of this story’s repertoire of interesting dialogue.
Sylvester McCoy is fantastic in this audio as always, and his distinctive performance lends itself really well to the subtle and withdrawn nature of this story. Combatting malevolent forces and dealing with schemes thousands of years in the making are two of the Seventh Doctor’s favourite things to do, and so he is on form in this audio. The iconic scene of the Doctor appearing at the window in a bolt of lightning, disrupting the dinner party with an ear-splitting scream, is certainly one of the most unexpected and dramatic cliff-hangars in a Big Finish audio to date.
Some of the discussions between the Doctor and the Master delve into some quite serious psychological topics, from intrusive thoughts to what could make someone completely forget their identity. John Smith’s situation as a Human who is haunted by the spectre of the Master’s evil yet is devoted to saving lives and discovering his true self makes for a tragic setup for a story, as the nature-versus-nurture argument of what makes the Master who he is drives the narrative to an unexpected conclusion. Overall Master is an atmospheric listen that is great for die-hard fans of the character. This audio delves into the character of the Master like no other and provides insights into his history with the Doctor that puts the fan backlash to the lore-heavy nature of The Timeless Children into perspective.
The final box set of the Ravenous series features a plethora of psychopathic Time Lords, from the Eleven to various incarnations of the Master. At the time of release, Ravenous 4 featured more incarnations of the Master in one story than any other piece of Doctor Who media, with Geoffrey Beevers, Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi and Michelle Gomez all making an appearance as their respective incarnations. The Ravenous series was initially marketed as a saga revolving around monsters, and there are few monsters in the Doctor Who universe who can rival the Master, let alone four Masters in one box set. The eponymous Ravenous also make a return, and we are finally given some explanation as to their origins way back in the early history of Gallifrey.
4.1 – Whisper
Despite this box set’s obvious focus on the Master, the first story focuses primarily on the Eleven. Unlike in the previous box set, we as the audience are aware of his ultimate intention to betray the Doctor, so Liv’s continuous mistrust of him is now more sympathetic than in the previous box set. Whilst Ravenous 3 was focused around the question of whether the Eleven could be an ally to the Doctor, Ravenous 4 has no such pretence following the ending of the previous story, so whilst Liv’s hostile attitude towards the Eleven could have come across as unwarranted in the previous box set, here we are rooting for Liv because we as the audience know that she is right. Nonetheless, the Eleven being his usual devious and deceptive self desperately trying to keep a lid on his previous incarnations is great to listen to. Over the course of the Ravenous saga the Eleven has developed a lot as a character since his early days as a manic villain, as here he takes on a much more subtle, sinister approach and it is interesting to see how much control he has over his other selves when he unites them in a singular purpose.
The premise of this story is relatively simple, yet it is an ingenious concept for an audio story. The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Liv, Helen and the Eleven to the Still Foundation in response to a distress call, only to find that the facility is under siege by predators who hunt by sound. As such, the characters have to communicate in whispers whenever the creatures are near, and this combined with the exceptional ambient sound design makes for some really atmospheric listening. Whisper is unique in that it is a base-under-siege horror story but with a very small main cast, with just a handful of supporting characters. The primary focus is on the Eleven and Liv’s volatile relationship as they try to work together to survive the situation. Helen is appalled as Liv chooses to carry a firearm when travelling with the Eleven, and she desperately tries to reason with her friend as she threatens to kill the Eleven to prevent him from killing anyone else. This audio tests Liv in a way that no story in the series so far has, as the Eleven almost goads her on and Helen has to hold her back.
The Doctor spends most of the runtime exploring the facility and attempting to understand exactly what the creature is and why it is attacking the facility. The fact that Liv has brought a gun to the party does not go down well at all, and this audio gives us a rare example of the Eighth Doctor being genuinely disappointed, perhaps even angry, with one of his companions. This is made even worse by the fact that, due to the monster hunting them by sound, the TARDIS team have to work out their differences in a whisper. The Doctor finally realises that the time has come to cut ties with the Eleven, as his altruistic desire to help the Eleven puts his companions in constant danger. The Doctor agrees to take the Eleven on one final trip, to a place where he can meditate and heal. The Eleven, however, has other ideas.
4.2 – Planet of Dust
This audio features the return of the Master, who hasn’t been in an Eighth Doctor audio story since all the way back in the Dark Eyes saga. This is also the first appearance of Geoffrey Beevers as the Master in an Eighth Doctor audio, for those who don’t know Beevers played the Master in one TV story of Classic Who, The Keeper of Traken, in which he played the decayed version of the Master who steals a new body to become Anthony Ainley at the end of the story. Despite only appearing once in the Classic series, Geoffrey Beevers has returned to the role for multiple Big Finish audios and his interpretation of the Master has since gone on to become a fan-favourite incarnation. Beevers’ Master is sly, cunning and manipulative, but also vulnerable and at times desperate, and no audio exemplifies this more than Planet of Dust.
The Doctor, Liv, Helen and the Eleven arrive on the planet after the Eleven is finally allowed to fly the TARDIS by the Doctor. He claims he wants to come to the desert planet Parrak to meditate but all is not as it seems. The population of the planet is being controlled by the ‘Provider’, who seems to be the only being on the planet capable of giving the residents water. Robotic Rangers patrol the deserts and supply the population with a meagre supply of water in exchange for their co-operation on dig sites throughout the desert. The Master attempts to force the population into abject slavery in order to scour the desert for an ancient tomb. There is a great scene midway through this audio where the Master and the Eleven discuss the Master’s knack for escaping death, and the Master quite frankly tells the Eleven that he is no longer sure how long he has lived, and the Eleven gradually realises that the Master is finally dying.
It is great to hear the Eleven and the Master finally meet, but one of the best moments in this audio is between the Doctor and the Master, though to explain too much about it would spoil the plot. Needless to say the critical condition that the Master has found himself in makes him desperate, and he is more vulnerable now than ever. The ever-compassionate Eighth Doctor seems to genuinely want to help his old friend, and there is a great moment between the two near the end of this story that proves that the two are still friends in a strange, twisted sort of way, despite everything that has happened between them. In the end though, it is the Doctor’s old friends Helen and Liv who pull though for him in this story, as they both show their independence and self-determination by assisting the citizens of Parrak while the Doctor and the Eleven go tomb raiding. Planet of Dust is one of those audios that needs to be listened to, as for fans of Geoffrey Beevers’ Master and the relationship between him and the Doctor this audio is a real treat.
4.3 / 4.4 – Day of the Master
Unusually for an Eighth Doctor audio story, Day of the Master is formatted as one story split into two parts, rather than two or more stories sharing one overarching narrative as is customary with Eighth Doctor saga finales. Whilst the previous audio focused on Geoffrey Beevers’ incarnation, Day of the Master includes three more Masters – the ‘Bruce’ incarnation, the War Master, and Missy, played by Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi and Michelle Gomez respectively. With three Masters comes three separate plotlines across three separate timelines, and the Doctor, Liv and Helen are separated for the majority of this two-part story with each character being paired up with a respective Master.
Following on from the events of the previous audio after being lured away by the sound of a vortex manipulator, Helen is kidnapped by Missy after initially mistaking her for River Song, and she is transported to a future Earth where the entire planet is a barren wasteland. Helen is seemingly the only one who can guide Missy to her goal by reading a prophetic book that writes out everything they do as they do it, which is an interesting setup that allows for some fun interplay between the characters. Missy’s habit of not taking anything seriously contrasts heavily with Helen’s caring and compassionate attitude, and the two clearly do not get along. Hattie Morahan and Michelle Gomez are clearly having great fun with this audio and it is really fun to hear these two characters trade quips with each other.
The Doctor arrives on the planet Kolstarn in search of the ancient proto-Time Lord Artron, who is unknowingly being assisted by an earlier version of the Master who has a personal history with the Eighth Doctor. This meetup of the Eighth Doctor and the Master from the TV Movie in a time period that predates the foundation of Time Lord society is a showdown that has been in the making since 1996, and this alone makes Day of the Master a worthy finale to the Ravenous saga. Hearing Paul McGann and Eric Roberts trade verbal spats once again is wonderful to hear, and both actors are on top form in this story.
Liv is dropped off by the Doctor on a Time Lord station against her will, as he intends on keeping her safe but accidentally abandons her in the middle of the Eleven’s attack on the Time Lord facility in orbit around Kolstarn. The War Master arrives in response to the death of his earlier self, and adopts Liv as his temporary companion as he pretends to be a Time Lord specialist sent to aid her against the Ravenous. The two initially spy on the Eleven, who has allied with the Ravenous and unleashed them on the unsuspecting Time Lord military personnel, and the true horror of the Ravenous is finally revealed as they feast on their Time Lord victims. As the War Doctor gleefully explains, when the Ravenous feasts on a Time Lord then they die an agonising death, one incarnation after the next, as their regenerations are devoured by the nightmarish creatures. Derek Jacobi and Nicola Walker play off each other really well, and when Liv finally discovers the Master’s true identity there is a real sense that the two characters have a lengthy history, as Liv previously faced a much younger incarnation of the Master played by Alex Macqueen in Dark Eyes.
The pacing of this story is surprisingly well-handled, as despite the myriad of plot elements the fact that this is a two-part story coupled with the strong script makes this audio a fantastic listen and a fitting finale for the Ravenous saga. This story has everything you could want from a series finale, there’s a fantastic cliff-hanger for Part One which comes out of nowhere, there’s an exploration into the history of some of the major plot elements that finally answer some of the main questions that have been running throughout the series, and it also gives a satisfying conclusion to the character arc of the Eleven, as his elaborate scheme that he has been planning throughout the series is given a satisfying ending that rounds off the character excellently.
There are also just some really fun moments in this story, and some interesting details that fans will enjoy. Each incarnation of the Master wields their own laser screwdriver, for example. No amnesia is involved with the Eighth Doctor in this story, for once, as he is given only vague descriptions of both the War Master and Missy and so mistakes them for Roger Delgado’s Master and the Rani, respectively. When the three Masters do finally meet, there are some great scenes with banter between the three of them, as the two Masters are constantly at odds and Missy mocks both of them. The meeting between the three Masters is certainly a highlight of the story, and the three of them facing off against the Ravenous and the Eleven is a wonderful ending to the saga.
The recurring theme throughout recent Eighth Doctor audios of the Doctor needing someone to pull the trigger becomes particularly relevant here as the Masters shows up to stop the Eleven from destroying the universe simply because they happen to be currently occupying it. Make no mistake though, the Doctor, Liv and Helen are as fantastic as ever in this story, and despite featuring the Ravenous, the Eleven and three Masters the main cast still manage to shine. It is particularly fitting that the next chronological story in the Eighth Doctor’s timeline is a small-scale character story in the Stranded series, as the trio of the Doctor, Liv and Helen have become a united, cohesive team that can deal with anything. Well, almost anything, as their next series of adventures strands them in 2020.
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The Dark Eyes saga draws to a close to a final series of audios that tie up several loose ends from the previous sets. After the departure of Molly O’Sullivan at the end of Rule of the Eminence, Liv Chenka has now taken over as the Eighth Doctor’s main companion having had several adventures with him in previous audios. In many respects Dark Eyes 4 is somewhat of a farewell tour for the saga, as unfortunately Ruth Bradley was unavailable so Molly is recast and the story shifts its focus away from her for perhaps the first time, and this is arguably for the best as it allows for some much-needed development of the Doctor and Liv’s relationship.
4.1 – A Life in the Day
After being utilised as a substitute companion until Molly’s departure, Liv Chenka finally gets a chance to develop as a character in her own right in A Life in the Day, which provides a refreshing change from the usual fast-paced antics of the series by opting to tell a small-scale story about death and time travel. The Eighth Doctor is taking care of the brother of one of Molly’s old friends, as he detects some temporal machinations in his house and is intrigued. Liv, in the meantime, gets some light-hearted scenes out on a date to a cinema and a restaurant in a period of Earth’s history that, for her, is ancient history.
Stories about temporal shenanigans are always interesting, and this one is no exception. The concise runtime allows for tight pacing that ensures that not a moment is wasted, and the small cast allows for a sharp focus on the story with some great character interactions that are brought to life beautifully by the cast. Nicola Walker finally gets a chance to show her range as an actress after being limited to a mostly supporting role in most of her stories up until this point, and although this isn’t her first audio as the Doctor’s only companion, it is the first of her audios to truly focus on her in the way that a Doctor Who story utilises a companion, and as such Liv is finally given the character focus that she deserves.
The story itself is a poignant one that makes this a really memorable opening story for Dark Eyes 4. Of all the Dark Eyes box sets, this one probably has the strongest opener as it not only sets up some plot points that will be picked up in later stories but it also proves that Big Finish can still deliver impactful standalone stories that utilise the best elements of Doctor Who in new ways. This audio keeps the references to surrounding Dark Eyes stories to a minimum so it is easy to listen to as a one-off story, which is great because A Life in a Day is easily one of the best offering in the Dark Eyes saga, particularly because it leads directly into the next story, another of the best stories in the Dark Eyes series:
4.2 – The Monster of Montmartre
A classic Dalek romp that harks back to The Great War from the first Dark Eyes box set by using the Daleks as a sinister creepy threat operating behind the scenes and exterminating people from the shadows, The Monster of Montmartre is probably the best Dalek story in the Dark Eyes series. The Daleks haven’t featured since Eyes of the Master despite being heavily involved in the marketing for the saga, but they have a strong presence here which is made clear right from the pre-credits sequence, which showcases the fantastic sound design that Big Finish is known for. The use of the Daleks as a sinister force that operates from the shadows is rare among Doctor Who stories, so that along makes The Monster of Montmartre stand out from other Dalek stories.
The Doctor and Liv are in Paris, still in 1921 after the events of the previous audio. Upon arriving, they soon discover that there is a monster stalking the streets of Montmartre. This audio tells a story that is sinister in several ways, one of which being that the alluring atmosphere of the entertainment in Paris at the time seduces young destitute artists into bars and nightclubs, such as the ‘Red Pagoda’, actually a damaged Dalek ship that has replaced the Moulin Rouge, which is run by the mysterious Madame Adelaine Dutemps, a creation and puppet of the Daleks.
The intrigue and mystery of this audio culminates in an encounter with the Dalek Time Controller, damaged and isolated after his last encounter with the Doctor, who is converting humans into ramshackle Daleks from within the Red Pagoda. The Dalek Time Controller decides to create a council of Dalek Time Strategists, who become important to the Dalek Empire much later on during the Time War, and the Time Controller also mentions that the Dalek Paradigm from Victory of the Daleks is causing the Dalek timeline to fluctuate, a nice touch. There is also a fantastic scene towards the end between Liv and the Dalek Time Controller that is by far the best scene in the whole audio.
4.3 – Master of the Daleks
Featuring one of the best cold opens of any Doctor Who audio drama, Master of the Daleks sets its bar high, featuring the Daleks, the Master and the Sontarans in the penultimate audio in what has essentially been a 16-part space opera saga. Unfortunately, however, this audio immediately jumps to two well-known tropes of the Eighth Doctor audios – expositional dialogue, and the Doctor suffering from amnesia. There are some humorous scenes due to this situation as the Doctor mistakes a Dalek for one of his companions, but it cannot be denied that at this point the amnesiac Eighth Doctor trope has become a tired, worn-out trait of the character that only exists due to the bizarre plot of the TV Movie and has plagued the Eighth Doctor’s era ever since.
The main plot of this audio is interesting, as the Master and the Dalek Time Controller team up to take over Earth, Sontar and a significant portion of the Galaxy using a combined Dalek-Sontaran army. Naturally, this alliance is an uneasy one at best. Alex Macqueen’s Master seems to be great at playing off other villains, one of the things that makes him so great in the Monthly Adventures story The Two Masters, and this is never more true than here as Macqueen and Nick Briggs work really well together. The character of the Time Controller is capable of a lot more expression than a standard Dalek, so this audio has room for some great dialogue between the two characters.
The obvious elephant in the room with this audio is that Molly is recast, having aged several years and now living in the Dalek-occupied timeline working as a nurse in a worker camp. Molly, now called Mary Carter, is played by Sorcha Cusak who does a great job playing the character. Dan Starkey also features in this audio, and does a great job playing all the Sontaran characters who battle with the Daleks at the end in a climatic conflict that requires some broad imagination to picture but is exciting nonetheless. A battle between the Daleks, the Master and the Sontarans is a fan’s dream come true, and Master of the Daleks does a great job of realising this concept in the best possible way without straying too far into the realm of confusing plotlines.
4.4 – Eye of Darkness
Despite the bizarre title (‘Dark Eyes: Eye of Darkness’) this audio presents some really interesting ideas for a story, such as a damaged and desperate Dalek commander trying to herd prisoner while also maintaining its casing’s structural integrity, and a planet dedicated to providing a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere for its patrons. Nicholas Briggs does a fantastic job playing the Dalek Time Controller, a very unique Dalek who displays a lot more personality than even the most ambitious Supreme or Emperor. The Time Controller is easily one of the most memorable Daleks we have ever had in Doctor Who and it is clear that the Dalek characters in the Daleks! animated series for Time Lord Victorious are somewhat based on the personality and mannerisms of this specific Dalek. Its interactions with Liv are a key element of this audio, and the two play off each other well as Liv questions the Time Controller’s every ruthless move.
In many ways, this audio represents the culmination of the Dalek appearances throughout the saga. They started off as the mysterious entity behind everything, with the Time Controller pulling all the strings, and now they return, once again as a sinister entity, but with the Time Controller very much on the back-foot. Listening to this deranged Dalek attempt to claw his way back into power is fascinating, and there are some great sequences involving lesser Dalek questioning the Time Controller’s authority, as his constant meddling with the timelines has lead to the Dalek Empire cutting him off, and we see the fall of the saga’s main villain which is definitely an important aspect of this climactic conclusion to the Dark Eyes saga.
Most importantly for the finale of Dark Eyes, the Eighth Doctor and Molly O’ Sullivan get a reunion in this audio at last, as the plot finally allows the two character’s paths to cross after all the build-up of the previous story. There are other links to the previous box sets as well, as this audio features the return of the creator of the Eminence as the deadly gaseous entity plays one final role in the saga before its conclusion, and we are finally given the last pieces of the puzzle to understand their true origins. Whilst the final end to the saga is somewhat swamped in technobabble, ultimately Eye of Darkness delivers a satisfying conclusion to the saga that end’s Molly’s story on a strong note whilst taking the Eighth Doctor and Liv Chenka into a new era, starting with the first box set in the Doom Coalition series.
Following his introduction in the previous box set, Alex Macqueen’s Master takes centre stage as the main villain of this next phase of the saga. After his defeat at the end of Eyes of the Master, the Master continues his quest to gain control of the Eminence and as a result he appears in many of the later Dark Eyes stories. In this sense he is similar to his predecessor Roger Delgado, as his incarnation of the Master would appear often to antagonise the Third Doctor in his quest to escape Earth. Macqueen’s incarnation seems a lot more dangerous, however, as he possesses an element of the unpredictable madness of John Simm’s incarnation. As the events of this series unfold, Alex Macqueen’s incarnation quickly proves himself and he is without doubt one of the best incarnations of the Master in any Doctor Who medium.
3.1 – The Death of Hope
The Doctor meets Narvin, a Time Lord who is prominent in the Gallifrey spinoff series, and through a matrix projection he is able to witness the Master, Dr Sally Armstrong and a hypnotised Molly arrive on a planet called Heron’s World that has been conquered by the Eminence, and is an audience to the ensuing events that follow without being able to actually influence what is happening. This is a somewhat unusual setup for an audio, especially the first part of a box set, as the Doctor is completely separated from the main plot and serves merely as a bystander to events, commenting on them in a manner similar to the courtroom scenes in The Trial of a Time Lord. Whether or not you enjoy the ‘characters watching characters’ element of that TV story will likely determine whether or not you will enjoy this audio.
This audio also presents a bizarre mirror-image of the Eleventh Doctor’s look for Series 6 of the TV series, as the Master dons a Stetson and plays the ‘hero’ in order to infiltrate the human society hiding out on Heron’s World. It is fascinating to listen to, not least because Macqueen does such a fantastic job of making the character his own but also because you can really tell that the Master revels in impersonating the kind of character that the Doctor is by nature. For that reason, The Death of Hope subverts a lot of the classic Doctor Who story tropes, making it an interesting listen to say the least.
Ultimately, The Death of Hope is an intriguing opening story to Dark Eyes 3, and like any good opening it poses a new set of question regarding the Master, the Eminence and how the Time Lords are embroiled in the conflict. The interplay between the Master and Dr Sally Armstrong is great, as are the conversations between the Doctor and Narvin about the events unfolding. While this story is somewhat bleak, which is a given considering the fact that the title is The Death of Hope, it is ironically one of the most enjoyable audios in Dark Eyes overall.
3.2 – The Reviled
The Time Lords direct the Doctor and Liv to a planet on which human colonists are currently facing an uprising by the native species, the scorpion-like Ramossans, during the height of the Eminence War. This audio stars Sacha Dhawan, the Master from the Thirteenth Doctor’s TV stories, as one of the Human colonists who are being held prisoner by the Ramossans, which is an interesting piece of trivia that makes this audio that bit more fun to listen to. The Ramossans also have a very odd audio design, as they are apparently giant scorpions with translators fixed to their mandibles, so their voices are suitably intimidating and it is clear that the voice actors had a lot of fun with them.
In many ways The Reviled is a parallel for a lot of Human-vs-Alien stories in science fiction, as the Humans hold a fair degree of animosity towards the Ramossans, calling them ‘roaches’, and the Ramossans are intent on keeping the Humans contained, killing any who attempt to leave their designated areas. Like the Series 9 TV story The Zygon Inversion, the Doctor is put in the position of mediator in a conflict between humanity and another powerful force, and this audio does a great job of reflecting the good and bad things that both sides have done, just as how in a real conflict neither side is wholly innocent.
This audio also showcases just how ruthless and dangerous the Eminence really are, and they have a profound effect on the Doctor in a way that, up until now, only the Daleks, the Cybermen and perhaps the Master have been capable of. The Reviled does a great job of telling a self-contained story that is also an essential part of the wider narrative, and there are many aspects that are clearly inspired by the New Series in both tone and pacing. So far Dark Eyes 3 has been the most cohesive box set in the series so far, as the central theme of the Master’s grand plan with the Doctor working to stop him in various points across time and space is a great story arc for a series that this audio utilises very well.
3.3 – Masterplan
This is the audio where many of the questions throughout the last 2 box sets begin to be answered, as we get more information about the Eminence and this incarnation of the Master to provide some context at last, as well as some fan-service in the form of a fantastic conversation between the two characters. Trapped together as a result of one of the Doctor’s traps, the Master and the Eighth Doctor get some time to talk things over, and we are treated to some great honest conversation between the two that closely resembles the interplay between the Delgado incarnation and the Third Doctor in the ’70s. Each Time Lord tries to outwit and deconstruct the position of the other, both while thinking of how they can escape, and it makes for great listening. For anyone who has yearned for a modern story in which the Doctor and the Master sit down and have a nice hearts-to-hearts chat, this is the audio for you.
Liv, in the meantime, competes with Dr Sally Armstrong to influence the scientific research that would eventually create the Eminence, and Liv gets some excellent character development as she delivers some stinging criticism to Sally about how the Master is clearly using her for his own ends, and that she will be killed as soon as she outlives her usefulness. The tragedy of Dr Sally Armstrong is that, in the original timeline of Dark Eyes 1, she wanted nothing more than to travel with the Doctor before she was tragically exterminated by the Daleks. In this new timeline, however, she has been corrupted by the Master and is now seemingly just as sadistic and utilitarian as he is.
Overall, Masterplan is a fantastic story that is well-written and well-executed, with wonderful performances from all the cast that is only enhanced by brilliant sound design. As the story develops and inches closer and closer to the eventual conclusion the tension builds and builds, and of all the stories in the Dark Eyes saga thus far this one is the most intense.
3.4 – Rule of the Eminence
This audio presents humankind with its ultimate challenge, a politician who gets himself elected on empty promises and recycled rhetoric, a man who exploits the populist mentality to broadcast his own polluted agenda, a politician who takes advantage of a bad situation to ensure that he remains on top and the people beneath him suffer. No, it isn’t Boris Johnson, it is something slightly less evil, The Master, up to his old tricks. This is perhaps the Macqueen incarnation at his most evil, and it is clear that Matt Fitton has a clear understanding of the character of the Master and writes his appearances as naturally as any of the writers of the Jon Pertwee era. When is comes to high-stakes Doctor vs Master stories, there are few that can compare to this audio.
The idea of a world controlled completely by the Eminence, which is in turn controlled by the Master, is probably the most devious means that the Master could use to conquer the Earth, as unlike in the Classic series where the Master often wanted to destroy humankind or in the New series where the Master seems to be more focused on converting humans into slaves or puppets, this audio shows what the world would be like if the Master achieved his original ultimate goal of controlling all of humanity but in a subtle, behind-the-scenes way. In this case, the Master has literally grown a politician to use as a vessel to control the human race and everyone is hypnotised by modified Eminence gas that has permeated through the entire population. The Doctor is trapped amongst all this and tries desperately to regain some kind of sanity in the human characters he encounters, and listening to the Doctor evading the mind control of the Master as the two try to outwit each other is always fun.
We are also left with one of the most fundamental changes in this era, as Molly leaves the Doctor and Liv takes her place as the primary companion. This has been hinted at for some time, as Liv had accompanied the Doctor for many adventures before taking over as the main companion. Molly’s role in the story is not over, though her time in the TARDIS concludes in this story and as such it feels like the conclusion to the Dark Eyes saga has come a bit early, despite there being one more box set in the series. However, there are some loose ends that Rule of the Eminence leaves for Dark Eyes 4, as it focuses a lot of its attention on the Master which is important as Macqueen’s version is a relatively new incarnation who needs time to establish himself before the proper finale at the end of the next box set. Overall, Rule of the Eminence is a strong conclusion to Dark Eyes 3 that shakes up the status quo and concludes story arcs that have been running since the start of the era.
Following the success of the first Dark Eyes box set, Big Finish began to increase their focus more on multi-part boxed sets rather than individual stories. Dark Eyes 2 represents the transition period between box sets being an experiment and box sets being the norm for Big Finish, so the writers go to a great deal of effort to try and sell Dark Eyes 2 as the next chapter in what would be an ongoing saga that lasts for a total of four box sets, making one long 16-part story arc. Whilst the first Dark Eyes was its own self-contained narrative, Dark Eyes 2 begins a story that picks up where the first box set left off and explains some things whilst also posing its own series of questions.
2.1 – The Traitor
This story introduces one of the Eighth Doctor’s longest running companions, Liv Chenka, who had previously appeared in the Seventh Doctor audio Robophobia. By this point she is working as a medical technician on Nixyce VII, under the supervision of a Dalek occupation. In a unique twist for a companion introduction story, Liv proves herself more than capable of dealing with the Daleks before she even meets the Eighth Doctor, and she is easily the standout element of this story. As the eponymous ‘Traitor’, Liv works with the Daleks for the greater purpose of providing medical care to slave workers on the planet, and when rebels attempt an incursion she is mixed up in helping them.
The Doctor, in the meantime, is infiltrating the same facility disguised as a roboman whilst being hunted by the Dalek Time Controller, and the story uses its runtime well to keep the intrigue present throughout and move the plot along quickly and logically. Unlike the previous Dark Eyes stories, there is less reliance on technobabble and instead we are treated to a classic Dalek runaround, which is a welcome change and a promising start to the series. The conflict between Liv and the rebels brings up the interesting question of whether reform or revolution is the best path to take, as Liv uses Dalek technology to help the wounded whilst the rebels kill slaves to hurt the Daleks.
Another thing worth mentioning about this story is the character of the Dalek Time Controller, who returns once again and is as devious as ever. Nick Briggs does a fantastic job voicing this Dalek, the voice is unlike any other Dalek we have heard before, almost sing-song like Dalek Caan yet as arrogant and domineering as any Supreme Dalek. By this point the character of the Dalek Time Controller has been fully realised, and he is a refreshing new twist on the Dalek leadership that allows for more flexibility of storytelling as his motivations deviate from that of other Dalek Supremes. In many ways, this is reflective of The Traitor itself, as it is in many ways a standard Dalek story but it is different enough to be refreshing, and the New Series should definitely look to stories like this for ways in which they can use the Daleks in new ways.
2.2 – The White Room
The Eighth Doctor is reunited with Molly once again, and her dark eyes return as the retro-genitor particles from the previous box set appear to infect her once again. After living in the Doctor’s house until he shows up, she is involved in temporally-related intrigue as a sinister organisation begins abducting deserters and criminals to perform twisted experiments on them that render them almost completely translucent, and capable of limited time-travel. In the meantime, the Doctor hunts Molly down using the TARDIS after she is kidnapped by the insidious shadowy force at large.
The shadowy force turns out to be the Viyrans, a recurring species original to the Big Finish audios who were introduced in the Sixth Doctor Main Range story Patient Zero who are hunting various strains of alien virus that were scattered throughout the universe as the result of a Dalek incursion. Rather like the Judoon, the Viyrans are not necessarily evil but they are often willing to go to any necessary lengths to complete their task, which sometimes puts them at odds with the Doctor. In this case, the Viyrans are attempting to contain a controlled outbreak of a time-active virus, and are willing to destroy a sizeable portion of England in order to neutralise it.
The White Room is the first example of the Dark Eyes series telling a story that is not directly related to the overall story, and instead opts to use a pre-existing monster to tell a story that involves Molly and the Doctor reuniting, and the end result is very good. In fact, this is arguably one of the best audios in the Dark Eyes saga so far, as Molly is finally treated as an actual character first and a plot device second, and we also get a sense that the saga encompasses more than just the Doctor, the Daleks and the Time Lords. More importantly, however, it stands as its own story, and requires none of the context of the previous stories, unlike the next few stories which delve deeper into the series arc.
2.3 – Time’s Horizon
This audio is where the Dark Eyes story starts to get more complex, as the Doctor seemingly aids the Daleks in destroying one of their foes as he has knowledge of the other species that the listener hasn’t met yet and claims that they are in fact a greater threat than the Daleks themselves. The Doctor and Molly arrive on a spaceship at the edge of the universe, where Liv and a crew of humans have woken up from years of cryogenic sleep after fleeing the Dalek invasion. For Liv, this is set after the events of The Traitor, but for the Doctor those events haven’t happened yet, which presents an interesting situation for the two characters as Liv is still dealing with the aftereffects of that story. The intrigue that surrounds her and the other members of her crew plays an important part in this story, unlike many base-under-siege Doctor Who stories, the supporting characters are developed as actual characters instead of as throwaway pawns.
In many ways this audio is a turning point in the Dark Eyes series, as it not only introduces the newest recurring enemy of the saga but also shows the first meeting between Molly and Liv, and the disjointed order of the stories in Dark Eyes 2 so far begins to make more sense as the big threat is finally revealed known as the Eminence. This psychic, gaseous entity transforms living beings into bizarre entities known as Infinite Warriors, and is soon identified by the Doctor as a serious threat from the times he met them in Fourth and Sixth Doctor audios. The Doctor’s willingness to help the Daleks against the species that we now know to be the Eminence in The Traitor makes a lot more sense as they are arguably just as deadly a threat to humanity as the Daleks.
It is worth mentioning that there are some genuinely horrifying scenes in this audio, and the sound design, soundtrack and excellent performances from the cast come together beautifully in some really tense scenes surrounding the introduction of the Eminence and the Infinite Warriors. Interestingly enough, this audio features an eerie electronic remix of the Doctor Who theme used as part of the soundtrack, which is one of the few times in the entire history of the series that this is done. As one final treat, Time’s Horizon delivers an incredible twist that proves once again that Matt Fitton is one of the best writers Big Finish currently have at their disposal.
2.4 – Eyes of the Master
This audio culminates the wider story of Dark Eyes 2 whilst also rounding off several elements of the the original Dark Eyes, making it one of the most gratifying audios of the series as answers are finally forthcoming. However, this one is not for the squeamish as the Master has set himself up as an Optician and is literally harvesting the eyes of unwitting humans. Speaking of the Master, this audio features the first appearance of Alex Macqueen’s Master in the Eighth Doctor audios, and for many this is the first chronological story for the character that they will have encountered. In that sense it is unfortunate that the title spoils the reveal that Alex Macqueen is playing the Master, as it would have been an excellent reveal of it hadn’t been spoiled in advance. Macqueen makes an exceptional Master, and it is unfortunate that this incarnation has never had any appearances on-screen as he is a perfect blend of John Simm’s jovial insanity and Roger Delgado’s gentlemanly charm and seems to be tailor-made for the tone of the New Series.
This audio also features the return of Dr Sally Armstrong, another link to the previous Dark Eyes box set. Since the events of that series never happened for another other than the Doctor, Molly and the Dalek Time Controller, Sally is still alive, only in this timeline she has been recruited by the Master as an assistant. The Master’s plan is suitably ruthless, as he is quite literally harvesting humans with little regard for life, and this makes Eyes of the Master a suitably high-stakes finale. The Master’s shockingly domestic ‘optician’ personality is a great call-back to the very personal attacks on British home life that Roger Delgado’s Master employed, such as disguising himself as a rural vicar in The Daemons.
The Doctor and the Master get some great scenes in this one, and Alex Macqueen and Paul McGann are brilliant in their respective roles. The Master questions the Doctor’s decision to not destroy the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks, and then to spare the Daleks again in order to save Molly in the previous Dark Eyes box set. This questioning of the Doctor’s good nature is a crucial aspect of the Master’s character that Alex Macqueen absolutes owns, as his ability to chew the scenery whilst simultaneously retaining a villainous presence is showcased perfectly in this audio. As the conclusion to Dark Eyes 2, Eyes of the Master does a fantastic job of rounding off story points from the previous two series, slotting the final story points from the non-linear narrative of this box set as well as introducing Macqueen’s Master to the mix, making it one the most effective finales of the Eighth Doctor’s era so far.