Big Finish is a company that has produced hours and hours of original audio drama, largely built on the universe of Doctor Who. Not content with stories about the Doctor, the company has also looked around in every corner of the franchise for other possible focuses for its production. Not surprisingly, that has included the Doctor’s most popular enemies, including the Master.
(Daily Doctor Who #178)
Though most of their product costs various amounts, they also have a number of releases available for free. This is one of them.
Beneath the Viscoid
Line: The War Master – Only the Good
Length: 55 minutes
Buying Price: The full Only the Good, which seems to be volume 1 of The War Master series, goes for $29.99. It includes four episodes, of which this is the first. ,
Comments: Beneath the Viscoid, by Nicholas Briggs, marks the return of Derek Jacobi to the role of the Master, something he did on TV just once, back in 2007’s Utopia. The story takes place in the early days of the Time War, featuring the Master forced on a forced by the Daleks to go on a mission to recover his own TARDIS which has been lost beneath the “Viscoid”, the thick ocean which covers the planet Gardezza. To do this, he “befriends” a group of rebels who are attempting to overthrow the Dalek occupation of their world. He pretends to be the Doctor (whom they have heard of) and thus manipulates them to allow him to recover his TARDIS, and then effect a betrayal of the Daleks, which has the side effect of saving Gardezza.
It’s bit hard to get a handle on Jacobi’s take on the Master from this story alone, as he spends most of his time pretending to be the Doctor, a persona he portrays as a bit of a doddering old wizard. However, in the moments when he lets his guard down and shows his true colors, he does display the same chilling ruthlessness that we saw in the closing moments of Utopia. It’s effectively done and makes one sad that on TV we had to lose that for the prancing lunacy of John Simm (as well as early Michelle Gomez and all of Sacha Dhawan so far.)
On the other hand, adventures in which the Master is positioned as the hero are not really the kind of stories that I want to listen to. I enjoyed all those Dalek Empire audios (see here and here and here and here and here), also by Briggs, but that was only because there were still heroes in those stories that I could rally behind. Beneath the Viscoid goes to the effort of bringing up the question of how the Master is different than the Doctor when they both end up helping Gardezza, and then it answers it by showing the Master heartlessly allowing a sympathetic character to die in order to further his own goals. It’s perfectly fitting for the character, but it’s completely unappealing for me to have a story built around that character.
Does it tempt me to get more? By no means. It’s a well-done production, but I’m just not interested in the material enough to subject myself to the unpleasantness of this sort of story.