Of Big Finish’s recent New Series range, perhaps most ambitious project was the celebrated War Doctor saga. As a companion to that series, a new name to join the ranks of the Time War: Sir Derek Jacobi as The War Master.

Despite being on screen for less than five minutes, Jacobi’s turn as the Master left a huge mark. Those watching ‘Utopia’ over ten years ago have been clamouring for his return in some form. Well, that day has finally arrived as Jacobi returns for ‘Only The Good’ – four new stories in the ‘The War Master’ series.

Beneath The Viscoid by Nicholas Briggs

BIG FINISH - The War Master - Beneath the Viscoid
BIG FINISH – The War Master – Beneath the Viscoid

Voice of the Daleks, Nick Briggs, pens the first tale in the set. The inhabitants of Gardezza come across a strange capsule in their ocean, known as the Viscoid. The visitor says he comes in peace and is known as the Doctor. But soon, the façade fades and the truth is revealed. Jacobi showcases every single reason why he made a brilliant Master: manipulative, devious, callous, all whilst being immensely charming. Alongside a stellar cast featuring Jacqueline King, Mark Elstob and Deirdre Mullins, Briggs’ tale serves as a reintroduction to this incarnation of the Master. Jacobi channels a level of menace with just his voice that shows how terrifying the Master can be in a desperate situation like the Time War. He’s got competition, however, as Briggs also voices the Daleks and matches Jacobi for fierceness.

The Good Master by Janine H Jones

BIG FINISH - The War Master - The Good Master
BIG FINISH – The War Master – The Good Master

If the previous story was a scene setter, then this is where the arc of ‘Only The Good’ begins proper. Bringing in some new writing blood in the form of Janine H Jones, this story sees Cole Jarnish (Jonny Green), the sole survivor of a spaceship crash. Stuck on the planet Arcking, a refuge planet lodged in the heart of the Time War, he comes across the mysterious Dr Keller. The two soon discover something powerful on the planet that some would kill for, including the Daleks. Rachel Atkins, Hannah Barber and Jacob Dudman join the cast alongside Jacobi and Green. All are on the top of their game and well directed by Scott Handcock. Whilst this might be the slowest of the four stories, it’s still an engaging listen and a reminder that the best is to come. It’s something of a prologue for the breakneck second half.

The Sky Man by James Goss

BIG FINISH - The War Master - The Sky Man
BIG FINISH – The War Master – The Sky Man

If you see James Goss credited on anything, Doctor Who or not, it is safe to assume it’ll be good. This is no exception. After taking on Cole as his “companion”, the Master allows him to indulge a little fantasy of his and takes him off to save a world. They find one, where a small community lives in the shadow of fallout. Cole has a way to save them with The Master’s help. But is he truly saving them or making something worse? This is the highlight of the set, with a brilliant script from Goss and superb acting from the whole cast. In particular, Emily Barber and Robert Dawes. The score and sound design, whilst incredible throughout the set, is especially brilliant here. One moment of realisation during the story really stands out as a point where all elements come together. To say anymore would spoil it.

The Heavenly Paradigm by Guy Adams

BIG FINISH - The War Master - The Heavenly Paradigm
BIG FINISH – The War Master – The Heavenly Paradigm

The series closes out with a Guy Adams story that sees The Master, sickened by the Time War, decides to end it once and for all. He discovers a Time Lord weapon that will allow him to reshape the universe to his will. End the war and gain universal domination in one glorious swoop. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? The arc comes to a close here and everything about it is a perfectly composed story. A great script from Adams and superb score from Peter Doggart and Ioan Morris. Nerys Hughes and Jonathan Bailey make for excellent guest stars. The chillingly good dynamic between Green and Jacobi gives everyone a chance to exhibit this version of the Master in all his menace. Again, to say anything further would be to spoil it. But rest assured, it wraps up everything nicely, even in terms of the TV series…

Overall

Though a second series of these adventures is yet to be decided, Jacobi’s incarnation of the Master has a bright future. With roles in the upcoming ‘Gallifrey: Time War and ‘UNIT – Cyber Reality for starters. But if it proves to the the only solo outing for the Master, what a perfect way to start and finish! Excellent writing, expert casting, amazing sound work (that theme tune!) and a fantastic direction by Scott Handcock. In short, buy it! Obey me!

Blogtor Rating – 10/10

‘The War Master – Only the Good’ is available to buy now from the Big Finish website.

Synopsis

This title was released in December 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until February 28th 2018, and on general sale after this date.

“This is the Big Finish release of the year, bar none.” – Massmovement

“The War Master is Big Finish doing what they do best. Well crafted stories superbly acted from a world we only glimpsed on TV. Simply wonderful.” Tin Dog 

“It seems like Big Finish have created a real gem in the Whoniverse in this War Master box set. (on the Sky Man) It’s fun, sinister, murderous and insane. Much like the Master.” – Gallifrey Archive

“The phrase tour de force gets used a lot in relation to acting performances but Sir Derek Jacobi proved why he earned his knighthood” – SciFi Pulse

Four brand-new full-cast featuring the Master’s exploits in the Time War.

1. Beneath the Viscoid by Nicholas Briggs

On the ocean planet Gardezza, deep beneath the Viscoid, a mysterious capsule is recovered from the Time War, and an equally mysterious stranger found within. The Doctor’s reputation precedes him, even here… but can he be trusted?

2. The Good Master by Janine H Jones

The Time War rages around Arcking – a planet serving as a sanctuary for the sick and injured. But Arcking is protected by a mysterious, powerful force: a force the Master will stop at nothing to harness… even if time itself is against him.

3. The Sky Man by James Goss

When his new companion decides to save a planet, the Master indulges this most futile of requests. Materialising on a primitive, agrarian world, both the strangers quickly find their place in it… until fallout from the War invades their happy paradise.

4. The Heavenly Paradigm by Guy Adams

With his plans approaching fruition, the Master travels to Stamford Bridge in the 1970s: a location he believes might hold the key to his success. But what terrible secret lurks under the stairs of No. 24 Marigold Lane? And what sacrifices will the Master make in the name of ultimate victory?

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

Cast

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). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer Scott Handcock
Script Editor Nicholas Briggs
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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