Doctor Who Big Finish- Master


By Joseph Lidster
Story 049
Released October 2003

“Do you see me as I see myself? Do you see you as you see yourself? When you see the color red, do you see the color red that I see? Or is your red my blue?”- Doctor

Late one night, Doctor John Smith receives a pair of old friends, Victor and Jacqueline Schaffer, for dinner. A somewhat secluded and tragic individual, Smith tries his best to play the host to his friends and avoid unpleasant conversation, but it seems impossible. A series of grisly murders is the popular topic and its ghost haunts the proceedings. As the weather turns ugly, a stranger arrives in a roar of thunder.

The Doctor has arrived far earlier than he planned to resolve some unfinished business. An old debt has been called in, one that he always knew must be paid, but one that he also knew would demand a tremendous cost. But even the Doctor could not predict how this well constructed situation would pan out, or what path it would take.

Built largely on ideas developed in the Virgin New Adventures line of novels, this version of the Doctor is ‘Time’s Champion,’ a title that came with a  price. The Doctor made a bargain with the abstract cosmic entity of Time and part of that deal involved his old nemesis the Master being placed in a fictional world where he would live out a life without the history of his past crimes. The fact that the Doctor has entered the fiction means that it must end and his debt must be paid. The Master will be allowed to accept or dent his role as the devious evil genius or accept the life of a new man.

Of course the Master knows nothing of this and the pair of intellectuals engage in a series of philosophical discussions on the nature of evil. The Master states that a sociopath driven to commit acts of murder suffers not from a damned soul, but a psychological differentiation.

“So, one who suffers such an affliction is merely helping the universe see the same color red?”- Master

“Perhaps.” – Doctor

“So there is no such thing as evil. It doesn’t exist!”- Master

“A man who kills because of motive can be questioned. A man who kills because he is ill can be helped. A man who kills because he was born, fated to be evil is a true tragedy in itself.”- Doctor

This story adds depth to the unspoken relationship that the Doctor and Master had in the classic program. When he is first introduced as a rough Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock, it’s clear almost immediately that the Doctor and the Master are more than just old classmates ort acquaintances. Letts and Dicks had planned a story that would reveal that the Doctor and Master were part of the same person when the third Doctor regenerated into his fourth body, but Roger Delgado’s untimely death prevented that story from being screened. In Planet of Fire, after the Doctor committed the Master to a fiery death, John Nathan Turner inserted the line, ‘how could you do this to your own brother?’ which was cut from the final transmission.

The Doctor and the Master are more than just former friends and committed foes. Their past is shrouded in mystery, allowing for stories like this to be written. ‘Master’ furthers the story of the two characters by implying that while the Doctor is Time’s Champion, the Master is Death’s Champion. Both the Doctor and the Master have decided their paths, but in each case, they have taken on the responsibility of abstract concepts, placing them further part from the rest of the universe.

There is a story of the Doctor and Master’s childhood where one of them committed murder, accidentally, to defend the other from a bully. The Doctor remember that it was the Master who killed to protect him, but Death informs him that it was the Doctor and in order to escape the guilt, he placed the blame on his closest friend, the Master. The back story and turnabout are both a bit too pat for my taste and make an otherwise brilliant meditation on sociopathy too contrived.

As the Doctor and Master learn of their true selves, so too do the Schaffers. Jacqueline reveals her secret love for the Master and Victor admits to committing unconscionable acts of violence. The intention is obviously that the potential for evil lies in all of us, but the conclusion of ‘Master’ involves the acceptance of an abstract concept of evil and death that makes this somewhat confusing.

Part of a quartet of stories delving into the inner workings of the Doctor’s greatest nemesis’s, ‘Master’ is an odd duck, but in places it is absolutely marvelous. Geoffrey Beevers once again delivers a sterling performance and given the magnificent material to work with, McCoy knocks it out of the park.

Doctor Who – Master can be ordered directly from Big Finish and from local retailers such as Mike’s Comics.

9 thoughts on “Doctor Who Big Finish- Master

  1. Nice review, Jameson. I’m in two minds on the Time’s Champion concept: on the one hand it was something of a new approach to Doctor Who, but on the other it was too clearly young writers trying to shoehorn the influence of Michael Moorcock and arguably Alan Moore into Who, and it was a bit limiting which is never a good thing with the Good Doctor. As a result of that I share your mixed feelings over Master, the Master as Death’s Champion? To on the nose, still it’s better than the concept of him being driven to madness and naughtiness by the sound of drums, now THAT idea SUCKS as they say! You also couldn’t be *more* right about the patness (and ridiculousness) of the backstory while the interrogation of the nature of evil is perhaps not as profound as Lidster appears to think it is. Yet for all that, there are some nice ideas under the pretension which give McCoy something to play with and Beever’s to best his performance in Keeper of Traken. And thank the Good Lord there was no attempt to make the Master the Doctor’s brother😉. So it’s pretty good.
    By the way have you heard the rumours that Benedict Cumberbatch may play the Master next year? What a lame predictable idea if it’s true – I’m surprised Moffat hasn’t tried to cast Martin Freeman as the Rani!


    • Thanks for the kind words, as always!

      Yes, I have seen the swarm of rumors that Cumberbatch will be the Master. The trailer for Sherlock actually turned me off as it incorporated too many of the negative traits that Moffat put into his version of Doctor Who. The best performance from Bernard that I saw was in Four Lions as an ineffectual hostage negotiator. Hilarious. I really hope that we don’t see the Master again. After what Davies did with him… he’s better off gone for good. Besides, most NuWho fans think of John Simms as THE Master… poor deluded people.


      • In all fairness, I only knew Ainley as The Master for the longest time. When you got me back into Who during High School, it was all Colin and Peter stories. I never cared much for Pertwee so it took ages for me to see a story with Delgado. Now I love The Daemons. Now I didn’t care much for Simms either, but he might just be an improvement over Eric Roberts.


  2. @dailypop – Bernard? That’s fantastic, I thought only I had brainfreezes like that! In all fairness I think I will call Ol’ Benedict Bernard Cabbagepatch from now on – just because. If they bring the Master back it’d have to be something *really* worthwhile, after the Davies Mess. Simm as THE Master for a generation? Don’t say things like that Jameson, just…don’t. The horror, the horror😉.
    @Robb, hello amigo. Yes, I grew up with Ainley as the Master but as soon as I read about the Roger Delgado version I knew that he’d be the Real Deal and when I saw him *years later* so it proved to be, though I like the loony googly-eyed version played by Peter Pratt in The Deadly Assassin too. What a malevolent nutcase! The Daemons is out on dvd soon.


    • Hahaha… well, it has been a long day and I do need to explain the Avengers roster and the difference between a classic Chase-era Dalek and the Emperor’s Guard Dalek to my 3 year-old son as well.

      I do feel that I need to own up here as this is the second friend from High School to tell me that not only did I introduce them to Doctor Who, but that I praised the 80’s and damned the 70’s era. I can be a bit of a bully when I make my mind up and it seems that I really sowed the seeds of Pertwee/Tom Baker dislike in my friends.

      These days I adore that era, of course. I can respect Ainley and after learning that he was a well to do man who of privilege only acted because he wanted to and that he viewed the Master as the role of a lifetime… I am very fond of him. But Delgado is the real deal.

      I can’t really stomach Simm as being better or even less awful than Roberts as the Master. Sure, Simm could be a better actor (just watch Life on Mars), and while Roberts may have worn an all out evening gown and ballroom gloves, it was Simm who gurned to the camera wheeling the Doctor around to pop music then fired magical lightning out of his hands. Oh and he just cannot get enough cheeseburgers (and he never gains an ounce… I hate him!!).


      • Roberts can be a better actor too. He is an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee. Just kind of fell into B-Movie hell somewhere around 1992. To clarify, I never took to Pertwee on my own, not because of your opinion So don’t think that. You would also dismiss Tom Baker back then, but I still dug him the whole time. Granted the focus was on current Who at that time (circa 1988), so leaning towards C. Baker, Davison and McCoy was understandable. Might be why Colin is my favorite Doctor.

        Hal, Delgado is the real deal true, but with much respect, I’m still an Ainley fan. He’s my “Master” so to speak.


  3. Hey, don’t we all, man! About temporarily turning your friends against ’70s Doctor Who – well, at least you now use your powers for good…
    I thought Ainley was nicely creepy in Survival (although it’s a long time since I’ve seen that) and the Master’s role in The Five Doctors was fun (boy, Cybermen really are dumb aren’t they?!). I find it easy to overlook Eric Roberts because well he had no concept of what Doctor Who was and it isn’t as if he received a bucketload of praise (and he’s sort of amusingly bad and ridiculous) but I loathe Simm’s Master, the role wasn’t right for him – he was, as you say, excellent in Life on Mars – and Davies encouraged him in all the worst excesses thanks to his terrible, *terrible* scripts but worse he got PRAISED! Wow, are you kidding me? Praise? For that hideous rubbish?! Must…restrain…self. AGH!
    After you’ve explained the Avengers roster to your son could you explain it to me? Heh. Hope you get some rest.


  4. Hi Robb, hey we all have our favourites! As I posted to Jameson above there are a couple of stories I liked the Ainley Master in, I just don’t tend to like the way his character was usually written or the way he was made to play him (apparently he would have liked to have portrayed him the way he did in Survival all along). He seemed a nice chap.
    @dailypop, see Robb has let you off the hook.


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