Written by Jonathan Morris, directed by Ken Bentley
Released: July 2013
The Vault is a top secret repository for many of the strange and unexplained artifacts that U.N.I.T. has collected over the many years that it has been in operation defending the Earth from alien invasion. When they were last seen in ‘Tales From the Vault, Warrant Officer Charlie Sato and Captain Ruth Matheson unraveled a complex alien plot that had been in the works for ages using bits of archival material from the Doctor’s many companions. Fans were hopeful that Sato and Matheson would return (played as they were by Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso who had starred opposite he Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann in the 1996 TV Movie. Brimging them back was a challenge for Jonathan Morris, but he had a trick up his sleeve, the only living prisoner in the Vault, that devious Time Lord known as the Master.
Like many fans of the classic series, I had discounted Geoffrey Beevers as the Master as he appeared in only one story (The Keeper of Traken), covered in makeup. His successor Anthony Ainley was much more fondly remembered. However, when I reviewed The Keeper of Traken, I noticed that Beevers gave a superb performance and really added that necessary bit of evil-ness to the character using little more than his voice and his hands (restricted as he was by the costume and makeup). When Beevers returned to play the Master in ‘Dust Breeding‘, ‘Master,’ ‘Trail of the White Worm,’ and ‘The Oseidon Adventure,’ he really shined. As the only living actor to play the part from the classic series, Big Finish has made good use out of Beevers, but this time he got to stretch into other roles and add new facets to the Master, reminding listeners why he is the most fiendish villain of all.
In Mastermind, Sato is astonished when he finds an ornate grandfather clock which promptly goes off, which puts into motion a series of events that Captain Matheson is all too familiar with. Every five years, the clock goes off and the prisoner awakens. There is a precise process in dealing with the prisoner as he is known to have incomparable mesmeric abilities. Appearing as a withered and scorched corpse, the Master doesn’t look like much, but he has been in custody for some years and is still regarded with as much caution as when he was much younger. Sato and Matheson meet with the Master in ten minute stints to avoid becoming mesmerized, but will it be enough?
The story of Mastermind was set out to mirror Silence of the Lambs as the officers attempt to use their prisoner and in turn become pawns in his game. In searching for what happened to him before the Master was found, his captors are told a long twisting story beginning with his escape from the Time Vortex as a viscous worm, landing on Earth in the 1920’s when he took on the body of a vagrant. Measuring up the lay of the land, he soon builds a criminal empire and possesses the bodies of each offspring as his empire grows. In each body, someone would try to deter him, but to no avail until he ran a vast criminal organization from seclusion in a private penthouse removed from the public and elements alike.
There are some moments that I found a bit distracting in which the story clearly ‘borrowed’ from theatrical works such as the Godfather and Casino. However, all that was forgiven in the 11th hour when he turned his attention to Ruth Matheson and discovered her deep dark secret memory before her time with U.N.I.T. when she lost an entire battalion to a surprise attack. The Master offers to rewrite time so that no one dies, and Ruth becomes confused by the possibility, her memory split between two realities. Sato too is entranced and given a similar offer in which his father and sister survive a devastating accident that spared him as a little boy.
The conniving quality of the Master’s nature and his controlling powers are conveyed so crisply by Beever’s voice that it sent shivers down my spine. The familiar maddening cackle of the Master closes the story with an icy touch of evil setting a new standard for the character.