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23 April 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Robert Valentine, Robert Whitelock & Matt Fitton

RRP: £19.99 (CD) | £16.99 (Download)

Release Date: March 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Abandoned in the Vortex, the Master’s lost incarnation is about to be thrown a lifeline.

Earth rebuilds in the aftermath of invasion, and power rests with those who innovate. Genius Lila Kreeg makes a deal with the devil to see her dreams fulfilled.

As the Master returns, there are those – like Vienna Salvatori – who wish to hunt him, and those upon whom he wishes vengeance himself...

1. Faustian by Robert Valentine

Drake Enterprises is the most powerful company on Earth. Dr Lila Kreeg is its most valued asset. But her experiments open a doorway which allow an evil back into the universe. The Master can offer Lila the world, so long as she obeys him...

2. Prey by Robert Whitelock

Impossibly glamorous assassin Vienna Salvatori has a new target. Crossing time and space, Vienna takes one final job to free her from this life.

But when the Master is hunted through the slums and ganglands of London, the line is blurred between predator and prey...

3. Vengeance by Matt Fitton

The Daleks are returning. Their plan, long in the making, is complete. Earth will be theirs once more.

But someone stands against them. Someone with his own reasons for revenge – and Vienna and Lila are caught in the crossfire. Because Earth’s greatest hope against the Daleks lies with the Master."

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

One thing I love about Big Finish is how they give even the smallest of characters a second life once their time in the show, however brief, is over. The War Doctor and the Jacobi Master are just a couple of great examples of characters who’ve been given a second shot to establish themselves within the worlds of Doctor Who thanks to the Big Finish and their seemingly endless supply of stories.

And now, 25 years after his seemingly one-off appearance in the 1996 TV Movie, Eric Roberts’ Master finally gets an extended run-out in the Whoniverse thanks to this new, 3-episode boxset, Master! 

Despite having made a couple of appearances in previous Big Finish dramas, this is the first time where the Roberts' Master is the real star of the show, and after having listened to this boxset, I’m really struggling to understand why they didn’t think of doing something like this sooner! 

I’m cutting to the chase here, but Roberts is honestly brilliant in this series. He’s almost snake-like, with his silky smooth voice never really fully concealing the real venom within. He’s not one to get angry or lose his head like his other incarnations, but he’s just as dangerous, just as wicked, and just as ready to betray people, even those he claims to like. I was very, very impressed with Roberts performance and would love for him to come back and do some more audio dramas in the hopefully not-so-distant future.

There’s no time-travelling or space-hopping in this boxset, which was a welcome surprise. Every single episode is set in a Cyber-punk-inspired London in the year 2223, or in other words, a London post The Dalek invasion of Earth. The world is rebuilding and mega corporations hold the power now, which is a pretty scary concept in itself. Over three episodes we follow the Master as he builds himself up from nothing to become the most powerful man on the planet, going up against mob bosses, assassins and Daleks along the way. 

The first episode, Faustian written by Robert Valentine, tells the tale of Lila Kreeg, a scientific genius, as she tries to master the art of matter transfer. However, the company she works for, Drake Enterprises, keep trying to shut down her experiments. When her experiments start affecting time as well as space, the Master shows up, and Lila rescues him from the void. 

Faustian is a bit of a slow burner, and we do spend an awful lot of time with Laura Aikman’s Lila, but that’s certainly no bad thing. I was really invested in the character and her experiments, and the Master turning up and brutally making his way to the top with Lila at his side just added to what was already a really engaging story. I have to praise Laura Aikman too, who gives great performances throughout the 3 episodes and makes a great companion-of-sorts to the best villain around. 

The second episode, Prey, written by Robert Whitelock, is a big sci-fi mob movie with robots, assassins, and mutated underground-dwelling humans thrown into the mix for good measure. Vienna Salvatori, a brilliant assassin, is out to kill the Master, and what takes place over the course of this episode is a game of hide-and-seek throughout the slums and backwaters of a future London. 

I know that Vienna Salvatori, played by Chase Masterson, has appeared in Big Finish audio dramas before, however this is my first time meeting the character, and I’ve got to say I was impressed. I really enjoyed her teaming up with the war droid, Artie, and will definitely be checking out the rest of her adventures soon. 

The third episode, Vengeance, written by Matt Fitton, is presumably the one everyone’s been waiting for. The Daleks are back in this sort of sequel to The Dalek Invasion of Earth from 1964, and the only thing between them and world domination is the Master. This is an episode that’s full of backstabbing, betrayals, and plenty of Dalek action, and I really enjoyed it.

I’m always impressed by how Nicholas Briggs manages to make the Daleks he plays so different from each other. The Dalek Litigator is slimy, even for a Dalek, and really reminded me of the Dalek Prime Strategist from the Time Lord Victorious storyline, whilst the Dalek Supreme was paranoid and quick to anger. Though the power battle between the Litigator and the Supreme felt a little too similar to what happened in the Daleks! YouTube series between the Strategist and the Emperor, it was still an interesting element all the same. 

The Master facing off against the Daleks was fun, and the ending definitely leaves it open for more appearances from Eric Roberts’ Master in the future, should Roberts ever want to return of course, which I hope he does. 

Whilst Roberts’ Master may never reach the heights of those who have come before and after him, this boxset leaves us in no doubt that he is the Master. Featuring great performances all round, an interesting Blade Runner-inspired setting, twists, explosions, and plenty of evil Master laughs, this is a boxset everyone should give a listen to, be they fans of the Roberts’ Master or not. If it doesn’t redeem him, at the very least it gives us an interesting and more in-depth take on a fan favourite character. 

+ Master! is OUT NOW, priced £19.99 (CD) | £16.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

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