Could it be that we’re seeing double? For the first time ever in Doctor Who lore, we get a double dose of dastardly, when two incarnations of the Doctor’s best frenemy, the Master join forces. The final part of The Two Masters Trilogy, will The Two Masters be worth listening to twice, or is it just overindulgence?
The future is dying. All over the universe, gaps are beginning to appear. From the space lanes terrorised by the rag-tag remnants of the once-mighty Rocket Men, to the empire of the Gorlans, stricken by a terrible civil war. Gaps in space/time, portents of the end of everything.
Only three beings might prevent it. The Doctor, a renegade Time Lord from Gallifrey. The Master, another renegade Time Lord from Gallifrey. And another Master, yet another renegade Time Lord from Gallifrey.
The Rocket Men are one of Big Finish’s best creations, next to the Eleven and some of the Doctor’s new companions; and I have to say that I am over the moon (rocket pun) that they’re here in this release. It’s not long at all before we get our first audio glimpse (there needs to be a word for that) of the Master. The Macqueen Master that is; I can already tell that differentiating the two Masters will be rather annoying as this review goes on. The Rocket Men seem to be in trouble, and it’s up to the Macqueen Master to be their saviour. I must admit that the whole vibe of this version of the Master attempting to aid those in need is very reminiscent of The Death of Hope from Dark Eyes 3; but that’s not a bad thing in my ears.
Straight after that great theme tune, I have to say that I was blown over by the incredible music of Jamie Robertson and the brilliant sound design of Martin Montague. The first 45 seconds after the titles are just music and sound design, with an occasional grunt from Sylvester McCoy; whilst this would have easily worked on the television, to dedicate this amount of time so early on to essentially what is normally considered the background on an audio production is a ballsy move, and boy is the payoff refreshing.
Time is getting holes, and the Seventh Doctor is trying his best to patch it back up; if only the Sixth Doctor had this problem, he could probably patch up everything with that coat. Unfortunately for the Doctor, he’s landed on a ship that has been commandeered by the Rocket Men, and they’re not too happy at his arrival. With the Doctor being the Doctor, he tries to escape the capture of the Rocket Men by using his notorious reputation to his advantage, however all is not as it seems; not only does the future have holes, so does the past. Whilst the Doctor is offered a fairly safe escape route from the Rocket Men, he also seemingly gains himself a companion; Jemima. She seems like she’ll fit the bill just nicely.
If, like me, part of you was scared that we’d get an episode without the Master, an episode with the Macqueen Master, an episode with the Beevers Master and then finally an episode with both Masters; I can irradiate any doubts from your mind. Within the first episode, we get the two Masters, however not together. Beevers’ portrayal of the Master seems to compliment Macqueen’s perfectly. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that these two Masters are like chalk and cheese, but rather they’re more like cheese and tomato. They go so well together. The Beevers Master is so menacingly evil, easily killing people and blaming his gun, whereas the Macqueen Master relies a lot more on charm and manipulation.
All isn’t as one would assume however, as it seems that the Beevers Master planned to rescue the Doctor from something, instead of luring him into a deadly trap. I also never expected to hear the Master say ‘bunting’, but I’m glad that I did. By the end of the first episode, it seems that the Beevers Master and the Doctor have reluctantly joined forces. The Beevers’ Master’s TARDIS seems to be worse for wear too, even the Doctor admits that it’s not supposed to be quite that bad.
I wish there was a word for when something was odd and out of the ordinary, but in a good way; because that’s exactly how I feel about the first episode of The Two Masters. The Beevers Master has seemingly taken on the role of the Doctor, even it his portrayal is much more murderous, the Doctor has seemingly been moved to the role of the companion, as has Jemima. I probably shouldn’t, but I really like this new dynamic between the characters.
The closing moments of the first episode are definitely different from any other that I’ve heard from Big Finish; I won’t spoil it, but it really makes you think…
Opening the second episode, we have a quick recap of the closing moments of the first; but then we’re hurtled into the action elsewhere in time and space. Mirroring the opening of the first episode, we’re in the company of the Macqueen Master who is seemingly attempting to find himself an army. It seems as if Missy tried a similar plan before her CyberArmy in Dark Water and Death In Heaven. The Doctor, Jemima and the Beevers Master aren’t far behind, watching a civil war of the Gorlans. Of course, in the middle of this bloody battlefield is the destination which the Doctor, Jemima and the Beevers Master must travel to. Why’s it never in a tearoom?
There’s callbacks to the events of last months release, Vampire of The Mind in which the Sixth Doctor was pitted against the Macqueen Master; the strange thing is, the Seventh Doctor can’t recall any of it…
The Macqueen Master seems hellbent (no, not the episode, don’t worry) on eradicating the Doctor in his TARDIS as they drift closer to the Gorlans battlefield. It seems more than luck that the Doctor and his TARDIS manage to evade any incoming missiles, but I’m sure it’ll get explained later. After much panic, the Beevers Master, as cool as a cucumber, suggests that the Doctor might use the HADS to get everyone onboard the TARDIS to safety. Good idea Master, well done. Have Adric’s gold star.
In Vampire of the Mind, Macqueen’s Master seemed much more springy, unpredictable and unhinged than he does in The Two Masters, as he’s seemingly plotting with great thought and detail how to ensure his plan, whatever it may be, goes off without a hitch; especially if that hitch is called the Doctor. Personally, I love seeing this more serious and malevolent side to Macqueen’s Master really goes to show just how versatile an actor Alex Macqueen actually is.
The Beevers Master sends the Doctor on a solo mission to give a box with unknown content to the Macqueen Master for some reason. This is definitely a story in which you have to think and keep up with what’s going on. It also helps if you’ve heard the other two entries in The Two Masters Trilogy; as we get another callback, this time to the events of And You Will Obey Me in which we learn the identity of who hired the assassins who tried to kill the Master. John Dorney has really done an excellent job at weaving all of these details in.
Although Jemima seems to be somewhat of a spare part, (at least up until the second episode, I haven’t heard the rest whilst writing this sentence) I have to say that when her and the Beevers Master are left alone, she does provide some good banter. Admittedly, she also seems to be the butt of some of the Master’s jokes and criticisms, but she tries her best to annoy him. I’ve just heard some more, and I don’t think Jemima might not really get much more of a time to shine…
Once the Doctor finally gets to meet the Macqueen Master, there’s a lot of catching up to do between the two adversaries, trying to work out where in each others timelines they are. Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. The Doctor gives the Macqueen Master the box, but then the Macqueen Master gives the Doctor the box back. There’s lots of back and forth between these two, in multiple senses.
After we learn what is in fact in the box, and the repercussions of what’s in the box; we get a great few moments with the two Masters, locking horns. It’s great to hear how these two incarnations of the same Time Lord squabble with one another. (On a total side note, isn’t ‘squabble’ a great word?)
The cliffhanger at the second episode is extremely confusing; which for me, is a great pleasure. I like being given a mental workout, keeps you on your toes… in your mind. Luckily though, at the very end of the second episode, the Master (I’m not saying which) spells it out rather clearly, which is good, because I’d’ve missed most of the third episode overthinking and trying to work out what’s going on.
The third episode opens with the opening of the first episode; isn’t it all timey-wimey? Something that John Dorney seems to do with absolute impeccable ease.
(Also, as a little side note as I can’t justify writing a whole paragraph about this point; hearing Macqueen’s Master talk to himself is an absolute delight. Then again, nearly everything in The Two Masters seems to be.)
There’s a scene in which the two Masters meet in the Gallifreyan vaults (It’s so close to being the Gallifrey Archive that it’s annoying) and there’s a great duel between the two. Or one. It’s confusing, I know. You’ve heard the saying about torturing oneself? Well… that happens here. It’s extremely sadistic. Luckily, we have the astonishing acting chops of both Beevers and Macqueen, so in a weird way, you kind of enjoy it.
The Seventh Doctor, of course, tries to rectify all of the paradoxes and anomalies that has been caused by the events of this tale, and comes up with some interesting theories about the causality, as well as how to try and repair both time and space. Sylvester McCoy’s performance is utterly brilliant throughout, and he plays an extremely skeptical version of the Doctor; which, in the circumstances, can be expected. What’s interesting to note is that the Seventh Doctor in this story is near the end of his own life; a fact you can tell from both the cover and the sound effects used in his TARDIS. It sounds a lot like the TARDIS from The TV Movie. How exciting.
If you’ve seen either The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, The Two Doctors or The Light At The End, you’ll be more than familiar with the notion of different incarnations of the same Time Lord having ‘Contact’ to share thoughts and ideas with one another; I’m so glad that Mr. Dorney has done that here too. It was certainly interesting from a sound design point of view.
The conclusion of the penultimate episode is extremely entertaining, with the Masters getting confused as to which incarnation hid the Doctor’s TARDIS key. I must praise John Dorney for writing such a great stalemate for the final cliffhanger.
Opening the final episode, we’re introduced to a new Master. Yes, you read that correctly. We get a new Master. I’m not even lying.
Now, I’m sorry, but I really don’t want to talk about much more in the final episode. It’s just too good for me to even spoil a tiny bit. All of The Two Masters is perfectly crafted. There’s a great and lengthy argument between the Masters (not saying which ones) which is a delight to the ears. There’s great exposition in the most engaging way I’ve ever heard. There’s mythology of certain Time Lords too, which is always great.
Now, this is something I never thought I would say here on GallifreyArchive; but I am speechless (or typeless, I suppose). If I had a hat and a lot of time, I would take it off to every single person involved in making The Two Masters. John Dorney is a true artist, and I will not let anyone convince me otherwise. Both Alex Macqueen and Geoffrey Beevers play the Master magnificently. Sylvester McCoy plays the Doctor exceptionally. The sound design by Martin Montague is the best I think I’ve ever heard from Big Finish, as is Jamie Robertson’s music. I’ve given a few rare 10/10’s in the past, but I’ve yet to give 100% since moving to the new system. Today is not that day either. This almost transgresses perfection. It’s strange to say this, but it annoys me just how brilliant The Two Masters is. For a long time my favourite ever Big Finish story was Spare Parts. The Two Masters has moved Spare Parts into second place. Not only that, but I think it’s safe to say that The Two Masters may be my favourite ever Doctor Who story, in any medium. Well done everyone involved.
Should you want to purchase The Two Masters, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £14.99 on CD or a £12.99 download which you can purchase here.