It’s time again to delve into the Time War with another Big Finish box set; we’ve heard the beginning of the Eighth Doctor’s efforts, the conflict of the War Doctor, and next year, we’ll get to see how the politics on Gallifrey will be upheld during this time. But now it’s time to see what the Doctor’s best frenemy, the Master got up to during this utter chaos. Today, I’ll be reviewing the final story in Only The Good, 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?
Well this has been a rip roaring box set so far hasn’t it? The War Master: Only The Good has been one of the most consistently stellar box sets from Big Finish this year, if not ever. Now, after the tragic and emotionally complex events of The Sky Man, the Master and Cole are back in the TARDIS, waiting to see where their adventure will take them next.
And boy do we get a nice little monologue from the Master to kick off The Heavenly Paradigm, laying out his true intentions (I think, I can’t be sure anymore) to the audience, and boy does he have a grand plan. It’s time to win the Time War. By ending everything.
The Master and Cole are in Stamford Bridge in 1976; the decade that made the Master the man (and woman) he is nowadays. It’s so extremely Doctor Who to have the key to ending everything being hidden in the middle of British suburbia; and Guy Adams emulates a lot of characteristics of Douglas Adams (I don’t think there’s any relation, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were long lost cousins twice removed) in the opening scenes. The bizarre hidden in plain sight amongst the ordinary and mundane.
I love the idea that the Time Lords have a weapons store on Earth disguised as a house; because where else would you hide things? There are things hidden in my flat that even I’ve forgotten about; it’s almost like my “Stuff cupboard” is dimensionally transcendental.
If somebody told me that there would be a story featuring Derek Jacobi’s Master exploring a middle-class house with a magic cupboard under the stairs; I would have said that you’ve obviously read a Doctor Who- Harry Potter slash-fic. I would probably have rolled my eyes and said it sounds absolutely ridiculous. And, it is. But ridiculous should be taken as an extremely honest compliment. This house messes with your head; and, like in Doctor Who, the audience’s way in is through the companion, which means we get to experience Cole’s personal hell. When Guy Adams is penning your hell, you should be extremely afraid. The man’s a wordsmith and a sadist.
Just shy of halfway through, there’s a brilliant character called Mrs Wilson, played brilliantly by Nerys Hughes, who could only be described as everybody’s nan. But way more sinister. There’s an amazing conversation between Mrs Wilson and the Master, which I doubt anyone apart from Guy Adams could pen. Well, maybe Paul Magrs, but that’s about it.
Around midway through The Heavenly Paradigm, the Master drops any facade he’s been hiding underneath for the past, and his relationships between Mrs Wilson and Cole are changed forever. Once the listener is given a bit of insight as to just what the titular Heavenly Paradigm actually is, and it’s implications, you can slowly work out why, in the Master’s hands, it would be so destructive. If the Moment was created to tempt the War Doctor, the Heavenly Paradigm seems created to tempt the War Master. In a way, the Moment and the Heavenly Paradigm are almost opposites of one another, much like the Doctor and the Master. The Moment obliterated almost everything in an instant, and the Heavenly Paradigm would allow you to tinker on a micro-scale. Parallels are great, aren’t they?
I have to admit that I’m somewhat surprised just how much The Heavenly Paradigm ties into The Sky Man, especially when it comes to the repercussions of Cole’s actions. It also goes to show how much the Master is the master of manipulation. And boy is he manipulative. And boy can he be evil. When the Master goes “full Master”, you even get a callback to the unsettling music from Utopia, when the guise of Professor Yana is dropped. I love the fact that Ioan Morris’ music has been stellar throughout, and really adds to the sense of foreboding.
The final act, which essentially starts with the Master and Mrs Wilson having a chat, is absolutely brilliantly performed by both Jacobi and Hughes; these two stalwarts sparring off against one another is electric and has you on the edge of your seat. Then we get Jacobi seemingly having the time of his life, and aspects of the Time War that have been alluded to in the show come to the fore. This is how you end a corker of a box set. Tying everything up nicely; even though I highly doubt that this ending will be the final end of the War Master. I know that this ending was written at the request of Russell T Davis, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they progress from this moment.
Overall, The Heavenly Paradigm is a fitting end to the Only The Good box set, it’s fun, sinister, murderous and insane. Much like the Master. And Guy Adams. Nerys Hughes deserves a special shout out for an incredible performance, as does Derek Jacobi and Jonny Green for the box set as a whole. It’s always going to be tough when you’re dealing with an event that’s so legendary as the Time War, but it’s safe to say that Nicholas Briggs, Janine H Jones, James Goss and Guy Adams have all done stellar work, and I can’t wait to hear the War Master again in both Gallifrey: Time War and UNIT: Cyber Reality next year.
Should you want to purchase The War Master: Only The Good, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £20 for a limited time on digital download, and £23 for the CD box set.