What lengths will the Master really go to in order to achieve his terrible goals?
That’s a good question asked by writer Alan Barnes in And You Will Obey Me, the first in a trilogy of stories that celebrates/ chastises the Doctor’s oldest friend and worst enemy.
As any Big Finish regular will know, stories from the company featuring the Master range greatly in their set-up and payout. Some are of the classic style, the story featuring a fun, if somewhat predictable, appearance from the Master. Some push the boundaries of who the character is and what exactly makes him tick (2003’s Master). Others feature a different actor altogether playing the role, bringing a different viewpoint to proceedings.
With this particular story, we have all of those elements and none of them at the same time, for writer Alan Barnes has concocted a very original story featuring the Doctor’s titular nemesis.
Here, the Master is used sparingly; his presence is felt via the appearance of his TARDIS at an auction rather than a full appearance. This serves to tantalise the listener. Where is he? What’s he up to? All these questions are answered but not before the players are assembled on the board.
And there are a lot of them, all wonderfully realised and written for. There’s the Doctor, desperate to find out what’s happened to his old friend. The mysterious Annie, who has stumbled into the events with no apparent realisation of what she’s letting herself in for. Colin, Helen, Mikey, and Janine, children used for the Master’s terrible plan as well as intergalactic flies and hired assassins, all hot on the trail of the Master and wanting some answers from him.
As we discover more, it’s clear that this is the Master at his worst. Manipulating children in order to extend his lifespan. Ordering them to rob, lie and, in a shocking scene, kill. Geoffrey Beevers has the opportunity to do something a little special with his incarnation of the Master in this story, to take his skills as an arch manipulator and put them to proper use. Not as part of a grandiose scheme but purely for survival, whatever the cost.
It’s also refreshing to have a Fifth Doctor/Master story so entrenched with their fractured friendship as the one of the larger parts of the story. Davison’s Doctor in his television years inherited a Master that was given very little to do other than act as a plot device. Their questionable relationship was put to the back of proceedings in favour of over-the-top plans including recursive time loops, constant fancy dress, and questionable motives. Here we have the Fifth Doctor and the Master as they always should have been. Friends, enemies, rivals, and – whisper it and be consumed in fire – brothers all rolled into one. To finally have a Fifth Doctor / Master story that works hard to beyond surface-deep story telling is incredibly refreshing and lots of fun to listen to.
As a Master story, this is original and well told. As a celebration of the Master as part of a trilogy of stories, it’s a great start to an epic.
And You Will Obey Me is available now via CD or download from Big Finish.