Big Finish: From The Worlds Of Doctor Who - MISSY Series Two Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: From The Worlds Of Doctor Who - MISSY Series Two Review

Permission to squee…again? asks Tony.

When Missy, Series 1 came out, it felt like the fulfilment of a natural destiny.

The Master was a perennial villain, Michelle Gomez’s incarnation had several points of distinctiveness that made her irresistible to listen to, and unlike most of the Masters before her, she was allowed to be thoroughly reprehensible while being always rather good fun.

Her first set of stories involved her embracing the aesthetic with which she’d been drawn on screen and pulling a Mary Poppins to two gittish children who weren’t – at least previously – beyond redemption. It paired her up with Rufus Hound’s Meddling Monk in a hilarious historical romp with an underlying timey-wimey motive. It allowed her to play detective in a TV crime recreation show with a noirish bent. And it gave her the chance to do some utterly unscrupulous planet-ruling, all to some grander purpose. It showed us four sides of Missy when she wasn’t either being hampered by, or seeking out, the Doctor.

For the second box set, there’s some sense that the lightning of the first set has been re-bottled and shaken up. There’s a return visit to Oliver and Lucy Davis, the children Missy mentored for a while, in this set. There’s also a return for the Meddling Monk, with whom Gomez’s Missy has fantastic comic chemistry.

But first, in The Lumiat by Lisa McMullin, we delve back into 1980s Who for a reference that drives a meeting of characters that might be unforgettable.

Ever since The Trial Of A Time Lord in 1986, there’s been a notion of the ‘nervous breakdown’ incarnation of a Time Lord. That while they regenerate, and while the general direction of their actions might continue almost indefinitely throughout the course of their lives, once in a while, there’s a snapping point. The Valeyard was revealed to be an incarnation of the Doctor himself, a reversal of all the Doctor’s principles. An Anti-Doctor.

You could argue that hardcore Who fans had been introduced to the idea earlier, in The Five Doctors, when a Time Lord who’d been prominent in some previous stories as a patient politician, Lord Borusa, had an incarnation who undid most of the good work of all his predecessors.

It’s a notion with which Big Finish has played before, giving everyone’s favourite time-travelling busybody, Iris Wildthyme, if not exactly her own Valeyard, then at least her own ‘nervous breakdown’ version where she stops being anything like the Iris we know.

Welcome to Missy, Series 2.

The Lumiat is hardly as straightforward as there suddenly being two Missys. It’s also a lot more interesting per se than Missy meeting another incarnation, as in World Enough And Time/The Doctor Falls – though in fairness, Big Finish has already done multiple Master meet-ups better than the TV version of Doctor Who managed. The Lumiat is something different, and intriguing – which is what you get when you have Lisa McMullin writing for you, and when you have the staggering good fortune to land an actress of Gina McKee’s calibre for the role. Imagine Missy with a fully-realised walking, talking plan-foiling conscience that simply won’t leave her alone. A Jiminy Cricket who can’t be squashed or squished or shot or vapourised, but has to be endured to keep the timelines of Missy’s life intact.

That’s the Lumiat.

While it was important early on in Missy’s on-screen adventures to establish that a change of external appearances did not mean she’d ‘turned good.’ She doesn’t in The Lumiat either, but the story gives us lots of room to contemplate and speculate, to imagine what a truly ‘good’ Missy would be like. As such, it’s a great, inventive beginning to this second set of stories and it kicks us off with something fresh, something new for the Queen of Evil to contend with – not least the awkward questions it raises about her character, her past, and her future.

Brimstone And Terror, by Roy Gill, takes us back to the lives of Oliver and Lucy Davis, the children Missy mentored in Series 1. Now, a little later in their lives, the Davis children will face a reckoning day over their loyalty to their very special governess.

Missy has set herself up in a Scottish school, and is running it as a kind of boot-camp version of a Prime Of Missy Jean Brodie boarding school for the would-be masters of the British empire. Naturally, there’s more to it than that – Missy’s meddling with occult legends, heavily vibing with The Daemons and flipping the familiar notion that mysterious wizards in myths and legends always turn out to be the Doctor. This is Missy in full meddling mode, while also using humans as little more than rocket fuel for her bigger ambitions. It’s a master class in callousness worthy of the War Master, but it also shows Missy dealing with the consequences of her past actions, having taught both the junior Davises to understand her methods, and to do whatever is necessary to win. When Lucy arrives to liberate her brother, she doesn’t come alone – she has a Sontaran butler in tow, trying to stop Hell’s Governess from becoming a goddess.

As stories go, there’s a lot of spectacle here, which can sometime almost cloud the point of the plot. But Missy versus Strax? You know that’s a contest you want to hear. Added into the story of the choice between following Missy into her scorched Earth future, and taking a stand against everything the Davis’s governess ever taught them, it makes for compulsive listening. Throw Miss Jean Brodie, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Harry Potter, the Daemons and Strax the Sontaran into a blender and puree till it starts to bubble and you have Brimstone And Terror. If that doesn’t sound like a combination you want to hear, are you even really alive?

Treason And Plot revives an element from the Russell T Davies era of on-screen Who – oh yes, the Time Agency is back!

What’s more, there’s a highly story-driven plot in Gemma Arrowsmith’s episode of the box set, with young, cocky time agent Rita Cooper sent back to the time and place of the Gunpowder Plot to investigate a temporal anomaly.

Guess who? Go on, have a guess, we’ll wait.

One of the sweetest elements in this story is that it’s actually a direct homage to Divorced, Beheaded, Regenerated by John Dorney in the first series. In that story, the Meddling Monk is trying to cause enough chaos on the backward planet Earth to get himself noticed by the temporal authorities and carted off somewhere rather more civilised.

In Treason And Plot, Missy’s more or less about the same business – in fact, she even credits the Monk with the idea. But things go awry not only because the humans involved in the plot are less entirely stupid than Missy supposes, but also because an unseen hand is meddling too. That leaves Missy and Rita forced to work together to avoid being splatted to smithereens when a plan to help the Gunpowder Plot succeed goes badly wrong.

Treason And Plot could more or less be described as the romp of the box set. Mad adventuring with semi-yokel revolutionaries and a buddy comedy with Missy and Rita, two crazy kids from opposite sides of the tracks, running for their lives before the whole hill of beans blows up – what’s not to love?

Erm…that would be nothing. There’s nothing not to love about it, it’s entirely brilliant. Quite apart from all the fun and romping, it sets up time agent Rita Cooper as a potential foil for Missy in future adventures, and the chemistry between the two is such that we’d love to hear more with them in.

Speaking of which – the Monk’s back! We love the Monk, and we love the chemistry between Missy and the Monk, so John Dorney writing more of them together, this time in An Exciting Adventure With Ogrons (which, no matter how many times you tell us it’s actually called Too Many Masters is how I insist on thinking of it) is no pain at all.

Every story in this box set has at least one major call back – Valeyard-ish Time Lord opposite incarnations, the Time Agency, the Davises (and a bit of The Daemons), but none of them is so intensely direct as this Ogron-centric sequel to Frontier In Space.

Yep, you read that right.

The thing about Ogrons, bless ’em, is they’re fundamentally fair. They’ll give you a good day’s beating people up for a good day’s Being Scared Witless By Daleks. Or a good day’s pay if you don’t happen to be a Dalek.

And who knew the Delgado Master didn’t pay his debts? He never seemed the type to skip out without paying his henchmen, but in Too Many Masters, Missy’s Ogrons come home to roost. Or at least to kick the living daylights out of the Master.

Can we talk about Ogron sexual politics for a moment? We really need to, because John Dorney’s done a thing that’s just blissful. You know the #NotMyDoctor crowd who insist that the Doctor can never be female?

Ogrons, the lot of ’em. Sheer bloomin’ Ogrons.

Which doesn’t bode entirely well for the Meddling Monk. He may not have the vision, the sheer breadth of scope and villainy of any incarnation of the Master, but bless him, he does have the right sort of body to be the Master. Ergo he must be the Master.

We love that. We really, really love that.

The Monk, it’s fair to say, loves it a whole lot less. But what Too Many Masters gives us is a pair of Time Lords working each side against the middle, while Missy stages a break out with a little gang, all of whom are adorably expendable. When we leave them, it’s Missy who has the whip hand – a fact underlined by her demanding that the Monk get back in his Monk outfit, despite categorically denouncing the notion that he’s any kind of actual Monk. Like a destiny he can’t escape from, his Monkishness is what we and Missy want from him, and it’s a fabulous acknowledgement of the fact that when the two are trapped together, she makes him revert to his previous…erm…habits.

Missy, Series 2 has a lot that looks back for its essences and stories and gracenotes. But in the hands of a quartet of talented writers, and with the always impeccable Michelle Gomez leading us forward, what we get is a set that sounds thoroughly modern, and fun, and evil. Just like Missy herself. Here’s to Series 3!

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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