Big Finish: Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: Short Trips: Master Thief / Lesser Evils Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: Short Trips: Master Thief / Lesser Evils Review

Matthew Kresal enjoys a couple of short trips...
Time Lord Victorious, the much-heralded multi-medium Doctor Who event, has reached the shores of Big Finish land at last. Although a trilogy of stories featuring Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor is shaping up to be their most significant contribution to the event, it's by no means the only one. The double-bill release from their acclaimed Short Trips range is proof of that, offering two intriguing tales featuring not an incarnation of the Doctor but his archrival.

That archrival being, of course, the Master. First up is the Roger Delgado incarnation in Master Thief by Sophie Iles in what's essentially a heist thriller. Except, being the Master and the Doctor Who universe, things are never simple. Iles' portrayal of the Delgado Master feels authentic, right down to the description of the Nehru suit and the charm he puts on display at first before effortlessly slipping into action. Being a Short Trips entry, it's also an interesting character piece once things start not quite going according to plan, with some fascinating insights into the Master as a character. Combined with visceral visual descriptions, sometimes unsettling in their details, it's a solid debut for Iles at Big Finish.

The second story comes from Simon Guerrier, who brings forth the Anthony Ainley incarnation of the Master in Lesser Evils. Of the two tales in this release, this one perhaps has the more avert connection to the Time Lord Victorious event, with the appearance of the Kotturuh (the Bringers of Death), who seems to be the big baddie of the arc. Guerrier's tale follows the arrival of the Kotturuh on the planet Alexis, only to come face to face with a renegade Time Lord, and not the one you'd typically expect. What follows over forty minutes is a fascinating character study, with these two villains facing off and, in a sense, being in reflection via one another. It's a less action-driven story than its predecessor, but every bit as compelling for the insights and twists that it offers.

Both stories are exceedingly well brought to life, using the enhanced audiobook format firmly established for the Short Trips range. Reading both stories is Jon Culshaw, who will be well known to Doctor Who fans from both portraying the Fourth Doctor on BBC radio's Dead Ringers and slipping into the uniform of the Brigadier in Big Finish's Third Doctor Adventures. Culshaw proves his adeptness at bringing Classic Who's characters to life in these stories, channeling the urbane menace of Delgado for Iles's tale. His take on Ainley for Guerrier's piece is perhaps the highlight of the release, capturing both the voice in a way that's nothing short of calling it uncanny, but also the soft tone mixed with utter malevolence that Ainley could bring to the role in his best moments. Combined with Richard Fox's evocative sound design to give an aural and visceral feel to the places the Master finds himself in, and all brought together under the direction of the venerable Lisa Bowerman, the result are two well-made tales.

Indeed, they're a rare opportunity to hear two much-missed incarnations of an iconic villain in action once more and a chance to see a little of what makes them tick as characters. That they're fortunate enough to have been so well-written and performed is a bonus for listeners. As both standalone stories and this reviewers introduction to Time Lord Victorious, they come heartily recommended.

And at a fiver for two tales, it's one heck of a bargain.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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