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Doctor Who: Top Ten Master Stories On Audio

Moo listens to the Doctor’s best enemy.

The year 2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who’s greatest villain: The Master. This character has shown up time and time again throughout the show’s run and has charted a course for themselves as not just the Doctor’s greatest enemy but one of the best television villains of all time in general.

Equally deserving of some celebration is the character’s role in the show’s expanded media. It’s surprising how sparingly the good people at Big Finish used the Master until the last half of the 2010s. Now multiple incarnations have spin-offs in their own right, but that hasn’t stopped each appearance feeling like an event in and of itself.

So join me as I pick ten of their best.

10. The Light at the End (2013)
Big Finish’s release for the fiftieth anniversary was always going to feature the Master front and centre. It should go without saying really. Geoffrey Beevers is up against eight incarnations of the Doctor competing for attention, but he manages to rise above the noise and steal every scene he’s in. His plot in this one is perfectly in keeping with the character and that it takes not one but eight Doctors to come together to foil it shows how well he did this time round. A great showing for the character, proving once and for all why he’s the Doctor’s greatest foe.

9. Dominion (2012)
A contender for the single longest Big Finish release of all time, clocking in at roughly four hours, this one-off special has a lot to recommend. It’s not only a rare look at the Seventh Doctor after Ace’s departure, but also the debut for one of the best Masters of the lot: Alex MacQueen’s incarnation goes to great lengths in this instalment to make a terrific impression, taking on UNIT like his predecessors but going one better and seeking to conquer every universe at once, all while posing as a future Doctor. The real Doctor eventually sees through it, but not before plenty of damage has been done.

8. The Lumiat (2020)
This starts off as a fairly standard runaround noteworthy only for featuring the Michelle Gomez Master as the lead character. It’s hard to explain what makes this one so good without spoiling it. Scroll down now if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Still here? Good. So here’s the concept: All of Missy’s plots are being foiled by Time Lady do-gooder “Lumiat” (played to perfection by Gina McKee). Missy suspects that this is a future Doctor. She’s wrong. The Lumiat turns out to be Missy’s next incarnation, the one who tries to do good after the events of The Doctor Falls. This stealth multi-Master story results in an excellent character piece for them (and as a bonus it manages to patch over how Sacha Dhawan’s incarnation can exist and be the character that he is after the events of series ten).

7. Anti-Genesis (2019)
There have been a fair few multi-Master stories recently, and that so many make this list is a testament to their quality. This one features the alternate universe “Unbound” version played by Mark Gatiss entering the prime universe because someone has prevented the Daleks’ genesis playing out the way it was supposed to. The person responsible for this mess is named Sorvad (I’ll let you work that one out) and is of course the Master’s Derek Jacobi incarnation. The story plays out like a shlocky b-movie with all the ham and cheese associated, and the two actors Gatiss and Jacobi clearly having the time of their lives. It’s an excellent experience as a result that comes highly recommended.

6. Masterful (2021)
There’s a lot going on in this recent offering. It marks the Big Finish debut for John Simm’s Master and the overall debut for Milo Parker in the role (who I pray we’ll hear more of in future). As well as both of them, there are tonnes of other incarnations present – just look at that cover art, what a joy it was to listen. I did worry that said art was misleading, but it was not at all. It's terrific to hear how discunctional they all are together. There’s no man or woman in a blue box coming along to save the day this time, explicitly killing her off before the story starts to set the stakes for how anything can happen, it’s entirely up to the Master to make things right (or not right, as the case may be). The story pairs off several of them and sends them to different settings: We have a colony spaceship, domestic bliss, and a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and they’re all fantastic. A truly wonderful showcase for all the different incarnations it features. (Overall Geoffrey Beevers and Milo Parker win.)

5. And You Will Obey Me / Vampire of the Mind / The Two Masters (2016)
I’ve cheated a little by grouping these three together, but this 2016 trilogy should be heard as a unit. It was very welcome in what was the first year without Doctor Who on TV since 2004 (excluding one underrated special and an even more underrated spin-off). For three months, Big Finish gave us a wonderful time. In the first story, the Fifth Doctor and Beevers’s Master have a surreal adventure. In the second one, we have MacQueen’s incarnation meet the Sixth Doctor in a delightful Pertwee throwback. It all comes to a head in The Two Masters, bringing both together in a story that is full of fan-pleasing moments as they do battle with the Seventh Doctor and win, literally destroying the entire universe, and it only escalates from there. While bringing two Masters together for the first time was the main selling point, the intricately plotted storyline for them is what keeps you invested and gives this trilogy plenty of re-listen value.

4. I Am The Master (2018)
I’m going to run out of words for how good Geoffrey Beevers is as the Master. This story shows his understanding of the character as he also takes on writing duties. With his pitch-perfect performance and expertly crafted script, he quite literally draws the listener into the story. It’s a Big Finish story that never pretends to be anything more than that, making use of the fact it’s made in a recording studio to enhance the storytelling. It’s nice to hear Big Finish taking advantage of the medium their stories are presented in to do something very unique with that set up, and having the Master use that to his advantage couldn’t be more perfect. Give this one a try and let Beevers literally enchant you with his ear worm as you hang on his every word.

3. Mastermind (2013)
Though misleadingly listed as a Companion Chronicle, this story has none of the Doctor’s companions anywhere to be seen. It is in fact a character study for the Master. Not many stories in performed media have explored the Master’s ill-fated body-hopping period between the movie as Eric Roberts and his resurrection as Alex MacQueen, but this one nails that difficult brief. In this one we see the Master held captive in a UNIT base, and the story recounts his attempts to get the staff there (played by the stars of the TV Movie) to free him. As he narrates seemingly unrelated accounts of his body-jumping exploits you find yourself wondering where he’s going with it and what he’s planning. It’s a fantastic experience as we get an insight into how cunning the Master can be when coming is all he has left to rely on.

2. The Master of Callous (2018)
When you see the cover art, you see Derek Jacobi and the Ood during the Time War. Your expectation is competent fan service. What you get is far far better. This is no epic, it’s not a Fate Of The Universe story, but what it is is much more interesting. It’s set entirely on a single desolate colony world where the governor is only interested in profit, the people feel downtrodden but can’t do anything about it, and wild Oods stalk the woods. Tensions are boiling, and then enter the Master. The slow burn might put off some listeners, but stick with it for the pay-off as the narrative comes to a conclusion on the final disc. It’s not an easy listen but well worth it. With troops marching the streets, with wild unpredictable Oods massing around them, and only one recently bereaved woman left who can see what’s happening, the resulting boxset is one of the most compelling pieces of storytelling that Big Finish have ever done – They very rarely come much better than this.

1. Master (2003)
The Master’s self-titled outing is one of the weirdest Doctor Who stories of all time. The story is set on a planet inspired by Edwardian England where one Dr. John Smith is being told of some horrible murders. When the Doctor crashes the situation, Smith starts wondering about his own past. It spirals from there as the Doctor explores with him what lies below the facade and slowly the Master begins to emerge, and then Death herself comes calling for a chat. This story feels very connected to the stories of the nineties VNA range, but stands entirely on its own as a piece of compelling experimental drama that takes some huge risks with potentially controversial reveals, getting away with it only because of a clever framing device. Thanks to phenomenal performances by Sylvester McCoy and Geoffrey Beevers, an incredible supporting cast, and a superb script by Joseph Lidster, this one is easily my choice for the best Master story from Big Finish and a serious contender for being their best overall as well.

“Moo” is the pseudonym used by this Doctor Who fan. He can usually be found procrastinating by thinking about Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @z_p_moo for more of his unusual takes, but do so at your own risk.

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