This is a special release marking the 50th anniversary of the first TV appearance of the Master in January 1971. It stars eight of the ten [known] Masters (including one Missy). NOTE: If that number doesn't sound right to you, three of the Masters appeared on audio only. Here's what's ahead...

Discs 1-3 - Masterful by James Goss

Disc 4 - I Am the Master by Geoffrey Beevers & The Switching by Simon Guerrier

Discs 5-7 - Terror of the Master by Trevor Baxendale

Disc 8 - Behind the scenes

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MASTERFUL:

"The Master's finally done it. He's won. He summons his other selves to a celebration of his ultimate victory. And they come - from across time and dimensions. But he's forgotten to invite someone. And Missy's not happy. Has the Master really conquered the universe? Or has something more awful been unleashed? Something that even all the Masters cannot stop? Missy is determined to reveal the truth. Because one fact about the Master's existence never changes. No-one can trust the Master. Not even the Master."

I should have said the eleven known Masters, but I forgot to count Sacha Dhawan, the current TV version. And all of the first ten are represented... after a fashion. It is the young Master pictured above (Milo Parker) who gathers them all together in the first place. I think he falls in sequence between Michelle Gomez and Sacha Dhawan, and I think this is his first appearance. The gathering is ostensibly to celebrate the death of the Doctor, who he claims to have killed, but it is actually to steal the life-energy of his previous selves, despite the chronal chaos that would couse.

He abducts them all via Time Scoop... all but one. For reasons as yet unrevealed, he didn't abduct Missy. Actually, I should have said "all but three." The Anthony Ainley Master is represented by Kamelion, and the Roger Delgado Master eludes the Scoop entirely and it mistakenly snatches Jo Grant (Katy Manning) instead. Kamelion soon loses the Master's form and assumes that of the Third Doctor (played by the audio version) to make Miss Grant feel more at ease.

You might expect the story structure to introduce each of the Masters individually then bring them together in the end but, from what I've heard so far, the opposite is true. It's a bit "talking heads" at first as all of the Masters meet each other (most of them for the first time). Some of the actors have quite distinctive voices; others are harder (for me, anyway) to nail down, but there are verbal clues as well. 

At the point I'm at now, the preliminaries are over, and I still have more than two discs to go.

   For the 50th Anniversary for one of the greatest SF villains, this will give Whovians enough reason to deter from all the conflicts that Dr. Who is currently facing and reminisce with happier memories.  

                                                    From "Sci-Fi" Mike

A few years ago, the Geoffrey Beevers Master and the Alex MacQueen Master teamed up against the Seventh Doctor in "The Two Masters" (#213), but apart from that, a teaming of Masters is a rare thing. At the end of disc one, a time scoop scattered the master hither, thither and yon, mostly in pairs. Alliances are formed, enemies are made. I'm not familiar enough with the audio Masters' voices (or Geoffrey Beevers' as it happens) to have gotten as much out of this on the first listen as I should have, but the surface interactions alone make it worthwhile.

Back in "The Light at the End" (the doctor's 50th anniversary extravaganza), Ace gets a look at all the doctors together and names them off: "Olman white hair, Beatles hair cut, frilly collar," etc. In this one, Missy refers to her previous selves as the Seven Dwarves: "Schemey, Schemey, Sschemey, Sscemey, Schemey, Sshemey and Crispy. (That's you, Bar-B-Q.)" Eric Roberts and Derek Jacobi have distinctive voices and they end up being paired together, but the pairing that makes this set for me is Missy and Jo Grant. Theirs is the kind of 'throw two characters in a romm together and let them go at it" dialogue that sounds deceptively easy, but is extremely cleverly written and delivered. Michelle Gomez' comedic timing is impeccable, and Katy Manning plays the perfect foil. Those scenes alone were worth the price of admission.

"Masterful" seems to set up future pairings, but whether those will take the form in standalone releases of other stories in this set I don't yet know. Next Up: Two "Short Trips." 

I AM THE MASTER: A clever little first person narrative performed and written by Geoffrey Beevers. (If I would have listened to this one before "Masterful" I wouldn't have had any trouble picking out Beebers' distinctive Master.) In this one, the Master describes his systematic takeover and overthrow of a peaceful planet... just for something to do. the Master is "broadcasting" his story from a recording studio very much like the Big Finish recording studio. He describes introducing such invasive species such as "tongue ticks" into the planet's ecosystem. A tongue tick first attaches itself to and devours the tongue before moving on to other internal organs. He also gives new meaning to the term "earworm." The Master's particular brand of earworm is actually embedded in the the broadcast the listener himself is listening to. Some people are immune, but if you're not, the earworm will overwrite the listener's personality with his own, and if it doesn't work the first time, it may work the next. 

Sort of like how the Sandmen used an embedded signal in "Sleep No More".

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I AM THE MASTER: A clever little first person narrative performed and written by Geoffrey Beevers. (If I would have listened to this one before "Masterful" I wouldn't have had any trouble picking out Beebers' distinctive Master.) In this one, the Master describes his systematic takeover and overthrow of a peaceful planet... just for something to do. the Master is "broadcasting" his story from a recording studio very much like the Big Finish recording studio. He describes introducing such invasive species such as "tongue ticks" into the planet's ecosystem. A tongue tick first attaches itself to and devours the tongue before moving on to other internal organs. He also gives new meaning to the term "earworm." The Master's particular brand of earworm is actually embedded in the the broadcast the listener himself is listening to. Some people are immune, but if you're not, the earworm will overwrite the listener's personality with his own, and if it doesn't work the first time, it may work the next. 

Hmm. I'm not too familiar with that one... even after reading the link and my own comments.

THE SWITCHING: A third person short story. I generally prefer full-cast audio dramas to audio books, but a simple narrative is okay once in a while for a change. As the story begins, the (Third) Doctor wakes up inside a UNIT detention cell, in the Master's body. The reader does a passably good job mimicking the character's voices. The story ends with Mike Yates asking Jo Grant out on a date. Either I wasn't paying close enough attention, or this story was much too subtle for me. 

Mike was originally intended to be a love interest for Jo, but they quickly decided that that would take Jo's character in a direction they didn't want to go.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Hmm. I'm not too familiar with that one... even after reading the link and my own comments.

THE SWITCHING: A third person short story. I generally prefer full-cast audio dramas to audio books, but a simple narrative is okay once in a while for a change. As the story begins, the (Third) Doctor wakes up inside a UNIT detention cell, in the Master's body. The reader does a passably good job mimicking the character's voices. The story ends with Mike Yates asking Jo Grant out on a date. Either I wasn't paying close enough attention, or this story was much too subtle for me. 

Well, that explains that part of it but, by the end of the story, I wasn't even sure whether or not the Doctor and the Master got their own bodies back. 

TERROR OF THE MASTER:

"Dr. Derek Drake is a National Treasure – he’s going to solve the energy crisis and stop all pollution. Governments and businesses around the world are signing up to his environmentally friendly campaign. So why is the Doctor convinced this great humanitarian and darling of the media is really the Master in disguise? What could his greatest enemy hope to gain by improving the lives of everyone on the planet? The Doctor must convince his UNIT friends that they now face the ultimate terror – and that the Master may be in as much danger as they are."

This is another "audio book" read by a single narrator. It is a very timely story, warning of the dangers of fossil fuels and promoting what we would call today "green energy." It is set during the end of the Third Doctor's tenure; Jo Grant has married and left UNIT, and the doctor has switched from using his vintage roadster "Bessie" to a hovercraft of his own design. Whereas Bessie, we learn, was carbon neutral, his new vehicle is, in fact, carbon negative, which he achieved by "reversing the polarity of the catalytic converter." 

When scientist Dr. Drake appears on the BBC, everyone else sees him as a white-haired little man, but the Doctor sees the Master!

The Master has allied himself with a Scabbous, a gelatinous alien creature, the last of its race. the Scabbous is from a planet with an atmosphere of carbon dioxide, it thrives on it. Unfortunately, a humanoid race came to its planet and terraformed it, killing of its entire race. Now all the Scabbous wants to do is live on Earth and "eat" the pollution out of our atmosphere. The Master wants to rule Earth, but has decided he doesn't want to rule a planet as primitive as Earth at this stage of development. However, the Master believes that unless something is done to curb humanity's carbon emissions, there won't be an Earth to rule in 50 years. So an alliance with the Scabbous seems to be a win-win proposition for both parties. But the Scabbous doesn't want to simply live on the Earth; it wants to convert its atmosphere to carbon dioxide. The Master wants to control it; the Doctor wants to defeat it. And therein lies the tale.

This story grew on me as I listened. I was predisposed not to like it because it was, I thought, a simple "audio book." But the actor who "reads" does such a convincing job mimicking all the voices, copled with the music and the sound effects, it's almost like listening to a full-cast recording (except for the bits of narration). "Masterful" is certainly worth listening to, and "Terror of the Master" is pretty good, too, in its own right. the two short trips are like icing on the cake. 

That is the end of Masterful, but following hot on its heels is Master!, the first boxed set of a new series featuring the "lost incarnation" of the Master. 

"The Master we know the least about is the Eric Roberts incarnation from the 1996 TV Movie where, under the form of a deathworm morphant, the Master possessed the body of ambulance Bruce. After being defeated by the doctor he was then cast into the heart of the TARDIS and the Eye of Harmony. and that, we thought, was that."

We learned in The Diary of River Song that the Master had escaped, and he later appeared in "Day of the Master" from Ravenous 4, but Master! is very much the story in which he returns to the world at large.

Also in the cast is Chase Masterson (who I know from Deep Space Nine), "reprising her familiar role" of "impossibly glamorous assassin Vienna Salvatori" (don't ask me). 

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