The War Master: Rage of the Time Lords.

Audio This boxset had me at a disadvantage. With the rapidity of Big Finish's releases it's impossible to keep across everything and The War Master releases have been at the periphery so the only other time I've met the character, apart from SOD U LOTT was in the recent River Song boxed set. On listening to that, I was intrigued to know exactly how an evil, malevolent character could be the protagonist, but not enough to fork over any of my limited funds. But being an Eighth Doctor completist here I finally am, as my favourite incarnation cameos in the third of The War Doctor boxes.

In this case, it's to structure the story in such a way that we see a Doctor Who story from the villain's perspective.  The first two Eighthless episodes see the Master in prep mode, visiting a couple of different eras in history and taking advantage of the situation in order to kidnap a couple of gifted young women for unexplained reasons, the sort of thing which might be mentioned in exposition during the first half of a more traditionally structured story.  The bottom two, when the Master's nefarious plans are revealed it's all still from the perspective of the evil Time Lord and his minions.

Which is about as I guessed.  What I didn't expect was just how nasty the storytelling is.  Both of the first two episodes begin like Afternoon Plays on Radio Four which slowly become darker and darker like the lights in the TARDIS console room in Logopolis, a demonstration of what happens when the Doctor isn't there to save the day and point the misguided back into the light.  That is how it should be, probably, and it continues in the concluding parts as the scale of the Master's villainy becomes apparent.  But I do wonder what the other sets are like to listen to when there isn't a more benevolent Time Lord on the horizon to intervene against this genocidal maniac.

The Missing Link

The Doctor is out of sorts for much of Tim Foley's episode for reasons which are eventually explained.  It is a refreshing approach to the Who adventure to hear how the rest of the population react to him arriving.  For some he's a background irritation who barely effects the work they're doing.  For others he is a security threat but the Master seems to have his wits about him and knows how to deal with him.  We hear the blackly comic office politics (think The Cabin in the Woods) which leads up to the unleashing of the sort of "random" jeopardy that usually surprises the viewer and the Doctor, initiating a cliffhanger.

Darkness and Light

How do you wrap up a Doctor Who story in which the Master in the lead character?  Incredibly smartly in this case.  Across a series of intricately plotted movements, writer David Llewellyn manages to keep the Eighth Doctor within the limits of his own heroism, still in his "on the fringes doing what he can phase" and yet also give the Master the upper hand despite his plan ultimately going catastrophically wrong.  There's also a pretty decent explanation as to why the Tenth Doctor doesn't recognise Yana immediately in Utopia which also deals with whatever fallout there might be from Ravenous 4 when the Doctor and War Master meet again, probably for the first time.

Placement:  Early in the Time War.

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