Master Thief and Lesser Evils are the first Big Finish contributions to Time Lord Victorious, the Doctor Who multi-platform event. Using their narrated Short Trips format, we are treated to adventures for two classic incarnations of the Master, those originally brought to life by Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley. As both actors are sadly no longer with us, the remarkable vocal mimic John Culshaw narrates.
The first story sees the Delgado Master perpetrating a heist, equipped with a devastating weapon. Deploying his impressive skills of manipulation, he gains access to the highly secure Repository, in search of a very particular map.
Writer Sophie Iles, in her second Big Finish tale – after the delightful Subscriber Short Trip A Song for Running, clearly demonstrates her love for the central character; he is by turns charming, dominant and utterly ruthless. We loved hearing the story from his point of view, weighing the options and pursuing his goal at any cost.
Set on the abundant planet of Alexis, Lesser Evils is a thoughtful counterpoint to the action of Master Thief. Following the arrival of a death-bringing Kotturuh, and her impact on the planet, the Ainley Master lurks in the background to begin with; watching and waiting with infinite patience. Seemingly stranded and without resource, he steps up to defend a languid and gentle species on the planet. Naturally, the Master has his own reasons for this apparent act of altruism.
Simon Guerrier spins an engrossing tale, rich with detail and poetic description. We gain a good insight into the holy work of the Kotturuh, dispensing their judgement on every species, sometimes on a whim. He does not rush to introduce the Master, which seems appropriate for this most calculating of incarnations.
A Masterful Double Act
Naturally, as befits these two Masters, these are two markedly different stories. The first is all-action, tense and dramatic, while the second is a more controlled, delicate affair. Both are highly enjoyable and offer interesting perspectives on the Time Lord villain without the Doctor around to disrupt his machinations.
On narration duties, John Culshaw is an ideal choice; as well as being an enthusiastic performer, he clearly knows both characters well and his Ainely chuckle is particularly impressive!
As regards the wider Time Lord Victorious story arc, Lesser Evils introduces us to the god-like Kotturuh. Master Thief’s link remains unclear for now; presumably the map he goes to so much trouble to steal will be of further significance.
In the meantime, we hope to be hearing more from both of these Masters – and not just in the upcoming Masterful celebration.
Doctor Who Time Lord Victorious Short Trips: Master Thief / Lesser Evils is available on download from Big Finish.