Saturday, 30 April 2016

211 - And You Will Obey Me

There is a song by Paloma Faith called “Picking Up The Pieces” that kept popping in to my head whilst I listened to this release, because that really is what the Doctor appears to be doing in this story. The main body of events took place 32 years before the Doctor arrived, and he is really just helping to mop up a series of tragic events – but as always I get ahead of myself.
And You Will Obey Me is the first in a trilogy that Big Finish have called “The Two Masters” trilogy, the three stories feature the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors and two incarnations of the Master played by Geoffrey Beevers and Alex Macqueen, and it starts with an auction…
You see the Master is dead, his house where he had been hiding for 32 years burned to the ground, and all that remains is an ornamental Grandfather Clock which is being auctioned and is attracting rather a lot of attention from the Doctor, a mysterious stranger called Annie (Sheena Bhattessa), a couple of teenagers, a mysterious bidder in tweed and a telephone bidder. This rather unassuming beginning is the gateway to an epic adventure that spans 32 years and the lives of four teenagers who due to a series of events were thrown off their school bus and had to take a shortcut home.
Now then – the observant among you may have noticed that the Doctor is without companions and that this doesn’t really happen during his era – worry not, this story takes place just after The Awakening, Tegan and Turlough are off on a trip with Jane Hampden (a character we met in The Awakening) when the Doctor receives a distress call from the Master’s TARDIS and pops off to 2016 to investigate.
So the stage is set, the Master is dead, but two separate teams of assassins have picked up his distress call, because even in death the Master has a backup plan, this time the Master has been playing a very long game and the time has come in 2016 to reap the seeds he sowed in 1984.
From the very beginning of part one the tension begins to build, we know the significance of the Grandfather Clock, so does the Doctor – but what about the other bidders why are so many people interested in it, do they know of the Master or is there an even bigger game afoot? The following four episodes lead us on a dramatic journey involving 8 foot high Mosquito assassins, Russian mercenaries armed with stasers and a race of Cyborgs who wish to atone for their very existence – but the real heart of the story comes in part three – peel away the sci-fi trappings, take a step back from posturing mercenaries with Gallifreyan weapons, because part three really is something extraordinary. Played as a flashback to 1984, to the four teenagers who took a shortcut, and we see in all its putrid evil the manipulative grasping self interest of the Master as played by Geoffrey Beevers. His body may be wasted and burned as he was in The Keeper of Traken, but his will and his charm have not deserted him – the evil he does here may be small scale, but the damage he does, the repercussions of the damage and the sorrow and heartbreak he causes are felt like they really never have been felt before – this time we see the consequences of the Master’s actions in 1984 which lead to the Doctor picking up the pieces (thanks Paloma) in 2016.
Let me get my (now mandatory) Peter Davison praise in, as I said last month, on TV Davison never really was “my” Doctor, but here again he excels, he has given more depth and layers to his character over the years, his breathless enthusiasm, charm and politeness almost played as a shield to hide his harder side which has been formed by his losses – there is an exceptional scene where he realises that he may have inadvertently helped the Master by his inaction in Little Hodcombe, listen out for it, its outstanding and in one scene perfectly encapsulates the essence of the Fifth Doctor.
This release crams a lot of story into its four episodes, so much happens, so much maybe should not have happened but what will be will be and in the case of this story has been and will always have been – no “timey-wimey” get outs, events have their consequences and sometimes the punishment is to live with those consequences.
Yet another triumph for the main range; beautifully constructed plot mechanics, excellently acted, tightly directed (and there is a lot of plot) with just a couple of dangling threads that I am hoping will be resolved in the next two instalments. Or to put it another way a quite “Masterful” (sorry) 10/10.