River Song meets The Master sliced four ways in ‘The Diary of River Song: Volume Five‘ released today from Big Finish. But navigating all these insane Time Lords can get complicated, so here’s a handy spotter’s guide…
The “Crispy” Master
Geoffrey Beevers has been given a second crack of the laser whip on audio. The Master in his decayed and burnt form first appeared in The Deadly Assassin played by Peter Pratt. When Beevers took over the role in The Keeper of Traken he quickly handed it over to Anthony Ainley. In 2001, Big Finish Productions hired Beevers to reprise the Master in Dust Breeding and has done so well over a dozen times. Last year, Beevers wrote and narrated the Short Trips story I Am The Master to critical acclaim. He also took the role on for spin-off ranges including a notable turn in the eleventh series of Jago & Litefoot Now he faces a modern series character for the first (but hopefully not the last) time.
When the BBC/Universal co-production of Doctor Who’s 1996 TV Movie was underway, the producers decided that a big-name American actor was needed to play the villain. Enter Eric Roberts as The Master. After the Master is exterminated by the Daleks, he escapes the Doctor and takes over the body of Bruce, the paramedic trying to save the Doctor’s life. However, the Master’s presence means Bruce’s body starts to break down and he embarks on a scheme to steal the Doctor’s regenerations. While The Master was always somewhat camp, the Bruce incarnation took it to a new level. This being Roberts’ first time reprising the character in 23 years it’ll be interesting to see if his interpretation of the role has settled. But honestly I still don’t quite believe that an Eric Roberts Master on audio is really happening!
The War Master
Derek Jacobi was born to play The Master. And he finally did in 2007 when he played Professor Yana in Utopia, a bumbling scientist trying to save the last of humanity. It soon became clear that the Master wasn’t himself and by the end of the episode we get the character in all his Jacobean glory. That is, until he regenerates into John Simm. Luckily, Big Finish rescued the Jacobi Master from the void and rebranded him as The War Master. As the incarnation who fought the Time War, Jacobi’s Master has been popping up all over the Big Finish ranges to cause mischief. In between, he’s been playing long schemes in his own series, including last year’s superb The Master of Callous saga.
Bringing in Michelle Gomez is a great way to kick the Twelfth Doctor’s era on audio. The first (known) female incarnation, the Master renamed herself Missy as a disguise and launched a grand scheme to manipulate the Doctor. The reveal of Missy’s true identity proved to be a high-point for the penultimate episode of series eight Dark Water. She appeared in all three series of Peter Capaldi’s tenure and proved to be a fan-favourite foil for the Doctor. Missy is one of the most manic iterations of the character but possibly the only one to have a clear character arc later on. But since her encounter with River Song is probably set before that, I’m excited to hear Gomez go full-on evil with the role.
The Diary of River Song: Volume Five
I’ve been a big fan of the River Song range at Big Finish since its inception. While some may dislike her encountering earlier Doctors, either due to continuity or because they want the Professor to be more independent, the interactions have always proved interesting. My favourite release in the series so far was Volume Two in which Alex Kingston and Colin Baker prove to have incredible chemistry together. Not to mention River’s frequent appearances alongside the Eighth Doctor in his own range, including a companion collision due to happen in April’s Ravenous 3. In March, Professor River Song will meet her spiritual predecessor in The Eighth of March when she meets fellow archeologist Professor Bernice Summerfield.