The War Master: Only the Good – Beneath the Viscoid and The Good Master Review

War Master P1

Derek Jacobi is back as the Master in what is the first Doctor Who spin-off I’m covering for this blog, and a fine spin-off it is! Sir Derek Jacobi is one of those people who could read the phonebook and make it interesting, so it’s not hard to imagine these turning out as well as they have, though I’ll admit it starts off slow in this half of the “Only the Good” box… So let’s take a more detailed look, shall we?

Official Synopsis (for Beneath the Viscoid):

On the ocean planet Gardezza, deep beneath the Viscoid, a mysterious capsule is recovered from the Time War, and an equally mysterious stranger found within. The Doctor’s reputation precedes him, even here… but can he be trusted?

Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!

Cast of Characters:

War Master 1

Very cool looking effect used here!

The Master (Derek Jacobi) – The Master is in the middle of a war he’s beginning to think is getting too much, even for him. He was brought back by the Time Lords to be their weapon, but as the war continues to escalate, The Master begins to think about his major objective: keeping himself alive… at all costs…

The Daleks (Nicholas Briggs) – The Daleks are fighting the eternal war with their rivals: The Time Lords. When one such Time Lord, the one known as The Master, agrees to help them, they’re weary of his true intentions, but don’t turn him down straight away…

Nius (Jacqueline King) – The leader of the remaining survivors of the planet Gardezza, held up deep beneath the Viscoid. She is thankful for the sudden arrival of The Doctor, but may be surprised at the supposed hero’s later actions…

Osen (Deirdre Mullins) – One of the last remaining scientists of Gardezza, she is working on a mysterious object that appears to be leaking Time in some fashion, in the hopes it can be used to destroy their Dalek occupiers.

Cole Jarnish (Jonny Green) – The sole survivor of his medical ship after it was shot down by the Daleks. Recovering on the planet Arcking, Cole’s journey is just beginning… right when it should have ended…

Phila (Hannah Barker) – Phila is concerned solely with helping the injured who come into Arcking, and his thankful for the help of Dr. Keller, so much that she chooses to ignore his somewhat strange behaviour…

Plus more!

The Good:

War Master 2

Once again a very effective cover. Even with some great new promo shots, they still manage to out-do themselves anyway by creating this exosuit.

As I made mention in the opening paragraph, Sir Derek is without a doubt the star of not just these two stories, but the boxset overall. In the first story of the set he pretends to be The Doctor in order to gain the people of Gardezza’s trust, and he does so easily because he’s so charming and friendly, yet you get these little hints that he’s, well, The Master. As the story moves on he becomes more and more callous, eventually leaving the people to the fate of the Daleks so he can get his crashed TARDIS back and leave (betraying the Daleks at the same time!). He even takes a young scientist on board, almost like The Doctor taking a companion, but instead convinces her to press a switch and get electrocuted to death. The second story is similar in that The Master is pretending to be nice, though in this case he’s pretending to be a Doctor named Keller (throwback Master identity there!) and is after a rare power-source on the planet that could potentially end the Time War, or just make him more powerful, either way. On his way there he “befriends” young medical officer Cole, even though he buggers up this power source he was after. Why The Master let’s Cole live and indeed travel with him is something far more sinister than friendship…

So yeah, Derek Jacobi playing the Master is full cast audios is great! Who knew? There were some good performances by other cast members as well, like Jacqueline King as the tough but unconfident leader of the Gardezza rebels, and Jonny Green as Cole Jarnish, which is good given how much of a role he plays in the next two stories. I liked “The Good Master” a lot, actually. The idea of a planet that naturally had built itself a barrier for the Time War being used as a medical centre was good, and scenes where The Master steps out on its deadly surface (in a protective suit) and watches stars vanish due to the war, commenting on them with phrases like “oh that’s a shame” and other half-hearted concern for literal worlds vanishing before his eyes is chilling.

The Bad:

“Beneath the Viscoid” was written purely to reintroduce “The War Master” to the masses, and as such I suppose it succeeds, though I will say for the most part it’s a pretty dull story to debut him in. It’s yet another Nicholas Briggs-penned story about a group of desperate resistors to a Dalek occupation, and to say we’ve “heard it all before” would be a rather massive understatement. It’s just lucky that Derek Jacobi is in it, because his performance makes you captivated and pay attention the whole way through, despite what is otherwise rather dull and predictable stuff.

The Continuity:

War Master Box

The overall box cover… which is actually quite misleading, as there are very few Daleks getting destroyed or even firing weapons in the set…

“The War Master”, as he’s been retroactively dubbed here, first appeared in the Tenth Doctor TV story “Utopia”, where he had used the Chameleon arch to turn himself into a human and hide at the end of the universe. This box set shows what made him panic and do that to himself in the first place…

The nickname “Dr. Keller” is the same alias the Master used in the Third Doctor TV story “The Mind of Evil”.

Overall Thoughts:

A good start, but a bit of a slow one. “Beneath the Viscoid” is pretty bog standard stuff, elevated by Derek Jacobi’s performance, and “The Good Master” is very talky, but it’s good both for the actors involved and how it sets up the big stuff to come in the next half of the set. Given they all come as one package though, it’s hard to be too harsh on these two stories for setting things up for what’s to come, as that’s what they’re here for!

4 Star Listen

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