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The Whole is Better Than the Parts

By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 15 May 2019
Rating:   8

An interesting concept this time. We get the obverse of Doctor Who. The Master, now inextricably pulled into the Time War, must try to do what The Doctor would try to do - end the war. Smartly, Big Finish has made this not an imposition, but rather a logical conclusion that The Master comes to on his own. Thus, the producers have realized that The Master is not simply maniac who like killing, but rather, from his own perspective, a pragmatist. "Only the Good," then, proceeds in parallel fashion Doctor Who. First up is "Beneath the Viscoid," with The Master on his own, separated from his TARDIS, and pretending to be The Doctor. It provides many opportunities for the audience to hear both how The Master is similar to The Doctor, but also significantly different, mostly in how he goes about achieving what in a typical Doctor Who story would appear to be honorable goals. Next is "The Good Master," with The Master again pretending to be a doctor, a surgeon this time. We find out how, when circumstances suit him, The Master can actually do much good - saving lives, providing hope, giving sound advice. And all the while, he is still The Master, still the schemer, still mostly after protecting himself. At the end of this one, The Master picks up a companion, Cole, who, like Charlie Pollard, is alive when he should be dead. The parallels mount. "The Sky Man" is Master-lite, focusing mostly on Cole. The Master allows Cole to try to save a world, while The Master watches from a discreet distance, always appearing strangely benevolent even when not being helpful. Cole's desperation and failure serves two functions - the audience sees the universe as The Master sees it, that "saving worlds" is a fool's game causing more harm than good; and that The Master, unlike The Doctor most of the time, really does have a plan and really is kind to his companion only because it suits him to be so. This is my favorite of the four stories from a pure story point of view. Last is "The Heavenly Paradigm," where The Master's plan is finally revealed and we get The Master in full Master mode. Each story by itself is good and enjoyable, but each on its own does not feel brilliant. The best aspect of the set is how the stories are put together, how the hidden plot underneath it all ties the set into a single entity. Derek Jacobi is, of course, brilliant, switching from charm to menace so quickly one hardly sees it happening. He brings a fullness to the character that was missing from the Big Finish attempt to psychologize The Master in "Master." Here, with Jacobi's help, the audience really does get to see the universe as The Master sees it, and to understand why he acts as he does. Jonny Green is great as Cole, convincingly showing us that he is naïve, but not stupid. All in all, well worth the listen.




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