Review by Jacob Licklider
One of Big Finish Productions’ sleeper hits of 2019 was February’s Missy box set starring Michelle Gomez as Missy on her own causing mayhem and murder throughout the universe. Gomez made for an excellent lead and the stories brought in several different types of stories from a Mary Poppins style satire, to a film noir by Nev Fountain, and an encounter with Rufus Hound’s Meddling Monk. The premises and possibilities for storytelling warranted the set to become a range as Missy: Series 2 becomes Big Finish Productions most recent release; this time mixing in two sequels to the first set and two original stories, from a set of four authors. Each story has a different flair and remains self-contained from the others; allowing new viewers to pick this set up as their introduction to the range.
Lisa McMullin opens the set with The Lumiat; and technically Big Finish Productions first foray into the Chris Chibnall era, though not in any major capacity (Think Nine showing up in The Kingmaker). The plot sees Missy bored, attempting to attract the attention of the Doctor, causing general chaos and murder to do so. A Time Lord shows up, played by Gina McKee, calling herself the Lumiat and stopping Missy’s plans in rapid succession. This takes up about the first half of the story as about 30-minutes in the Lumiat reveals who exactly she is, and it is at this point where she and Missy team up for their own purposes. Those reading this who have already heard The Lumiat will understand my vagueness, and those who have not experienced this story yet shall have to bear with me. The handling of the twist from McMullin while a simple twist, is done with real flair. Of course, a character like this can easily exist and Gina McKee gives the character a real life with her portrayal. The character is written and acted in a manner that you would expect a character of this nature to appear. McMullin gives the Lumiat a depth in characterization as it isn’t as simple as the initial twist would suggest, but in fact (for lack of a better term) is more human. Michelle Gomez and McKee’s playing off one another is excellent and really gives Gomez the chance to go more ham than she has before. There is a slight weakness in the script in the initial setup having Missy just being bored feels like it belonged in an earlier draft, and the continual repeating of different schemes could have been handled better, however, The Lumiat is a great opener to the set, dealing with a great subject matter and idea. 8/10.
The first sequel to the first series is up next with Brimstone and Terror by Roy Gill, bringing back Oliver and Lucy Davis from A Spoonful of Mayhem. This is the one installment in the series where Missy feels almost like a supporting character, as she is placed into the role of Headmistress of a school in the Scottish Highlands, having her fill of torturing the young boys of the Victorian boarding school. Oliver Davis has become a favourite punching bag and she has her own little army at her disposal. It’s a pretty standard plan for world domination but Roy Gill does a brilliant job of allowing Michelle Gomez to really seem cruel, yet tempting, channeling her inner Delgado as she gets others to do her dirty work for her. Where Brimstone and Terror really succeeds is being a crossover of ranges with Dan Starkey appearing as Strax from The Paternoster Gang; who infiltrates the school as a geography teacher. Strax’s humour actually works here as he plays second fiddle to the Davis children who play the detective roles, as Gill makes the decision to make this story all about the mystery behind what Missy is planning. The comedy in the story is well written and it almost feels like Gill took Paul Cornell’s Human Nature (the novel, not the TV adaptation), and kind of just made it funny. There is variation in the humour, from aural gags, to witty one-liners, and just letting the characters breathe. At its heart, Brimstone and Terror takes the Mary Poppins pastiche of A Spoonful of Mayhem and moves it one step further. It’s a story all about growing up and realising what you are and Oliver Clement and Bonnie Kingston are given the opportunity to shine as they’re characters learn to grow up because of Missy. 9/10.
Treason and Plot is the third installment in this series from a writer relatively new to Big Finish, Gemma Arrowsmith. As the title implies, this one takes place on the eve of the Gunpowder Plot which sees Missy attempting to ensure the Plot occurs as planned. Arrowsmith’s story is essentially a traditional runaround as Missy’s attempts are thwarted (and attempted to be thwarted) by a rookie Time Agent, Rita Cooper. The odd thing about this one is that it’s so obviously a plot for the Meddling Monk who appears in the next story, and is at least behind why Missy is here in some capacity, but putting Missy here is different. This isn’t entirely bad, it does play to Gomez’s strengths as an actress and her interactions with Rita are fun, especially when the plan falls apart at the end and history is of course put right on the correct track. Rita’s also a fun enough character, a bit naïve, wanting to prove herself, and becoming a Time Agent for her own selfish, though harmless, ends. There is this game of cat and mouse being played between the two characters and the absurd lengths Missy will go through for her own ends are hilarious. The script is just a letdown as it doesn’t stand out against the other stories in the set, being overall an enjoyable piece of fluff. 6/10.
The finale to this set is provided by John Dorney with Too Many Masters, a follow-up to the real standout from the first series, capitalising on the chemistry between Michelle Gomez and Rufus Hound’s Meddling Monk. The Monk, rightfully annoyed at Missy’s behaviour towards him in the first set, has captured and stranded her without any means of escape, but before he has the chance to gloat they are abducted by Ogrons. This story is actually a sequel from Frontier in Space where the Ogrons led by an empress masterfully played by Helen Goldwyn, have decided to capture the Master and sacrifice him to their god. Yes, I said him, they think that the Monk is the Master in some very tongue in cheek references to old theories that the Monk regenerated into the Delgado Master. It’s also clearly jabs excellently made at those ‘fans’ who can’t fathom ‘gender-bending’ Time Lords which Dorney handles incredibly well. He also puts Missy in the position of the ‘Master’s’ fiancé, broken up, and is promptly thrown in prison because the Ogrons took all of the ‘Master’s’ property, including his woman. So we get Michelle Gomez leading a rebellion against Ogrons, just so she can get herseslf out and steal the Monk’s TARDIS. Dorney’s script is simple; allowing Hound, Gomez, and guest stars Ajjaz Awad and Helen Goldwyn to enjoy themselves with the over the top nature of the script. The ending also sets up a third volume for Missy incredibly well, latching onto what makes the series work. It is Rufus Hound who steals the show here, as he does in all of his appearances, growing to be someone who attempts to thwart Missy and fail spectacularly at every turn. It’s the highlight of the set and is worth the price alone. 9/10.
Overall, Missy: Series Two is a great follow-up; not hitting the highest highs, yet proving that the first series wasn’t just lightning in a bottle. Gomez is on top form and clearly having the time of her life here. Highly recommended. 8/10.