Review: The War Master: Self-Defence

Review by Jacob Licklider


The Trial of a Time Lord 2: Electric Boogaloo is not the title of the release I am reviewing today, but perhaps it should be and I mean that lovingly. The War Master: Self-Defence was announced on the hook that the War Master would be sharing a story with David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, and with this announcement I stopped paying attention to the releases of plot summaries which is why it threw me for a loop when at the end of the first episode the War Master is put on trial by a race of god like beings from before the Time Lords after an introductory adventure in the set sets up the premise. The middle stories are flashbacks, though one feels like it may just be a flash forward a la Terror of the Vervoids. There is also no adherence to the format of A Christmas Carol looking explicitly at past, present, and future, just an opener, what’s used by the prosecution, the defence, and the final verdict which brings the Tenth Doctor into the story. Like the best installments of The War Master: Self-Defence is hung on a very solid story arc where each episode serves some sort of purpose to layering the plot to a point that explores the genuine depths the War Master will go to get his way. Like Master of Callous before it, Self-Defence is one where everything is re-contextualised at the end and an emotional hit is pulled off that although you can see it coming from a mile away, it just clicks and enhances both the performance of Derek Jacobi as well as the side characters.

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Review: The War Doctor Begins – Warbringer

Review by Jacob Licklider


It’s most definitely a coincidence that Big Finish Productions would have two releases within a week of each other that tells its story in a non-linear fashion, but it is interesting that it’s happened so soon after Stranded 3’s What Just Happened? inspired my review to be told backwards. The War Doctor Begins: Warbringer is presented as non-linear in the way each of its episodes are presented, beginning in media res, going to a conclusion, and then flashing back to the beginning to deal with a character’s amnesia. This decision assists in making the themes of Warbringer come front and centre with each of the three episodes having single word titles: Timothy X. Atack’s Consequences, Andrew Smith’s Destroyer, and Jonathan Morris’s Saviour. These titles make the set feel much like three episodes of a complete story. While Forged in Fire also acted as a miniseries, Warbringer is a three-part story. It feels like Atack, Smith, and Morris all had the time to communicate with each other in telling the same story.

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Review: The War Master – Killing Time

Review by Jacob Licklider


What made the first two instalments of The War Master work incredibly well was the decision to have the Master acting as a background character, working his scheme and influencing people to do things that seem to be good before things fall right apart at the end and it turns out the Master’s been in control all along. Killing Time, the sixth installment (though the fifth to be recorded, switched due to the COVID-19 pandemic) places the Master on the Stagnant Protocol. The planet is one that is out of the way and only noticed when people think that it can be taken over for its own gain. Currently there is a viral plague which the government has been inefficiently handling allowing for a new empress to take power with the Master working from behind the scenes. Now, this series was recorded in 2019 before the COVID-19 virus even existed, yet James Goss and Lou Morgan, in writing a science fiction set where the government doesn’t take the plague seriously, and the scientists are trying desperately to find a cure to the variants. In the behind the scenes interviews, the absurdism of Goss and Morgan’s premises for these episodes, as they weren’t expecting a global pandemic to take the world into one where the situation of the Stagnant Protocol is one that we now all know far too well. Even more coincidentally, this isn’t the only time this happened for Big Finish, two main range releases were delayed for similar reasons.

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Review: The War Master – Hearts of Darkness

Review by Jacob Licklider


The War Master since its inception in 2017, has become one of Big Finish Productions’ most consistent ranges, with three of the four previous sets being released to critical acclaim with only one falling short. The range has been characterised by an exploration of darker themes throughout the Time War, giving Derek Jacobi one of the darkest incarnations of the Master to portray and explore. War is the prominent theme and how war changes people and planets, the hopelessness associated with a war to end all wars such as the Time War, and the atrocities which arise from two societies being pushed to their limit. The audio format is perfect for this type of story as it allows the cast and crew to go as dark as possible, using the power of suggestion to depict such atrocities and the listener’s mind is responsible for the gruesome images, all the while never having to restrict themselves to an adult only audience. These types of stories were best explored by the first, third, and fourth sets, while the fifth sets, Hearts of Darkness, instead decides to focus in on how the war is most effecting the two Time Lords set to survive the Time War, the Doctor, here played by Paul McGann, and, of course, the Master. Keeping the established format of four stories written by two authors, in this case David Llewellyn and Lisa McMullin, telling a linked tale over the four-hour period. Unlike previous sets, Hearts of Darkness employs several plot twists which recontextualises what has come before in the set, making it near impossible to separate each episode from one another. Things change, and like any good story, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Continue reading

Review: The War Master – Anti-Genesis

Review by Jacob Licklider


The War Master: Anti-Genesis is the fourth, and potentially final, installment in Big Finish’s War Master range starring Derek Jacobi. Unlike the other Big Finish ranges dealing with the Time War, the War Master does not have an overarching plot through each of the four box sets as they are placed around this Master’s personal timeline. Anti-Genesis sets itself apart from the other three box sets, as unlike the previous sets, it is less a standalone War Master release, but a crossover with the Gallifrey range, featuring Sean Carlsen and Pippa Bennett-Warner as Narvin and President Livia, respectively. It is also a plot which reflects on Genesis of the Daleks and that stories implications for the Daleks and Time Lords, while placing the War Master directly in the action. For this review there will be spoilers for each of the stories in the set. As the set was only recently released, a non-spoiler review for those who have not heard it or are wary about spoilers: it is an excellent set. Derek Jacobi as always gives an excellent portrayal of the Master and giving him one scheme throughout instead of other sets giving him a scheme a story helps bring the set into a focus. The overarching plot is engaging and truly feels like a story involving a time war, instead of simply relying on Daleks and Time Lords engaging in traditional warfare. It’s a set that’s worth your time and should be picked up as soon as you can.

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Review: Doctor Who – Ravenous 4

Review by Jacob Licklider


The finales for the Eighth Doctor box sets have always had difficulty tying things together into a satisfying conclusion, so I was apprehensive going into Ravenous 4. The three previous sets in the Ravenous series, however, had set themselves apart by telling stories where the arc isn’t nearly as comprehensive or built up as Dark Eyes or Doom Coalition. Big Finish setup the Ravenous as a great evil with motivation of devouring everything in its sight and being difficult to beat, unlike previous miniseries with conspiracies going deep into Time Lord mythology and the precursor to the Time War. Ravenous does not include this baggage, allowing the miniseries to feel more laid back allowing the listener to enjoy the ride. This kept me optimistic for the fourth installment, which was then announced to feature four incarnations of the Master and the Eleven and hype began to set in. Because this release was only this month, this review will remain largely spoiler free.

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Review: The Diary of River Song – Series 5

Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)


River is back to her Big Finish audio best; but instead of following the timeline of her hubby, she is following the life and faces of his Timelord nemesis, the Master. Continue reading

Review: The War Master – The Master of Callous

Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)


In this second War Master set from Big Finish, they have; instead of 4 stand alone stories, given us one ongoing 4-part story of the Master on one world. A bold and ultimately inspired move. Continue reading

Review: The War Master – Only The Good

Review by Doctor Squee
(Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)


Big Finish have clearly finished with everything we always knew we wanted in a Doctor Who story and now are going for things we never knew we always wanted. Enter the War Master! Who doesn’t want to see Derek Jacobi playing the Master again! Continue reading