Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • A Big Finish production
  • Full cast, including Derek Jacobi and David Tennant
  • Written by Lou Morgan, Una McCormack, Lizbeth Miles, and Lizzie Hopley
  • Approximately 4 hours
  • Released in June 2022

The Master. The most notorious criminal in the universe. A man who has committed every crime in every book. Now he is at long last standing trial for his actions. But can any punishment fit this man’s crimes? And how far will the Master go to escape justice . . ?

Once again, the superb Derek Jacobi is back as the most malicious incarnation of the infamous Time Lord. This seventh four-volume collection promises a reunion with David Tennant’s Doctor, against whom Jacobi only really played the Master for a few lines, with the rest of his interactions being as the benign and doddering professor Yana. While we do get that reunion, it’s only in the final part of this story. To get there, we do have to sit through a somewhat mixed bag of audio dramas first.

The Forest of Penitence is a strong opener, with the Master having awoken in a forest without memory of how he got there. What follows is a creeping sense of horror as a band of mismatched individuals are picked off one by one. The inevitable big reveal really works, and serves as an example of just how sinister Jacobi can mean.

Surprising, it’s Una McCormack who provides the weak link of the set. The Players has too big a cast for a single hour, and can’t quite do justice to its premise. Written across four parts itself, it could have been much stronger, but here it is overstuffed. That being said, kudos has to go to Star Trek writer McCormack for squeezing in a reference to Cardassian literature.

Boundaries takes us back to the events of the very first War Master boxset, including a welcome return for early companion Cole. Fitting in alongside the events of The Sky Man, this one sees the Master investigating a threat to his vineyard. Naturally, there’s more than meets the eye (or ear) here, and this story plants the suggestion that the middle two volumes of this boxset may not have happened as the Master describes. or, may not have happened at all. My personal thoughts are that if something doesn’t happen, I shouldn’t have to hear about it, but it’s an interesting idea to see the Master spinning tall tales to prove his innocence.

The Last Line finally brings Tennant into the mix, acting as the Master’s final character witness. As you’d expect, Tennant is on fine form here. A lot is made of the Master not recognising the Doctor, but the Doctor living in a post-Master universe. This allows Tennant to come in on the verge of his Time Lord Victorious moment, wondering if he has the right to alter the timeline to save his oldest friend.

While this isn’t my favourite War Master set (Master of Callous sets a high bar), there is a lot to like here. The performances and sound design are faultless as ever, and there’s a strong narrative behind it all. There’s at least one more boxset still to come, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for a few more yet.

One response to “AUDIO REVIEW: The War Master: Self-Defence”

  1. BOUNDY AWARDS 2022 – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

    […] The War Master: Boundaries, by Lizbeth Miles – In a boxset that jumped through time, this story took listeners back to the very first adventures of the War Master and his ‘friend’ Cole. That reunion, coupled with the idea that the Master may have been making the whole thing up, made for a great piece of audio drama. […]


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