Big Finish Folly, Part 29a – And You Will Obey Me, by Alan Barnes
The Master: wanted for crimes without number, across five galaxies.
The Master: escaped his pursuers. Last known location: rural Hexford, England, Earth.
The Master: dead and buried in an unmourned grave, in a lonely churchyard.
Fans have wanted a multi-Master adventure for quite some time. With both Geoffrey Beevers and Alexander McQueen on the books at Big Finish, it’s finally time to party. Of course, before the main event there must be an overture or two, so this year’s multi-Doctor trilogy sees fit to pit Five against one Master, Six against another, and Seven against both of the buggers. It’s a fan-pleasing Event, of course, exactly as Light at the End of the Tunnel was. That means it could be all sound and fury, raging against canonical restrictions. Or it could be quite clever, subversive and twisted, dark and quiet. And You Will Obey Me leaps in at the shallower end of the pool, bombing around with glee, but it does venture down into the deep end too – blink and you’ll miss them, but there are lines that sink deep into the psyche of the characters and make this a far more satisfying adventure than it would otherwise be.
So what have we got? Straight out of the box, it’s a chase to track down the Master’s Tardis, which has been transmitting a distress signal. The Doctor has leaped forward to 2016 from 1984 (where Tegan is reluctantly involved in an archaeology dig, hence the positioning of this story post-old Nyssa and pre-Turlough trilogy) to track down the grandfather clock of doom, only to find that he’s not the only one on the Master’s trail. And the other pursuers aren’t quite what they seem to be either…
The opening scene in the auction house is chronically comic and seems to be setting this up as a decent country farce. But Barnes piles on element after element – gigantic dragonfly bounty hunters, calculatingly penitent android assassins, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the Falklands, The Tomorrow People, and Russian agents – in a story so precisely bonkers that it needs to spread itself over two time periods. It’s not a simple listen either, with all the detail pumped into the dialogue. There’s hardly a wasted line in the entire play. Peter Davison’s Doctor is powered by doing the right thing, even when it’s clear he’s dropped the ball on at least one occasion. Geoffrey Beevers, who I’ve recently heard opposite Tom Baker more than anything, gets free rein to gloat, cackle and roar.
Of the guests, Sheena Bhattessa is a great foil for the Doctor, freewheeling out of the past like a modern-day Emma Peel. The four “kids” seem to sound a little too old in their younger incarnations (warning – there are flashbacks). The need to explain what happened back in ’84 takes up a large portion of the middle of the script and you can tell by the way it has to be divided up between the Famous Four that the explanations would have slowed the pace massively otherwise. And the need to tie everything up at great speed makes the last episode a touch messier than I would have liked it to be (1.256311% messier, since you’re asking).
Obviously there’s no indication of how (or indeed whether) this play will tie into the next two. But on its own, it stands as a slice of good, if over-frantic, fun.