During the Christmas season I ended up getting the second volume of The War Master and am very excited to share my review of it with you all. This four part boxset staring Sir Derek Jacobi and written by James Goss and Guy Adams, feels very much like an actual novel as opposed to four connected individual episodes. This boxset also has the distinction of featuring the return of The Ood, played by Silas Carson, which was a very nice surprise.
Speaking of The Ood, I was actually blown away by their use in the story. Having never been a huge fan of The Ood, I really enjoyed the added depth and character given to them by Big Finish. And on top of that, Silas Carson was a “breakout” star in this release. His use of his voice is something that is hard to match and is riveting.
Now, the first episode is Call for the Dead by James Goss, and is quite like The Sky Men from the last boxset in that is it a master-lite episode but one where his influence and power is felt throughout. Following Elliot, Cassandra and Marine King and their struggles keeping together a mining colony by the name of Callous, facing pressure from the planet’s governor, Teremon. Dark, brooding and dour, The episode flies out of the gate at the word go and doesn’t let up, even though it is very action light, instead focusing on the interactions between characters. Cracking opening.
Next up is The Glittering Prize, also by Goss. The War Master, now having put himself into the events on Callous, has found a treasure with the Kings and looks to get it off the planet. As an individual episode, it isn’t the most interesting, due to the four episodes being one giant story. However as a part of that bigger picture, it really shines. Setting up and exploring ideas from the first episode, this episode is quite enjoyable.
Third is The Persistence of Dreams by Guy Adams, and boy, what an absolute corker! A simple but extremely tight and well crafted tale of Martine’s descent into madness, it becomes a mix of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the worst(or greatest depending on how you’re looking at it) acid trip you’ve ever had. Samatha Beart pulls off the inner struggle with such conviction it becomes hard to even realize that what is happening is a fictitious tale. And the final piece of this puzzle is the sound design which perfectly compliments the story, even becoming a star in itself.
The finale is Sins of the Father, with Guy Adams writing again. Taking place concurrently with The Persistence of Dreams, Sins of the Father follows the fate of Cassandra and Callous’s final hours, The Master’s end game and why the Ood were so important. Flipping expertly between the two plots, Adams writes one of the best Master stories in general, mixing in the dark and sardonic, the cunning charm of Delgado and the downright depravity which Jacobi’s master is known for. All the guest cast work splendidly to give the episode the largest in scope compared to the others, which serves as a great contrast to the last episode especially.
The Master of Callous takes the best from the first volume and expands upon it. Done by creating a single narrative across it’s runtime, accentuated by its close resemblance to the classic three act structure of a novel, it allows for a deeper emotional connection to each character. Also playing towards a more experimental nature with the episodes themselves, this makes every moment important and finely balances the times we are in the company of The Master and when we aren’t. A product that has been hand-crafted with care by all involved. The Master of Callous is a dastardly 9/10!
The War Master: The Master of Callous can be purchased directly from Big Finish at https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-war-master-the-master-of-callous-1869