Released November 2014
The Master is back for the four-episode Dark Eyes 3 and is again seeking universal supremacy, this time by manipulating the Eminence’s Infinite Warriors. Molly O’Sullivan is vital to his plans and, aided by Sally Armstrong, he is perilously close to succeeding. Paranoid from his recent events and not wanting to change history, the Doctor is hesitant to join the conflict; when Narvin, a Time Lord CIA agent, provides the incentive and motivation needed, though, the Doctor and Liv Chenka go up against the Master to stop his scheme and to save their friend.
Big Finish makes a bold choice with the beginning of Dark Eyes 3 as the first story, ‘The Death of Hope,’ primarily features the villainous Master. It’s an approach that’s not used very often in any medium, and Alex MacQueen completely controls every scene he is in, relishing the opportunity to be the de facto lead as the events of this box set are set in motion. The Master here is self-absorbed as always, but he’s also incredibly cunning and charismatic and a dominant manipulator, proving again how evil he can be and how fantastic a foe he can be when handled properly.
The Doctor is present but really only serves as a storytelling device rather than an active player. Molly’s fate following Dark Eyes 2 is revealed but, again, she is not nearly as prominent as in previous box sets. Truly this is a story about the Master and his own strong companion, Sally Armstrong, who quickly becomes a force to be reckoned with as her dubious ethics shine through so clearly.
‘The Reviled’ brings McGann’s Eighth Doctor back into prominence, though in the interesting capacity of seeing just how far his character can be pushed. It’s clear that the Master has basically achieved what he’s set out to do and is tormenting the Doctor as just another vindictive and malicious act of hatred. Even though Sally does most of the interacting with the Doctor until the end, the Master’s presence is never far away and he certainly delivers a crushing blow in his own right. Again, McGann is fantastic in exploring this new tortured aspect of the Doctor before showing his ultimate mettle at the conclusion, and MacQueen continues to prove and refine his distinct brilliance in the role of the Master.
Molly is noticeably completely absent from this story, Liv Chenka filling the companion role. Unfortunately, the writers still haven’t figured out what to do with her at his time, and the almost defeatist attitude she displays at times doesn’t really mesh with her desperation to stay alive. The actual conflict of the story between the Ramossans and human colonists also fails to live up the actual drama between the Time Lord foes, the scenes mostly consisting of the Ramossans complaining about how selfish and unkind the humans are and the humans doing little to disprove that assertion. However, the setup for the overall story going forward more than compensates for these missteps.
The third entry of the set, ‘Masterplan,’ is likely the standout story. The Doctor has finally had enough and, taking a page from the playbooks of both the Master and the CIA, he manages to trap himself with his eternal foe. What follows is a fantastic character piece that is just as much about these two friends-turned-enemies as it is about the Dark Eyes plotline in general.
This is possibly the longest and most thorough conversation these characters have had in any medium, and each one knows just how best to personally attack the other with effective verbal bullets. Everything from growing up to intentions regarding the universe is touched on; even as the lingering threat of the Eminence and Professor Markus Schriver is shunted more to the background for prolonged periods accordingly, the emotion and one-upsmanship that McGann and MacQueen bring to the roles is palpably superb.
Liv and Sally have a confrontation of their own, but it unsurprisingly pales in comparison to the one between the Time Lords. While Liv makes some valid points to Sally regarding the Master’s past treatment of his companions, the argument in general is quite unbalanced and doesn’t quite carry the emotional weight intended. Fortunately these scenes don’t detract from the overall proceedings or the interesting progression of the main plotline, and they do lead to an interesting- if controversial- fate.
After three episodes of setup, the Master’s full intentions and plans are revealed in the conclusory ‘Rule of the Eminence.’ In a rarity for the series, the Master’s plans actually do manage to come to fruition, as he proves to be dangerously adept at being able to one-up everybody in any circumstance. A pivotal point is being reached in Earth’s battle against the Eminence, with the Master in the background pulling the strings. It’s this characterisation that makes the story, and especially the resolution, so continually exciting.
The Master is not the sole focus here, though, as everyone gets some highlight moments. Most notably, Molly returns and dominates all of her scenes, wonderfully interacting with each character as if she had been present all along and proving how pivotal her character is. Liv also has some strong scenes with Molly and the Master, but she still continues to walk around with a gloomy demeanour and, like the episode before, eventually meets a bit of a controversial fate, tragic as it is. However, with Narvin captured, it’s expectedly up to the Doctor to come up with the ultimate solution, and because of the Master’s uncanny ability to think ahead and his knowledge of the Doctor’s thoughts, the manner in which he does so is quite exciting. The only hope the Doctor has is to make completely unexpected choices that could never be anticipated and planned for and, as usual, it’s a certain component of the Master’s plan that proves his eventual undoing.
Dark Eyes 3 combines the stronger aspects of both of the preceding box sets and manages to form a tight cohesion between its stories. The absence of Molly for so long is unfortunate, but her eventual return is written wonderfully. The Doctor and the Master truly are the stars of the box set even as the Eminence becomes a massive and threatening presence throughout, and hopefully these two actors will have many scenes together in the future as well. There are still the occasional pacing issues, and the ultimate fates of some of the characters are sure to irk some, but overall this is a fantastic continuation of the Dark Eyes saga which is set to conclude with the final Dark Eyes 4.