Missy Series One

Posted in Audio by - February 08, 2019
Missy Series One

Released February 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Among the impressive story arcs and character work that abounded during Peter Capaldi’s tenure as the Twelfth Doctor, perhaps no character consistently commanded attention quite so much as Michelle Gomez’s oft-appearing but never-predictable Missy. Quite rightly, Big Finish has capitalised on the opportunity to further develop the mysterious lifestyle of this most modern incarnation of the Master, and after a brief tease in The Diary of River Song Series Five, she fronts four stories in the succinctly-titled Missy Series One.

As the title suggests, Roy Gill’s opener to this series, ‘A Spoonful of Mayhem,’ pays homage to while completely subverting the foundations of Mary Poppins as Missy is forced to take on governess duties in Victorian London as part of her punishment for a crime she has yet to commit. Gomez has always been able to effortlessly switch from over-the-top theatricality to deadly earnest as needed, and that fascinating combination is boldly on display again as she learns of her presumed future and the fate she must now endure while living like a normal person. Of course, this is likewise a shrewd character with a sharp intellect and uncanny ability to scheme on the largest scale imaginable, and it comes as no surprise that the family she has chosen to grace with her presence despite her proclaimed loathing of children is only the first of many steps in her latest plan to escape.

Indeed, with acquiring her freedom her only true motivational force rather than having to confront an overtly evil force endangering others, Missy in all of her glorious unpredictability is allowed to truly focus. With Oliver Clement taking on narration duties as well as playing one of Missy’s charges, Oliver Davis who was expelled from school and requires a disciplined structure, ‘A Spoonful of Mayhem’ takes on a certain storybook quality as his sister and he are whisked into a park at night where statues come to life, into a museum where they must memorise guard routes and locks, and even into a mysterious realm they could have never imagined existed in real life. Although again all being part of Missy’s ploy, the relationship and kindred bond she forms with Oliver is quite touching, and it certainly gives a needed energy to compensate for the more practical and rigid Lucy who refuses to let her brother get too taken in by this mysterious figure. Highlighting Missy making the most of the technology and circumstances around her as magic seems to come to life once more, this is a wonderfully fitting reintroduction to this beguiling figure and firmly proves just how easily Gomez can anchor an ongoing series.

John Dorney’s ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Regenerated’ sees King Henry VIII searching for another wife, but events quickly take a historically unexpected turn when he recognises the Lady Foxcroft as the latest incarnation of the Master. Of course, the official synopsis and cast list make it no secret that this famed figure is none other than the Meddling Monk, and- following some clever quips about that particular moniker- what unfolds is an engrossing game of chicken in which both remain mistrustful of each other while seeking particular information. The Monk, quite rightly, would just as soon run to the other side of the planet rather than have any dealings with Missy, and that’s quite telling given that he has been trying to interfere with the timeline enough to gain the attention of the Time Lords to rescue him from this planet that has been his refuge. Although there is a missed opportunity for a profound moment of seriousness as Missy and the Monk instead rather dismissively discuss the Time War and even the return of Gallifrey that hints at none of the turmoil and anguish that the each Time Lord felt and that the Doctor continues to carry with him so long after the conflict, the setup is nonetheless an effective one that introduces the precarious foundation of the relationship between the two leads perfectly and that helps better define this version of the Monk.

It’s rare for a comedy to land so many of its situations and jokes so successfully, but the right words and pitch perfect performances from both Gomez and Rufus Hound make this an extremely sharp, intelligent, and witty affair from beginning to end. With the Monk seeing through Missy’s claims of paradox eaters and other creatures running amok, the series of anachronisms and half-truths from the Monk that draws Missy and him ever closer to matrimony as neither refuses to heed any ground to the other highlight the conniving and free-wheeling nature of both while circumstances continually change and Catherine Parr continues to unfalteringly do what she believes will put her in her king’s good graces. Missy’s personal victory is all but assured from the start, but the duplicity on hand as pursuing threats loom large and identities are questioned in the most unexpected manner possible make this another lasting highlight of this series that already feels like it has been long established.

Detective Joe Lynwood hunts the most impossible killer of his career in ‘The Broken Clock’ by Nev Fountain, providing a true crime pastiche that plays upon the tropes of shows dedicated to said crimes perfectly. Indeed, as a series of three impossible deaths with the likes of a man seemingly starved to death instantly and a pacemaker battery that instantly ran out of power presenting themselves, it takes a certain Missy Masters from Scotland Yard to suggest that murder involving time travel might just be involved. Obviously, she knows more than she is letting on, but the paradox that unfolds as Lynwood tries to piece together the bizarre sequence of events before that seem to reach into his own future and even into the depths of the Time War itself is spectacular and never presents anything in a wholly straightforward manner.

Just as the first story of this set utilised narration to progress its plot, so, too, does ‘The Broken Clock’ as events lead to a particular clock that appears to tie together all of the strange events. However, the narration here is integral to the progression of the plot itself and directly draws the attention and even ire of those involved in a most surreal fashion that offers a totally unique spin on a traditional format, breaking the fourth wall within the context of the story without doing so in reality. With the characters themselves likewise wondering if they are real or simply actors in a production, nothing can be taken for granted, and the unexpected interactions and engrossing performances from Michelle Gomez and Ryan Forde Iosco, in particular, make for a wholly unique experience that culminates with a most unexpected revelation that again has links to Gallifrey and the Master’s previous exploits and continuing powers. Much like the character of Missy herself who can change so completely in an instant, ‘The Broken Clock’ is an unpredictable thriller that encompasses dark drama and humour while revealing its key details at perfect intervals to deliver another piece of Missy’s plan into her possession and yet another engrossing piece worthy of multiple listens.

Concluding this set is ‘The Belly of the Beast’ by Jonathan Morris, a tale that begins traditionally enough with an incarnation of the Master subjugating a planet’s local population to use as slave labour but that develops into a surprisingly emotional and complex story. Such a straightforward premise is initially quite glaring compared to the twisting nature of the previous entries, but the game Missy is quite literally playing with herself to remain occupied while the labour to unearth an ancient artefact continues is a fantastic second layering that once more successfully plays with preconceptions. Indeed, as both leader of the workforce and leader of the rebellion, Michelle Gomez is afforded yet another opportunity to show the more ostentatious and conniving aspects of her character, and she brilliantly bridges the two very disparate and yet intrinsically linked storylines with ease.

Naturally, a story about suppression and rebellion needs an emotional anchor to truly stand out, and Abbie Andrew and John Scougall excel as they come to learn the truths of their memories and identities as they continue to confront increasing horrors around them and learn that long-held assumptions are much more complicated than believed. This is a story that makes the most of its dark environment that likewise is anything but straightforward, and the wave of revelations and emotions throughout ensures that the audience’s attention never wavers. In many ways, ‘The Belly of the Beast’ parallels many of the Master’s appearances in Doctor Who as the Doctor stumbles upon the Master’s scheme as it nears its critical juncture, meaning that a lot of the setup work to the plan is glossed over in favour of the bevy of revelations that follow. However, this is unquestionably Missy’s time to shine as momentum continues to build to a crucial conclusion, and her plan yields the biggest prize of all that utilises her key takeaways from the previous stories and sets her off on a completely new and altogether frightening journey that has the potential to rewrite so much of what has been assumed lore in Doctor Who as her ongoing adventures continue.

Michelle Gomez made an instant impact on television as Missy both before and after her official reveal as an incarnation of the Master, and she has firmly proven that the eclectic mannerisms of her morally ambiguous but always dangerous character can transition perfectly to the audio medium. Overcoming the unique challenges presented to her and even learning a few new things about herself along the way, Missy proves to be the perfect vehicle for the audacious and unexpected storytelling styles that put Big Finish on the map so long ago, and the energy and extreme polish evident in the writing, acting, directing, and sound design make this an incredibly strong foundation for yet another must-listen audio range.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.