Missy Series Two

Posted in Audio by - July 12, 2020
Missy Series Two

Released July 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following a brilliantly boisterous introduction of Michelle Gomez’s Missy to the worlds of Big Finish that was met with unbridled enthusiasm, it should come as no surprise that a second series was quickly commissioned to further delve into the manic and lively exploits of this most demonstrative incarnation of the Master. With Missy desperate to show off now that she has what she wants but with the Doctor nowhere to be found, she soon finds herself the subject of wholly unwanted attention.

In Lisa McMullin’s ‘The Lumiat,’ the pure and excited joy Missy achieves through her wanton acts of evil is brilliantly spotlighted and balanced by her unyielding desire to cross paths with the Doctor. Indeed, by expertly turning a picnic into a warzone while quite forcefully taking on a companion of her own, she manages to draw the attention of a passing do-gooder with two hearts, though one who refuses to answer to the name of the Doctor. It’s clear from the start that both McMullin and Gomez revel in the unique energy and brazen disregard for accepted norms that Missy presents, and the production flies by as a result as the rogue Time Lady jumps from one created chaos to the next with almost no regard for anyone around her except when it suits her. Gleefully mocking, threatening, and even killing as it suits her fancy, Missy is entirely unpredictable while changing whims at a moment’s notice, and the utter danger she presents is wonderfully escalated all the more for it.

However, it’s the true identity of the woman who comes to reveal herself as the titular Lumiat that gives this story its needed depth by bringing the character fully into conflict with herself. Playing off of the idea of the Valeyard as an amalgamation of the darkness and evil within the Doctor, this kind-hearted soul represents the Master without any anger, pain, or sorrow, and this remarkable change of character is almost too much for Missy to bear. Of course, this in a sense foreshadows Missy’s eventual path alongside the Twelfth Doctor, but it’s the actual means of this incarnation’s birth that are most intriguing given Missy’s final on-screen appearance (to this point), the forbidden process involved, and the gaps in memory that result. The desire to live has always been a mainstay of the Master, but the lengths suggested here are fascinating with plenty of potential ramifications that could manifest at any time. Gina McKee is superb as this opposite yet equal force to Gomez, and the resultant journey that Missy undertakes as she comes to look at who she is and who she could be is a stunning start to this second series that is poignant without ever shying away from the absurdity and comedy that this larger-than-life figure so easily carries.

Desiring an army of young men trained and willing to serve, Missy has taken up a teaching post at a remote Scottish boarding school in Roy Gill’s ‘Brimstone and Terror.’ This is a natural position for the enigmatic and domineering Time Lady to assume and one that easily allows her to spread her manipulative influence to those around her, but the story wisely uses the setting to serve as a sequel of sorts to ‘A Spoonful of Mayhem’ with Oliver Davis who once called Missy his governess enrolled at the establishment. Fittingly, it’s not long before Oliver calls his sister for help, and the unlikely Sontaran she brings along in support certainly further entwines this Missy universe with the Doctor Who universe at large given the overt references and connections to the Paternoster Gang that likewise enjoys continued success with Big Finish.

Unfortunately, ‘Brimstone and Terror’ falters just as much as it succeeds because of its overreliance on events established outside of its own confines. By introducing and reintroducing so many familiar faces, nobody really has an opportunity to shine and do something unique, and while Michelle Gomez and Dan Starkey are wonderfully comfortable in their respective famed roles, their inevitable meeting is far too rushed to truly resonate and deliver on the immense backstory each carries. Sadly, much of the character work that seems destined to occur is sacrificed for a haphazard supernatural plot that never manages to find its footing and develop, and the result is a jarringly paced adventure that never quite creates a cohesive whole. There’s plenty of comedy and strong dialogue to offset a meagre plot that somehow does too much and too little at the same time, but Oliver and Lucy Davis sadly become little more than plot devices and flashback conduits, like the story itself managing to show the interconnectedness of Big Finish’s many tapestries but failing to truly capitalize on the many fascinating component pieces in play.

With the events of the previous story leaving Missy stranded in 1605 just days before the infamous Gunpowder Plot is destined to fail, Missy borrows from the Monk’s playbook and looks to turn history on its head in order to attract the attention of someone who can help her escape this time and place in Gemma Arrowsmith’s ‘Treason and Plot.’ As Missy with her anachronistic marvels that promise such a momentous turn of fortune quickly assumes control of the plot that Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby, and others began to formulate, a tremendous amount of strong characterisation comes out in short order with the individual amounts of trust given to her of particular note. This is a story that perhaps unsurprisingly never takes itself too seriously, but the historical elements perfectly complement the absurdity and audaciousness of Missy’s plan to create an enjoyable romp that always follows familiar beats while offering plenty of memorable moments.

Yet while it’s amusing to think that this particular moment in time is such a nuisance for the Time Agency that must constantly send new agents to ensure events proceed as history tells, the inclusion of rookie Time Agent Rita Cooper as a focal character doesn’t quite resonate as much as intended. To be sure, Ony Uhiara is wonderful as this young woman who so desperately wants to do more than this assignment is supposed to offer her and who suddenly finds herself squarely in the middle of a massive temporal incursion, but this story ends up feeling as much like a Rita Cooper backdoor pilot as a true Missy story with the split focus not allowing either component to develop as deeply as it might have otherwise. The two elements do dovetail into a brilliant climax, but with Rita not necessarily directly involved in ensuring history follows its course as she tries to tell her superiors something more serious is occurring, the Time Agency plot as a whole does end up feeling somewhat superfluous no matter how intriguing. None of the story really breaks new ground, but it does further develop some corners of the Doctor Who universe and ultimately sets the stage for the welcome return of another familiar face.

Picking up on the events of ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Regenerated’ in the first series of Missy, the Meddling Monk has come to exact revenge on Missy in John Dorney’s ‘Too Many Masters.’ Yet just as quickly as he discovers that his devious plans are hardly up to Missy’s own cunning, they both find themselves prisoners of the Ogrons who have been looking to settle a debt of their own with the Master. The Ogrons certainly have their place in Doctor Who lore, and even if their vocal stylings can sometimes become a bit grating, their inclusion and assumed intelligence levels allow Dorney to reference several earlier tales- ‘Frontier in Space’ in particular- while having a tremendous amount of fun with the gender fluidity that Time Lords have begun showing with increasing regularity in recent years. In fact, this story is a riot from beginning to end as the Monk tries to create trouble for Missy while only succeeding in worsening his own plight, and the journey to the momentous climax that gloriously hints at the potential a third series may hold flies by at a blistering pace that perfectly captures the manic energy the likes of which only Missy can exude.

The pairing of these respective incarnations of Missy and the Monk seems like it was always destined to occur, and the performances of Michelle Gomez and Rufus Hound spectacularly highlight not only how intimately each knows the given roles but also just how wholly distinct these Time Lords who truly have so much in common are. Each is fully invested in these uproarious antics, and the supporting cast helps to lend a dramatic anchor as the Master’s own previous actions are called into question and the culture and vengeance of the Ogrons are explored more fully than ever before. With the strong direction and sound design that has accompanied every story in this fledgling series, ‘Too Many Masters’ ends this series on an indisputable high; while it does not feature the level of intrigue that ‘The Lumiat’ posed at the beginning of this set and doesn’t offer a serious drama that this series as a whole has yet to afford the beguiling Missy, it bodes incredibly well for the character and her future in the audio medium whether by herself or not.

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