Master!: Planet Doom

Posted in Audio by - February 24, 2024
Master!: Planet Doom

Released February 2024


Pulled from the vortex once more, the Master is forced into an uneasy alliance with Vienna Salvatori when a corporate mercenary joined by marines and scientists forms an expedition to a forbidden planet that has already claimed explorers’ lives in Master!: Planet Doom.

The pairing of Eric Roberts’s Master with the bounty hunter who began as an audio nemesis of the Seventh Doctor has always been a strange pairing even if Roberts and Chase Masterson have shared an immense chemistry from the start as their characters have continued to antagonize each other simply because this incarnation of the nefarious Time Lord has not had the opportunity to breathe and develop on his own. However, this third Master! set changes up the format somewhat in Robert Whitelock’s ‘Basilisk’ by having the two inextricably linked through so-called voltaic cuffs that ensure neither can leave the close proximity of the other without them both dying. Having kidnapped Vienna with the intention of luring the Master to help him achieve his aim, Phillips is a cruel and misguided man who honestly believes in his own power to lead the titular project even knowing who the Master truly is, and Nigel Whitmey as Phillips alongside Dan Li as scientist Chaoxiang do lend a certain authoritative strength to the affair at hand. However, the Master is never one to willingly accept imposed limitations or other figures of authority, and Roberts’s calm but menacing demeanour never leaves any doubt that his Master can turn events into his favour at a moment’s notice, a feat he begins to achieve as he uses his hypnotic influence to great effect while Vienna and he each try to manoeuvre with and around each other. Still, as the first of three directly linked stories, the wealth of expository material here with the planet known to be housing the true threat and drama waiting below as pieces are put in place gives much of ‘Basilisk’ a somewhat stagnated feeling since much bigger adventures await. Like in much of this range to this point, the Master receives brief moments to showcase his unique power, charisma, and threat, but there are certainly opportunities missed or purposefully not taken to genuinely highlight who this relatively unknown incarnation truly is. Nonetheless, the inclusion of old UNIT files does provide a nice tie to the classic era and a firm reminder that this Master is the same as Roger Delgado’s who crossed paths with the organization so many times, and though the major points of this story could have been summarized with a few brief sentences as the Master, Vienna, and the Raptors head into the mysterious ziggurat where the second story will invariably begin to instead start this set right in the middle of the action, there is certainly enough intrigue and strong character interactions throughout to entertain from beginning to end.

The Master knows early on that Axos is the focus of this expedition in Barnaby Kay’s ‘Axos Rising,’ knowledge he takes advantage of to continue to manipulate events into his favour. Interestingly, as it becomes clear to everyone that there are traps set in place to keep something in this ziggurat rather than to keep others out, the Master takes on something of a more passive role overall, simply watching those around him fall victim one after another. He does have the occasional moments of genuine malice as he forces others to take fatal action to assure his own command and even willingly sacrifices Vienna in order to further his negotiations and perceived goodwill with Axos as he looks to work around the haunting legacy of the Time Lords, but these most highly effective moments are far too infrequent given the power and characterization they provide. Of course, Vienna’s story does not end here despite the Master’s deceptive prowess, and Masterson again does well to convey Vienna’s bold confidence and wit even in the presence of such a formidable set of foes. Elsewhere, the surprising return of Passion from Nemesis Express does mostly feel somewhat disjointed from the story proper as she tries to locate her friend against all odds, but Teri Ann Bobb-Baxter manages to convey a strength and determination that will hopefully pay off more directly in this set’s finale. It’s also somewhat surprising that Axos itself does not feature more directly given the calm and measured authority Barnaby Kay’s voice conveys for this menace, but even with the nutrition cycle providing the most overt threat here, the sheer power Axos is known to have from previous stories is enough to create a genuine sense of danger beyond the haunting organic visuals and golden figures. Like the opener, there is more filler material than might be expected that weakens the overall effect, but the glimpses of the Master’s true cunning, the unique properties of Axos, and the ever-intriguing presence of Vienna still maintain a strong sense of intrigue as Planet Doom approaches its end. This continues to be a very stylish series filled with great performances, drama, and sound design, but hopefully the finale can manage to bring together the many threads into a concise and cohesive whole that is more overtly consequential and character-driven with the Master even more directly focusing than has been the case to this point.

With the Master’s plan falling apart as a self-destruct is activated, Vienna and he are increasingly desperate to escape without letting Axos loose in Robert Valentine’s ‘Hellbound.’ Roberts plays this desperation with a more subdued calm than other incarnations typically do, making it seem as though he always retains the upper hand as he continues to use Axos’s history with the Time Lords to his advantage within his continued negotiations and plannings with Axos in its many guises. However, ‘Hellbound’ continues the trend of splitting the away focus from the Master and, indeed, makes him something of a supporting character in his own series as Vienna and Passion take charge. Vienna as a character has undergone tremendous personal change and growth since her debut and through her own series, no longer focusing on simply being a startlingly effective, ruthless, and callous bounty hunter. She has learned to care for others while retaining her incisive ability to read others with a supreme confidence and a sharp intuition, a fact incredibly shown through Passion’s determined search for Vienna over the extended period of time the universe outside of Axos’s trap has experienced. This is a series filled with characters using each other for their own gain, but the strength of the relationship between these two as Vienna is truly able to confront something good that has resulted from her actions is a strong foundation for these characters who do receive something of a happy ending after so much tumult together and apart. Vienna is also shown to carry a certain hope and optimism that speaks to the strength of her present character even in the darkest of circumstances, and that personal growth is highlighted all the more effectively when the Doctor again enters her life given Vienna’s mindset during their first encounter. Paul McGann makes a most welcome appearance as the Doctor in an incarnation perfectly fitting for the Roberts Master who still seems keen to take over the Doctor’s body in a nod to both the television movie and the Thirteenth Doctor’s era. The Doctor is calm and assured even as he confronts the terrors of Axos that the Time Lords implicitly knew could not be allowed to wreak havoc on the universe, and he guides this story to a fitting conclusion that naturally sees the Master escape assured death. Still, the fact that this Master does not once again end up back in the vortex but instead is free to traverse the cosmos with his own piece of Axos in tow is an exciting turn of events, and though another encounter with the Eighth Doctor seems all but inevitable, hopefully this setup will truly allow this Master to step into his own by his own in the next set. ‘Hellbound’ is a strong story and a fitting conclusion for Planet Doom that provides strong characterization for Vienna and Passion even with the Master less involved upfront and consequential, and it seems that this range is only growing more confident and assured with each release.

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.