Doctor Who: Master
by Joseph Lidster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A tricky play to review, because it's doing different things on different levels, some of which I quite like, and others that I'm not so sure about.
On a basic story level, I found this quite gripping and suspenseful. No one would describe this play as action-packed - it mostly consists of a series of conversations in drawing rooms. But the surprises keep coming.
On a deeper level, this story sets out to answer the question, "Why is the Master the way he is?" And the first answer that Lidster presents us with has a certain appeal: when the Doctor and the Master were children, the Master killed a bully that was tormenting them, and the two of them conspired to cover it up; the secret guilt of that deed consumed the Master until he became the sociopath we all know and love. It has a certain tragic poignancy, and it does explain the sense of obligation that the Doctor often seems to feel towards the Master. As explanations go, I think I prefer it to the new series' "the noises in his head made him do it" explanation.
However, as it turns out, there is more. First, there is an anthropomorphic personification of Death running around. We are told that the Master is Death's servant, and that the Doctor and Death made a bargain whereby the Master would get 10 years of life as a normal person in exchange for the Doctor agreeing to kill the Master at the end of that 10 years. Which all leads up to the final revelation, which is that it wasn't the Master who killed the bully all those years ago. It was the Doctor. At which point, Death came to the young Doctor and explained that this one act would make him Death's servant, unless he wanted to make a deal and let Death take his best friend instead...
At which point, the story stops being one about guilt and friendship and the possibility of redemption, and becomes one about two people who were ensnared by cosmic forces who are just way more powerful than they are. It's tragic, and still moving in its own way, but I think the first story was more interesting. Especially in the context of Doctor Who
, which is so often about the ability of individuals to escape the fates that more powerful entities have planned for them.
So, it's one heck of a play, and I'm glad it was written, but I'll probably always think of it more as a really provocative piece of fanfic rather than the canon backstory of the Doctor and the Master. View all my reviews