Multi-Master Trilogy Review: Vampire of the Mind
Gustaff Behr gives his verdict on the second multi-Master audio from Big Finish.
It’s Colin Baker vs Alex MacQueen in this second instalment of Big Finish’s Two Masters Trilogy and the only thing that could’ve possibly made this series even cooler would’ve been to throw in another Master, but for now, I’ll settle for two.
Vampire of the Mind is very different from its predecessor, in both tone and genre. Whereas And You Will Obey Me was more of an urban thriller with some eerie suspense, mystery and a touch of nightmare fuel added to the mix, this story feels more like a Classic Era episode of Doctor Who. It does feel as though it is deliberately trying to do as many things differently than its predecessor, such as introducing the Master fairly early on, using another type of Master plot (steal the Doctor’s lives, kill him, take over the world) and these elements, coupled with MacQueen’s portrayal, fits. I adore listening to Alex MacQueen. He is fantastic. I don’t want him introduced halfway through the tale. It works for Beevers’ Master because that fits that portrayal of the Time Lord. Beevers’ incarnation is creepy and nightmarish, but MacQueen’s is flippant and charming and needs to have all the attention on him.
I can’t really say which of the two stories is better as they feel as though they are on the same wavelength. What does helps Vampire of the Mind is the fact that the audience is maybe/maybe not (not a tease, I’m just not entirely sure) given a tease about how this incarnation came to be. MacQueen’s portrayal feels a few degrees off his usual trajectory, reflecting well on the fact that this Master is recently regenerated and may not be fully developed. This makes the story more interesting because we as the viewers haven’t really ever seen post-regeneration trauma from the Master’s point of view. Simm’s incarnation seemed to find his baring fairly quickly. Introducing the Master as uncertain of himself provides a fascinating insight into his inner workings without alienating him from what we’ve come to expect.
I actually prefer stories in which the Doctor travels alone. I don’t want it to happen all the time, but once or twice a season can’t hurt. Vampire of the Mind cheats this formula a bit by giving us a non-companion companion in the form of Heather Threadstone, the daughter of one of the Doctor’s friends and someone who unlike most of the Doctor’s companions, enters the story fully aware of things like regeneration, time travel and that the Doctor is an alien. This not only spares us so much exposition and recycled dialogue, but also allows us to see a Companion/Doctor dynamic that already has a foundation, even if we haven’t seen it develop yet.
Heather doesn’t have much of a personality, but she is fun to listen to, if a bit generic, but the fact that Kate Kennedy and Colin Baker have such great chemistry together certainly helps. And this carries over into the script as while a bit generic, Heather is given fantastic dialogue and banter with a very television-y Sixth Doctor (my favourite aspect of him). The Doctor is proud and egotistical, but the script allows each and every one of his verbal punches to land on a truly comical note that brought wide grins to this reviewer’s face.
Speaking of chemistry; Colin Baker vs Alex MacQueen: A match made in heaven. MacQueen seems to be the go-to incarnation for meeting Doctors out of order, even admitting he’d also like to take on David Tennant’s incarnation (please make this happen Big Finish). Some of you are asking: How can the Seventh Doctor not know who the Master is in future stories if he met him in his sixth life? The answer should be obvious and not much of a spoiler. The Doctor either gets amnesia, the Master disguises himself or never interacts face-to-face with the Doctor. So which one is it you ask?
Vampire of the Mind expands on the ongoing Master story. It seems he was attacked in his past by some unknown forces, perhaps the forces that were chasing him in the previous story, which seems odd as that Master was pre-Keeper of Traken while this Master is post-Mastermind. What’s going on? What happened to the Master? What’s in store for Sylvester McCoy next month when the Seventh Doctor has to stand his ground against not one, but two Masters?
Rating this story: 9.5/10.