Missy is back for a second volume of adventures in Missy: Series Two. The first set was one of the highlights of last year, but how do these four new stories compare? Read on to find out!
Beware, this review contains major spoilers.
1. “The Lumiat” by Lisa McMullin
This boxset kicks off with a bang in The Lumiat, written by Lisa McMullin. Seriously, this is a really exciting way to start the set, seeing Missy cross paths with a future incarnation of herself known as the Lumiat. Despite this fairly earth-shattering expansion to the lore, this story is a generally light-hearted affair, consisting mostly of comedic hijinks and the stellar interplay between the titular character and Missy.
Gina McKee plays the Lumiat, who is essentially the Master’s version of the Valeyard. Created by Missy’s purgation of all her negative traits in an attempt to survive her death in The Doctor Falls, McKee’s incarnation of the Master is a great new spin on the character, brought to life by a brilliant script and a very strong performance. Unfortunately, given the way this story ends, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing more of the Lumiat, which is a real shame, but what we see of her here is really great.
Michelle Gomez is on top form as Missy throughout. Not only do we get to hear her in her element, causing chaos across the cosmos, but, confronted with her future self, we get to see some different, more vulnerable sides to the character too. Furthermore, she gets a companion of her own in Matthew Jacobs-Morgan‘s Bertram, a sympathetic character kidnapped by Missy and subjected to all sorts of hilarious taunting.
Iain Meadows‘ sound design is particularly good in this story, bringing to life all of the many and varied creatures, locations and situations in the script very effectively. From a war on an alien planet, to a howling snowstorm and a growling bear, the soundscape in The Lumiat is incredibly rich, which adds to the story’s success.
Overall, a very strong start to the set.
2. “Brimstone and Terror” by Roy Gill
The second story is Brimstone and Terror by Roy Gill, a sequel to A Spoonful of Mayhem from the last boxset. Following Oliver Davis (Oliver Clement) as he encounters Missy once again at a remote Scottish boarding school, the story also features the return of Lucy (Bonnie Kingston) who, fearing for her brother’s safety, comes to rescue him.
Dan Starkey rounds off the main cast, not only playing Strax the Sontaran, but also reprising the role of Mr. Cosmo from A Spoonful of Mayhem. It’s great to hear Starkey put a new spin on Strax, with the character spending half of the episode posing as a teacher called Mr. Strackie, though he ultimately doesn’t get up to much in the grand scheme of things. Furthermore, the return of Mr. Cosmo was a little too much of a deus ex machina for my tastes, as his only purpose in the story is to turn up at the end and foil Missy’s plan.
Unfortunately, I think Brimstone and Teror is a major step down after the brilliant opening episode. It’s not bad per se, but there are just too many ideas to make it work properly. With Missy-as-headmaster; the return of Oliver and Lucy; an army of schoolboys; an appearance from Strax; Mr. Cosmo and an ice queen, none of the individual story elements has any time to breathe, making them all seem crammed in.
Overall, I think this story was a bit of a misfire.
3. “Treason and Plot” by Gemma Arrowsmith
Gemma Arrowsmith writes the third story in the set, Treason and Plot, which takes the listener (and Missy) back in time to the 17th Century and the Gunpowder Plot. In an attempt to get the Doctor’s attention, Missy decides to change history, duping Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators into blowing up the whole of London instead of just the Houses of Parliament. It’s another comedy story (the third in a row, now!) which is fine, but it doesn’t really do anything different from the previous two episodes.
The highlight of this tale is definitely Rita Cooper, a hapless trainee Time Agent played by Ony Uhiara. She’s a really compelling character who is more than a match for Missy, trying to foil her plans at every step. I hope we hear more of Rita in the future as, both in writing and performance, she has great potential.
All in all, Treason and Plot is a fairly strong story, but I feel that it needed a little something more to get it out of the three-star zone. The Gunpowder Plot is just so overdone at this point and, combined with the fact that the other three episodes have such strong initial premises (A new incarnation of the Master! Missy and Strax! Missy and the Monk VS Ogrons!), this means that the story sadly just fades into the background…
4. “Too Many Masters” by John Dorney
The closing installment of the boxset, Too Many Masters by John Dorney, is another sequel to a story from series one. This time, we return to the events of Divorced, Beheaded, Regenerated, picking up on the rivalry between Missy and the Meddling Monk as they are kidnapped by the Ogrons.
Michelle Gomez and Rufus Hound, who plays the Monk, have great chemistry throughout but, aside from the closing scene, this story doesn’t really do anything new with their relationship. It’s a bit same-old same-old which, given that this story is a sequel not only to Divorced, Beheaded, Regenerated, but also to 1973’s Frontier in Space, makes for a bit of a stagnant listen. There aren’t really any exciting new ideas in this
The Ogrons have never been the most entertaining villains (except in Guy Adams‘ Planet of the Ogrons, which was one of the standout stories of 2018), so to have a whole episode revolving around them here was a little much for me, especially with their ridiculous, grunting voices. Helen Goldwyn does a good job as Empress Maule, but she’s hardly the most compelling character around which to centre a story.
Overall, this is a story of two halves, starting out fairly strong, but then devolving into yet another humdrum comedic runaround. I’ve nothing against that kind of story, but when you get four of them in a row, it can be a little tiring.
All in all, Missy: Series 2, while fairly strong throughout, is undeniably a massive step down from the first series. The standout script is undeniably Lisa McMullin‘s The Lumiat and, while none of the other three stories are particularly bad, none of them are really anything more than average. I think the fact that 3/4 of the stories in this set are sequels has a lot to do with this; aside from McMullin’s script, which actually builds upon The Doctor Falls in a meaningful way, the others just seem like retreads of previous stories.
Instead of revisiting previous adventures, we could have spent time exploring the Master TARDIS, which Missy spent the whole of the last series trying to get her hands on. We still don’t really know what it does, how it works or what the consequences of Missy having it are, which makes me wonder what the whole point of introducing it was.
For the next series, I’d really like the writers to try something new with Missy, just as they did with The Lumiat here. Sure, the comedy hijinks are fun, but there’s so much more depth to the character of Missy than just cracking jokes. Let’s see her in a darker, more serious story, something that will test both Michelle Gomez as an actor, and Missy as a character.
Overall, a good, but ultimately disappointing release.
Missy: Series Two is available from http://www.bigfinish.com on CD or as a download
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