Kieran Brennan reviews Missy’s latest series of adventures
Missy is back, and this time she’s not alone. Joined by Rufus Hound‘s Meddling Monk, Michelle Gomez‘s iconic incarnation of the Master makes her return in three new audio adventures, which culminate in a showdown with Gemma Whelan‘s Meddling Nun, first seen in this year’s Dalek Universe 1 (review here). Here at Who Review, we thought last year’s Missy: Volume 2 didn’t quite hit the heights of the first series, released back in 2019, but will Missy and the Monk fare any better? Read on for our thoughts!
1. “Body and Soulless” by James Goss
In the middle of a warzone between two lifelong enemies, Missy wants to help. Though stuck on the losing side, Missy feels she has nothing to fear. Not when she has the talking brain of the Monk to act as her strategist…
Not having yet listened to the first two Missy series, jumping in here is definitely a shock to my system, but in an extremely fun way! The relationship between Missy (Michelle Gomez) and the Meddling Monk (Rufus Hound) is set up really well for new listeners, but never in an overbearing way that could frustrate those who’ve already gone through the previous series.
Despite having to work together, Missy and the Monk are actually pitted against one other for much of Body and Soulless, their two personalities clashing as Missy can’t help but gloat about her power in the situation. The actual plot of the story is quite one-note, never really taking off in any major way, but the focus here is definitely leaning more towards the minute by minute dialogue between characters, all of which is delivered brilliantly.
Michelle Gomez is excellent; as a voice actor she just gets it. She has the ability to instantly know when to get a bit loud and almost cartoonish in her acting, as voice acting often needs to be due to the inherent lack of visuals to convey emotion, but she also knows when to subdue her character and hold back for added effect. Rufus Hound also makes his return as the Monk, though I must admit this is my first exposure to this incarnation of the character. Hound is clearly having fun here, really hamming up the desperation of the Monk making him a great foil for Missy.
Though a simple story, the dialogue and fantastic performances raise this up to being a great time and really fun opener to the box set.
2. “War Seed” by Johnny Candon
Missy’s turning over a new leaf! At the drop of a hat she decides she’d like to save the Earth but when she gets there, something’s wrong. Humans are regenerating, all over the city. The Monk is shocked by this, but Missy doesn’t seem fazed by it at all. Surely she can’t be involved in all this… can she?
As a story, War Seed doesn’t really work. It feels much more like the first half of a monthly adventures story than a standalone hour-long adventure for the middle of a box set. There’s good ideas introduced here, but they feel so underdeveloped and I found myself surprised when this ended. The narrative structure is odd, never really having any character drama or building to any climax, it just kind of chugs along well enough and then ends.
Performances are also hit and miss, with the cast being mostly people doing rough American accents that don’t quite work. Weirdly, it gave me Minuet in Hell vibes, which perhaps isn’t the comparison you’d want to get. Both Missy and the Monk are well acted of course, but there’s no surprise there after the first story in the set.
I really must stress though, what’s here is good. The story is interesting, hearing what Missy did in her past is really great, with a handful of great shocking moments. I just wish the concept for this story was used in a longer, better thought-out adventure.
Overall, though a well-made and interesting story, War Seed is weirdly-paced and lacks any narrative momentum or drama that would push this above more than a solid, light, but ultimately forgettable story.
3. “Two Monks, One Mistress” by James Kettle
When Missy involves the Monk in an alien marriage plot he can’t exactly say he’s surprised at this point. Though what might surprise him is who Missy is really here for…
After making her fantastic and shocking debut earlier this year, Gemma Whelan returns as the Meddling Nun for Doctor Who‘s first multi-Monk story. Her debut really set this incarnation of the character up as one to watch, so it was just a little disappointing to see her follow up story be an overly comedic one that mostly fails at being, well, funny.
While the other stories on this set are of course comedic in nature, Two Monks, One Mistress is the only one I would classify as an outright comedy, with its plot being ridiculously complicated and much of the first half revolving around misunderstandings and the Nun trying and failing to reveal herself to the Monk, a gag that is repeated multiple times but never really lands.
It’s especially frustrating then that when the Nun and Monk are together as a team the story picks up and the pairing work extremely well together. Given that this story is most likely the main reason someone would pick up this box set (at least it’s why I was interested) it’s just a bit underwhelming.
Performance wise everyone is strong, I’d definitely want to see Whelan return in the near future and Michelle Gomez is still brilliant. The side cast are a bit on the forgettable side, with a few voices blending into each other despite fun characterizations.
Given how much potential this story had, it’s disappointing to be given a comedic story that didn’t suit my personal taste in comedy. I’m sure some will enjoy this but for me I’ll still be waiting for Whelan to return again in a story that can match her first.
Though this set suffers from diminishing returns, the lead performances, most notably Michelle Gomez as Missy, raise even the weakest lines of dialogue up to an enjoyable level. She’s easily the highlight of the whole set and while the stories around her might not be perfect, she’s always on the top of her game. Overall, an enjoyable if slightly underwhelming set.
Missy and the Monk is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com