Eric Roberts returns as the Master, as everyone’s favourite villainous Time Lord locks horns once again with glamorous bounty hunter Vienna Salvatori (Chase Masterton) aboard the Kairos: a serpentine cruiser traversing the Time Vortex itself! Check out our review below!
And you can check out our review of the first volume of Master! here!
1. “Nemesis Express” by Robert Whitelock
Aboard the Kairos, a space cruiser that traverses the Time Vortex itself, young thief Passion is contacted by a mysterious force… the Master! Brought back from certain doom by the Kairos’s vortex drives, the Master has plans to regain corporeal form, and only Passion can help him. But with his old enemy, bounty hunter Vienna Salvatori, also aboard, will the Master’s plans go off without a hitch? Or might Vienna be exactly where he wants her?
Nemesis Express kicks this second series of Master! off in style, opening with the Master returning from the vortex and worming his way into the life of Passion, a thief hiding out aboard the Kairos. As he whispers in her ear, forcing her to carry out his plans, we also follow Vienna as she traverses the rearmost segments of the ship, looking for a valuable gem, and the man who has stolen it. While the story itself is interesting, with enough incident to keep the mind from wandering, it’s very much setup for the rest of the set, so it can’t really be judged nor does it stand up on its own merit.
Eric Roberts impresses as the Master, being a sinister background presence throughout the tale and once again proving that this particular incarnation of such an iconic character works best when he’s manipulating innocents and delivering sly threats. It’s great to hear Chase Masterson back as Vienna too, though it’s hard to care about her character a whole lot when (a) we never really seem to learn anything about her and (b) she’s so unfazed by everything going on around her.
The cast is rounded off by Teri Ann Bobb-Baxter, who gives an assured performance as Passion, Rodney Gooden as Brother Urham, Vienna’s colleague on her mission to track down the stolen gem with whom she shares a delightfully spiky relationship, and Esmonde Cole, who takes on the joint roles of thief Scarden and Kairos official Kryle.
Overall, this is a pretty strong opener to the set, though it’s fairly light on story beats and suffers a little from a lack of focus on its characters.
2. “Capture the Chronovore!” by Lizbeth Myles
Moving into the wealthier segments of Kairos, closer to the front of the ship, Vienna and Passion stumble upon a shooting party planning on hunting down the powerful Chronovores that inhabit the Time Vortex. Soon the two find themselves face-to-face with the Master once more, but, with their weapons confiscated, all they can do is let events unfold. What might happen if the Master were to capture a Chronovore?!
Like the boxset opener, Capture the Chronovore! starts off fairly strong before devolving into a bit of a runaround. The central premise, a Chronovore hunt in the Vortex, is an excellent idea, but it’s not explored very well; indeed, the Chronovores aren’t really given much of a showcase in the script, only cropping up once or twice throughout. As with Nemesis Express, this story just exists to set up the next one, simply ending rather than wrapping things up properly.
There are some good moments here, though. The cast are all on top form, with the catty interplay between Eric Roberts and Chase Masterson being a particular highlight. As before, though, Vienna and Passion aren’t given enough exploration, seeming two-dimensional throughout the entire piece- a major problem given they’re meant to be the protagonists of the set.
Overall, this story has an interesting but underserved premise, a flaw offset somewhat by some strong performances.
3. “Passion” by Robert Valentine
Vienna and Passion have reached the front of the Kairos, where the Master’s plans reach fruition. To save countless lives, they’ll have to use all the wit and cunning they possess. But is this a fight they can win? The Master has his enemies exactly where he wants them…
While a boxset finale is supposed to be the culmination of storylines woven throughout the previous stories, Passion doesn’t feel like that at all. The previous episode in particular feels completely superfluous to proceedings; I don’t think the Chronovores are even mentioned in the script, which makes you wonder what the point of the middle story even was. Similarly, because neither Vienna nor Passion have had any kind of character arc throughout the set, there’s no storylines about them to resolve. And the Master suddenly wants to crash the Kairos into Earth?! What?!
This is certainly an entertaining listen, but it really doesn’t feel like any thought was put into making this an effective and satisfying finale; something that builds on and ties up the previous episodes in a meaningful way. Sigh.
Nemesis Express starts off strong, with a great premise and setting, but unfortunately devolves into something a little more by-the-numbers towards the end. Eric Roberts and Chase Masterson are excellent throughout, but nothing is really done with their characters, nor do any of the guest characters feel anything more than one-dimensional. If we’re to have a third series of Master!, I’d want something a little different, where it feels like the characters have changed and grown over the course of the story. Overall, this is a fine way to spend three hours- I certainly never got bored- but it’s far from one of Big Finish‘s best releases.
Master! Nemesis Express is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com