Derek Jacobi returns as the War Master, in a very unusual collection of adventures. This time, the devillish Time Lord visits the Land of Fiction, delving into worlds based on Greek mythology, the works of Hans Christian Andersen, the Sherlock Holmes series and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Will this change of gear prove successful for the War Master series? Read on for our thoughts!
The Wrath of Medusa by Rochana Patel sees the Master arrive in the world of Greek mythology, teaming up with legendary hero Perseus and the goddess Athena to slay the gorgon Medusa. It’s an entertaining story with a colourful cast of characters, but it feels a little overlong and light on incident. 3/5
The Shadow Master by Lizzie Hopley draws on the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, and explores what might happen if the Master’s shadow were to become sentient. This is probably the most obscure of the tales in this set- I certainly didn’t know many of the stories Hopley’s script draws from- but it’s well-performed and has some gorgeous images, brought to life by poetic narration. 3/5
The Adventure of the Deceased Doctor sees the Master usurp the role of Sherlock Holmes, setting out to solve the murder of his best friend, Doctor John Watson. Except, Watson is still alive. It’s a twisty-turny story with some lovely dark moments, and definitely the strongest instalment in the set. 3/5
The final story in the set is The Master of Dorian Gray by David Llewellyn. As someone currently writing a thesis on Oscar Wilde, this was my most anticipated story in the set, but I didn’t think it quite lived up to the premise. The idea of the Master corrupting Dorian Gray is such an excellent idea, but the story goes in a far more pedestrian direction. As the final instalment in the set, too, this story does nothing to wrap up the Master’s travels in the Land of Fiction: he literally just leaves. 3/5
This boxset has quite the extensive guest cast, all of whom are on top form. Derek Jacobi is, of course, deliciously evil as usual in his role as the Master, and is particularly effective as an impostor Sherlock Holmes in the third story. Other standouts include Ella Smith as the sibilant, sinister Medusa, Gethin Anthony as the Master’s Shadow, Richard Earl as John Watson, Alexander Vlahos as Dorian Gray and Jessye Romeo as Sybil Vane.
Sound Design and Music
Rob Harvey is on both sound design and music duty for this set, and does an incredible job at bringing the different worlds explored in each story to life. His scores for The Adventure of the Deceased Doctor and The Master of Dorian Gray are particularly strong, while his soundscapes for the various locations in The Wrath of Medusa are highly evocative.
Escape from Reality is an interesting experiment for the War Master range, but one that doesn’t quite pay off. While it’s great to hear the Master interacting with such iconic characters as Doctor Watson and Dorian Gray, none of the stories hit the heights of other War Master sets, and they all play out in much the same way, with the Master hiding his true self from a given fictional character before double-crossing them. Overall, this is entertaining but flawed.
The War Master: Escape from Reality is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com