‘Only the Good’ (WM) (Audio)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Daleks and Cole Tarnish with the War Master

It’s time to see the Master’s side of the Time War for a change!

As I review this Big Finish audio box set in 2021, it’s the 50th anniversary of the Master in ‘Doctor Who’. After celebrating the occasion by listening to ‘Masterful’ and other assorted stories as well as watching the Season 8 Blu-ray box set of ‘Doctor Who’, it was time to check out ‘The War Master’!!!

This spin-off series from the worlds of ‘Doctor Who’ focuses on the incarnation of the Master played by Sir Derek Jacobi from ‘Utopia’ and details his exploits during the Time War. It’s amazing how Big Finish can come up with these box set ideas and expand Sir Derek Jacobi’s portrayal of the Master. 🙂

In the new series of ‘Doctor Who’, the Master was brought back in Series 3 for the three-part finale. He was introduced when Sir Derek Jacobi’s Professor Yana was revealed to be the Master before he regenerated into John Simm. ‘The War Master’ series of audios takes place before ‘Utopia’ occurred.

I’m not really one for exploring spin-off audios of ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish as I leave those as a low priority. Mind you, over the years, I have heard positive things said about ‘The War Master’ audios, which I can appreciate. Sir Derek Jacobi was excellent playing Professor Yana/the Master in ‘Utopia’.

The reason for my current interest in ‘The War Master’ audios is that Sarah Sutton who plays Nyssa, the Fifth Doctor’s companion, will be appearing in the sixth ‘War Master’ box set called ‘Killing Time’ along with Katy Manning’s Jo Jones/Grant. I’m excited about this and I look forward to ‘Killing Time’.

Before getting to that box set however, I decided to tackle and explore what the first five ‘War Master’ box sets are like. I purchased downloadable versions of the first four ‘War Master’ box sets whilst I purchased the CD box set editions of the fifth and sixth box sets from the Big Finish website.

It should be noted that the ‘The War Master’ audio series was announced after Sir John Hurt (who played the War Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’) passed away in January 2017. I don’t know if that was a coincidence, but it seems to sort-of make up for the absence of some future Time War-related tales.

That is until the ‘Gallifrey’ Time War audios and ‘The War Doctor Begins’ range came along! For the first box set of ‘The War Master’ series, we have ‘Only the Good’. This is a collection of four-linked audio episodes written by four various writers and they were all directed by Scott Handcock himself.

Overall, ‘Only the Good’ stars Derek Jacobi as the War Master with Nicholas Briggs as the voice of the Daleks. Nick Briggs script-edited all the four episodes of the first ‘War Master’ box set. The four episodes are ‘Beneath the Viscoid’, ‘The Good Master’, ‘The Sky Man’ and ‘The Heavenly Paradigm’!

The War Master’s TARDIS development pictures

When released on CD, ‘Only the Good’ was presented as a 5-disc CD set. The four episodes of the story were on the first four discs whilst Disc 5 contained a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the four episodes with cast and crew interviews. Big Finish still delivers the goods here. 😀


Sir Derek Jacobi and Nicholas Briggs in ‘Only the Good’.

The first episode of ‘Only the Good’ called ‘Beneath the Viscoid’ is by Nicholas Briggs. It features Derek Jacobi’s War Master alongside Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks and other special guest stars in it.

There’s Mark Elstob, well-known for appearing in the Big Finish audio revival of ‘The Prisoner’; Jacqueline King, who played Donna Noble’s mother Sylvia, and last but not least…Deirdre Mullins. 🙂

These special guest stars play certain characters who don’t survive the end of ‘Beneath the Viscoid’. It should be expected considering Derek Jacobi’s Master is the anti-hero of this series who must win.

In the episode, the War Master ends up on the ocean planet Gardezza which is currently occupied by the Daleks in the Time War. He’s found in a capsule recovered by people on a ship inside the Viscoid.

The Viscoid happens to be the ‘unending, thick soup of a foul-smelling ocean’ covering the entire planet of Gardezza. The Gardezzan people are fighting against the Daleks during this long Time War.

The Master passes himself off as the Doctor in order to convince the people who’ve found him that he’s willing to help. But he has ulterior motives. He and the Daleks want to recover his TARDIS back.

This is a fascinating audio series to listen to as it doesn’t have the Doctor in it and yet Derek Jacobi’s Master is the evil equivalent of the Doctor. It’s amusing how he’s passing himself off as the Doctor. 🙂

I know that a ‘Doctor Who’ spin-off series focusing on a villain has been done before like the Daleks in ‘Dalek Empire’ and Davros in ‘I, Davros’. It’s very enjoyable to hear a spin-off focus on the Master.

There were occasions when I was rooting for the Master in wanting to him to win as opposed to the Gardezzans he’s meant to help. And this is the villain we’re talking about. It’s very compelling so far.

It makes films about villains like ‘Maleficent’ and ‘Venom’ less superior compared to the Master’s own series. If anything, ‘The War Master’ stories could end up in league with how ‘Joker’ did things!

I greatly enjoyed Derek Jacobi’s performance as the Master in this episode. It’s interesting how he’s blended in elements of his Yana performance from ‘Utopia’ compared to doing full-on Master mode.

That works fine when he’s trying to convince the Gardezzans who’ve found him that he’s the Doctor. He’s truly the Master when he hypnotises Glortz’s character to obey his will and when he kills Osen.

The Daleks are menacing as ever when voiced by Nick Briggs. It’s interesting how the Daleks acquire the Master when wanting his TARDIS and he must work with them in order to retrieve his TARDIS. 😐

I would have liked it if we had a story where the Master was actively working with the Daleks against the Time Lords in a ‘Frontier In Space’-styled fashion. But I don’t think that’s the case for this box set.

Mark Elstob plays Glortz, a Gardezzan warrior in the episode. As well appearing in Big Finish’s version of ‘The Prisoner’, I have also heard Mark Elstob in the second ‘Mars’ box set of ‘Star Cops’. 🙂

It’s fascinating how Glortz suspects the fake Doctor’s motives before it’s revealed he’s weak-minded to succumb to the Master’s will. Glortz soon breaks through the Master’s hold to tell Nius the truth.

Jacqueline King plays Nius, a Gardezzan chieftain aboard the ship that finds the War Master in his capsule. I’ve said this in another review, but Jacqueline King is a nice lady to meet at conventions. 😀

The character she plays is interesting in this audio episode as she leads a group of Gardezzans in a fight against the Daleks. A pity that Nius gets killed after discovering the Doctor is really the Master!

Deirdre Mullins plays Osen, a Gardazzan scientist. Deirdre Mullins is well-known for playing Naomi Davies in the ‘Charlotte Pollard’ series and she has played Rosin and the Spae Wife in ‘Feast of Fear’.

Osen is suspicious of the fake Doctor’s motives and doesn’t get on well with Nius and Glortz. It comes to a sticky end for Osen when the Master tricks her and he has her killed inside his TARDIS.

‘Beneath the Viscoid’ is a good opening episode to ‘Only the Good’. I enjoyed Derek Jacobi’s re-introduction as the War Master in the Big Finish audios. I’m looking forward to what will occur next.

‘Beneath the Viscoid’ rating – 8/10


Hannah Barker, Jonny Green, Sir Derek Jacobi, Jacob Dudman, Rachel Atkins, director/producer Scott Handock and Nicholas Briggs in ‘Only the Good’.

The second episode of ‘Only the Good’ called ‘The Good Master’ is by Janine H. Jones…or is it Jay Harley? This is the very first time I’ve come across Janine H. Jones/Jay Harley as a Big Finish writer. 😐

In fact, before being a writer for Big Finish, Janine/Jay was an assistant director on ‘Doctor Who’, mostly on episodes of Series 6 with Matt Smith. Intriguing how she went from that to being a writer.

I enjoyed ‘The Good Master’ as an audio episode in ‘Only the Good’. It’s certainly a visual episode to listen on audio and it plays to strengths of Sir Derek Jacob’s War Master in terms of the scriptwriting.

In the episode, the Time War rages towards the planet of Arcking. This happens to be a sanctuary for the sick and injured. The people of Arcking weren’t expecting Daleks to come attacking the planet. 😐

It turns out that the Daleks are hunting for the Master whilst he’s discovered a mysterious, powerful force protecting the planet Arcking. The Master is so determined to harness the power of the force!

Once again, we have the Master posing as someone else as he’s Dr. Keller, a medical doctor helping the sick and injured on Arcking. I’m certain the Master reused the Keller alias from ‘The Mind of Evil’.

I wonder if this is going to be a pattern throughout ‘The War Master’ audios where Derek Jacobi’s Master tries to pass himself off as someone else. Not that I mind since he is the ‘master of disguise’.

But I’m currently wondering if there’s going to be variety in terms of the Master getting what he wants in the Time War with his maniacal schemes. I hope things don’t get repetitive in this series. 😐

Also, once again, the Master seems to be opposed against the Daleks as they’re hunting for him. I know Time Lords and Daleks are enemies in this war, but surely the Master can work with Daleks at times.

Once again, Derek Jacobi excels as the Master in this audio episode. I enjoyed how he tackled passing himself off as a medical doctor on Arcking and trying to gain trust from his fellow colleagues.

At one point, I thought Derek Jacobi’s Master had become good and perhaps was becoming more Professor Yana-like than usual. But it turns out he’s hunting for something to add to his greedy gains.

Nicholas Briggs returns to voice the Daleks in this episode. I’m guessing the Daleks are angry with the Master for backstabbing them in ‘Beneath the Viscoid’, unless another tale preceded this episode. 😐

The Daleks do a lot of killing in this episode, especially when they’re attacking the planet during the climax. The Daleks are merciless even before a medical ship that tries not to get involved in the war.

Rachel Atkins guest stars as Major Desra, who’s in charge on the planet Arcking. Rachel Atkins has been in a number of Big Finish audios before this, including ‘The Lady of Mercia’ with Peter Davison.

At first, Major Desra trusts Dr. Keller when he’s helping out saving lives during medical emergencies on Arcking. It was interesting to hear her reaction when the Master revealed his true identity to her.

Hannah Barker guest stars as Phila, Dr. Keller’s assistant during medical emergencies. Honestly, I think it would’ve been a great idea if Phila perhaps ended up as an unwilling companion of the Master.

It would provide a dynamic relationship between the two and have echoes of John Simm’s Master’s relationship with Lucy Saxon in new TV series. Sadly, Phila gets exterminated by the Daleks in this. 😦

Jonny Green guest stars as Cole Jarnish; a medical ship pilot who eventually becomes the Master’s companion in ‘Only the Good’. Jonny Green would eventually appear in some ‘Torchwood’ audios. 🙂

Cole Jarnish gets caught up in matters of the Time War when his medical ship crash-lands on the planet Arcking. He soon helps the Master and Phila before he soon joins the Master in his TARDIS. 😐

Jacob Dudman provides the voice of the Arcking 12 computer in the story. Jacob Dudman has voiced the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors in a lot of ‘The Doctor Chronicles’ produced by Big Finish. 🙂

‘The Good Master’ is an enjoyable audio episode in ‘Only the Good’. I can see why listeners rate ‘The War Master’ audios highly. They’re compelling as Derek Jacobi’s clearly enjoying playing the Master.

‘The Good Master’ rating – 8/10


Sir Derek Jacobi and Jonny Green in ‘Only the Good’.

The third episode of ‘Only the Good’ called ‘The Sky Man’ is by James Goss. Now I know tend to be critical of James Goss’ writing in ‘Doctor Who’ in recent years, especially when he wrote ‘Masterful’.

But honestly, from listening to this episode in ‘The War Master’ series, I thought it was very good. The drama featured between the characters has been compelling and the plot has been fascinating.

In the episode, the Master is now travelling with Cole Jarnish as his companion, following the end of ‘The Good Master’. Cole wishes to save a planet in the war and the Master wants to take a backseat.

Eventually, the Master agrees to indulge in what he considers to be a futile request from Cole. They soon end up on some unnamed planet that happens to be this primitive and quite agricultural world.

The Master decides to grow himself his own vineyard to produce wine whilst Cole tries to find a way to save the planet from the effects of the Time War. The two seem to find their place on this planet.

However, as Cole’s efforts to save the planet’s people from the effects of the Time War seem to take a turn for the worst, it transpires that saving a planet isn’t exactly easy as one may be led to believe.

I like how James Goss writes this ‘War Master’ episode. It’s intriguing how the episode takes Cole as the central focus rather than the Master. The Master is in the background, sitting out what happens.

Jonny Green is excellent as Cole in the episode. As well as getting a central focus on the CD cover for the episode, Cole is so determined to save the primitive, agrarian world that he and the Master visit.

He even falls in love with a woman called Elidh to keep his focus going on saving the world he wants to protect. It seems a shame how Cole’s endeavours go to waste as his ‘isolation suits’ are a disaster.

I enjoyed Derek Jacobi’s performance as the Master in the episode. Yes, Derek Jacobi’s Master doesn’t get to be actively involved in the story, but it’s interesting how he can be quite manipulative.

It’s funny how the Master seems to be obsessed with growing his own vineyard as he enjoys having wine. I wonder where it all started for Derek Jacobi as the Master to have an obsession with wine.

Emily Barber guest stars as Elidh, a woman who Cole falls in love with on the planet. I’m pleased with how James Goss gave Cole someone to fall in love as Cole does everything he can to ‘save’ the planet.

It’s sad that the romance ends up going sour once Cole puts Elidh in an isolation suit to protect herself from a sort-of infection on the planet. Eventually, in the suit, Elidh forgets her love for Cole. 😦

Robert Daws guest stars as Anvar, Elidh’s father in the episode. I was pleased to hear Robert Daws in this ‘War Master’ story since he played Tuppy Glossop in the ITV comedy series ‘Jeeves & Wooster’.

He was also in ‘The Dalek Occupation of Winter’. The character Robert Daws plays here is an old farmer who first welcomes Cole to the planet, but later doesn’t like the ‘isolation suits’ made by him.

It’s intriguing how the isolation suits that Coles creates to save people like Elidh and Anvar end up going rogue. Elidh and other villagers of the planet become robot-like, being cold and emotionless. 😦

They almost become Cybermen-like. I’m not sure if they’re meant to become Cybermen in ‘The War Master’ series, but it does feel like that. They also have their own catchphrase, saying “Retribution!”

I’m wondering if the Master planned all this by allowing Cole to think he could be the planet’s saviour so that these robot-like beings could be created. It’s something I look forward to finding out.

Eventually, the Master rescues Cole from the robot-like villagers led by Elidh who advance upon him. He takes him in his TARDIS as they leave the planet behind. Cole is distressed by how this has happened.

It’s sad that Cole’s efforts to save a planet have gone in vain. But it seems the Master can help in a manner that can curtail the way things are going in the Time War. I wonder how this will be followed through.

‘The Sky Man’ has been an enjoyable third episode in ‘Only the Good’. It’s intriguing how Cole takes centre stage to save a planet before it goes horribly wrong whilst the War Master’s taking a backseat.

‘The Sky Man’ rating – 8/10


Jonny Green in ‘Only the Good’.

The fourth and final episode of ‘Only the Good’ is ‘The Heavenly Paradigm’ by Guy Adams. I did think that this episode would end up being a pretty average finale when I started listening to the first half.

Thankfully, as I heard more of the episode, it became a pretty dramatic finale, building up to what would happen in ‘Utopia’ with the Master ending up in the far future. I’ll get into that more later on.

In ‘The Heavenly Paradigm’, the Master and Cole travel to Stamford Bridge in 1976. Stamford Bridge was once the site of a battle between the Saxons and the Viking invaders which occurred in 1066. 😐

Apparently, the Master has been working to a great plan with Cole as his tool. Stamford Bridge happens to be a location the Master believes will hold the key to his success in ending the Time War.

The Master and Cole visit No. 24 Marigold Lane, which has a weapon repository belonging to the Time Lords. The Master intends to use ‘the Heavenly Paradigm’, a weapon to ensure a big victory. 😐

It’s intriguing how the Time Lords kept a weapon repository in No. 24 Marigold Lane, Stamford Bridge on Earth during the Last Great Time War. I thought the Time War was to be time-locked here.

Or rather I thought everything was kept between the Daleks and the Time Lords in outer space rather than be on Earth. Amazing how far the Time War can stretch to other planets, including Earth. 😐

The Heavenly Paradigm is a weapon that is capable of changing the timelines so that the best possible outcomes are always achieved in every decision made. Perhaps it could reverse Covid-19. 😀

The working title for this story happens to be ‘The Unutterable Hell of 24 Marigold Lane’. Thank goodness they changed that to ‘The Heavenly Paradigm’. The working title sounds quite a mouthful.

Derek Jacobi excels as the Master in this audio episode. Throughout ‘Only the Good’, I greatly enjoyed Derek Jacobi’s interpretation of the Master and he’s allowed to shine compared to ‘Utopia’.

It was fascinating how the War Master had been using Cole to achieve his objectives in utilising the Heavenly Paradigm. The War Master can be pretty manipulative, using charm to get what he wants.

Jonny Green is equally good as Cole Jarnish, the Master’s companion in ‘Only the Good’. Sadly, this happens to be Cole’s last episode as the Master uses the paradox energy from him which kills him. 😦

Cole had thought that he and the Master had become friends over the times they’ve travelled together. But the Master laughs in his face since it’s clear that he never thought of Cole as a friend. 😦

Nerys Hughes guest stars as Mrs. Wilson, a lady living in 24 Marigold Lane who ends up being a Time Lord called Tandeeka. Nery Hughes has had a number of ‘Doctor Who’ connections over the years. 🙂

She’s well-known for playing Todd in ‘Kinda’ and Rhys’ mum Brenda in the ‘Torchwood’ episode ‘Something Borrowed’. A shame that Tandeeka ends up being killed by the Master in this episode! 😦

Jonathan Bailey voices the computer in 24 Marigold Lane. Before that, he played Psi in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘Time Heist’ and he worked with David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker in ‘Broadchurch’.

The 24 Marigold Lane computer sounds snarky, especially when it’s talking to Cole inside the house. Eventually, the computer obeys the Master’s orders and it’s unable to follow Tandeeka’s commands.

There’s a brief cameo appearance of Emily Barber as Elidh when Cole has a nightmare about her. There are also scenes featuring the robot-like Retribution who attack many worlds quite far away. 😐

Once the Master has killed Cole and Tandeeka and he uses the Heavenly Paradigm, he believes that he has won. But the Heavenly Paradigm backfires on him and the War Master escapes in his TARDIS.

The episode ends with the War Master ending up at the very edge of time, on the coast of the Silver Devastation, before he turns himself into a human child. This sets up events in ‘Utopia’ pretty nicely.

‘The Heavenly Paradigm’ has been an interesting finale to ‘Only the Good’. Interesting in that it finishes on the War Master’s path to the end of his life in ‘Utopia’. And ‘The War Master’ series has only barely begun!

‘The Heavenly Paradigm’ rating – 8/10


Director/producer Scott Handcock, Sir Derek Jacobi and Nicholas Briggs in ‘Only the Good’.

Disc 5 of the ‘Only the Good’ CD box set contains an in-depth behind-the-scenes documentary looking into the making of the four-part story. It contains behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew of this box set. It was nice to hear the interviews and hear the enthusiasm from the actors.

I like how the documentary starts off with Sir Derek Jacobi being interviewed before we get to script editor/Dalek voice artist Nicholas Briggs and producer/director Scott Handcock. Its explained how ‘The War Master’ spin-off series came about and how Scott Handcock had pitched for it a few times.

We then move onto the making of each episode in ‘Only the Good’. For ‘Beneath the Viscoid’, as well as Derek Jacobi, Nicholas Briggs and Scott Handcock being interviewed, there are also interviews with Jacqueline King, Deirdre Mullins and Mark Elstob who enjoyed working with Sir Derek Jacobi. 🙂

There’s then a look into ‘The Good Master’, featuring interviews with Derek Jacobi, Nicholas Briggs, Scott Handcock, Jonny Green, Rachel Atkins, Hannah Barker and Jacob Dudman. A shame writer Janine H. Jones wasn’t interviewed. It would’ve been nice to hear her insight in writing her episode.

After that, we have a look into ‘The Sky Man’, featuring interviews with Derek Jacobi, Nicholas Briggs, Scott Handcock, Jonny Green, Emily Barber, Robert Daws and writer James Goss. I like how the relationship between the War Master and Cole gets explored, leading into the fourth episode. 🙂

The final section of the documentary looks into ‘The Heavenly Paradigm’, featuring interviews with Derek Jacobi, Nicholas Briggs, Scott Handcock, Jonny Green, Nerys Hughes and writer Guy Adams. I enjoyed how the Master’s fate at the end of ‘Only the Good’ leading into ‘Utopia’ gets talked about.

There are lots of nice things said about Derek Jacobi as an actor and he comes across as a genuinely pleasant fellow. I haven’t met him at a convention yet, but hearing him be interviewed and during recordings make me want to meet him. I like how he asks at the end about wanting to come back. 😀

After the behind-the-scenes documentary, there’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for the first ‘Gallifrey: Time War’ box set by Big Finish, starring Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson, Sophie Aldred and Seán Carlsen. Derek Jacobi’s War Master is in that box set too as well as Miles Richardson and Nicholas Briggs.

‘Only the Good’ has definitely been a worthwhile Big Finish audio box set to listen to. I enjoyed listening to Sir Derek Jacobi’s interpretation of the Master in the first of his ‘War Master’ series. He definitely shines throughout and he’s clearly enjoying playing the character in every scene he’s in! 😀

I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of ‘The War Master’ series by Big Finish. I’m intrigued about the War Master’s exploits set before ‘Only the Good’ and ‘Utopia’ and how greatly involved he was in the Time War. I wonder whether he’ll encounter the Doctor at some point during the Time War. 🙂

‘Only the Good’ (WM) box set rating – 9/10

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