Saturday, April 25, 2015

Finding Evil

One of the things I don't like about Doctor Who is that it sometimes resorts to a moral simplicity, of unambiguously good and evil characters. I was delighted to hear the issue addressed this week in the 2003 audio plays Davros and Master, which form a trilogy beginning with Omega, which I talked about last week. Like the Fifth Doctor television season leading up to the twentieth anniversary, this trilogy leading up to the fortieth anniversary audio play focuses on some of the Doctor's best known foes--Omega; Davros, creator of the Daleks; and the Master. Master, a Seventh Doctor story, was easily my favourite of the two--and a rare pre-Twelfth Doctor Master story I actually like. But Davros was more interesting than I thought it would be when it started off as a tongue in cheek portrayal of a greedy corporate mogul who improbably hires both Davros and the Doctor to be his scientific development department. There's something entertaining about Davros talking about manipulating the stock market but even better are the bits where a psychiatrist analyses him and finds his self-perception as unemotional comes from his fear of thinking about the young woman who helped him create the Daleks.

But Master was a much better story and elements from it seem to have been cannibalised for two Tenth Doctor era television stories--"Human Nature" and "Utopia". Like in "Utopia", the story focuses on the Master having amnesia and living the life of a normal man who enjoys helping others, living in a vaguely Edwardian society. Like the Doctor's amnesia experience in "Human Nature", the Master calls himself John Smith and is reluctant to abandon his life as a human when he begins to learn the truth. As John Smith, he finds himself obsessed with fiction about morally ambiguous protagonists, from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the works of Dostoevsky. It was a great pleasure to hear Sylvester McCoy read briefly from Crime and Punishment.

The story is also a wonderfully eerie haunted house mystery as the Master's true identity tries to assert itself as free floating psychic force, influencing the actions of Smith's friends occasionally or manifesting as just a barely heard cackling sometimes during innocuous conversation. The story doesn't conclude as I would have liked but for the most part it's one of my favourite Seventh Doctor plays so far.

No comments:

Post a Comment