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Sir Derek Jacobi returns as the War Master for Doctor Who audio series

‘I am the Master …’

One of the highlights of TV’s Doctor Who was Sir Derek Jacobi showing up as the diabolical Master, disguised as a friendly old man and relieved of his maniacal memories in the aftermath of the Last Great Time War, 10 years ago to this day in the “Utopia” episode opposite David Tennant.

Derek Jacobi, Freema Agyeman, David Tennant and John Barrowman in “Utopia.” (BBC)

But his turn was all too brief, for as soon as his Time Lord identity was restored to him, he was fatally wounded and regenerated (as Time Lords often do) into a new bodily form, played by John Simm — who returns to the show, somehow, this season.

Now, Big Finish Productions is bringing “Master” thespian Jacobi back into the Doctor Who fold in four full-cast audio adventures available this December. Doctor Who: The War Master Volume One will explore the ruthless renegade’s exploits during the course of the devastating Time War, featuring stories from acclaimed Doctor Who writers James Goss, Guy Adams and Nicholas Briggs as well as new writing talent Janine H. Jones.

Derek Jacobi (via Big Finish)

“I didn’t expect to come back to it all these years later,” Jacobi, who will be 79 when the story is released, said in a Big Finish statement, “but I was thrilled to be remembered. The plots in all these episodes have been very good indeed, very interesting, very dramatic, and beautifully written. The whole process has been a delight!”

The actor will, at last, get to flesh out his interpretation of the Doctor’s arch-enemy. But it’s not his first outing with Big Finish — he played an alternate-universe version of the Doctor years ago in the “Unbound” series.

“I was lucky enough to have directed Sir Derek fourteen years ago in ‘Deadline,’ so I was delighted to be able to work with him once again,” said Big Finish actor, writer and script editor Nicholas Briggs. “The thrill for me has been just how fascinating and exhilarating it is to write a series when the leading character is a bad guy. Writing my own script and working on the others with (director) Scott (Handcock)  has been such a rewarding challenge. I’m really keen to do it again, and further explore exactly what the Master did get up to in the Time War.”

Jacobi also played a unique, android version of the Master in the non-canonical “Ninth Doctor” animated episode “Scream of the Shalka” opposite Richard E. Grant. That version of the character seemed to be confined to the Doctor’s TARDIS, in an unresolved situation that echoes Missy’s imprisonment in the current series of Doctor Who on television.

But Jacobi’s brief tenure as the Master on television, overtaken so quickly by Simm, has wrapped his character in mystery that makes him all the more sinister.

Sir Derek Jacobi in Doctor Who’s 2007 episode, “Utopia.” (BBC)

“His incarnation is very much the ‘Hannibal Lecter’ of Time Lords – intelligent, charming, but thoroughly ruthless – we had a lot of fun in studio bringing the War Master back to life,” said producer and director Scott Handcock. “It’s been a gift of a project, and we can’t wait for listeners to hear it!”

The four hourlong War Master episodes are:
  • “Beneath the Viscoid” by Nicholas Briggs
  • “The Good Master” by Janine H Jones
  • “The Sky Man” by James Goss
  • “The Heavenly Paradigm” by Guy Adams

Writer James Goss explains what makes this Master unique, “What was exciting about this was that normally the Master loses. He puts in the hours, he works through all these elaborate plans and yet it all goes wrong. It’s not fair! What did Sir Derek do in the Time War? It’s thrilling to have helped find out.”

The cast includes Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble – Doctor Who), Mark Elstob (Number 6 – The Prisoner), Deirdre Mullins (Naomi – Man Down), Rachel Atkins (Vicky Tucker – The Archers), Jonny Green (Torchwood), Hannah Barker (Harriet Sloane – Holby City), Jake Dudman, Emily Barber (Gwendolen Fairfax – The Importance of Being Earnest), Robert Daws (Dr. Choake – Poldark), Nerys Hughes (Brenda Williams – Torchwood), Jonathan Bailey (Olly Stevens – Broadchurch) and Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks.

The War Master Volume One is available for pre-order now.

Producer-director Scott Handcock, Sir Derek Jacobi and actor-writer-script editor Nicholas-Briggs (Courtesy Big Finish)
Producer-director Scott Handcock, Sir Derek Jacobi and actor-writer-script editor Nicholas-Briggs (Courtesy Big Finish)

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