Many years ago, on a dark and stormy night, the disfigured and enigmatic Doctor John Smith invited his closest friends, Inspector Victor Schaeffer and his wife, to a dinner to celebrate his birthday. A mere few hours later all the occupants in that house had been changed — some were dead, others mentally scarred forever by the events of that night.
So, what happened to the distinguished dinner guests on that evening? Perhaps we'll never know. But two clues have led to much speculation — found outside the study window, a charred umbrella with a curved red handle and found inside the house, a blood-stained copy of Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
For one person, this night represented an ending: an ending to one thousand years of darkness and an ending to ten years of light.
But for everyone else, is there no ending of this one night of Hell?
Up in a tower, a man is about to kill someone during a parade. He is interrupted by the Seventh Doctor, who starts telling him a story about good and evil, with an old friend of his as protagonist.
Planets away, on Perfugium, on a stormy night, the local surgeon, Dr John Smith, receives the visit of his two dearest friend, Victor and Jacqueline Schaeffer, at his house, for his birthday. He lives in an old house once belonging to Jacqueline's family, together with his servant, Jade, a young girl. The house is said to be cursed by the ghost of one of Jacqueline's ancestors, who died a violent death, but so far the doctor didn't suffer any damage. He has prepared a feast for his two friends.
Before supper, Jacqueline takes aside Jade and subtly threatens her about what she thinks she may plotting. She reveals to her that Smith arrived at Perfugium ten years ago, has no memory of his past (his birthday is actually the tenth anniversary of his arrival), and may well be the survivor of a terrible accident, given his scarred appearance. At the same time, Smith obtains from Victor news about the latest victim of a series of killings going on in the area: a young girl who, opposite to the previous eleven victims, was not a prostitute. This particularly strikes Victor, who is the local Adjudicator.
At dinner, the three friends talk about good and evil. Jacqueline, who runs a hospice, substains environment and circumstances cause the descent of some men into evil; Victor instead insists that it is only a question of will and choice. Smith mantains equidistance between the two, but he is clearly troubled by the subject. When later Victor makes a toast to him, he suddenly attacks him about his mysterious past, apparently out of nowhere; Smith however dismisses the accident as the result of Victor drinking too much.
Jacqueline shows Smith the present she got him for his birthday: a crystal ball, inhabited from a spirit, which they could contact to ask him about Smith's past. The doctor accepts, and to the surprise of the three men the ball does begin to shake and spell a name: D-O-C ...
The spelling is interrupted by a man appearing at the window: the Seventh Doctor.
Ignoring Jacqueline's warnings about the new arrival being dangerous, Smith and Victor take the Doctor inside the house to assist him. The Doctor, other than being seriously wounded, is also delirious. and keeps screaming about "death". Smith is surprised: he seems to recognise the man from somewhere.
Some time later, the Doctor wakes up to see himself in Smith's care. He too appears to recognise him, he even asks him whether they know each other (to which Smith answers negatively). To Smith's inquiries, the Doctor tells him he has come to look for a friend of his, an old friend; in return, Smith tells him about the murders, and how they trouble the atmosphere of Perfugium - a human colony built as a recreation of Edwardian England. The two men seem indeed to share a particular affinity.
They feel so close Smith even starts telling the Doctor (who introduced himself as Vaughan Sutton) about his suspicions about his own past. He tells him how, during a deliverance, he was briefly tempted to kill the newborn baby by smashing him to the ground; he confides to the Doctor his reflections about the nature of evil, how it may be possible for someone to be considered evil only because his view of the world is just different from anybody else. The Doctor agrees, and even suggests they may have been friends in another life.
Smith ends up telling the Doctor he sometimes hears voices in this house, voices threatening to kill someone or something, and confesses he invited Victor and Jacqueline to see if they hear them too. He has just said that, when he is suddently and violently possessed by an entity, reminding the Doctor of his obligation to kill someone (which the Doctor desperately says he won't). Back to his senses, Smith exits the room to reach the guests for his birthday party, leaving the Doctor alone - to hear the voice again.
While the Doctor and Smith talk, Victor and Jacqueline wait for them in a nearby room, where the latter one at one point insults and hits Jade, calling her a "servant". Just as Victor before, she doesn't know what happened to her, or why did she talk and act that way. Smith reaches them, and briefly informs them that the stranger has recovered; he also adds he seems to know something about him. They come back to the study where Smith left him, to find it all messed up and disorganised. As they start tiding things up, they hear a scream: gone to investigate, the Doctor, Victor and Smith discovered someone killed Jade's cat, in the same way the girls were killed, sliced open in the middle.
Back in the study, the four of them try to unravel the mystery. Smith confesses Victor and Jacqueline the real reason for their invitation, which makes Victor angry, while Jacqueline stands up for Smith to her husband's annoyance. They all agree that someone is indeed inside the house, playing a game with them. As the Doctor takes Victor outside, Smith confides Jacqueline he feels the Doctor knows more than he is letting on, so they plan a little trick. Smith pretends to be the murderer and to take Jacqueline as a hostage; the Doctor thinks he has turned back into his real self, the Master, and tries to calm him down, thus conferming he indeed does know more. Smith releases Jacqueline, while the Doctor tells them what truly is happening.
He starts by telling about him and the Master, of when they were children and one of them killed a bully, Torvic, who persecuted them both. The guilt and anger for the murder led him to madness, and transformed him into a dangerous, pyschopatic criminal, the Master. Ten years ago, the Doctor made a deal with someone to give the Master ten years of peaceful life, all he never had (acceptance, friends, love); in return, though, the Doctor would have to kill him when those ten years had passed. The Doctor failed in keeping his side of the bargain, and now his opponent is taking revenge on him and the Master. Smith is horrified at the discovery, but Jacqueline still defends him.
Suddenly, the house goes quiet as the storm increases. Jade comes into the room, revealing herself as Death.
Death reveals she is the one the Doctor made the deal with, as well as that Victor is the murderer, and that Jacqueline and Smith are in love. Victor first tries denying the accusations, but then confirms them, blaming Jacqueline for acting so superior to him and never supporting him. Smith and Jacqueline also acknowledges their feelings for each other, but Death still demands someone dies on her account, and urges Victor or Smith to kill Jacqueline. Victor, driven mad, runs out of the room, while the other three stay as the room goes dark.
Jacqueline finds Smith and once again displays her love for him, but Smith, wanting to save her life, rejects her. The Doctor understands why Smith has done this and admits he did all this because he wanted his old friend back, although he never expected the Master to really fall in love with someone. This, however, may give him a chance of redemption: if he is capable of loving Jacqueline, this may fix his identity as Smith, stopping the Master from ever coming back. Smith and the Doctor reach Victor, who is talking with Jacqueline, and try persuading him to let her live her own life, free, if he really loves her, but Victor, unable to overcome his own sense of possession, kills her, thus satisfying Death's condition and allowing the Master to return to life.
The Doctor manages to persuade Death to make another deal, and the entity turns back time, to immediately after Jacqueline's death, in order to talk to Smith. She tells him it now will be his choice: he can either kill Victor, thus saving Jacqueline's life (but this will bring back the Master), or alternatively, choose to do nothing and let her die to keep being John Smith. It also reveals what really happened with Torvic: it was the Doctor, not the Master, to kill him. She then appeared to him in a nightmare and offered the young Doctor to take away the blame by shifting the memory of the two, so that they would think the Master killed Torvic. Distraught with grief and guilt, the Doctor is consoled and forgiven by Smith, before being taken away by Death to his own punishment.
Back in time, Smith receives Victor and Jacqueline with a knife, preparing to kill Victor, but he is unable to do so (it is left ambiguous whether he really did).
On the tower, the Doctor has finished his story, and the young man understands: Death challenged the Doctor to kill an innocent, in his place. The Doctor takes up the rifle, but once again is unable to take a life. The Man then reveals himself to be Death, once again testing the Doctor: she mocks his resolution and then goes away. Distraught, the Doctor vows he will save his old friend, the Master.
- The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
- The Master - Geoffrey Beevers
- Victor Schaeffer - Philip Madoc
- Jacqueline Schaeffer - Anne Ridler
- Jade - Charlie Hayes
- The Man - Daniel Barzotti
- Child - Joe Bassett
- Whispering Voices - Gary Russell
- John Smith owns books by Dr Julia Steer (The Divided Self), Professor Summerfield (Man, Two Hearts in One Mind), Dostoevsky, Stevenson, Welsh.
Personifications of concepts
- Death makes an appearance.
- The Doctor and the Master were bullied as children by Torvic.
- This story marks the first appearance of Death in an audio drama.
- This would be the final audio drama to feature the Master until Trail of the White Worm in May 2012 and his final appearance in the main range until And You Will Obey Me in April 2016.
- This audio drama was recorded on 30 and 31 July 2003 at The Moat Studios.
- An illustrated preview by Martin Geraghty appeared in DWM 336.
- This is the first story in any medium to feature the Master where his name is part of the title.
- This is the third part in a loose tetralogy of "villain"-focused stories to celebrate Doctor Who's 40th anniversary, beginning with Omega and ending with Zagreus.
- The trailer to the story is unusual; rather than using clips from the story, Geoffrey Beevers recites an original monologue for it.
- In January 2020, Master was provided as a free gift to purchasers of DWM 547, along with Omega and Davros, as part of the so called Classic Villains Trilogy with a brand new cover.
- This was the first Big Finish release to feature the First Doctor and an Eternal.
- This story is set between Survival and the 1996 TV Movie.
- This story was originally released on CD and download. It is now available as a download only.
- The Master claims to be Death's champion, similar to how the Doctor was Time's champion. (PROSE: Love and War)
- When the Doctor talks about the Master's history, he refers to events on Traken (TV: The Keeper of Traken) and Duchamp 331. (AUDIO: Dust Breeding)
- The Doctor first encountered this incarnation of the Master on Duchamp 331. (AUDIO: Dust Breeding)
- The Doctor uses the name "Vaughan Sutton" as a pseudonym. (AUDIO: Excelis Decays)
- The Doctor says he's known "one or two" Adjudicators. (PROSE: Original Sin)
- The Doctor mentions how he was disowned by his family. (PROSE: Lungbarrow)
- The Doctor recalls someone telling him "exposure to evil, even the smallest amount, can corrode the soul". (AUDIO: Primeval)
- Death refers to how the Doctor used to play with his spoons and mix his metaphors, (TV: Time and the Rani) but how he is now too busy destroying planets and wiping out old foes. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks, Silver Nemesis, PROSE: The Pit, Blood Heat)
- Death sings a version of the Zagreus poem, then wonders what put that into her head. (AUDIO: Zagreus)
- The Master would later once again lose his memories of being a Time Lord and live the life of an ordinary human. (TV: Utopia)
- The Doctor tells the Master that he wants his old friend back. A later incarnation of the Master would later express a similar sentiment to the Twelfth Doctor. (TV: Death in Heaven)
- Official Master page at bigfinish.com; note that it is out of print and is available as download only.
- DisContinuity for Master at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide