Masterful was the first story in the specially released Masterful audio anthology Box Set released by Big Finish Productions to mark the 50th Anniversary of the first appearance by The Master in Terror of the Autons. It was written by James Goss and featured Geoffrey Beevers, Mark Gatiss, Derek Jacobi, Alex Macqueen, Eric Roberts, Milo Parker and John Simm as the Master, with Michelle Gomez as Missy and Katy Manning as Jo Grant.
The Master's finally done it. He's won. He summons his other selves to a celebration of his ultimate victory. And they come - from across time and dimensions. But he's forgotten to invite someone. And Missy's not happy.
Has the Master really conquered the universe? Or has something more awful been unleashed? Something that even all the Masters cannot stop?
Missy is determined to reveal the truth. Because one fact about the Master's existence never changes. No-one can trust the Master.
Not even the Master.
Six different incarnations of the Master reach a desolate planet after being taken out of time with a Time Scoop. The group consists of the young Master before leaving Gallifrey, the Decayed Master, the "Tremas" Master, the "Bruce" Master, the "Reborn" Master and the War Master. One after another, they reach a black castle furnished with black garments, where the service is entirely composed by robot butlers, all of the same kind, and where a dining hall is set for a banquet. As they confront each other, trying to guess who summoned them here and why, they find out that the "Tremas" Master has actually sent Kamelion in his place, looking like him.
Finally, the War Master understands that they have been summoned by another of their incarnations, and on that moment the "Saxon" Master enters the room. He announces his previous selves that at last he managed to conquer the universe and kill the Doctor, and has invited them all here to celebrate his success. The others are still not impressed, so "Saxon" arranges for them a treat: the arrival of a special guest, the "UNIT enemy" Master - only for Jo Grant to appear in his place.
Mistaking them for Time Lords, Jo tells the other Masters that "her" incarnation threw her in the Time Scoop in his place as the Third Doctor and the Brigadier were putting him away in the Tower for attempting to steal the Crown Jewels. To her shock, the men reveal themselves as the Master and decide to kill her; their attempt is interrupted when Missy bursts into the room, disguised as a fortune teller. Although "Saxon" immediately recognises her, she is not fazed by that, and proceeds berating him for not inviting her - to which "Saxon" replies he didn't because, now that he won, he does not need anymore to become her.
Missy then reveals the other Masters the truth about "Saxon": although he did conquer the universe, he also destabilised it, making the universe collapse; what's more, his own body is decaying rapidly, and that's why he invited them here: to steal their lives. Enraged, the Masters begin arguing with each other, until the arrival of an unknown, hostile entity forces them and Jo to flee using the Time Scoop. Due to the fact they all use it at the same time, though, they end up scattered all thorough the universe.
The Decayed Master finds himself on a beach, on an isolate planet, where a woman named Kitty saves him from drowning and welcomes him in his house. There, he discovers that his body looks no more disfigured, thanks to a perception filter someone put on his wrist. In the following weeks, under the name of "Jeremy", he stays with her, and stars to really enjoy his time with her, taking up fishing on a nearby lake and at last being at peace. He also comes to know that Kitty exiled herself voluntarily on this planet, to escape from a war and also to make penance of an error, and has no desire to come back or to leave. Neither does the Master.
The "Reborn" Master is trapped on a spaceship, where the few survivors of a catastrophe are migrating, after winning a lottery for survival. He tries to convince one of the drones on the ship to let him see the captain, but the drone does not register him as one of the winners, and locks him away in a cell, threatening to deprive him of air too. While forced here, the Master is contacted by Sardo, one of the refugees. He refuses to let him out, but nonetheless begins to confide in him; from him, the Master comes to know that the journey is supposed to last sixty-five years, that the ship risks going off course and that the captain has confined the passengers in the cargo hold.
The War Master finds himself amidst the evacuation of a planet: a horde of citizens is escaping from a catastrophe. The Master grabs a weapon by a droid he destroyed and forces a woman, Carola, to give him a lift. Upon learning that the mighty and powerful of the planet closed themselves inside an area protected by force fields, the Master takes control of the vehicle and drives it against the shields.
Upon her awakening, Missy is greeted by a mysterious man, saying he is the Doctor from another universe. However, as he tries to hypnotise her, she recognises him as a Master from another universe. The Master then proceeds to offer Missy to work together to save the universe.
Jo and Kamelion are stranded on a jungle planet, by themselves, near the ruins of a city. To comfort a distraught Jo, Kamelion takes the form of the Third Doctor, and the two of them start exploring. They eventually comes across a lake, and Jo hits the water with a peddle, thus unwillingly awakening the creature inside, which causes an entropy wave: the cause, gathers the "Doctor" Kamelion, of the death of the planet. They run away, and Kamelion stays behind to stall the monster and allow Jo to escape. This is apparently useless, since the monster reaches her a few moments later.
Jo is saved by Missy, as she dangerously dangles from a cliff. Missy pretends to not know her, in fact she initially addresses her as 'the Doctor'. Jo insists on investigating to find a way to save themselves and the planet, and eventually Missy begrudgingly accepts. Jo also gathers that Missy appears to be rather curious about how the Doctor always wins, and that's why she is keeping her alive and well: she wants a friend. Missy dismisses all of this as nonsense. Jo proposes they find a library, so they can understand what happened to the city; Missy initially mocks her, but then accepts when Jo points out that the creature in the lake can not have built the city by itself.
On the beach, time passes for the Decayed Master, who grows fond of the peace and quiet of his actual life; he even starts liking Kitty. One night, though, Kitty spots someone arriving on the shore; worried it may be one of his other selves, the Master starts reinforcing the solar generators of Kitty's force fields, to ensure her protection. The next day, his worry is proved right by the arrival of the "Bruce" Master, who introduces himself as a friend of his, "Ryan". Kitty welcomes him and the "Bruce" Master stays all day with them, joking with Kitty and without telling her the truth. That night, as they contemplate a sunset on the beach, the three of them discuss evil and the possibility of redemption. As Kitty goes away, to make adjustments for the night, the Decayed Master invites the "Bruce" Master to leave, but the latter one refuses.
The "Exiled" Master meanwhile reaches Andromida, where he slipped into our universe from his own, to see if a suspicion he has is right or not. He is accompanied by Kamelion, who Missy saved before Jo and gave to him as a companion. The "Exiled" Master sees the wave spread and sees a CVE opening, and understands that it threatens to cross the boundaries across the universes. He tries preventing that by putting his ship in the middle of the wave as a shield, but Kamelion takes them away, saving their life but also allowing the wave to reach "Exiled" Master's universe and then other parallel universes. The "Exiled" Master deduces the CVE was opened by the Time Lords to bide themselves more time.
Jo and Missy manage to find a library, and start looking for answers. Missy reveals to Jo that the Doctor always knows instantly, in any library, which book to consult, because he possesses Time Lord's superior ability to scan their environments. They find a green book, and read that there was an Earth colony once on the planet; a colony blessed with a particularly fertile soil. Their reading is interrupted by the appearance of the Lumiat, projecting herself from the future to warn both Missy and Jo about the consequences of the Master's actions. She exhorts Jo to trust her because she incarnates the good side of the Master, but Jo retorts the Master has always been capable of goodness. The Lumiat disappears, however, before she can explain herself.
The "Reborn" Master finally persuades Sardo to release him, and joins the other passengers in the cargo hold, where he helps another refugee, Achim, to stir up a riot to protest against the inhuman conditions they are kept by the new captain. The riot fails when the new captain (i.e. the "Young" Master) tricks the "Reborn" Master into appearing as a "food hoarder", by having a droid hitting him with a hundred rations of the food he gives to the passengers. Undeterred, the "Reborn" Master helps Achim and Sardo to stage a second attempt, and this time he uses it as a distraction and reaches his younger self on the control deck. There he learns from the "Young" Master that the ship was never equipped for a long travel, and there is an entropy wave coming from the planet Kiamet on their tail.
On that same planet, the War Master tricks Carola's companions into smashing against the force field built to protect the elite, thus verifying how strong the shield actually is. As he comes back to the car, the "Saxon" Master appears and goes on to confront them. Carola recognises him and attacks him, but "Saxon" is able to hypnotise her into calm and kill her with a Tissue Compression Eliminator. "Saxon" then joins his younger self, thinking he's going to escape, but the War Master drives instead straight into the heart of the destruction, to figure out what happened. "Saxon" reveals that he took control of the colony, and exploited it to take control of the massive energy stored inside the planet, an energy he gave some of his personality. He used it to take control of the universe, but he accidentally armed himself causing his body to deteriorate; even more, the energy has become sentient and it doesn't obey it any more, as the War Master sees when they reach it and "Saxon" fails to make it listen to him. The two Masters then decide there is only one thing to do: to stop the creature reaching the critical mass it needs to become more powerful they need to stop it consuming the remaining people and can use shielding to do this. They decide to save the planet.
Missy and Jo find another room in the library amongst the ruins, one which makes Missy smile. Jo points out that the Master must be sick of losing, and even if he wins, his victory must be a hollow one. With a laugh, Missy reveals that the books of the room they are are part of an extended biography of his/her life as the Master: he took control of the colony, and had the colonists fill the room for him.
Missy and Jo keep on bickering about how the Master's life should really be not that great, when the entropy wave once again arrives and attacks them. The two women run away, eventually climbing up a ladder to safety. Missy reaches the top first, but Jo, being much slower, asks for her help. Missy asks why should she help her, and Jo explains that she figured out that Missy kept her alive because she wanted a friend, like the Doctor, someone to talk to her amicably. She then asks again for her help, calling her "friend". Missy, however, refuses, and pushes Jo down towards the entropy wave, causing her death.
The "Exiled" Master, meanwhile, attacks Gallifrey with unnamed forces and proclaims himself Lord President after killing the current one. He orders the Time Lords to deploy all 2,000 Battle TARDISes armed with dimension inverters around the planet. When the wave arrives, though, the Master deploys the weapons inside the TARDISes, destroying Gallifrey, hoping the destruction of the planet, the Eye of Harmony and the dimension rupture would stop it. Once again, though, this doesn't work, so he decides to go to the Daleks for help.
At Kitty's house, the "Bruce" Master persuades the woman to confide in him. Kitty admits she was one of the scientists in Kiamet's elite, and helped the "Saxon" Master to build the ships who, supposedly, should bring her people to safety when the wave became too dangerous. However, no real evacuation plan was ever devised: too late Kitty realised that the ships were only built for the elite, and the rest of the people was going to be left to die. She only manages to get her two daughters (Achim and Carola) on both ships, and then retired in this corner of the planet, protected by the force fields, to live the rest of her life in solitude while outside the wave destroyed the planet. The "Bruce" Master thanks her for her story, and then brings her to reveal she loves "Jeremy". Later, the "Bruce" Master talks to the Decayed on the beach, assures him he doesn't want to destroy his newfound happiness, and encourages him to turn off the filter and tell Kitty the truth. Grateful, the Decayed Master does just that, and then goes to meet Kitty, while Kamelion silently appears beside the "Bruce" Master. He agrees to leave with the robot, but not before he hears Kitty screaming at the sight of the real aspect of the Decayed.
On the refugee ship, the "Reborn" Master is the new captain. The ship has grown in speed, and the supplies are now more aboundant, to the joy of many refugees, but not Achim. She suspiciously notices many of their companions disappeared, taken into the cellars, and are unheard of. She discloses her suspicions to Sardo and the "Young" Master and, as a result, she is taken away herself after a while. When the same thing happens to Sardo, the "Young" Master confronts his older self and discovers he killed those refugees and used their energy to fuel the ships' engines, so that they can arrive to their destination with still enough people to build a colony. Disgusted, the "Young" Master leaves and is contacted by Kamelion, taking him away.
On Kiamet, the War Master and the "Saxon" Master are coming back to the city to save the planet when they also come across Kamelion. The robot tells them both they have to go, before the planet is destroyed: he rebelled against Missy, his new mistress, and wants their help to fight her. Blinded by his hatred for her and thinking the War Master had been manipulating him, the "Saxon" Master accepts, leaving behind on the planet the War incarnation. The three incarnations of the Master recruited by Kamelion find themselves all together aboard the ship, where Kamelion takes once again the appearance of the "Tremas" Master and persuades them to unite them against Missy - only to reveal it is a trap. These incarnations of the Master are then killed by the wave.
Missy and the "Exiled" Master have a last meeting. Apparently, the "Exiled" Master has saved his own universe, by manipulating the Daleks into sacrificing themselves to stop the wave from invading other universes, and now plans to come back to it. He proposes Missy to come with him, so they can generate a family, but she refuses: she wants to see the end of it. She then goes away, leaving the "Exiled" Master to the journey back to his universe.
The four remaining incarnations of the Master (Decayed, "Bald", War and Missy) meet once again in the castle on the desolate Kiamet. Missy reveals to them she scattered them across the recent history of the planet, to see whether any of them could achieve redemption, and killed those who failed; she also put the perception filter on the Decayed's wrist. In the following days, while waiting for the wave to reach them, the Masters compare their experiences: the Decayed misses Kitty, the "Reborn" is surprised he managed to get the love of the people of his colony after ruling them for years, the War is shocked by the gratuitous violence of "Saxon" and Missy admits she wanted to find some hope for redemption in one of her past selves.
Finally, when the wave comes, Missy proposes the Masters to use the Attornium to feed themselves on the wave, thus blocking it in a perpetual cycle. The "Reborn" and the Decayed Master agree - as does the "Saxon" Master, who has survived and was hiding in plain sight as the butler of the castle. But when the Masters contact each other mentally, all of them starts coughing, poisoned by the wine they drank these days. As the Decayed, the "Reborn" and the "Saxon" fall dead to the floor, the War Master turns off the Attornium and tells Missy he did that, because he saw that her plan would cause a massive energy capable of destroying any universe (which Missy was aware of it: she wanted to end it all, out of despair), and he couldn't allow that. The wave, he gathered, it's not just a wave, it is a physical manifestation of the Master's lust and hunger, his final incarnation. So, if he kills everyone, the resulting paradox will bring the universe back to normal.
With the War Master dead too, Missy is the only one left to greet the wave, as it comes down to eat her and kill her too, thus ending the cycle and causing the paradox which restores reality.
- The Master - Geoffrey Beevers
- The Master - Mark Gatiss
- The Master - Derek Jacobi
- The Master - Alex Macqueen
- The Master - Milo Parker
- The Master - Eric Roberts
- The Master - John Simm
- Missy - Michelle Gomez
- Kamelion - Jon Culshaw
- Jo Grant - Katy Manning
- The Lumiat - Gina McKee
- Achim / Carola - Aurora Burghart
- Sardo - Zaqi Ismail
- Butler / Castellan / Drones - Glen McCready
- Kitty - Abigail McKern
- Kamelion takes on the form of both the "Tremas" Master and the Third Doctor.
- The "Young" and Decayed Masters suggests that the Rani might have brought the Masters together, but the "Bruce" Master initially thinks they mean the Terrible Zodin.
- The War Master believes that none of his former incarnations could handle the Last Great Time War.
- In the aborted timeline, the "Saxon" Master killed the Thirteenth Doctor by throwing her into the heart of a star, after she escaped from being shackled in its orbit.
- The "Saxon" Master dislikes ABBA, but admits a soft spot to "Waterloo".
- Missy wonders if rescuing Jo will land her a place on Children in Need.
- The Decayed and "Saxon" Masters use the Tissue Compression Eliminator. The War Master states he hasn't used one for a while.
- Eric Roberts' dialogue was directed by Jason Haigh-Ellery, whilst Mark Gatiss' was directed by Scott Handcock.
- This is the first time since 2016's The Two Masters that Alex Macqueen portrayed his incarnation of the Master. Ravenous 4's finale Day of the Master portrayed how the character came into existence, but he was never actually shown.
- James Dreyfus, who portrayed an early incarnation of the Master, claimed he was initially in Masterful, but was "erased, & never rehired" with "no explanation", as Big Finish had cut ties with Dreyfus following criticism for his transphobic remarks on Twitter.
- The release's behind-the-scenes track reveals the internal names the production used to differentiate the Masters;
- Milo Parker - "the Young Master"
- Geoffrey Beevers - "the Decaying Master"
- Mark Gatiss - "the Alternative Master", or "the Unbound Master"
- Eric Roberts - "the Movie Master"
- Alex Macqueen - "the Reborn Master"
- Derek Jacobi - "the War Master"
- John Simm - "the Saxon Master"
- Michelle Gomez - "Missy"
- During Missy's act as a fortune teller, one of the things that can be heard in her ramblings is "Jonathan Dorney", voice actor and writer for Big Finish Productions.
- The "Saxon" Master, speaking in an American accent, claims he can "make the universe great again", a reference to American president Donald Trump's slogan, "make America great again".
- Missy makes a sly reference to The Fan Show, even telling Jo to "don't forget to like and subscribe" in the same vein as Christel Dee.
- The "Saxon" Master says "Don't tell him Pike!", a reference to British comedy show Dad's Army.
- Missy refers to the War Master as "Gandalf's husband". Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi once played a married couple in the ITV sitcom Vicious.
- The "Reborn" Master was rewriting the genetics of the Sontarans when he was picked up by the time scoop. (AUDIO: Master of the Daleks)
- Whilst disguised as the "Tremas" incarnation, Kamelion mentions being time scooped shortly after escaping the Death Zone. (TV: The Five Doctors) While the Doctor had taken Kamelion from the Master before then, (TV: The King's Demons) the Master still had a link with Kamelion and could control him. (TV: Planet of Fire)
- Kamelion, in the guise of the "Tremas" Master, recalls appealing to the Doctor with the words, Won't you show mercy to your own.... (TV: Planet of Fire)
- When recounting his victory, the "Saxon" Master recalls telling the universe to "please attend carefully". (TV: Logopolis, The Sound of Drums)
- Jo notes that the Doctor has already been put on trial by the Time Lords. (TV: The War Games)
- Jo recalls offering to sacrifice herself to save the Doctor. (TV: The Dæmons)
- The "Saxon" Master is attempting to prevent his regeneration, and blames Missy for it. (TV: The Doctor Falls)
- The "Alternative" Master mentions that he is the ruler of his universe. (AUDIO: The True Saviour of the Universe)
- The "Alternative" Master quotes the Fourth Doctor in regarding her a "beautiful women, probably" (TV: City of Death) and wondering to "press these two lips together" before he kisses Missy. (TV: Genesis of the Daleks)
- Jo and Missy reminisce about the Master's trial and his subsequent alliance with the Sea Devils. (TV: The Sea Devils)
- Missy has already met the Lumiat. (AUDIO: The Lumiat)
- Missy recalls the first time she met Jo, (TV: Terror of the Autons) using a super weapon, (TV: Colony in Space) and when they both met the Sea Devils. (TV: The Sea Devils)
- Missy refers to the Doctor with she/her and then they/them pronouns. She has already encountered the Thirteenth Doctor twice, though one time she did not know her identity until she had already left. (PROSE: The Liar, the Glitch and the War Zone) and another time she met her in the Land of Fiction, when she was pretending to be the wicked witch. (PROSE: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz)