Some Doctor Who stories are so ambitious in plot that it’s a wonder they ever get delivered to our doors for us to devour. Some Doctor Who adventures are so small and introspective that it’s hard to believe that any budget was really needed to make them (apart from the salary for the actors performing). The Evil One lands in a firm position between these two camps as it takes broad, embracing set pieces in part one to heavy, drama ridden rooms in part two.
[pullquote align=right]The Master may have taken over the Earth for a year, created the Master race, stolen Concord and tried to strangle the Doctor to death with a telephone wire but the assault that he plays out in Leela’s mind is the character at perhaps his most insidious.[/pullquote]You might say, that the entire plot for the whole of the story is somewhat perfunctorily as the Doctor and Leela arrive on a luxury space cruiser where the crew and passengers are mysteriously missing only to be attacked Insurance agents and then praying mantis-like robot creatures. Their combined running leads them straight into the devious arms of the Master (Geoffrey Beevers), who has been plotting a revenge on the Doctor since last they met. If this had been the sole highlight of the script, it might have been a very straightforward and somewhat uninspiring play indeed.
But where writer Nicholas Briggs really piles on the charm is the secondary strand of the story with Leela. Over the last few installments of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, we’ve been learning more about the savage, what makes her tick and what she’s come to learn whilst travelling with the Doctor. As stated in a previous review for this third series of Tom Baker tales, Big Finish have been offering more character background for Leela and precious insights into her thoughts and feelings. This culminates in a ‘mid season finale’ of sorts via her possession by the Master and her facing up to the guilt she feels over her father death.
Leela’s family and backstory were somewhat sidelined in her television stories but in the Big Finish Universe, they’re being faced head on. The Master, in his ongoing quest to quell the cosmos of the Doctor has been manipulating Leela since they last met in The Oseidon Adventure and has used her repressed feelings to guide her down his evil path to do his bidding. He turns her against the Doctor by twisting her beliefs as to who she is and what role she plays in the Doctor’s life.
He takes her religion and her moral compass and turns them around to spite and confuse her at his indulgence. We’ve encountered some completely ruthless plans by the Master in the past, present and future but seldom has he got to this personal a level with one of the Doctor’s best friends. He may have taken over the Earth for a year, he may have created the Master race, he’s stolen Concords, he’s tried to strangle the Doctor to death with a telephone wire but the assault that he plays out in Leela’s mind is the character at perhaps his most visceral.
With the Master defeated and escaped for more skulduggery at the end of the tale, Leela and the Doctor sum up. To her, this is an ultimate betrayal to her friend but to the Doctor it proves that, even though the Master had been using her own mind against her for some time, she overcame his grasp via her own strong will and came to the aid of the Doctor, proving just how wrong she was about herself and just how much she’s grown as a person since stepping into the TARDIS all those years ago. Perhaps now, we can finally see an even more ferociously tenacious and intelligent Leela that we’ve been waiting for.
Let’s just hope that the poor old Master doesn’t try and get in her way again.
Also featuring Michael Keating and Nicholas Briggs, The Evil One was released in April 2014 and is available to purchase on CD and download from www.bigfinish.com.