Missy returns for a second Big Finish box set. Despite some missteps, I enjoyed the first set a lot, so I was really looking forward to Series Two, which brings back a few concepts from the first set, and introduces a few new ones.
One thing it doesn’t do, though, is follow up on the end of the first set. Series One was all about Missy trying to get her hands on something called the “Master TARDIS”, which would give her some kind of control over other TARDISes. Only, it turns out, there aren’t any, so that is pretty irrelevant. So instead, Missy gets up to a variety of other shenanigans around time and space.
The first story is the best one, where Missy runs into a female incarnation of the Doctor… or has she? Lisa McMullin’s The Lumiat is delightfully barmy and dark, as Missy gets into a tug-of-war with someone who may or may not be another Time Lord. The story is clever and dark and has a lot of fun moments — Michelle Gomez can sink her teeth into anything, but this story really gives her something to work with. I liked it for what it revealed about Missy/the Master; it has a surprising number of continuity implications, but also some good character ones.
After that, though, the set goes kind of downhill. Roy Gill’s Brimstone and Terror is a sequel to the first set’s A Spoonful of Mayhem — Missy here becomes the headmistress of a boarding school where one of the students is Oliver, who was her charge as a governess in Spoonful. I like the idea of Missy being in charge of an awful boarding school, but it doesn’t go anywhere, soon swerving into a pretty generic story about Missy trying to recover some kind of alien artefact. I feel like the idea of Missy spreading her pernicious influence into society by indoctrinating youngsters would have been more interesting.
Strax is in it, too. He’s on the cover, but I didn’t really look at it, so when Dan Starkey popped up, I thought he was playing a different Sontaran, as he often does for Big Finish. He gets some good comedy bits — Strax as a geography teacher is of course excellent — but I’m not sure why he’s in this. On the extras, producer David Richardson says the idea of Missy meeting Strax was irresistible… but I’m not really sure why, except that in Big Finish, eventually everybody will meet everyone else. (One imagines Richardson rolling dice. “In this one, [rolls dice] the Daleks team up with [rolls dice] Prisoner Zero.” “In this one, [rolls dice] the Kandyman tries to [rolls dice] gain access to the Source on Traken.” “In this one, [rolls dice] Erato crash-lands on [rolls dice] Voga, the Planet of Gold.”) What do we expect to get out of a Missy/Strax showdown that is particularly interesting?
The third one, Treason and Plot by Gemma Arrowsmith, feels like it has potential — Missy wants to make the Gunpowder Plot actually work. It has some good jokes, but I felt like I never got hooked into it. It’s not madcap enough; Series One’s Henry VIII story was a better example of a Missy historical.
The set crashes to an end with John Dorney’s Too Many Masters. Missy and the Monk are kidnapped by the Ogrons, who want revenge on the Master for how Frontier in Space went down — only because Missy’s switched gender, they think the Monk is who they’re looking for. Michelle Gomez and Rufus Hound’s Monk made an excellent comedy duo in last year’s set, but if anything can bring a story screeching to a halt, it’s Ogron “comedy”. This is Big Finish’s third comedy Ogron story in two years, after Planet of the Ogrons in The Eighth Doctor: The Time War and Peepshow in The Diary of River Song, and… like those two, I get the feeling of listening to a joke that the teller thinks is a lot funnier than it is. Every time the Ogrons start speaking, the whole thing slams to a halt… and there are multiple scenes where Ogrons provide long expository speeches! I like the basic idea of the Monk being blamed for something the Master did, so for once he’s innocent, but almost nothing about this is enjoyable. Even Rufus Hound’s Monk, who I usually enjoy, feels flanderised into a parody of himself, cackling manically all the time and being essentially incompetent.
Michelle Gomez is great of course, but this set isn’t making use of her skills by plopping her into three mediocre scripts. The end, unfortunately, promises that one of the things I didn’t like about this set will continue into the third, so hopefully it is better handled there. I’m not really sure what happened here, why the second set was such a step down from the first, but I like Missy enough that I will be back at least one more time, and hopefully Big Finish can smooth things out a bit.
Missy Series Two (by Lisa McMullin, Roy Gill, Gemma Arrowsmith, John Dorney; starring Michelle Gomez) was released by Big Finish Productions in July 2020.