Blurb: The first time the fearsome Kraals attempted to take over the Earth, with the help of their android agents, things didn't go quite according to plan – thanks to the time-traveling alien Doctor and his allies at UNIT.
This time, Marshal Grinmal and his belligerent cohorts are ready for them. This time, they'll make no mistakes. This time, Chief Scientist Tyngworg has not just one plan, but a back-up plan, and a back-up back-up plan worked out...
With the Doctor a prisoner on the Kraals' radiation-blasted home planet of Oseidon, only his companion Leela can save the day – alongside a most unlikely ally.
Format: Full-cast audio drama starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson published by Big Finish Productions and released June 2012.
Setting: Earth: Derbyshire, England in 1979 and the planet Oseidon in the same timeframe.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Horror of Fang Rock and after the audio story Trail of the White Worm. There are numerous references to the previous time that the Doctor encountered the Kraals (see The Android Invasion). The Master tells Leela that the last time that he saw the Doctor was on Gallifrey (see The Deadly Assassin).
Canonicity Quotient: The Brigadier is mentioned as being still part UNIT in 1979. I had assumed that a similar error in The Valley of Death had just been an oversight. Here it just appears to be Big Finish trying to extend the ludicrous UNIT dating controversy. The series is unequivocal about the fact that the Brigadier retired from UNIT in 1976. Any insinuations that the Baker UNIT stories happened after 1976 are based on specious reasoning. Otherwise this story fits in fairly well with the established cannon and in fact it fixes a continuity error with some other Big Finish stories. 0.90 (due to the magnitude of the error)
Discussion: The Oseidon Adventure follows on immediately after the end of the previous story, The Trail of the White Worm. This has confused some who bought this story individually and were somewhat confused during the opening of this story. However, as I said in my review for Trail of the White Worm that story is so totally divorced from this one that other than knowing that the Doctor, Master, and Leela are all on Earth you don't need to know anything from the prior story to make sense of this one. Even the Master's servant, Col. Spindleton doesn't get any real development until this side of the story and none of the other characters from the prior story carry over into this one.
I have to say that I thought that this story improved greatly on Trail of the White Worm. This appears to have been the story that Alan Barnes wanted to tell. I have to say that I wasn't really excited about the return of the Kraals. The Android Invasion is probably one of my least favorite Doctor Who stories. But their usage here as a simple ruse while the Master enacts his true plan is brilliant. I also loved the plans within plans that the Master had going. The fact that the first Master was an android came as a shock although I did find the scene where that is revealed to be a bit confusing. Was there a real Tyngworg that the Master came up and killed or was it actually one of his clever Master Disguises™? Either way, I then thought that it was great that yet another Master turned out to be an android and the Doctor's use of a third Master android to help him locate the other was brilliant. I liked this because it kept me guessing. The fourth Master was implied to be real because he hypnotized Spindleton but when the Doctor began accusing the fourth Master of also being an android I began wondering if Spindleton may in fact have been another Master disguise and was only pretending to be hypnotized. It would have explained his cartoonish behavior at any rate. Sadly, that was not to be, but I loved the fact that I honestly didn't know which way it would go, so when it was revealed that the Doctor was bluffing and it really was the Master it came as a genuine surprise.
The Master really shines in this one and Geoffrey Beevers gives a fantastic performance. I once read someone describe his voice as pure, velvety evil and it's a very appropriate description. He exudes this sort of creepy, lovingly evil charm. It almost seems like he caresses each word as it comes out of his mouth as he enunciates it more fully than would be normal. The fact that he has so many layers to his plan and gives the Doctor a runaround just ups his threat factor and it's such a treat to have the Master back as a villain again.
I would also like to thank Big Finish for introducing the android version of the Beevers Master. Two previous Big Finish audios, Dust Breeding and Master, also included the Beevers Master versus the seventh Doctor. This made no sense and was a direct contradiction to the novels, which had the Master gain a new regenerative cycle at this time. This always bothered me as it was a decision made because of actor availability rather than story continuity. Now with the introduction of the android version of the Beevers Master all is fixed. The seventh Doctor is facing off against the android version of the Master in those two stories and that fixes everything. It also means that the android version of the Master can turn up again whenever big finish wants and can have him face off against any of the Doctors after the fourth.
All the performances are good this time. Tom is still clearly having the time of his life and I love the scene where he's bluffing the Master. Louise Jameson gives it her all. I love the rapport that she gains with the horse and I also like how she slaps the Master when he tries to hypnotize her. The Kraals are annoying, but they're supposed to be annoying. Voice actors John Banks and Dan Starkey have clearly done their research and they give a performance that comes straight from the Android Invasion. Michael Cochrane returns as Col. Spindleton. He's still good at saying poor lines, which is kind of a shame because I'd have loved for him to get something decent to act.
I really love that such care was taken in recreating the sounds from the classic series as well. There are all the sounds from The Android Invasion reproduced in loving detail. The Master is even carrying a staser from Gallifrey, which makes its characteristic sound effect. The music also compliments this piece. We no longer seem to be going for the callbacks to Dudley Simpson but what is there is nice enough.
That isn't to say that there aren't a few problems with the story. Spindleton goes from deranged big game hunter to political hack. This is the kind of character that one creates who is so polarized into politics that they can't see their political foes as anything other than the most cliched characters. No one like Spindleton could possibly exist. He no longer even provides comic relief in these two episodes and is just annoying. If Tyngworg was one of the Master androids all along why did he create the Doctor android? Surely that's something that could only backfire with no real benefit. If the Master had a fail safe in case someone rooted around for his memories that he'd deleted from his androids why does it take so long to activate? You'd think that he'd want that to activate as soon as someone accessed the files. Why didn't the Master use his override to destroy his duplicate when it turned on him? Why does Leela use earth-animal comparisons when describing the Kraals? Surely she'd compare them to something from her own homeworld instead. Why did the Master need this elaborate plan just to break into UNIT HQ? He's demonstrated the ability to steal quite adeptly on a number of questions and all of this other stuff just gives more of a potential for things to go wrong as they ultimately did.
Final Rating: 8/10
Recommendation: It's a fun romp that finally delivers on the promise of a confrontation between the fourth Doctor and the Master. The return of the Kraals is done well and the Master's schemes are just what you'd expect from him. It was nostalgic and fun but also something that I think that new listeners could appreciate as well. I'd definitely recommend it.