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“Mr. Marshall has brought us to a very out of the way part of the galaxy.”

A derelict space station above an uninhabited, resource depleted oceanic planet.  But is all as it seems?

Summoned to this galactic backwater in search of the missing Leela, the Doctor and his intrepid K-9 uncover an underground gambling operation for the very rich…

Working a particularly timely milieu of a Sadean plutocracy utilizing the life and death struggles of an ever-expanding underclass for their personal entertainment, author Matt Fitton revisions the most Decadent of Masters (that of the ever-impressive Geoffrey Beevers) as the ringleader of a sort of handsfree Most Dangerous Game by way of Fight Club and MMA.

And with ever increasing numbers of the former middle class tumbling inexorably into the worse end of a perpetually widening economic gap bolstered by an international fixation on the effective Roman gladiatorial arena of ultraviolent “sports”, the inexcusable manipulation of “reality TV” and the Gitmo-inspired growth of the “torture porn” aesthetic in television and film, it’s really not too far of a stretch to see Death Match as an indictment of a very contemporaneous societal malaise…

Just how prescient was Vengeance on Varos, anyway?  Fitton dares to broach the subject, updating the material to incorporate the rather more visceral and intense vibe of postmillenial culture while still managing to keep things from getting too gruesome or out of hand.  Condemnation without a sniggeringly concomitant celebration thereof, as it were – in and of itself a true rarity in this day and age.

“I’m forgetting…no moral compass, have you?”
“On the contrary.  I find the question of morality fascinating…how far can it bend before it breaks?”

Beevers essays the role of The Master with aplomb, delving further into the underpinnings of the character than even the suave and sinister Roger Delgado dared broach.  In effect, he makes what may appear to be a cogent case for evil, elitism and the manipulation of standards to suit personal convenience.

Is anyone truly surprised at his string of self-serving betrayals?  It’s all about himself and his own ephemeral desires, in the end – beyond any sort of “me firstism” or “selfishness”, it becomes apparent that in his world, no one else even exists.

Further than Miltonian (or Caldwellian for that matter), he offers the most particularly Sadean of Masters in a sense that displays an enviable understanding of the mad philosopher cum “erotic” author – leaving the trappings behind to approach the bitter narcissism and Nietzchean core of a filter which drives an increasingly blatant segment of the polticosocial powerbase.

Beware the seductive wordplay and smooth obfuscation, he warns, lest you too fall victim to the atavistic totalitarian horrors such men unleash on “lesser beings”…by which we mean everyone but those in question…on a whim of pleasure, a fit of pique.  It’s positively stunning in the implications.

However deliberate the intention and crafting thereof, and to what measure credit belongs to actor vs. author is hard to determine offhand – but given Beevers’ track record with the character in Big Finish audios to date, it’s undeniable he plays a major role herein.  Hats off to you, sir.

John Leeson gets another chance to shine with more airtime than he seemed to be getting just a month or two back.  As with this month’s The Well-Mannered War, his ever delightful K-9 is given more than a stray line or two to dig into, and it’s a welcome change indeed.

“I do not have idiotic quo-qu-lo-lillicisms…”

Louise Jameson’s Leela is stuck in an unfortunate situation this go around, more or less delimited to angry grunts, calls to battle and cries of vengeance by the dictates of her role in the titular ‘game’, but she does what she can, throwing herself into the part with what has become her typical degree of force and vigor.  Baker, as ever, is a wry comic wonder, one rapid fire quip and non sequitor after another.  It’s not for nothing that he’s long been considered the sine qua non of the many men to essay the role.

Not sure how I feel about Damian Lynch’s erstwhile Rocket Man Marshall developing something of a mutual romantic liason with Jameson’s Leela, particularly after her ignominious televised sendoff with unlikely “love interest” Andred in Invasion of Time, but there you have it – at least Marshall can trade a quip or two for his keep, and it becomes something of a moot point in the end regardless.

While the particulars of the action feel somewhat tangenital to the core issues being addressed, thus leaving somewhat of an unresolved sensation in the listener come conclusion, the central performances are strong enough, and atmospherics tactile enough, to give this one a hearty thumbs up.