It’s interesting that in the extras of Mastermind Jonathan Morris says that in writing a sequel to Tales from the Vault he didn’t want to write four mini stories in one story. He just wanted to write one story for one hour long and while he definitely does this in the frame story of this audio, being the story of how the Master escapes UNIT’s Vault and gets back his TARDIS so he can take place in the Eighth Doctor Adventure novels and audios, it also tells three smaller stories. The first story is how the Master became a gangster and casino king while getting on the bad side of the mafia, having his body decay, stealing other people’s bodies, and waiting to find a way to kill the Doctor. This first story is an excellent pastiche of the film The Godfather with Geoffrey Beevers in the role of the titular godfather. There are scenes with quotes such as “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” and “It’s time to inherit the family business”. The Master’s first ‘son’ is even named Michael. The only problem that I can find with this section of the story is that the pastiche really doesn’t know if we’re supposed to take it seriously, or if it’s supposed to be funny. Beevers is playing it straight, but some of the lines in the script are clearly meant to be jokes.
The second story is a little bit into the pasts of Ruth Matheson and Charlie Sato which is quite necessary as while Tales from the Vault introduced the characters adequately enough with good motivations as to why they joined UNIT, why they would work in the Vault, and how they deal with stress, it is Mastermind that delves into their pasts. Charlie Sato wanted to be a soldier because his father died in San Francisco after he tried saving his daughter from an earthquake which brought their condo down. Charlie is trying to prove to the ghost of his father and his still living mother that his father saved the correct child. It almost shows the character to have a damaged psyche. Ruth Matheson is just as psychologically damaged as her entire unit was killed in an accident. She has post-traumatic stress disorder and blames herself for the deaths of her unit. Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso are excellent at portraying the damaged personas of their characters, but I will get back to that after I go into the third story.
The third story is the framing device where the Master has been captured by UNIT and is now being kept in the Vault. He wakes up every five years and there are several protocols for dealing with contact with the Master as established by Brigadier Lethebridge-Stewart. No operative is to spend more than ten minutes with the prisoner and the other will be watching through the entire time. If a failsafe is pressed the operatives will be taken away for the rest of their lives until they no longer are a threat. The Master of course uses his time with Ruth and Charlie to escape by manipulating those using different plans. He starts by telling them the story of how he was captured and then he tempts them with the promise that he will save their loved ones and they start to fall for it. It’s all a ruse however that Geoffrey Beevers pulls off excellently by making you question the reality of what you just heard. Ruth and Charlie are hypnotized by the Master and let him out, while pressing the failsafe button. The final scene is heartbreaking as this is most likely where the two characters will be unable to live the rest of their lives.
To summarize, Mastermind is a near perfect story. The only problem is the idea that it is the Master being the Godfather from The Godfather, but Beevers doesn’t know how to pull this off either dramatically or with comedy. Beevers is excellent in the audio otherwise and Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso do excellent in their roles with Jonathan Morris’