The Warlords of Apshai


Gareth Preston

May, 1998

"The Warlords of Apashi" was the most ambitious of the tapes I've heard, but ultimately it also fell the furthest. The storyline was rather contrived and riddled with fannish obsessions. Bringing old Doctors and Masters back only reduced them in stature, especially the extra Masters who became mere henchmen running about the corridors. Technically, though, it was a good production and it had a good sense of scale.


Daniel Burnett

September, 1998

I myself am currently planning my own audio series and I think I always will admire these people. I believe to judge these stories you must take a few things into consideration. One, they are American. In some ways this makes it sound profesional but at others it seeps out. Two, from the picture of the cast I saw they only have six people. (About six.) Now the product is pretty good for six people. Not to mention the fact that they have been doing it for so long.

The Warlords of Apshai saw the group's own three Doctors against three Masters. An interesting concept which was highly entertaining. The use of stock music was fantastic. They got what seems to be mostly music from the 1996 telemovie and it fit in to the fast action pace the story has so well.

The Doctor was well played, the most recent that is. However, I found it difficult to tell the first two apart at times. Actually I even mixed the master up once or twice, but when you listen to it a few times you get the hang of it.

The concept was, of course, quite entertaining. Although some facts about the time manipulator could [be greatly] contradictory. But hey, it's just a bit of fun.

I treat this story as an entertaining piece I LOVE to listen to and as a little piece of Doctor Who's 35th anniversary which draws ever near. It is good that they are playing the stories in Real Audio because It's WAY to expensive for me to order any tapes here in Australia. All I do is use the record button and then transfer it onto tape. Simple, easy, and free.

To the cast, crew, and writers I say this:

Keep up the excellent work. I will always look up at you and think of you truly as the original group!


Ben Chatham

March 2008

Plot:

The Master (under the cunning pseudonym of ‘Mr. Sugent’) finances an archaeological dig on the barren planet of Delta Pyson V to uncover the Event Manipulator, a device which can rewrite history with no pesky side effects. The Master stuffs around with history, creating total chaos to distract the Time Lords while he gets down to work, summoning two previous incarnations of himself to help him study the event manipulator. However, a strange force draws the Doctor and Dara to the planet, along with two previous versions of himself (the “Ninth” and “Tenth” Doctors) and the latest Doctor concludes the Event Manipulator’s creators, the Apshai, are not extinct but controlling things from behind the scenes. Realizing that their battle is being played out for the Apshai’s benefit, the Doctors and the Masters declare a truce. The Apshai possess Dara and explain that this is a contest to determine if they are capable of ascending to the next level and becoming as powerful as the Apshai themselves. The Doctors and the Masters agree to wage a war using androids, and to force the Doctor to lose, the Master captures the TARDIS to blackmail him. However, the TARDIS is sentient and by kidnapping it, the Master has broken the rules of the war and loses by default. The former incarnations return to their own time streams and the Doctor siezes control of a true Event Manipulator... and uses it to destroy every other Event Manipulator, rendering the Apshai powerless. The time travelers flee Delta Pyson V as it is destroyed by the feedback.

Story:

Considering anniversay stories are continuity-heavy runarounds, The Warlords of Apshai doesn’t quite fit well with the continuity of other audio stories. The Master (and his younger selves) want the Doctor dead, rather than just an act to confuse the Time Lords as established in Countdown to Armageddon and Apollyon, and the Doctor’s dark secrets make a nonsense of many earlier stories (though it does match up with both Fictional Hypothesis and The Backbone of Night). The Three Masters is a story never used for very good reason – apart from anything else, the three here are technically the same incarnation and even if they were different incarnations, are too similar in character to be worth bringing back. It’s a pity the Master did not vary to any real degree during the classic, as with this line up there is none of the inter-incarnation rivalry that justifies multi-Doctor stories (whereas, say, a Jacobi Master and Simms Master confrontation could probably justify an entire spin off). Also, since neither the Savage nor Colborn Doctors are supposed to be TV incarnations, why not simply create new incarnations of the Master?

The opening sequence is particularly dire (the moment where Ferris runs off and the Master helplessly demands he run back and die like a man is a true nadir). However, there are plenty of good moments, like the Master’s failsafe of making the latest incarnation a Cheetah-free Time Lord before going into battle, and the Doctor and the Master having a truce ups the ante more than expected. Ferris is totally surplus to requirements, however, providing a bit of exposition before requiring everything in the series explained to him, which in turn means the previous Doctors stand around doing nothing. The plot could have worked fine with just one Doctor and one Master, especially the way the Master’s treachery ends the godlike battle so quickly (but in a credible manner allowing the story to continue). As the story notes, things would be very different had Mark [Triyad] been present to organize the battle, so it’s a pity the Segal Doctor didn’t have a companion with him. Peter Hinchman would have livened things up no end.

The Apshai bear more than a resemblance to the aliens in Blake’s 7: The Sevenfold Crown, though they probably aren’t supposed to be. Nevertheless, the unseen godlike aliens who leave a challenge which will allow a mortal to ascend to their level and communicate with wailing cast member’s voices seems dangerously similar. The Apshai and the Event Manipulator aren’t bad ideas, but the fact they are not mentioned ever again (or before) makes them an alien of the week.

The pacing is off as well, with the massive fight for the power of the gods introduced towards the end of part three and ending half way through the next episode. The rest is just causing chaos and fixing it with the Event Manipulator, which as a concept is so obviously what the Master would be after the explanation for why he hasn’t gone for it at the very start strains credibility (he’s only just found out about it...) All in all, this story’s attempts to be epic are undercut at every turn.

Personal Appreciation: ***
Considering the incredibly cretinous elements on display, the total experience is very enjoyable.

Character Stuff:

The latest and earliest Doctors can’t stand the David Segal Doctor, thinking him derivative of the Fourth and he only gets any respect by agreeing with the Coburn Doctor. The Vincent Savage Doctor seems to be a kind of cross between the first and second Doctors, casually puncturing the others’ posturing and generally getting in the way. Which is more than Segal’s Doctor does. The Doctor concedes his crusade to save the galaxy is an attempt to make up for his past sins and suspects Dara needs to know what it is. The latest Doctor is getting overweight as he mainly eats jelly babies.

The Master is unable to purge himself of the Cheetah Virus, forcing him to wear sunglasses and wanting to hunt down prey and taunt victims – the kind of annoying habit his past selves are annoyed and embarrassed by. He goes to great lengths to set up a scheme to unearth the Event Manipulator so he can kill all the workers with remote controlled tissue compression, which is really rather pathetic when you think about it. The withered corpse Master is barely able to control his anger and seems to be the dumbest of the lot, while his immediate predecessor is a calm voice of reason. They are understandably put out at their crap future, and it is the “Ainley” Master that screws up everything by trying to be extra clever. The emaciated Master blames the Doctor for his condition, but the Doctor denies it.

Dara acts unsurprisingly bossy when forced to take the Jo Grant role of mediating between Doctors. She’s got a rough working history of Earth in the twenty-second century and is willing to ignore the Doctor’s advice and stay with him. **** IT! TAKE A HINT AND LEAVE!!!

Observations:

Does Vincent Savage actually exist? Cause he sounds like David Segal talking in a deep voice. Was Vincent simply not available that day? Like he wasn’t available for the regeneration scene in The Andromeda Syndrome?

Whoa. Jim DeNatyle is in this! That’s like Colin Baker appearing in The Five Doctors as Maxil! (Which he was supposed to do so anyway, but I’m trying to be impressed here).

The first appearance of Silurians in the audios and we can’t understand a ****** word they’re saying!

Holographic controls? So there are not physical controls, just a light image? How the **** you work those?

The Masters’ plans to use the Event Manipulator to change the Doctor’s personality are wickedly cool. Pity they never get round to using it. Ever. Imagine if they did, the Master wouldn’t have an excuse to slaughter people, the poor *******.

Just how do the past Doctors arrive on the planet? Were they summoned or did they arrive by TARDIS? If so, what happened to Landon, the Segal Doctor’s companion? Just how do they get back?

The Doctor’s reaction to being stuck in a floating bubble: playing with action figures to freak out his captors and pass the time. Respect!

The bit where the Pratt Master goes psycho is actually scary. And the Pratt Master is played by Chip Jamison. Ergo, there is a bit in this where Chip Jamison does not suck with the power of an isolated singularity. Amazing but true.

All these good ideas, yet people have to quote Logopolis and multi Doctor stories instead of coming up with their own dialogue? ***-*** H ***-*****!

What’s Dara driveling about, not being in the ‘real’ TARDIS? Is that what the Event Manipulator has reshaped itself into?

The Doctor’s defeat of the Apshai is obvious in retrospect but has the “wow” factor at the time – no mean feat, as it’s a factor countless people wish they had in their stories.

Preposterous Plot Points:

This seems the best place to tackle the whole idea of the Doctor’s dark past:

Are we honestly supposed to believe that university drop out and play it safe Theta Sigma was once a megalomaniac who tried to conquer the universe and slaughtered countless lives? Sure, it might lead to an incredibly cool story in Backbone of Night, but let's be honest, that could have featured any Doctor-angst. It didn't need the idea the teenage Doctor was like a cross between Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler and Michael Grade, devastating the whole of the universe and then pretending nothing happened SO convincingly that it might as well NOT have happened!

As Dara points out, if the Master had this kind of emotional blackmail over the Doctor he would have **** well used it by now! Apart from anything else, surely the Master would be asking for advice on how to take over the galaxy rather than killing the Doctor? This retcon is so ludicrously awesome it suggests this story occurs in a separate continuity to the rest of the audio dramas, let alone normal Doctor Who. Worse, it’s strongly hinted the Master is just playing a cunning psychological game (which is fair enough at the time) but then revealed he’s actually telling the truth. But he knows the Doctor values his TARDIS over keeping the secret kept... This is ****! The implied suggestion that they were waiting for the right moment is **** as well!

This, coupled with the never-mentioned-before-or-since Apshai, who apparently are Eternals writ large, and the universe is an echo of their endless games. OK, surely the series should end when the Doctor destroys all the event manipulators and ends the Apshai game? I mean, the most fundamental part of existence is removed and no one notices? **** it, that settles it, no WAY is this canon.

Also, while the Doctor is a lapsed pacifist, he knows far too much about strategy and military knowledge that THREE WHOLE INCARNATIONS couldn’t even get a decent plan together against the Master! One would expect a tough fight if nothing else, and so does the Master!

And why doesn’t the “Pratt” Master use the Event Manipulator to fix his body at the very start? OK, maybe he’s too insane from agony to think of it, but the others should have noticed.

Notable Dialogue:

Gratuitous use of the title:
DARA: (POSSESSED) We are the mighty Warlords of Apshai.

The last exchange betwixt Doctor and Master --
MASTER: I believe I owe you an apology, Doctor... I should have said this sooner. The look on your face is priceless.
DOCTOR: What brought on this sudden change of heart?
MASTER: Yours. I never truly believed... I’ve seen you reject power, but never power on your own terms.
DOCTOR: That is the difference between us. I don’t need it any more.
MASTER: Yes. I see that now. We truly follow two different paths. However, if you interfere in my affairs in the future, I WILL kill you... old friend.

DARA: It looks like the Master.
VS DOCTOR: Ah, so you’ve met him. My condolences.
DARA: Well, in a way, I wouldn’t have met the Doctor if it wasn’t for him.
(Yeah, big consolation to the poor suckers you murdered while under the influence.)

PRATT MASTER: There lies the difference between us, Doctor. While we play with stellar matter and genetic code, you choose to play with toys!

FERRIS: Is this some kind of control console?
DARA: It’s like stained glass.
VS DOCTOR: To our humanoid eyes perhaps.
JC DOCTOR: Yes, the Master must have designed his controls to suit himself.
DARA: So there’s no telling what the Apshai would use?
VS DOCTOR: Indeed. A collection of stones? A sand painting? A musical instrument? A good old fashioned keyboard? The controls can be designed to suit any life form. The ultimate computer interface.

VS DOCTOR: It’s a calculated risk.
JC DOCTOR: Who wants life to be predictable?

Someone else is unimpressed with the story line:
DELGADO MASTER: Three Doctors and three Masters. Meh.

The Segal Doctor hates Dara as much as I do --
DS DOCTOR: Explain it to her, won’t you? She’s YOUR companion!
JC DOCTOR: Yes, yes, all right.

The Vincent Savage Doctor has the last word --
FERRIS: I’d rather take my chances out there, thank you much.
JC DOCTOR: Then you’ll live in a universe hostile to your very existence! If the Master gets what he wants here, you and every other living thing will be at the mercy of tyrants they can never defeat and forces you can never control, let alone understand! Unless we stand and fight, Mr Ferris, generations to come will never have to freedom to even hope for death --
VS DOCTOR: I do wish you’d all have your debates when I’m not trying to study this thing!

JC DOCTOR: You’re a good friend, Dara. A much better one than I deserve. I’m not sure you’d feel the same if you knew how much suffering I caused. All because of my arrogance. "I asked of heaven every fair star... and of the Earth every highest zest..."
DS DOCTOR: "And all things near and far could not appease our deeply troubled breast."
(Long silence.)
VS DOCTOR: (TO DARA) They’re misquoting it, you know.
DS DOCTOR: What?!
JC DOCTOR: We’re trying to provide mythical analogue and you just...
DS DOCTOR: Why do I even bother with himself?!

Very creepy moment as the Master outlines his goals for the future --
MASTER: The Master does not suffer... alone.

Cliffhangers:

  1. The “Eleventh” Doctor confronts the three Masters who reveal they plan to use the Event Manipulator to make themselves the “Master of Everything”.
  2. The Masters start to crush the wormhole the three Doctors, Dara and Farris. “Farewell forever,” the First Master quotes evilly from Castrovalva cliffhanger one.
  3. On the eve of the battle, the three Doctors muse that the problem is not just defeating the Masters but also the Apshai themselves. The “Eleventh” Doctor admits he has no idea how to do it.
  4. Reveling in his true freedom, the “Eleventh” Doctor decides to formally introduce his two best friends (the universe and Dara) to each other. “Now then,” he whispers, “where do we begin?”

Miscellaneous:

We get four sets of opening credits with this story, with Jeffrey Coburn’s face superimposed over them all. The Vincent Savage title sequence uses the “Season 28” logo from Doctor Who Magazine’s What If? article, over a mesh of Pertwee titles, an animated TARDIS and Jon Pertwee crooning I am the Doctor. It’s such a cool collage you wish the genuine TV show had used it.

The David Segal one is basically just the early Tom Baker title sequence with a different diamond logo, and the Jeffry Coburn first one is just the 1980s title sequence with the Howell music and a remastered logo. More interesting is the titles for episode two, which fuse the Season 11 title sequence with the aborted Tom Baker one, all to the original Hartnell theme music and another logo. Oh, and the end credits to part four have the Paul McGann TV Movie music, revealing this story is not as thirtieth anniversary as it could be.

What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:

- Ditch the Three Doctors/Three Masters idea... or at least do it properly with individual incarnations playing a vital role in proceedings.

- Scrap Ferris in favor for more focus on the universal chaos being unleashed.

- A way better explanation/justification for the evil past of the Doctor.

The Party Line:

Thethirtieth season gets off to a great start with some deep character development for the Doctor and a new alien menace that is the most powerful yet seen. While some may consider the idea of previous incarnations of the Master getting together with several Doctors an event whose time should never come, it is handled with great finesse by writer Joseph Medina. While both the Delgado Master and the Segal Doctor come off somewhat bland, the rest are very well served by their respective personas. And the prize they are all vying for — essentially the power of God — makes Apshai a tale worthy of its epic proportions.

The Awful Truth:

Asever, the story in no way lives up to the hype but it is an enjoyable runaround making a plot out of various ingredients with reasonable success. But it’s hard to feel nostalgia for a Doctor you don’t know and an actor who’s been in every single story since his reign ended. It’s enjoyable romp factor outweighs its attempts to be epic (and The Glorious Dead used the same subject matter far better) and ironically feels like business as usual. It’s summed up best by the Master discussing the Doctor’s past – intriguing but falls apart under close scrutiny.


Last updated: Friday, March 28, 2008