Reviewed By: JMChurch25
Review Date: 12/5/18 10:15 pm
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*SPOILERS FOR "REQUIEM FOR THE ROCKET MEN"* In the process of leaving the Doctor after the events of 'Requiem', Leela has been drugged and kidnapped by the Master for his own nefarious ends. Those ends turn out to be taking charge of a dueling complex known simply as the Death-Match, a place where the evilest beings in the universe bring their own champions to fight to the death for glory and entertainment. The Master's champion? Leela herself. When a space-time telegraph from a side character from the previous story reaches the Doctor and K9, the pair race in the TARDIS to save her. But with the rule of the Death-Match being kill or be killed, will the Doctor and Leela be able to get out alive even when facing the most skilled warriors and beasts on the duel room floor?.....
As a continuation of the story of 'Requiem' and as a story in its own right, I'm thankful to say that "Death Match" is just as strong as its predecessor albeit in very different ways. Serving as a completely different sort of story with a much more visceral feel to it, the script by Matt Fitton finds plenty of opportunities for character development as well as the intense battle scenarios that you'd expect from such a premise. It's appropriately sci-fi and grand for a battle royale soundscape and it even allows for a bit of a surprise romance to happen. I won't spoil how that works here but it's been built up for a little while and it's a nice little touch even if it goes exactly where you'd expect.
The highlight here, however, is in not the Death-Match itself but the surrounding circumstances and in particular the dialogue and cast. In particular, this audio delivers a strong ideological debate between the Doctor and the Master that is easily the highlight of the entire two-part story. There is a nice juxtaposition between the two that's really highlighted pushes Baker and Beevers to the limit with both of their personalities and performances. The acting between the two is absolutely superb in this confrontation and it's worth savoring as it doesn't happen between this Doctor and Master very often. But Louise Jameson and John Gleeson totally deserve credit as well for what they do in turning in great performances and in getting plenty to do in infiltrating and taking care of the situation. Even the side cast in a morally ambiguous supporter played by Susan Brown and a traitorous staff member played by Andy Secombe are fantastic. They really bring out a fun side to the Master that allows him to relax and just be gleefully evil though both go exactly the way you'd expect them to in dealing with a force such as him in the end.
With two-part Fourth Doctor stories, there is a tendency for them to have a strong first half setting up a good premise that's let down with a weak or disappointing second half. With this in mind, "Death Match" doesn't fall into this trap and is a great story with lots to enjoy about it all the way through. It's not going to win any awards any time soon and it's not the absolute strongest story in the world. But for what it is, it's still a blast especially when combined with 'Requiem' and it's easily the best overall two-part story that the Fourth Doctor and Leela have to offer in audio form.