The Missy Adventures: Girl Talk – Starring Niki McGrane, Cliff Chapman, Josh Coy, Micky Wildman, Graham Bowers, Richard Walters, Andrew Creak, and Katie Louise Brock. Wriiten by Tony J. Fyler (On Fleak Productions)
Doctor Who has a very long history on audio, going all the way back to the days when amateurs made off-air audio recordings of the television show. Many of these became invaluable pieces of archive material, particularly after the wiping of so many 1960s-era episodes. And before Big Finish became the audio juggernaut it is today, there were radio serials (Slipback, The Paradise of Death, The Ghosts of N-Space) and some early audiobooks of Target novelizations – first only released to the visually impaired, but eventually made available to the general public. Literally thousands of audios of Doctor Who-related material have been released by many different companies over the years, including the aforementioned Big Finish, as well as BBV, Magic Bullet Productions, Cosmic Hobo (later Bafflegab) and others. But before all these professional and semi-professional production companies came into existence there was Audio Visuals, a series of fan-created audio plays starring Nicholas Briggs as the Doctor. Many writers, actors, producers and directors that are now involved with professional Doctor Who audio (and, indeed, the television show itself) honed their craft during their time at this fledgling organization, which used to distribute its audio plays via mail on audio cassette.
So, it’s no surprise that in this age of podcasts and downloads a number of non-professional audio-producing organizations have materialized on the Internet, essentially doing the 2018 version of what Audio Visuals did back in the 1980s Many of them produce stories with their own incarnations of the Doctor as well as new, non-canonical companions. Others utilize established characters and simply recast the voice actors.
One such production organization that has made a name for it self in recent months is On Fleak. The brainchild of producer/actor Andrew Creak and writer/script editor Tony J. Fyler, On Fleak begin releasing stories several months ago starring an “unbound” 13th Doctor, played by Creak himself. The first of these was a regeneration story entitled, Gallifrey Reborn, in which Christopher Thomson played his own version of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, before morphing into Creak’s 13th. Also appearing in that story was the character of Missy, this time played by Niki McGrane (not yet married, she was then credited under her maiden name, Niki Rosenbaum). According to Andrew Creak, “We loved Niki playing Missy in our debut audio, and we wanted to work with her more. And when Tony (Fyler) suggested we make a spin off for Missy, I was hooked!” Thus came about The Missy Adventures, a series of audios that, according to the On Fleak website, “lets us see into the world of The Mistress when the Doctor isn’t around to keep her in check.”
Girl Talk, the debut audio in this spinoff series, begins with Missy as a prisoner of the Mouse Trap, a state-of-the-art prison that sits right beyond the event horizon of a “temperanova”, a white hole that is bleeding time into the rest of the universe. At the story’s outset, Missy has already subdued one of the Mouse Trap’s guards and is threatening him in her own deliciously malevolent manner.
One generally goes into these amateur productions with decidedly low expectations. It seems like everyone and his mother has the technical capacity to make an audio of some sort nowadays, and this fact has led to a plethora of productions of highly varying quality. However, Girl Talk is a very refreshing surprise. For a non-professional play, its production standards are generally excellent, and it moves along at a very comfortable pace. A tightly-written character piece, this story gives us a chance to see not only into Missy’s motivations, but into the old Master’s mind as well, including his motivations to regenerate into a female form. Niki McGrane plays a delightfully evil Missy, and although much of her performance is a pastiche of Michelle Gomez’s interpretation, she is able to inject enough of herself into the role to make it her own. In one piece of maniacal sadism, Missy threatens one of the Mouse Trap residents with the complete extinction of his genetic line. She tells the guard, “In 52 minutes, relative time, Alonzo the Galaxy Crusher from B block is going to break into the Robo-Governor’s office, and then he’s going to make a really big BANG! He’s going to do this because…I got a message through to him. I let him know that if he didn’t do that, I’d slip forward to the end of his family’s timeline and kill his final descendent. And then I’d kill their parents. And then I’d kill their parents, and their parents, and their parents.” When asked why she would do this, Missy simply responds, “Well, a girl’s got to unwind, you know, and killing a family line is sort of ‘Time Lady knitting’!”
Also exceptional in their role is Cliff Chapman playing the part of the guard. In this case, “the guard” is Missy’s hostage, and the sole witness to her machinations. Chapman’s guard manages to covey the fine line between defiance and pure, abject terror; he obviously still has his training, but he’s also found himself in a situation that he had never before prepared for. It seems that after all this time, even after “getting it right” (as Missy says about her cross-gendered regeneration) she still can’t resist an audience. And so what follows is basically a crash course in Master lore, from the moment he gazed into the Untempered Schism all the way up to his final confrontation with…um…himself—er…herself on the Mondasian generation ship in World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls. Writer Tony Fyler certainly takes some liberties with the Master’s history in this story, choosing to see his time on Earth during the Third Doctor’s exile as not so much an accidental meeting but rather something definitely planned by the Time Lords. In Fyler’s version, the Time Lords are so concerned about the state of the Doctor’s mental health that they send him the Master as a “diversion“. We also hear about many other on-screen escapades the Master got himself involved in (“Got turned into a cat – as you do!”) before becoming reborn as Missy.
One might think that there are some major similarities between Missy’s situation in Girl Talk to what really happened on screen in Season 10 and World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls. After all, haven’t we already seen her imprisoned, only to have to deal with major events involving a black hole? Writer Tony Fyler acknowledges the similarities but is also quick to point out that the script for Girl Talk was written long before the airing of Season 10 (and only slightly tweaked at recording time to include some references to that story). Realistically, the similarities are largely superficial, and are dealt with in a very different way in this audio drama compared with the events that unfolded on screen. In fact, as has already been stated, Girl Talk does not involve a black hole at all – it is, in fact, a “temperanova” a white hole that is bleeding time into the universe. And Missy’s incarceration at the Doctor’s hands in Season 10 really bears very little similarity to her imprisonment on the Mouse Trap in this story.
All in all, Girl Talk is a very nice little surprise, a glimpse at what might have been in the timeline of the Master. One warning: don’t go into this story expecting a happy ending: this is definitely the more malevolent “pre-Season 10” Missy that we are dealing with here. And if this story is indeed the beginning of a regular spinoff line, it’s very possible that the series could go into some very dark places indeed… Peter McAlpine
Girl Talk, as well as Gallifrey Reborn and the unbound 13th Doctor series, is available at the On Fleak website at http://www.onfleakproductions.co.uk/