We continue our travels through time into the modern era of Doctor Who. If you want to learn about the Master’s previous incarnations before moving on, hop on over to Part 1 of our article. Find out where it all started and how the Doctor’s main nemesis has managed to survive for so long. For everyone else, here’s everything you ever needed to know about The Master.
Dereck Jacobi/John Simms – Doctor Who returned to television in 2005 under showrunner Russell T. Davies and executive producer Julie Gardner. In the new era, we found out that the Time Lords were now all gone, the result of the Third and Last Great Time War. But in the third season, we learned that the Master was back. During the Time War, the Time Lords had resurrected the villain and given him a proper Gallifreyan body with the ability to regenerate again, hoping his ruthlessness would make him a great time warrior. But at some point, he’d decided to flee and hide by transforming his mind and biology into that of a human being. He was found by others and spent the next decades not knowing who he truly was.
This Master, played by Jacobi, was instantly a fiendish, heartless villain, but quickly regenerated into a younger, more manic incarnation who seemed to be a dark reflection of the Tenth Doctor. As Harold Saxon (who had been mentioned repeatedly since the second season), he climbed up the modern day British government and eventually became Prime Minister for a short time. He later wound up returning to Gallifrey during the last moments of the Last Great Time War, locked in battle with Rassilon, the first Time Lord.
A couple of fun facts for you: In “Life on Mars”, John Simm played Samuel Tyler, a character who’s last name was inspired by Rose Tyler of Doctor Who. “Mr. Saxon” is an anagram of “Master No. Six.” The joke makes sense because if you count Peter Pratt and Geoffrey Beevers as one incarnation, then Jon Simm was the sixth version of the Master seen in official Doctor Who live-action media.
Michelle Gomez – During the 50th anniversary adventure, we learned that Gallifrey wasn’t destroyed, it only seemed that way. In fact, it was seemingly sent out of phase with reality, into a pocket dimension. Which meant that all those Time Lords were still alive, including the Master. But now the villain had regenerated into a woman who acted very polite and proper to conceal the murderous sociopath lurking within. Played admirably by Michelle Gomez, the Mistress (or “Missy” as she now calls herself), has also expressed romantic feelings for the Doctor. Here’s hoping that gets explored more in the next series of adventures.
Tie-in media can be great for exploring new stories and filling in the gaps of old ones. In the official Doctor Who audio dramas produced by Big Finish, we learned that after temporarily getting that cheetah DNA, the Master’s Tremas body became horribly burned, which altered his vocal chords and forced him sometimes to wear a golden mask. This version of the Master was voiced by Geoffrey Beevers again. Evidently, this is how the Master was until later getting destroyed by the Daleks.
The Doctor Who Magazine comic strip revealed that following the events of the Doctor Who TV-movie, the Master’s mind projected outward and he stole another human form. He then manipulated the Doctor as part of a scheme to control all reality. He was defeated and his consciousness flung across space and time.
In the Short Trips anthology, The Centaurian by Big Finish, and the later audio play Mastermind, we learned that the Master’s consciousness survived after all and that the villain continued to regularly steal the bodies of unsuspecting humans, wearing them for a few years or a couple of decades until they start to decay. He wound up haunting the 20th century, living as a couple of different crime lords, before later becoming a prisoner in the UNIT vaults for some years. This was all, of course, before the Last Great Time War began. Once again, Geoffrey Beevers voiced this body-hopping version of the Master.
In other recent Doctor Who audio dramas, Alex MacQueen plays the Master who has just been resurrected by the Time Lords so he may fight for them. This is the Master before he runs away and regenerates into Dereck Jacobi. Featured prominently in the Eighth Doctor audio saga Dark Eyes, this Master is overjoyed at having a Time Lord body again and a new set of regenerations. He’s a vicious but flamboyant villain who occasionally rambles and loves to greet even his enemies with a suspiciously enthusiastic “Hello, you!” In a way, he’s a twisted reflection of how the Eighth Doctor behaved during his first adventure.
Wow, we talked a lot about the Master, didn’t we? Hope you learned something, kids. If you liked this type of piece, let us know and we’ll delve more into the mythology of Doctor Who and other characters.
Feature Image Source: BBC One