The Master (Doctor Who)
|Name:||The Master (Nickname at the Academy: Koschei) (Aliases: Professor Thascalos, Gilles Estram, Harold Saxon, Missy, etc.)|
|Title/Rank:||former Prime Minister of the U.K., self proclaimed "queen of evil"|
|Location:||Gallifrey, Earth, unknown|
|Relationships:||married to Lucy Saxon; claimed the Doctor as her "boyfriend" (but may have been kidding), shared two onscreen kisses with him|
|Other:||played by various actors, including Roger Delgado (1971-1973), Anthony Ainley (1981-1989), Eric Roberts (1996), Derek Jacobi (2007), John Simm (2007-2010), and Michelle Gomez (2014-present).|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Roger Delgado's Master
Conceived as the Doctor's archenemy, the Master first appeared on television in 1971 opposite the Third Doctor. His first story, Terror of the Autons, established that he and the Doctor had known each other for many years and that their relationship was antagonistic. However, there was an underlying tone of camaraderie and grudging, mutual admiration. This could be due to Roger Delgado and Jon Pertwee's real life friendship. Delgado's Master appears in eight television stories, but due to the actor's untimely death, what was supposed to be the Master's last story, The Final Game, was canceled, and the character was not seen for several years.
Peter Pratt's Master
The Master, now played by Peter Pratt, reappeared in the Fourth Doctor serial, "The Deadly Assassin". This version of the Master was quite different than his suave, gentlemanly predecessor; the Master was on his last regeneration, and was a wilting, rotting husk, close to death. This same version of the Master (although now played by Geoffrey Beevers) returns in the Fourth Doctor's penultimate story, The Keeper Of Traken, where he snatches the body of Traken council member, Tremas, played by Anthony Ainley.
Anthony Ainley's Master
Ainley officially became the Master and was the main antagonist in the next two serials, Logopolis, in which he triggers the Fourth Doctor's regeneration by causing him to fall from a radio telescope, and Castrovalva, the first story of the Fifth Doctor. Ainley's Master continued to appear regularly throughout the Classic era, four more times in the Five era, twice in the Sixth, and once in the Seventh Doctor's era, in the very last story of Classic Doctor Who, Survival. (Ainley also played the Master in the 1997 Doctor Who video game, Destiny Of The Doctors, the only actor from the series that returned to perform a live action role.)
Eric Robert's Master
The Master was the featured villain in the 1996 television movie with Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor. The Master had been captured and put on trial (presumably by the Daleks, since the Doctor claimed the Master had been executed on Skaro, the Daleks' home planet), and put to death for his crimes. His last wish was for his ashes to be taken to Gallifrey by his nemesis, the Doctor, who was still in his seventh incarnation. The Master, however, managed to remain alive, in the form of a gelatinous snake, and sabotaged the Doctor's TARDIS, making it emergency-land in San Francisco, in late December of 1999. While the Doctor was shot during a gang fight, the Master overtook and possessed the body of a paramedic, played by Eric Roberts, and continued to plague the newly regenerated Eighth Doctor until his demise at the end of the film.
It was unsure whether the Master would return in the New era, as the Doctor had claimed to have been the last of his race due to the devastation of the Last Great Time War, from which the Doctor was the only survivor, but in 2007, the villain returned, hiding in human form at the end of the universe. He had been resurrected by the Time Lords as "the perfect warrior" to fight in the Time War, but fled in fear and hid himself away. He was portrayed briefly by Derek Jacobi, but was shot by his assistant and regenerated into the form played by John Simm.
John Simm's Master
The Master stole the Doctor's TARDIS and traveled to contemporary London, England, where he took up the guise of Harold Saxon, and was elected Prime Minister, using one of his oldest and most signature techniques: mind control. However, the combined efforts of the Doctor and his companion, Martha Jones, defeated the evil Time Lord. The Master was then shot by his wife, Lucy, and died in the Doctor's arms, refusing to regenerate. He considered the Doctor's anguish at his death a victory.
The Master was resurrected by a cult group in the Tenth Doctor's last episode, "The End Of Time", but the process was sabotaged by Lucy, and the genetic makeup of the Master was unstable, needing massive amounts of food-and even human flesh-to sustain himself, and expelling bolts of his own life energy from the palms of his hands. The Master managed to turn every member of the human race (with the exception of Wilfred Mott and Donna Noble) into DNA copies of himself, but was once again thwarted, this time, by the council of the Time Lords themselves, led by the great Time Lord Rassilon. The Time Lords (and the planet of Gallifrey) had been summoned from the Time War by the Master due to an implant in his brain (the "drums"), installed when he was eight years old, which was essentially the reason the Master was insane in the first place. The Doctor destroyed the link (and the Master's implant), sending the Time Lords back to their proper place in space and time. Rassilon attempted to kill the Doctor, but the Master defended him, and exacted his revenge on the Time Lords for torturing him his whole life. The Master disappeared with the Time Lords and wasn't heard from again...
Michelle Gomez's Master
...until the eighth series in 2014. A mysterious and whimsical character calling herself "Missy" appeared in the first episode, "Deep Breath" and continued to make cameos until the next-to-last episode, "Dark Water", where she revealed that Missy was short for "Mistress", her true identity being the Master, becoming the first onscreen Time Lord to switch genders (the concept had been mentioned before, with the Corsair in "The Doctor's Wife", but never explored). The Master, or Mistress, raised a Cyberman army from all the dead humans on Earth, and gifted it to the Twelfth Doctor for his birthday, claiming that they are "not so different" and that she "needs her friend back". The Doctor rejected the gift (though he kindly thanked her with a kiss) and the Cyberman army destroyed itself under the direction of Danny Pink. Clara Oswald demanded that the Doctor kill the Master, but before he could, the Master was shot with a blast (presumed to be a disintegration ray) from the Cyber Brigadier. Before she supposedly died (although disintegration beams are typically orange, and this beam was blue, so it may have been a transmat beam), the Master gave the Doctor coordinates to where he could find their lost home planet, but the coordinates were fake.
Michelle Gomez returned as the Master in series 9, and featured prominently in the two-part opener, "The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar". In season 10, it was revealed that the Doctor saved her from execution and now Missy is his prisoner, locked in a vault. She has promised to be good, and in later episodes struggles with guilt for all the crimes she has committed, and the millions she has killed. Missy's gradual reformation results in the Doctor giving her more freedom. She lead a rescue mission in the finale, and her commitment to reform is tested when she encounters her former self in the form of John Simm's Master. Initially betraying the Doctor to return to her old ways, The Master's plan inevitably gets out of hand and when all seems lost, she tries to return to the Doctor as his ally. She stabs John Simm's Master, but he in turn kills her to prevent another incarnation of the Master aligning themselves with the Doctor.
Sacha Dhawan's Master
The Doctor's best enemy returned in season 12 (but fandom is still debating if this regeneration is a pre-Missy version of the Master or a post-Missy regeneration). Masquerading as MI-6 agent O, the Master has been texting the Doctor for years and the Doctor enlists his help to investigate mysterious deaths. The Doctor eventually thwarts the Master's plan to turn the human race into hard drives, but even stranded in another dimension, the Master has the last word. He leaves a geo-locked message for the Doctor, revealing that he destroyed Gallifrey.
When the Master next appears, he takes the Doctor to the Citadel and traps her in a paralysis field. His mental projection accompanies her into the Matrix, as the truth of the Timeless Child, and his reasons for destroying Gallifrey, are revealed. Meanwhile, the Master's physical self kills Ashaad, takes possession of the Cyberium, and creates an army of CyberMasters with regenerative abilities. When the Doctor escapes the Matrix, he goads her to destroy all organic life on Gallifrey. She is unable to, but Ko Sharmus returns to detonate the death particle while the Doctor escapes. The Master unwilling to let anyone but the Doctor kill him, is also believed to have escaped.
Other versions of the Master include Jonathan Pryce's Master from the 1999 Comic Relief short film, The Curse Of Fatal Death, in which the Master attempts over and over to kill the Doctor, but by the end ends up eloping with a female incarnation of the Doctor played by Joanna Lumley. There is also the Master from the 2003 web cartoon, Scream Of The Shalka, a failed attempt to reboot the series before its official return in 2005. The Master is voiced by Derek Jacobi (who would later play him in the live action TV series) and is apparently an android, living on the TARDIS with the Doctor.
Having recklessly used up all his regenerations, the Master stole a body twice ('Keeper of Traken' and 'Doctor Who: The Movie') and was once awarded an additional regeneration cycle by governing Time Lords (The Five Doctors), though he never received them. There have been a total of eight different incarnation of the Master onscreen, and it is hard to tell which one he/she/they is up to now. It is presumably at least sixteen, because a Time Lord originally has thirteen lives, and the Master is currently on the third (that we know of) of a new cycle.
The Master's, like the Doctor's, origins are unclear. It can be taken from canon and paracanon that the Master grew up like the Doctor did, and went to the Prydonian Academy with him. Some fans thought the Master was secretly the Doctor's brother (due to a line from Fifth Doctor serial Planet Of Fire: "Won't you show mercy to your own-"), but this theory was dismissed by a conversation in the 2007 episode, "The Sound of Drums". The Master was the Doctor's best friend in their youth, though the Master's madness (inflicted by the drums) and slow turn to the dark side deteriorated their friendship. He, like the Doctor, eventually became a renegade Time Lord, and left Gallifrey to journey the cosmos, seeking to conquer, instead of merely explore like his former friend.
That one line from the Planet of Fire continues to inspire many headcanons about the exact nature of the pre-canon relationship between the Master and the Doctor. Some fans headcanon that the two were just friends, while others theorize they may have been married or related through marriage, and that Susan Foreman may have been the Master's granddaughter, as well as the Doctor's granddaughter.
A companion novel published in 1997, revealed that the Master was previously known as Koschei. There are fans who view these extended universe novels as canon, and fans who do not. Originally, some fans rejected the name Koschei as it didn't appear to fit Time Lord naming conventions. These childhood names, or school nicknames, are often rooted in Latin or Greek, whereas Koschei is of Russian origin.
The nickname has cropped up fanfiction set in all eras of Who. It's probably most common in Academy Era fanworks but also appears in New Who fanfictions. The name Koschei is well known in fandom, and many fans are aware that this was the Master's childhood nickname, but it has made no appearance in the televised series. Fans unfamiliar with the NA, extended universe novels, often consider this a fanon nickname and may be unaware of its origins.
Common Tropes & Storylines
- Academy era fanfiction often feature the Master, known only as Koschei, interacting with other members of the Deca. These works often feature a pre-canon Thoschei relationship, and Theta's brother Braxiatel sometimes makes an appearance.
- As the Master is a villain, many works featuring him are dark and can include non con, dub con, torture and murder. In New Who, the darkest Master-centric works come from the TenSimm era. There are many Year That Never Was fics examining how the Master could have humiliated and abused the Doctor, and other characters, during the year he ruled the world.
- Vault fics are extremely common in works featuring Missy, but there were many fanfics where the Doctor kept the Master as a prisoner before this trope appeared in canon. There have also been many stories where the Master keeps the Doctor as their prisoner,and this is another trope with a basis in canon.
- Telepathy is a skill the Master sometimes uses to communicate with other Timelords. In fanworks, telepathy can be used for communication or mind control. Telepathic bonds and telepathic sex also feature in the Timelord relationships.
- A very small number of crack fics portray the Master's repeated attempts to murder the Doctor and all their friends, as an elaborate Timelord courting or mating ritual.
- I think that like the Doctor, many of the Master’s incarnations have been reactions to their previous incarnations by thirddoctor (2017)
- I’d thought RTD’s characterization of the Master was All Wrong but thinking abt it retroactively, post-Missy, it’s making a lot more sense? by ileolai (2018)
- The Master doesn't remember regenerating by ladyadelinergrey (2020)
Archives & Fannish Links
- The Master works on Ao3
- The Master and Missy works on ff.net