Ood Cast Guide #14: The Master

Just as in any species, there is light and shade in Gallifreyan society.  Here’s a little list of naughty Time Lords (and Ladies).  It’s not exhaustive but all of them even appear in some of the classic series: the Rani, Morbius, the Monk, the War Chief… You could also say Borusa and Rassillon were “bad apples”.  And of course there’s also Salyavin.

But the renegade the Doctor encountered most often was the Master.  Here at the Ood Cast, we think there are 4 distinct stages in the many lives of this shady figure: childhood; suave villainy; ridiculous re-birth as an A-Lister’s brother and finally the positively chilling Tony Blair impression (yes, even the bit where he went properly mental and leapt about eating people).

Sardonic, often beardy, always charming, the Master was the epitome of cool villainy in earlier stages of the Doctor’s lives, delighting in chaos and mostly using others to carry out his evil work for him rather like a well-dressed Simon Cowell.  But he was not always so maladjusted.

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Childhood

He grew up with the Doctor, but was taken (as Gallifreyans chosen to be Time Lords are) at 8 for training and forced to look into the Untempered Schism.  Some say this sent him mad, which might explain a fair bit.  This event later came back to haunt the Master’s every waking hour in the form of a constant drumming sound in his head.

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Suave Villainy

When the Doctor fled from Gallifrey, it is thought the Master was charged with pursuing and capturing him, following him to earth during his period of exile in order to defeat him.  But because the Doctor had made friends in military circles, it was never so simple a battle.  UNIT even managed to imprison him once – until he hypnotised the prison governor…

These inept soldiers (always happy to fire a gun but rarely hitting anything that posed any real danger) were always on hand to help send the Master off with his tail between his legs – even when he’d teamed up with Sea Devils, circus impresarios, Autons, convicts, and ancient demons to name a few.  Not even his possession of WMDs or his renowned shrinking weapon could gain him enough of an edge to beat his compatriot.

He reappeared variously across the next few incarnations – including memorably using a professorial alias to conduct an experiment called TOMTIT (Brilliant – never mind the benefit cheats, it’s the psychotic aliens nicking taxpayers’ university science funding we need to deal with)… and stealing the body of the father of someone who would soon be a companion of his old enemy.  And then there was the whole living with cat people on an exploding planet thing.

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Ridiculous Re-birth

He was eventually tried and executed by the Daleks for being just as mean as they are (don’t tread on their skirting boards), and was being transported back to Gallifrey by the Seventh Doctor – as that had been his final wish.  He forced the TARDIS to land on earth, took the body of Julia Roberts’ less-famous brother and almost had the Doctor defeated… until he fell into the Eye of Harmony.

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Frightening Blair Impressionist

The Time Lords somehow resurrected him (because every civilisation needs a Bruce) to help fight the Time War, only to see him desert them as soon as it got a bit hairy, disguising himself as an elderly professor until the Doctor got him to check the time and his memory came back…  He regenerated into the Prime Minister of Great Britain, took the Doctor prisoner (making him elderly and tiny but refusing him winter fuel allowance) and conquered the earth with some floating footballs and a “Paradox Machine”.  He was then shot by his own wife and refused to regenerate… and died.

A sinister cult worshipped him and eventually brought him back using a Potion of Life – a process jeopardised when his wife turned up with a Potion of Death… but he was then simply kidnapped to work on an Immortality Gate, which he fixed to turn every human into another one of himself.  He then brought the Time Lords back too, although Rassilon undid his GM work.  He disappeared back into the Time War with Rassilon and the other Time Lords when the Doctor broke their link with the earth by destroying the White Point Star diamond.

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You know, summing that up just sort of clarifies for me how much more ridiculous the “nu-Who” Master stories have been…

Comments 7

  1. Excellent recap of The Master’s on-screen incarnations, Andrew. I agree with you, the nu-Who Master stories are bunk, mainly because of the whole “sound of drums” retcon that Uncle Rusty tried to foist on us, as well as the revelation that he went mad as an 8-year old. How very Anakin Skywalker.

    Growing up with the Fifth Doctor stories, Anthony Ainley will always be “my” Master. His mere presence helped to save some really sketchy ones (Time-Flight and The King’s Demons, primarily) and helped elevate some middly ones to greater heights (Castrovalva and Planet of Fire). But my favorite Master tale is the time he tried to help the Doctor and got nothing but trouble for it (The Five Doctors). Capital stuff.

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    Thanks, Rory. Not sure why it said Andrew was the author on this – it was me… I’ve changed that now though. Thanks for the comment though – and for what it’s worth, Ainley is my master too. Survival is much under-rated I think. But then, I wrote a whole article on that over the summer….!

  3. Agree with both of you about the reboot. For me the master is Roger Degardo. He was the ultimate puppet master and in some ways scarier because he was like the Doctor.

  4. I was just rewatching The End of Time the other day.
    I felt so sorry for John Simm. He has to do about 100 costume changes, woof down all this food and was probably suspended on wires at some point. He still turns in a perfectly good performance despite the lousy script.
    I’ll never be a fan of the Simm Master, but you’ve got to give the actor props.
    -Dude’s a trooper.

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    Author

    John Simm did an amazing job – especially in the End of Time – with a very strange, deranged character. His first appearance, despite some elements (particluarly the slightly nauseating Year of Martha and the fact that he “died” in a domestic argument). The first part of that, though – Utopia – was excellent… It had Derek Jacobi in for a start, and was quite obviously shot in a quarry. You can’t get much more Who than that, eh?

    Roger, Roger Delgado was magnificent – and probably the best, I don’t think you’ll find too many argumentative people there… It certainly says something that in his appearances, even the slightly weaker plots were elevated just by his presence. And he didn’t have to fall back on a scary laugh like Anthony Ainley did – he was absolutely the perfect fit.

  6. Yeah, Delgado owned it.
    -and Ainley did an excellent job too, He just didn’t have the astonishing magnetic presence of Delgado, so he played up the evil a little, which I think was the right decision.
    I love the character, because he shows us how terrifying the Doctor would be if we couldn’t trust him completely. That’s what really lets me down about the most recent Master; You can’t have an uneasy alliance with him.
    The older Masters acted out of a dispassionate self interest, which sometimes aligned them with the Doctor’s goals, and sometimes not.
    At least if he’s brought back again any time soon, it will be by a show-runner who clearly understands the Holmes/Moriarty dynamic. 🙂

  7. My knowledge of classic Who has an almost Pertwee-sized hole in it, so I’m bereft of any first-hand experience with the Delgado Master. However, I’m slowly filling in those gaps and I can say with absolute certainty that I will be viewing some of those stories in the not-too-distant future. (I must say, it’s nice to have something Who-related to look forward to.)

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