DOCTOR WHO - Could we see a Female Master? - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DOCTOR WHO - Could we see a Female Master?

Doctor Who has already presented us with a female Master in print, but would series 8 be so bold as to introduce this concept? Christopher Morley examines the evidence.

The Master, as we all know, has got himself into many a scrape- Harvest Of Time finding him in perhaps the biggest pile of temporal doo-doo he'll ever face. While he has a little help from his new ' allies', the Sild, in breaking free of UNIT confinement ( Alastair Reynolds' story set after The Sea Devils), they're not entirely sympathetic to his cause- seeking to use his mind to conquer the entirety of time & space. You'd think he might have learned not to go making friends like that after the collapse of similar arrangements with the Nestene Consciousness ( Terror Of The Autons ) & the Axons ( The Claws Of Axos ).

But it seems he didn't pay a jot of attention. The Third Doctor & Jo Grant, meanwhile, are called in to investigate a rapidly accelerating mystery on an oil rig in the North Sea. Some of the crew have been acting strangely, & severe weather fluctuations are being reported...interestingly enough the lady in charge of the operation could be a descendant of a former companion! Step forward Edwina Eddie' McCrimmon...

Part of the Sild's plan is to rewrite time- which might explain how everyone at UNIT, including the Brigadier, is starting to forget all about their dastardly prisoner. He won't enjoy his freedom all that long, though. For when he & the Doctor leave Earth well behind to see for themselves the destruction the Sild have wreaked on another world he's got a surprise coming! All his incarnations/bodies save for the one he's currently inhabiting are being kept as unconscious prisoners, including one who looks like ' a politician'...

Its implied that he has control over his post-regenerative appearance, too. Which would explain how his wish to be ' young & strong' was granted after a fatal shot from Chantho in Utopia! And perhaps just to mess with things, one of the others is a woman.....heresy, or a progressive hint towards the future? The casting of Keeley Hawes as Mrs Delphox in Episode 5 of Series 8, rumoured to be titled Time Heist ( written by Steve Thompson) could after all serve as the introduction to such a lady Master. So either Reynolds knows something we don't, or he's just having a little fun toying with us- though its not exactly impossible that ' Delphox' is simply an alias cooked up to hide her true identity from the Twelfth Doctor until exactly the right moment of revelation.

What better way to really shake things up? And it would be in keeping with the ' wait, what?' nature of certain past surprises in New-Who. Remember 'Rose Tyler is the Bad Wolf' & Ten's sort-of regeneration that still counted as one, not to mention ' River Song is Amy & Rory's daughter'? The reveal of Hawes as Ms Master would have the potential to trump the lot. And its not as if hiding his identity hasn't been done before! Perhaps most obviously in his dealings with the Third Doctor ( starting the trend by adopting aliases drawn from the use of the word ' Master' in some other permutation, Colonel Masters the most obvious example). Then there's ' Master in another language/tongue' ( Reverend Magister making good use of Latin) or ' Master of disguise' ( his campy costume as 'Kalid' in Time-Flight).

'Delphox' would surely be his/her greatest veil yet, though. The scene would then be set for the two old friends/foes to resume their battles- Hawes hopefully having been sat down & made to watch all of Season 8 of Classic Who in a bid to inject some menace into her. It could at least prove the perfect tonic to all the ' Charles Dance for the new Master' speculation/hype. In a further twist, she could actually prove to be what Derek Jacobi was to John Simm- his 'Professor Yana' Master acting as a foil for the introduction of another new body into the role. Imagine the surprise factor- the Hawes Master is somehow killed off & begins to regenerate, revealing none other than Charles Dance ( or whoever else is in mind to play the role, though there is a lot of support for the Game Of Thrones man, Steve John Shepherd mentioned as another possible candidate).

Could the Hawes/Dance Masters also have access to Type 44 TARDISes? Just how different they are from the old faithful Type 40 isn't really explored by Reynolds, though the Third Doctor ( from whom, incidentally, Peter Capaldi appears to have taken rather a lot of inspiration) does at least tell us that this newer model has a ' charged vacuum resonator'. Makes things a lot clearer, no?

In keeping with the spirit of Season 8, Harvest Of Time really does feel as if it would have been a perfect addition to the televised first run of Doctor-Master tangles. The spirit of both rivalry & great respect for each other's intellect runs throughout, just as well on the page as in telly-land. Indeed at times its almost as if the author has simply taken his own TARDIS off to sit in on Pertwee-era script meetings!

Could the next step be for him to be invited to write for the series itself? After all, several authors have been invited to contribute to New-Who since the reboot ( Neil Gaiman the obvious example, having written both The Doctor's Wife & Nightmare In Silver for the Eleventh) and with Reynolds's understanding/fandom of the Third Doctor's time rivalling Peter Capaldi & indeed Mark Gatiss ( whom it should be noted started out writing for Who novel ranges. Last Of The Gaderene something of a labour of love, his pen also behind the likes of The Roundheads & St Anthony's Fire).

And in dangling the possibility of a future female Master before us, Alastair could just have sparked quite a debate! As we've outlined above, there could be a real clamour for such an experiment- Keeley Hawes potentially taking on quite a mantle. Could she pull it off? A glance at selected examples of her body of work should prove that if chosen, she could take the Master in new & interesting directions...

Perhaps she & Capaldi's Doctor could build on the Gene Hunt-Alex Drake dynamic of Ashes To Ashes, thrown into the mix with a little Pertwee- Delgado.

Of course there will be ' traditionalists' who would most likely scoff at the notion of the Master as a member of the fairer sex. But no less than Steven Moffatt himself has said the programme needs to change- just listen to him talking to Alan Yentob at the Hay Arts Festival. If the Doctor can be played by anyone- presumably including a lady, if the right one came along- then why not the Master?

If you have an opinion on the issue, add your voice to the debate! After all Ms Hawes is only one possible candidate for the role among the confirmed Series 8 guest stars, there's also the recently announced Michelle Gomez who could fit the part. But is there an actress you'd love to see handed the chance to take up the Master's laser screwdriver? 

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