You will obey Moo!!!
Of all the incarnations of the Master we've met over the years, on both screen and in audio adventures, which of them is the best one? With anywhere between 8 and 16 actors, depending who you do and don’t count, it’s a tricky question!
So as we here at Warped Factor look back over several Master stories from the past, allow me to kick us off by taking a look at my top five favourite portrayals!
5. Mark “Sam Kisgart” Gatiss
This is an alternate universe version of the Master – I’m not cheating if I include him, am I? – who lives in a version of the world where the Third Doctor’s origins were different (as depicted in Big Finish's Sympathy For The Devil). In this universe the Doctor was still exiled to Earth but instead of arriving in some ambiguously-defined point in the 1970s he arrived twenty years after that. The Master has been stranded here instead, sans TARDIS, and when the Doctor arrives he has been playing politics. He defects between the West and a closed-off Chinese regime as it suits him, he brainwashes political prisoners, he engineers massacres… and all because he was left without the Doctor as a sparring partner. This is the Master at his most ruthless, even getting genuine pleasure from seeing people killed.
4. Alexander MacQueen
This is the Master after the Time Lords resurrected him to fight the Time War but he refused and instead ran away for a while, engaging in multiple battles with the Doctor in (that we know of so far) three different incarnations – just ‘cos. This Master is always making sure that you notice him, with him being eccentric enough to rival the Doctor himself (initially posing to the 7th as a future Doctor, and convincing him of this too), so while some people will tell you that a successful villain will achieve their success by hiding away in the shadows and not revealing themselves until it’s too late to stop them the best counter-argument possible lies in this incarnation, one who is always guaranteed to liven up any story he appears in. The fact that he’s a chess-master enough to rival the Doctor and ruthless enough to even kill one of his own prior incarnations is just the icing on the proverbial cake.
3. Jonathan Pryce
And now for another AU incarnation! This Master's personality is as melodramatic as it gets, with a laugh to match and a flair for overly-dramatic posturing which makes for a very entertaining watch in the parody The Curse Of Fatal Death. While he’s frequently the butt of the joke – nine centuries in a sewer, etheric beam locators, a Dalek plunger, and that’s just for starters – he is also shown to be a keen strategist as he bribes the architect and goes on to be partly-responsible for the AU Doctor regenerating four times in the space of as many minutes, so perhaps he’s the one who should really be laughing! This Master is also noteworthy for a budding romance with the Doctor after the Doctor regenerates into a female incarnation.
2. Roger Delgado
It’s often said that the Third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, is like the 007 of Doctor Who. If so then the original Master, played by Roger Delgado, is the Bond villain. The fact that producer Barry Letts only had Delgado in mind shows how perfect for the part the actor proved to be! Everything about the character comes together to absolute perfection here – the beard shot through with grey streaks, the circles under his eyes, the almost tan skintone, the voice – and the writers and directors exploited these things to great effect. He’s the perfect foil to Pertwee’s Doctor, with the genuine friendship between the two actors coming across, in spite of their being onscreen enemies, to make it all the better for the audience at home. I’ve spoken a lot about the actor, but as a character too this Master is spot-on. He’s perfectly happy to adopt a fake name and work his way up silently until his plans (probably involving an alien arriving on Earth whose powers he can manipulate) are ready. And there was also that time he worked with the Daleks to almost start a war.
1. Michelle Gomez
A female Master?! In 2014 we found out if the world was ready for such a thing: Yes, it turns out we were! And what we got was wonderful. Effectively adopting the role of the anti-Capaldi, she embodies everything that the 12th Doctor is only in the opposite direction, making her the perfect opponent. Except she isn’t only that, the two have been known to work together during an ordeal on Skaro and in their first meeting everything she was doing she did to try (in her words) to “get [her] friend back”. She’s evil and she knows it, she wants to tempt the Doctor in this direction and make him more like her. It’s in her evilest moments that she truly shines though. Offing people just for fun, teasing them beforehand over whether or not she actually will, like an orca throwing a seal, you never know quite what she’s going to do next. In 1971 nobody could’ve foreseen that the Master would one day have become a demented Scottish woman singing reworked lyrics to a 1980s one-hit-wonder, yet it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to the character!
We now know for sure that the Master, played by Gomez, shall be returning in series ten. But until then why not tell me what you think. Do you agree with my choices? Let us know in the comments below!
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The
Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the
latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.