The Master. A Timelord from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous who delights in deviousness and constantly makes trouble for most incarnations of The Doctor. But just who is The Master? Let me explain…
The Master was the brain child of 70s Doctor Who writers. They wanted a hook for the new 1971 series and originally thought of a female enemy on par with The Doctor. This idea was stalled until 1985 when they brought in The Rani. The Master was introduced as an old friend of The Doctor’s turned enemy. The original ideas were that the two spent their childhoods together and were close friends in the Timelord academy before The Master choosing the path of destruction. Roger Delgado was cast in the role and instantly fell in love with the role. He became firm friends with Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and the other cast. The audience adored him. More and more back story for The Doctor’s oldest friend was conceived with each story and an ultimate ending for the character planned out.
His blend of effortless charisma and spooky villainy nature made him one of the most popular characters on the show. He appeared in every story of Season 8 and was planned for many afterwards. Unfortunately, things took a sad turn.
In June 1973 Roger Delgado was filming in Turkey for a French TV series. A chauffeur driven car Delgado and two film technicians were in careened off the road and crashed into a ravine. The news broke every member of Who. Fan, cast and crew. Delgado embodied the very spirit of the show and best friends with it’s cast.
There were two possible beginnings of The Master set out by the crew. Robert Sloman (who had written for Delgado in The Dæmons and The Time Monster) was set to write out a story to reveal that The Master was either The Doctor’s brother, or the amalgamation of The Doctor’s darker nature. If you know Doctor Who you know that both of these concepts have been reused throughout the show. The idea of siblings was hinted at in 1984’s Planet of Fire when Anthony Ainley’s incarnation of The Master shouts “Won’t you show mercy to your own …” as The Doctor apparently leaves his old friend to the flames… The line was never fully scripted down leaving it mostly ambiguous. Sibling rivalry was finally put to bed in 2007’s The Sound of Drums as Martha Jones asks David Tennant’s Doctor “Thought he was your secret brother of something…” To which The Doctor replies “You’ve been watching too much TV(!)” So it seems that’s been finally answered.
The concept of a darker side to The Doctor gaining corporeal form and returning to threaten him springs up in 1986’s The Trial of A Timelord. In this bumper length 14 episode story we see Colin Baker’s Doctor put on trial by his own people for interfering with the universe. And who should they choose as prosecutor? A mysterious Timelord named The Valeyard. In part 14 it’s revealed The Valeyard is the distillation and amalgamation of every evil thought The Doctor is capable of, broken off somewhere between his 12th and last incarnation. Though with the 12th natural incarnation being David Tennant Mk2 and the last incarnation being Matt Smith, it seems Steven Moffat couldn’t work out what to do with that.
Season 11 of Doctor Who was in the planning stages, and it was decided Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado would bow out together in spectacular form. It was still to be decided which back story would be given to The Master, but a title was given: The Final Game. It would end with The Master sacrificing himself to save The Doctor, and ending his last regeneration in the process. The Doctor meanwhile would regenerate into his Fourth body and The Master’s story would be done. Delgado’s untimely death put a stop to that story and The Master wasn’t seen until 1976’s The Deadly Assassin where an unseen affliction had rendered him a crispy mess.
The Master is one of the most recognisable figures in Doctor Who. Appearing in 25 TV stories as The Master, loads of Big Finish audio stories constantly ongoing, far too many comics to count, and 9 stories as Missy. And now I’ve mentioned Missy I suppose I’ve got to use gender neutral pronouns? Oh alright.
They are the ultimate adversary of The Doctor. Though a couple of incarnations have taken it slightly bananas (I’m looking at you Eric Roberts, John Simm and Michelle Gomez) they have always proven The Master can match The Doctor blow for blow. A genius, a cunning and wily foe with as much wit and ingenuity as The Doctor himself. A fantastic idea and thoroughly appreciated by fans the world over. The Master has left an impact on the show like no other, and continues to change the show today. All this, in Roger Delgado’s legacy. Happy Birthday Roger, I hope we’ve done you proud.