Hello and welcome to In Too Deep Into Doctor Who, where I over-analyse a certain section of my favourite TV show.
Well considering that last year I took an in-depth look at the Doctors, it’s only fair that I take an in-depth look at his arch nemesis. Now I’ll only be sticking to the TV versions, and some won’t be in depth as the others. But without further ado, here are my ranking at the Masters who have graced our screens.
Note for this list I’ll be referring to the ‘modern series’ Masters: The first, played by Derek Jacobi, who makes such a brief appearance; the second, played by John Simm, who pops up briefly as well; and the third, played by Michelle Gomez, the latest incarnation of the character.
Derek Jacobi: Now I’m only counting from when Yana knows that he’s the Master, where there isn’t a lot. But the little he does have he uses well. He kills Chan-Tho in cold blood and happily prepares to leave the Doctor to his fate. It’s a shame we don’t see more of him, and I can’t comment on it, but the little we see is nice. It hints at greater things with the character. 5/10.
John Simm: If Anthony Ainley liked to chew the scenery, John Simm could probably chew the entire set and all the surrounding equipment. This has a… unusual effect. On the one hand it can make him pretty threatening at times… on the other it makes him hard to take seriously as a threat. It’s only in his second appearance that Simm is allowed to tone it down a little bit, to give a more varied performance. Sometimes he works, sometimes he’s a bit too over-the-top. 7/10.
Michelle Gomez: Ms Gomez had the very difficult job of convincing audiences that gender-swapped Time Lords could work. And she pulls it off beautifully. She takes the cool nature of Delgado, the haminess of Ainley and the madness of Simm to bring quite a fascinating character to the table. Sometimes sane, sometimes mad, very terrifying. You never quite know what way she’ll go, leading her to be quite a compelling figure to watch. Hopefully we see more of her in the future. 10/10.
Derek Jacobi: The costume works with both the character of Yana and that of the Master, making the character look a lot more regal. It suits the elderly looking Master quite well. It’d be interesting to see more of him, but when it comes to matching the costume to the character, it works quite well indeed. 8/10.
John Simm: We have two costumes here: The suit and tie, and the black jumper and trousers. Both suit the character quite well. In the suit, he is the man in charge. He is The Master. In the casual clothes, he still has a commanding presence. I think it’s the red that really helps sell it. While the suit makes him an almost carbon copy of Ten (which was no doubt the point), the jumper really helps him stand out. Clothes make the man, but with Simm, the clothes show a hidden side to the character as well. 9/10
Michelle Gomez: Evil Mary Poppins. My my, she pulls it off so well. In some ways it’s a great tap into the iconography of the British past, turning the fearsome nature of their past into a modern day threat. Evil Victorian inspired nannies have always been seen as a bad thing, with Missy just being the modern day version of that idea. I could gush about it by some more, but suffice it to say that she rocks it. 10/10.
Derek Jacobi: The twist that kindly Professor Yana turned out to be the Master the entire time is a pretty great twist that no one saw coming. And Derek Jacobi had a difficult job. He pretty much had one scene to re-establish the threat that was the Master, and all he could do with that scene is kill off a character. And yet he managed to do it pretty well. While a lot of the other Masters have been made a bit sympathetic, he is one of the few that have been undeniably evil. 8/10.
John Simm: While Derek Jacobi quickly establish the Master as a bad guy, John Simm made the Master such an interesting figure. In that short scene in Utopia, he quickly introduces a real madman in the police box. Add to that a cliffhanger no one was expecting (since it wasn’t advertised as a cliffhanger), and it’s such a brilliant shock. 9/10.
Michelle Gomez: Speaking of twists no-one saw coming (well I did, but that’s besides the point), having her turn to the Doctor and admit â€œI couldn’t keep calling myself the Master now, could Iâ€ was a jaw-dropping moment. I couldn’t believe that Steven Moffat actually decided to go through with it. And with a brilliant twist comes a brilliant set-up. From when we first see Missy in Deep Breath, till when the Doctor first meets her in Dark Water, the character establishes herself fantastically. 10/10.
(Note I’m putting all the Masters together per decade to judge them as one story, since some Masters only appear briefly).Honourable Mentions: Utopia is a pretty good episode, just not a great Master episode. The End of Time has a great cliffhanger, and overall works pretty well. But there can only be one.
Dark Water/Death in Heaven: While The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords has the Master doing an impressive plan, I think this plan is even worse. Using the dead, including the Doctor’s own companions, against him and making the Doctor out to be a commander. It gives him an interesting problem: Should the Doctor use the army to save the universe? Isn’t that what he wants to do? Save the day? It’s a horribly wonderful idea and the Master just owns the episode. She really helps defines it and makes the Cybermen scary again to boot. 10/10.
(Note I’m putting all the Masters together per decade to judge them as one story, since some Masters only appear briefly).
The Sounds of Drums/Last of the Time Lords is by no means a bad episode… but neither would I say it’s the best Master story out there. Partly because the reset button is pressed a bit too hard, partly because the Master’s death feels unearned, and partly because the story is a bit too weak. Still, the Master isn’t terrible in it, just a bit too campy for my liking. It took away a bit much of the threat. 7/10.
Derek Jacobi: â€œI… am… The Master.â€ It’s a quiet whisper, but chilling nonetheless. It really does help set up who the Master is. But I’ve said this before, so I won’t say much more than this. Still a great moment though. 7/10.
John Simm: The Master takes on the Time Lords… and pretty much wins. This is tied with the Master taking over the world by becoming everyone in the world, since it’s a pretty badass moment as well. I don’t think I have much more to say about it, other than it’s a pretty badass moment throughout. 10/10.
Michelle Gomez: I… I can’t just pick one moment. She’s fantastic throughout. But if I had to chose, it’s the thing that the Doctor says to her: â€œYou win.â€ Even though she’s a woman, she’s still pretty dangerous, to the point where the Doctor has to admit that the Master is too dangerous to keep alive. Throughout the characters entire history, here’s the one time where the Master went too far and won. It’s a pretty impressive moment. 10/10.
Derek Jacobi: It’s a short, thankless task, but one that Sir Derek Jacobi pulls off spectacularly. It’s a shame that we can’t get more of him in the role, but it’s fun to imagine what a younger version of this Master would be like. 7/10.
John Simm: He’s completely mad and loving it. He looks sharp, dresses sharp, has a razor edge wit. His mind doesn’t function properly, but he’s having so much fun with his madness. It’s a shame we see so little of him, but he plays well of Tennant and helps cerement the role. 9/10.
Michelle Gomez: It was a big gamble, turning the Master into a woman, but this is the Master for the 21st Century. She is scary, she is horrible, she is simply fantastic in the role. I really, really, really hope she comes back, because she shows that gender is no reason why a character can’t be such a fantastic threat. Bravo, Ms Gomez. Bravo. 10/10.
Derek Jacobi: 35/50
John Simm: 44/50
Michelle Gomez: 50/50
So there you have it. My look at the Master in the 21st Century. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.