Peoples of the Earth, please attend carefully! It was 50 years ago today when the renegade Time Lord known as ‘The Master’ first appeared on British TV screens in the story “Terror of the Autons”. Played by Roger Delgado, this gentleman-like foe was more than a match for The Doctor, often butting heads throughout the third incarnations lifetime – working with various races like the Nestene, Daemons & Axons.
Since that faithful day, we’ve seen The Doctor’s best frenemy as a rotting corpse desperate for control of a new body, a goatee-wearing master of disguise, Eric Roberts in a fancy outfit, the Prime Minister of the UK, an evil Mary Poppins, and finally – a Spy Master with genocidal tendencies.
To celebrate this magnificent milestone, we’re going to look back at some of the Master’s greatest moments and how these portrayals have resonated with people.
5. Killing The Fourth Doctor
Surely, the ultimate sin would be killing your best-friend and our beloved hero? Well, that’s exactly what the Master did in 1981’s ‘Logopolis’. After stealing the body of Tremas, father of companion Nyssa, The Master went on to help The Doctor save the universe from crumbling by keeping in place the computations that held the Universe together. Unfortunately, The Master would then attempt to use this setup at the Pharos Project, a giant telescope – to hold the universe at ransom. If they would not bow down and obey The Master, everyone would be destroyed.
The Doctor, played by the beloved Tom Baker, would successfully stop this evil plan – but not without putting himself in harm’s way, and plunging to his death from the radio gantry. Thankfully. he regenerated into the Fifth Doctor, played by Peter Davison – but still, must have hurt!
4. Turning The Dead Into Cybermen
In 2014, audiences were shocked when the mysterious woman who had been teased since 2013’s ‘The Bells of St John’ was finally revealed to be the new incarnation of The Master, named Missy! This version of the Master was desperate to get her friend back and would go through any dark and twisted scheme in order to achieve her goals, while also being slightly a tiny bit crazy.
To celebrate The Doctor’s birthday, Missy used Time Lord Matrix & Cybermen technology in order to harness the brainwaves of those who had recently passed away under the false impression of an afterlife. She would then manipulate these souls into giving up their emotions and eventually use a liquid-based biological weapon to turn the dead of planet Earth into Cybermen. What makes this plan even more macabre is that these bodies eventually save the day by exploding. Oof.
Bonus Mention: While we later learned there was still another version of Osgood, seeing this beloved character from the 50th Anniversary killed by Missy was a shock at the time! – proving how ruthless she could be, even while dancing on a crashing plane.
3. Spy Master
It wouldn’t be a Top-5 Master list without a spectacular reveal or disguise, which is why the current iteration of the Master takes this third spot. Debuting in 2020’s ‘Spyfall: Part One’ under the disguise of an MI6 Agent named ‘O’, this incarnation of The Master was angry at the Doctor once more. Despite having learned to be ‘good’ during the Missy incarnation, The Master travelled back to Gallifrey and learned about the truth of the Doctor and his people – outraged by what he had discovered, he ended up wiping out his own people before attempting to take over the Earth.
With a Wizard of Oz style tornado house TARDIS in tow, the Master revealed himself to The Doctor and her companions – before leaving the latter to plummet below in a crashing plane. What a reveal!
2. Here Come The Drums
After hiding out on a distant planet in the year 1-trillion, The War Master finally regained his memories after surviving The Last Great Time War. That incarnation – posing as ‘Professor Yana’ was helping out the remaining vestiges of the human race by promising them home on ‘Utopia’, an idyllic escape from the dying universe. After sending the humans out into the cold, based on a lie, he was shot dead by his assistant Chantho and regenerated safely in the Doctor’s TARDIS into the ‘Saxon’ incarnation. Fleeing, but locked in only two positions in time/space, the Master used the most out of this opportunity by arriving on Earth and becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain – Harold Saxon.
It was in this role, that he and his wife Lucy travelled back to Utopia, finding out that the human race had regressed themselves back to a childlike state and chopped/mechanised themselves in order to survive the harsh environments of Utopia. The Master promised them a new home, by using the TARDIS as a paradox machine – bringing the future humans now known as the Toclafane, back in time and murdering their ancestors.
Removing one-tenth of the population and becoming the ruler of Earth for a year, the Master was eventually defeated by Martha Jones and his destructive path was reversed by the destruction of the Paradox Machine. However, the mental scarring on the Jones family was something that was not so easily fixed.
1. “I Am The Master, And You Will Obey Me”
It wouldn’t feel right having any other moment top this list because without Roger Delago’s incredible performance and introduction of the character, this list would never have existed in the first place. Doctor Who had shown mischievous Time Lords before, such as the Meddling Monk, and even after – like The Rani, but it’s because of Delgado that this character has become such a staple villain.
He’s the other side of the Doctor, a fascinating villain unlike any other because he’s what The Doctor could be if they chose to be cruel and cowardly. We see that plenty of times throughout Season 8, with the Master and the Doctor, sometimes working together – but ultimately separated by their core instincts. Much like how William Hartnell set such a tremendous example and template for future actors, so did Roger Delgado – allowing us to have 50 years of fantastic Master moments.
If you want to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Master in style, don’t forget to check out the Big Finish release ‘Masterful’ which features eight incarnations of the Master all meeting each-other, including televised actors Geoffrey Beevers, Eric Roberts, Sir Derek Jacobi, John Simm & Michelle Gomez. Not to mention some of the mischievous incarnations that have so far only existed in the audio stories, such as Alex McQueen’s portrayal and Mark Gatiss’ alternate reality version.
Let us know about your favourite moments with these mischievous maniacal laughing renegade in the comments below, you will obey us!