Who is Missy? It’s the question Doctor Who fans were asking throughout series eight, before the sensational reveal that she was the Doctor’s old enemy The Master, now a Time Lady. But Steven Moffat wanted to have a little fun with the fans before then.
The showrunner has admitted he tried to plant a red herring during the filming of penultimate episode Dark Water. In the actual broadcast, Missy originally passes herself off as a robot, claiming her name is an acronym for ‘Mobile Intelligence Systems Interface.’ However, when Michelle Gomez initially recorded the line, she said something quite different.
“I actually had her say she was a Random Access Neural Interface,” Moffat told the audience at a Royal Television Society event, “the Rani.”
Played by the late Kate O’Mara, the Rani was a nefarious Time Lady who clashed with Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoys’ Doctors. Many fans speculated that Missy would turn out to be a new regeneration of the villain. Moffat believed that leaks were inevitable (whatever gave him that idea?) but no-one took the bait.
“Whenever I arrange skullduggery, no-one ever buggering notices,” he moaned. “We thought ‘everyone’s bound to overhear that’. Deaf bunch of bastards.”
It’s not the first time Moffat has tried to prank the audience with an old villain:
“When we did Day of the Doctor, we went to the trouble of having John Hurt’s character [an earlier regeneration of the Doctor] referred to as Omega throughout,” he said. “Is nobody stealing scripts these days? What’s the matter with people?”