The Master has often been described as “the Moriarty to the Doctor’s Holmes”. But whereas Moriarty only faced off against Sherlock once (in the original stories, anyway – Conan Doyle thought it would discredit Holmes to keep having his nemesis escape), the Master has a habit of turning up in Doctor Who like a mad, bad penny.
In all the series The Master’s appeared in the face, and even the gender, have changed, but one thing has remained constant: he/she can always be relied on to have an utterly bonkers – and, let’s be honest, almost certainly doomed – plan up his or her voluminous sleeve.
Steven Moffat himself has acknowledged this, telling the Master: “You know what you do a lot? You lose. You’re always tremendously confident and then you’re humiliatingly defeated and you don’t remember that the next time you pop up with your ridiculous plan.”
But, like the rest of us, the Moff can’t help loving the old rascal anyway. So, to celebrate the Doctor’s eternal foe, we look back at 15 of the Master’s maddest, most elaborate, downright ludicrous plans for galactic domination. Heh-heh-heh-heh!
1. Terror of the Autons (1971)
Viewers first meet the Master when he comes to Earth with a cunning plan to steal a Nestene energy unit – the power source of the deadly Autons which, alarmingly, is on loan from UNIT to a museum, suggesting this top secret military organisation has a frankly hazardous educational outreach programme. Using the cunning alias Colonel Masters, he uses the energy unit to make contact with the Nestene Consciousness, and offers to help it establish itself on Earth using, among other things, homicidal dolls, inflatable plastic chairs and killer daffodils. Then the Doctor casually points out the Consciousness will almost certainly kill the Master too, at which point he metaphorically slaps his forehead, Homer Simpson-style, and realises he’d better switch sides pretty sharpish.
We can also get something of the measure of the man from the fact he decides to make his base of operations a circus – complete with TARDIS disguised as a horsebox – for no reason whatsoever. Maybe he just likes circuses.
2. The Mind of Evil (1971)
This one’s largely set in a prison, where the Master is using an alien parasite that feeds on fear to recruit hardened cons for his crackpot scheme to hi-jack a nuclear missile and fire it at a world peace conference, thus triggering World War Three and destroying the planet. (Or something. It’s not exactly clear where the whole parasite machine bit fits in, to be honest.) Despite spending an entire year posing as a professor and placing a Chinese conference delegate under his hypnotic influence, the Master’s lack of forward planning once again lets him down, as he’s failed to take into account that he’s currently trapped on the planet that’s about to be destroyed. Honestly, he’s his own worst enemy sometimes. And the Doctor’s, come to that.
3. Colony in Space (1971)
Despite their official policy of non-intervention, the Time Lords are not beyond using the Doctor for the occasional black ops mission when there’s a real crisis brewing – in this case, because the Master has stolen their file on something called the Doomsday Weapon. And when they say stolen their file, they mean stolen their file – he has literally walked away with one of the bits of paper that serves as a data-store for the universe’s most advanced civilisation and, to make things worse, it appears nobody had even bothered to make a photocopy. (The Master obviously does a lot of this sort of thing, if the filing cabinet in his TARDIS is anything to go by.) Once again, though, our criminal genius has forgotten to drop a courtesy email to his proposed new allies asking if they’d be happy to share their super-weapon with him, forcing yet another face-saving team-up with the Doctor. What a doofus.