Doctor Who: Who is the Master?

When did the Master last appear in Doctor Who? What is the character's history on the show?

John Simm - The Master

When it comes to adversaries, the Doctor has never exactly been lacking – and one of the character’s greatest foes of all has made an unexpected return to the show at the start of series 12.

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The Master, who like the Doctor has been played by a wide array of actors over the show’s lengthy run, is back to wreak havoc once again – this time played by Sacha Dhawan.

Here’s everything you need to know about the character…

Who is the Master?

Considered the Doctor’s archenemy, the Master is also a Time Lord – but one who has used his powers for evil rather than good. He has been a recurring character throughout the show’s history – first appearing in 1971 and most recently in 2017, as a female version going by the name of Missy.

Missy
Michelle Gomez in Doctor Who (BBC, TL)

A renegade, the Master is essentially the antithesis of the Doctor – his number one aim is to control the universe, while making the Doctor suffer as much as possible along the way, and while the Doctor has always been fond of the human race, the opposite is true for the Master, who is hellbent on destroying mankind.

Despite their differences, as the only two Time Lords who survived the Time War, the Doctor and the Master also have much in common – and in the iconic 1972 serial The Sea Devils, the Doctor admits that they were once great friends.

How many actors have played the Master?

Before now, eight different actors have taken on the role, with some of those making one-off appearances and others being part of the recurring cast for fairly lengthy spells.

Roger Delgado was the first to play The Master, with his debut appearance occurring in the 1971 episode Terror of the Autons, before he became a major character in the eighth series of the show. Delgado appeared regularly as the character up until his death in 1973, making his final appearance in Frontier in Space.

Doctor Who - Roger Delgado as the Master
Doctor Who – Roger Delgado as the Master
BBC

He was next played by Peter Pratt – nearing the end of his final life, the Master was made up to look like an emaciated corpse in 1976 serial The Deadly Assassin coming face to face with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker).

After this, he did not appear for another five years, this time played by Geoffrey Beevers, with the character successfully managing to cheat death by transferring his essence into a new body – that of a Trakenite scientist played by Anthony Ainley.

Ainley became the first actor since Delgado to make numerous appearances in the role, and also the last in the classic series, appearing as the Master in a number of episodes until 1989.

In the 1996 TV movie, the Master is a primary character. Sabotaging the TARDIS after it had appeared he’d been executed at the hands of the Daleks, the Master forces the craft to land in San Francisco and enters the body of a paramedic named Bruce, played by Eric Roberts. The film ends with the Master supposedly being killed – but surprise, surprise, he would be back again in the future!

In the revived series, the Master first appears in 2007 episode Utopia, played by acting legend Derek Jacobi, before regenerating into a younger form, played by John Simm – who went on to portray the character on several occasions.

The next version, and most recent, first appeared in 2014, with the character appearing as a woman for the first time, played by Michelle Gomez and going by the name ‘Missy’. In 2017 Simm returned to the role, appearing alongside Missy in what was the first ‘multi-Master’ storyline in the show’s history.

Where and when did we last see The Master?

Missy made several appearances in the show from 2014 to 2017 during Peter Capaldi’s time in the TARDIS, appearing for the final time in series 10 – during the storyline that saw Simm return.

In her final appearance, the character was forced to choose between a promise she had made to the Doctor and the lure of her former self and an army of Cybermen. In the end, Missy stabs her past self, allowing the Doctor to regenerate and thus becoming his ally – which forces an enraged past Master to shoot Missy with his laser screwdriver.

It was thought that that incident had deprived the character of her ability to regenerate and therefore she was assumed dead, until now that is…

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Doctor Who continues on Sundays on BBC One