While Sacha Dhawan’s new version of the Master was a hit with Doctor Who fans when he debuted in early 2020, he definitely left fans with a few questions.
How did Michelle Gomez’s Missy (the previous incarnation of the character) regenerate when she’d apparently died for good? And when she did, why was so much of her last storyline – which saw the Doctor’s foe become a reluctant do-gooder – reversed to make the Master a murderous villain again?
Former series boss Steven Moffat and Dhawan himself have left it up to fans to theorise, and being Whovians that’s just what they did. The most popular theories suggested that Dhawan’s Master could actually come before Gomez’s (we never see the regeneration so it’s possible), or even before her predecessor John Simm’s – but now a new (laser) spanner has been thrown in the works to complicate things even further.
What if Missy changed into this new Master because there was another Master in between? That’s the central plot point of a new Big Finish audio adventure starring Gomez’s renegade Time Lord, who finds her dastardly plots being foiled by someone she assumes is the Doctor only to find that it’s actually her future self, played by Line of Duty’s Gina McKee.
“I was devastated when Missy left our screens. And then, of course, Sacha turned up and was absolutely marvellous,” episode writer Lisa McMullin said.
“But I haven’t had my fill of Missy yet. I wanted to create a story that could – possibly – fill in the gap between Missy’s last telly appearance and the Master’s spectacular TV return.”
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The further twist? This new Master (calling herself the Lumiat) is actually good. Within the story, it’s revealed that at the end of her life (presumably referring to her death in 2017’s The Doctor Falls) Missy activates some forbidden Time Lord technology called an Elysium field, granting herself a new cycle of regenerations and avoiding certain death while also purging herself of her darker qualities.
Following this process, McKee’s Lumiat is all sweetness and light, and determined to help her past self do good – though as the story goes on some doubt begins to be cast on exactly how this regeneration from Missy to the Lumiat panned out. Was Missy really trying to turn good – or was she trying to get rid of that pesky conscience that she’d been struggling with, only to have something go wrong?
By the end of the story – further spoiler alert – Missy ends up forcing the Lumiat to regenerate, making her two-for-two in the self-murder stakes (including John Simm’s Master) and leaving an ambiguous note as to what sort of person the next Master will be. As Missy notes in the story, regeneration is a lottery – who’s to say the next Master won’t be worse than ever?
Doctor Who – Missy (Michelle Gomez), the Master (Sacha Dhawan)BBC
In other words, this new story created something of a War Doctor for the Master, a bridging character between two eras that completes Missy’s storyline and potentially explains the Master’s reversion to type in series 12. After having a perfectly good incarnation, maybe the next Master (as played by Dhawan) overcorrected, creating a deadlier version than ever?
Fans also have other theories already. What if the Elysium field, noted to be an unreliable piece of technology, created a darker Master at the same time as the Lumiat? Two Masters, ying and yang, might sound a little extreme – but in the world of Doctor Who anything is possible.
Now, we know what you’re thinking – does any of this “count”? As with all Big Finish stories, it’s difficult to say. While separate from the BBC’s current version of Doctor Wh, all stories do have to be signed off by the Beeb, and some Big Finish characters – specifically companions of Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor – were named in the TV version in 2013’s Night of the Doctor, suggesting that they at least “exist” in the TV universe as well.
Certainly, The Lumiat’s writer says she intended for the story to be taken as an official extension of Missy’s storyline.
Doctor Who – Missy (Michelle Gomez)BBC
“The Lumiat is canon. I say so,” McMullin said. “The Lumiatis the tale of what happens to the Time Lord known as Missy/the Master between Gomez and Dhawan (caveat – I wrote this before I knew there WAS a Master in Dhawan form).”
And if the BBC were happy to sign off on this story being made, and allow some oblique references to Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor in the story (“I’m a big fan of her work,” The Lumiat says of her old rival at one point), it certainly seems like there are no plans for the TV series to create a rival explanation for the Missy/Master plot hole.
For now, it seems like McMullin’s explanation will be left to stand, solving the mystery for the time being.
Though of course, we’re sure that won’t stop fans from continuing to create their own theories. For one thing, we’re pretty sure that this new twist still doesn’t technically rule out the Dhawan Master coming before Missy anyway…
Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks comes to BBC One in late 2020/early 2021 – check out what else is on with our TV Guide