When Sacha Dhawan’s Master first arrived in Doctor Who, fans had questions. What lies would he reveal to the Doctor? What did he do to Gallifrey? And where did he manage to pick up that natty purple suit?
But above all else, Whovians wanted to know something simple: where did this Master fit into the character’s timeline? Because when it comes to face-changing, time-travelling baddies all our traditional ideas of continuity go out of the window…
You see, the most obvious answer – that this new Master is the next incarnation after Michelle Gomez’s Missy, the last actor to play the role – didn’t satisfy all fans, who pointed out that there were a few odd details that could suggest he fitted in differently.
After all, the last time we saw Missy she had (apparently) been permanently killed, following a storyline where she was gradually redeemed. But now, 12 episodes later here was the Master again, alive with no explanation and making no reference to that apparent redemption.
More likely, some fans suggested, was that he was a regeneration before John Simm’s Master – or maybe just after, before Gomez – which could also explain where he picked up a TARDIS despite Gomez’s incarnation not possessing one. We never saw Simm turn to Gomez or Gomez turn to Dhawan, after all, so maybe the order could be different to what we believed. Who’s to say otherwise?
Well, as it turns out Doctor Who’s to say otherwise – because in the new official annual for the BBC sci-fi series, it’s explicitly suggested that the Master order does place Dhawan after Gomez after all.
In the section, which is written as a conversation between the Master and the Doctor, the two old enemies reminisce about their past adventures, specifically putting the most recent incarnations – Simm, Gomez and Dhawan – in chronological order and stating fairly clearly that the current Master definitely follows the Missy version.
“You looked quite different the next time I saw you,” Whittaker’s Doctor says after referencing the Simm Master. “I quite liked you as Missy. At least she wanted to change, to be a better person.”
“She spent too long in your company, Doctor,” Dhawan’s Master replies. “A mistake I don’t intend to repeat.”
Of course, this is just a spin-off annual and not necessarily a canonical part of the show – but given that this book will have been signed off by the Doctor Who production team, it does suggest that the correct answer for how the current Master fits into the timeline is the simplest one. Sacha Dhawan is the latest Master, just like Jodie Whittaker is the latest Doctor.
Of course, in the world of Doctor Who anything is up for grabs and there’s nothing to say that the Master/Missy controversy won’t be resolved a different way down the line. John Hurt’s War Doctor wasn’t canonical until he was, and it’s certainly possible that at some point the series’ writers will decide that there’s a fun twist to be had within the current ambiguity. And if that comes around, it’s unlikely anyone will be angrily defending an annual.
Still, for now Doctor Who fans seem to have their answer for this particular Master mystery (or Maystery) – and if you’re still a bit put out by the character change, well, there’s always the idea of Missy and the Lumiat to fill in that particular plot hole…
Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks comes to BBC One in late 2020/early 2021. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.