Roger Delgado (1971-1973)
Peter Pratt (1976)
Geoffrey Beevers (1981)
Anthony Ainley (1981-1989)
Gordon Tipple (1996)
Eric Roberts (1996)
Derek Jacobi (2007)
John Simm (2007-2010)
Michelle Gomez (2014-present)
The Master is a recurring character in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. He is a renegade Time Lord and the archenemy of the Doctor.
When the Master first appeared in January 1971 he was played by Roger Delgado, who continued in the role until his death in 1973. Afterwards, Peter Pratt and Geoffrey Beevers played a physically decayed version of the Time Lord until Anthony Ainley assumed the part in 1981 until the show's cancellation in 1989. In the 1996 TV movie, the Master was played briefly by Gordon Tipple, then by Eric Roberts while in a human body. In the revived series, Derek Jacobi provided the character's re-introduction before handing over to John Simm, who portrayed the Master in the climax of the 2007 series and in the 2009/2010 serial "The End of Time", with William Hughes also portraying the Master at the age of 8.
The creative team conceived the Master as a recurring villain, a "Professor Moriarty to the Doctor's Sherlock Holmes." He first appeared in Terror of the Autons (1971). The Master's title was deliberately chosen by producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks as evocative of supervillain names in fiction, but primarily because, like the Doctor, it was a title conferred by an academic degree.
Barry Letts had one man in mind for the role: Roger Delgado. Delgado had a long history of screen villainy and had already made three attempts to break into the series. He had worked previously with Barry Letts and was also a good friend of Jon Pertwee. Delgado was killed in a car accident in Turkey on 18 June 1973, while on his way to shoot footage for the French comedy The Bell of Tibet. The next Master story was replaced by Planet of the Spiders (1974).
An unrelated character called the Master of the Land of Fiction, also referred to as "the Master", had previously appeared in the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Mind Robber opposite Patrick Troughton's Doctor.
In "The Sound of Drums" (2007) and "The End of Time" (2010), a flashback shows the Master at the age of eight, when as part of a Time Lord initiation ceremony he is taken before a gap in the fabric of space and time known as the Untempered Schism, from which one can see into the entire Vortex. The Doctor states that looking into the time vortex causes some Time Lords to go mad, implying that event to have been the cause of the Master's actions and the four-beat sound of drums, which the Master calls the "drums of war". The drumming is later revealed to be a signal placed in his mind by the Time Lords during the Time War. The beat is the same in its rhythmic construction as a significant component of the show's theme music. In "The End of Time" part two, The Lord President of the Time Lords identifies it as the heart beat of a Time Lord.
A would-be universal conqueror, the Master wants to control the universe (in The Deadly Assassin his ambitions were described as becoming "the master of all matter", and in "The Sound of Drums" he acknowledges that he chose the name "the Master"), with a secondary objective of eliminating and/or hurting the Doctor. The original (and most common before 1996) look of the character was similar to that of the classic Svengali character; a black Nehru outfit with a beard and moustache.
In his three seasons beginning with Terror of the Autons, the Master (as played by Delgado) appeared in eight out of the fifteen serials. In his first season the Master is involved in every adventure of the Doctor's, always getting away at the last minute before he is captured in The Dæmons (1971), only to escape imprisonment in The Sea Devils (1972). He would often use disguises and brainwashing to operate in normal society, while setting up his plans; he also tried to use other alien races and powers as his means to conquest, such as the Autons and the Dæmons. Delgado's portrayal of the Master was as a suave, charming and sociopathic individual, able to be polite and murderous at almost the same time.
Delgado's last on-screen appearance as the Master was in Frontier in Space, where he is working alongside the Daleks and the Ogrons to provoke a war between the Human and Draconian Empires. His final scene ended with him shooting the Doctor and then disappearing.
In his next appearance in The Deadly Assassin (1976), the Master (played by Peter Pratt under heavy make-up) appears as an emaciated, decaying husk (similar to a corpse) at the end of his thirteenth and final life. Here, the evil Time Lord almost succeeds in his plan to restore himself to full life with the symbols of the office of President of the Council of Time Lords, the artifacts of Rassilon. The Doctor stops him because the process would have caused the destruction of Gallifrey. After this story, the Master again departs the series, returning in 1981. In The Keeper of Traken, the Master (Geoffrey Beevers under different heavy make-up but playing the same incarnation as Pratt) succeeds in renewing himself by taking over the body of the Trakenite scientist named Tremas (an anagram of "Master"), overwriting Tremas's mind in the process. The Master (played by Anthony Ainley, who played a double role in the serial as Tremas) then appeared on and off for the rest of the series, still seeking to extend his life – preferably with a new set of regenerations. Subsequently in The Five Doctors, the Time Lords offer the Master a new regeneration cycle in exchange for his help.
In many of his appearances opposite the Fifth Doctor, the Master shows his penchant for disguise once again. For example, in Time-Flight he operates under concealment for no clear plot reason. The character's association with playful pseudonyms also continued both within the series and in its publicity: when the production team wished to hide the Master's involvement in a story, they credited the character under an anagrammatic alias such as "Neil Toynay" (Tony Ainley) or "James Stoker" (Master's Joke).
Ainley's final appearance in the role in Survival was more restrained. He was also given a more downbeat costume, reminiscent of the suits and ties worn by Delgado's Master. In this final story, he had been trapped on the planet of the Cheetah People and been affected by its influence, which drove its victims to savagery. Escaping the doomed planet, he attempted to kill the Doctor, a plan which left him trapped back on the planet as it was destroyed.
The Master appeared as the main antagonist of the 1996 Doctor Who television movie that starred Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and Eric Roberts as the Master.
In the prologue, the Master (portrayed by Gordon Tipple) was executed by the Daleks as a punishment for his "evil crimes". The Master survives his execution by taking on the form of a small, snake-like entity. This entity escapes and slithers inside the Doctor's TARDIS console, forcing the vessel to crash land in San Francisco.
The novelisation of the television movie by Gary Russell posits that the modifications and alterations that the Master has made to his body over the years in attempts to extend his lifespan had allowed this continued existence, and the implication is that the "morphant" creature is actually another lifeform that the Master's consciousness possesses. This interpretation is made explicit in the first of the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels, The Eight Doctors by Terrance Dicks, and also used in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip story The Fallen (DWM #273-#276), which states that the morphant was a shape-shifting animal native to Skaro.
The morphant form is unsustainable and requires a human host, and it possesses the body of Bruce, a paramedic (played by Eric Roberts, the first and thus far only American actor to play the role). Bruce's body is also unsustainable and begins to slowly degenerate, although he has the added abilities to spit an acid-like bile as a weapon and a snake-like ability to hypnotise. The Master attempts to access the Eye of Harmony to steal the Doctor's remaining regenerations, but instead is sucked into it and supposedly killed.
When Doctor Who was revived in 2005, it was initially stated in the episode "Dalek" that all the Time Lords except the Doctor were killed in a Time War with the Daleks. The Doctor stated that if other Time Lords had survived, he would have been able to sense them. The Master did however reappear as the main antagonist of the third series; his return is foreshadowed in "Gridlock", when the Face of Boe gives the Tenth Doctor a message before dying: "You are not alone".
In "The Sound of Drums", it is revealed that the Time Lords resurrected the Master to serve as the ultimate front line soldier in the Time War. After the Dalek Emperor took control of "The Cruciform", the Master fled the war in fear, ignorant of its outcome. He disguised himself as a human through the same process the Doctor himself used in "Human Nature"—a Chameleon Arch that stores his Time Lord nature and memories in a fob watch and allows him to become biologically human—and hid at the end of the universe aging into the scientist, Professor Yana. The professor was still plagued by the constant drumbeat in his head as he attempts to send the last remaining humans to Utopia. The Doctor meets Yana in "Utopia", and a discussion of Time Lords and related issues by the Doctor and his companions (Martha Jones and Jack Harkness) cause Yana to recall his Time Lord essence. This, along with the increased intensity of the drumming in his head and Martha's curiosity about the fob watch, causes Yana to open the watch and become the Master again, in a scene that makes clear that YANA is an acronym for the Face of Boe's final words.
Near the end of "Utopia", the Master is mortally wounded when his companion Chantho shoots him after he fatally injured her, regenerating into a new younger incarnation. The Master steals the Doctor's TARDIS and escapes, but the Doctor sabotages the TARDIS using his sonic screwdriver so that the Master is only able to travel between present-day Earth and the year 100 trillion.
Following his escape from the end of the universe, he arrives in the United Kingdom 18 months before the 2008 election, prior to the fall of Harriet Jones. The Master assumes the identity Harold Saxon, becoming a high-ranking minister at the Ministry of Defence. He apparently holds this post during the 2006 Christmas episode, "The Runaway Bride", as the Army are said to be firing upon the Racnoss ship on Mr. Saxon's orders. During this period, he finances Professor Richard Lazarus' (Mark Gatiss) research and sets up the Archangel communications network, which allows him to influence humanity using a telepathic field, enabling him to rise to the office of Prime Minister. Before the events of "The Runaway Bride" in the show's adult-themed spin-off Torchwood, a "Vote Saxon" poster is seen on a wall among several other tattered posters in the episode Captain Jack Harkness, possibly the first indication of the Master's return. In "Love & Monsters", an article about Saxon leading the polls can be seen when the Abzorbaloff first reveals himself.
After becoming Prime Minister, the Master uses the TARDIS to recruit the Toclafane as allies, having them kill one tenth of the world population, and rules the Earth for a year, while he turns whole nations into work-camps and bases for a fleet of war rockets. Just as he is ready to wage war on the rest of the universe and forge an empire, the Doctor is restored to strength by the efforts of Martha Jones, using the Archangel network. The Doctor intends to keep the Master with him on the TARDIS; this plan is thwarted when the Master is shot by his wife Lucy Saxon (Alexandra Moen). The Master then dies after refusing to regenerate, unwilling to be the Doctor's prisoner. Since his death emotionally hurts the Doctor, the Master views this as a victory.
The Doctor cremates the Master's body on a pyre. His ring remains, which is picked up by a woman with long, bright red fingernails, revealed later to be a member of a coven loyal to the Master.
In "The End of Time", the Governor and other members of the Master's coven conduct the resurrection ritual at Broadfell prison, where Lucy Saxon was incarcerated. Lucy sabotages the ritual and the Master is returned to life with a failing, undead body and a ravenous hunger. He is able to manipulate bolts of electricity, move with phenomenal agility and jump great distances by manipulating his life force. Resorting to wandering the fringe of London and feeding on homeless people while being pursued by the Doctor, the Master is eventually captured by billionaire Joshua Naismith in order to use his knowledge to repair an alien 'Immortality Gate' to make Naismith's daughter immortal. But the Master hijacks the device, using its original purpose as a planet-wide medical tool to overwrite the DNA of every human on Earth with his own and create a "Master Race".
By then, the Master realizes that the drum beat in his head is a signal and uses his duplicates to triangulate the signal to its source: The Time Lord President Rassilon. Having set up the signal in order to be released from the time-locked Time War, Rassilon sent a unique Gallifreyan diamond to Earth to help the Master create a link through which Gallifrey, the Time Lords, and all in the Time War could escape. The Master intended to overwrite his DNA onto the Time Lord race, only for his influence on the human race undone while learning the how the war ended and that he has been used as a pawn in Rassilon's own plan to destroy the universe and evolve the Time Lords to a higher plane of existence. The Doctor destroys the link and the Master attacks Rassilon in an act of revenge for a lifetime of manipulation, disappearing along with the other Time Lords in the process.
The Master and the Doctor are shown to have similar levels of intelligence, and were classmates on Gallifrey, wherein the Master outperformed the Doctor (Terror of the Autons). This is mentioned several times in different stories (The Five Doctors, The Sea Devils and Terror of the Autons). A similar connection between the two was also referenced in "The End of Time" in which the Master reminisces with the Doctor about his father's estates on Gallifrey and his childhood with The Doctor before saying "look at us now". In the 2007 episode "Utopia", the Doctor calls the transformed and disguised Master a genius and shows admiration for his intellect before discovering his true identity. The Doctor further expresses admiration for the Master's intellect in The End of Time by calling him "stone cold brilliant" and yet states that the Master could be more if he would just give up his desire for domination.
Both the Doctor and the Master have been shown to be skilled hypnotists, although the Master's capacity to dominate – even by stare and voice alone – has been shown to be far more pronounced. In Logopolis the Doctor said of the Master, "He's a Time Lord. In many ways, we have the same mind." The Master is often able to anticipate the Doctor's moves, as seen in stories such as Castrovalva, The Keeper of Traken, Time-Flight, and The King's Demons, where he plans elaborate traps for the Doctor, only revealing his presence at the key moment. In The Deadly Assassin, the Master was able to send a false premonition as a telepathic message to the Doctor, but it is unclear whether he performed this through innate psychic ability, or was aided technologically. In "Utopia" after the Master regenerates and reveals himself, he taunts the Doctor to try to stop his elaborate schemes again.
In The End of Time the Master uses a kind of psychic technique, previously used by the Doctor to read the minds of others, allowing the Doctor to hear the constant 'drumming' inside the Master's mind.
The Master's original weapon of choice was the "tissue compression eliminator", which shrinks its target to doll-like proportions, killing them in the process. Its appearance is similar to that of the Doctor's favourite tool, the sonic screwdriver. Both the tissue compression eliminator and the sonic screwdriver resemble a short hand-held rod; at different times in the series, both tools have had a LED on the end to signal its use.
During the course of "The Sound of Drums", the Master unveils a new handheld weapon: a laser screwdriver. The device functions as a powerful laser weapon, capable of killing with a single shot. It also carries the ability to age victims rapidly using a miniaturized version of the genetic manipulator developed by Professor Lazarus ("The Lazarus Experiment"). The screwdriver itself also contains isomorphic technology, a biometric security feature which effectively disables use of the device by anyone other than the Master.
Unlike the Doctor, the Master does not usually have companions. There have been times when he made exceptions, though in his case they are not so much "companions" as "tools". In Castrovalva, the Doctor's companion Adric was abducted by the Master and forced to create a block transfer computation. Later, in The King's Demons, Kamelion is controlled by the Master before the Doctor steals him away, with the Master regaining control of Kamelion in Planet of Fire. In the second episode of The Ultimate Foe, Sabalom Glitz chose to go with the Master in search of Time Lord secrets.
In the 1996 television movie, Chang Lee helps the Master because he has been duped into believing that the Doctor had stolen his body. When Lee's loyalty begins to falter, the Master attempts to kill him without hesitation. In promotional media surrounding the movie, Lee is depicted more as a companion to the Eighth Doctor (alongside Grace Holloway).
In "Utopia", Chantho plays a similar companion role to the Professor Yana persona. Chantho states that she has been with him for 17 years as a "devoted assistant". Later, when the Master persona resurfaces, he berates her for never freeing him from his confinement, and the two fatally wound one another, resulting in Chantho's death and the Master's regeneration.
In "The Sound of Drums", the Master, as Harold Saxon, is married to Lucy Saxon, to whom he refers at one point as his "faithful companion". Lucy is aware of the nature of the Master's plans yet is still loyal to him. She has travelled with him to Utopia, the end of the universe, and thus believes "there's no point to anything." Their relationship appears to be non-platonic; they kiss quite often and it seems as though their marriage is more than just a pretence. Lucy comments, "I made my choice, for better or for worse." In "Last of the Time Lords" she is still present, but showing signs of apparent physical abuse, and her loyalty towards him begins to waver. She shoots the Master at the climax of the story, killing him. She is imprisoned, but when the Master's coven made the preparations for his resurrection in The End of Time, she is forced into giving the Master's biometric signature on her lips to complete the ritual. Having foreseen his return, Lucy threw a vial containing a chemical to disrupt the resurrection, killing herself in the resulting explosion while only succeeding in giving the Master a tentative life.