The Master’s Moffat Plan
Gustaff Behr speculates on what might happen if the Master returns.
Recent news and information have been pointing to Doctor Who literally going back to its roots: Older Doctor and a trio of companions from Coal Hill School just to name a few. This means that in a sense, the long way back to Gallifrey will translate into Doctor Who: “Where it all begins – again.”
Now obviously we aren’t getting four part twenty minute episodes with three cliffhangers or black and white picture (thank goodness for that last one), but you can say that in a sense Series 7 started the journey by featuring a large amount of callbacks to the classic era by having Daleks, UNIT, Silurians, Sontarans, Ice Warriors, Cybermen and the Great Intelligence in one season. Rumors that the Master will be showing up for Series 8 are also floating around. Their legitimacy is in question though! Or in the Daily Star’s case – non-existent. It seems that if it isn’t ‘Omega is coming back’, it’s the Master. Don’t worry Omega conspiracy theorists. You’re bound to be right about him coming back one of these years. And now back to the Master issue. The thing is – if he does return, what do we do with him?
The Master is a unique character in that unlike the Daleks and Cybermen who only possess one goal, the Master possesses three, which means there are three potential story routes available to writers: Steal the Doctor’s remaining lives, take over the universe or kill the Doctor.
Think about it. All of his past appearances can now be attributed to having the ‘drumming’ in his head driving him insane. The End of Time sorted that mess out by showing the cause and resolving it. Bonus points to Russell T Davies for letting go of another popularly featured, but somewhat watered down storyline: The Master’s quest for new life. In Utopia, we see the Master regenerating into a new body after the Time Lords promised him a new set of regenerations way back in The Five Doctors. We know from the TV Movie that the Time Lords did not keep their word on this occasion, but Dark Eyes 2 reveals that the Time Lords eventually helped the Master out of a ‘predicament’ and gave him a ‘new lease on life’ or cart blanch as he puts it. He even suspects that they’re only ‘bringing him into the fold for something’, but he isn’t worried as he plays their game better than they do. Wink-wink!
This would make the Simm Master either the second or the third incarnation of his new regeneration set as we don’t know if the Jacobi incarnation is a separate iteration or a future version of the MacQueen Master. Similarly, Capaldi is the first regeneration and the second Doctor of the new regeneration set, the Twelfth Doctor and the fourteenth incarnation of the Time Lord over all. This means that now both the Doctor and the Master are more or less the same age (speaking from a regenerative POV and not from a biological one). Trying to steal the Doctor’s lives would make very little sense as he has plenty of those now and introducing the Master again at a point where he has already used up his new cycle would be too much of a repeat of last time and let’s be honest – terribly lazy. Regarding the second route, it remains unclear if the Master saved the Doctor from Rassilon to repent for his sins against him or because he just hated Rassilon more in that moment, but if the former is true, then killing the Doctor would also feel contradictory. In fact, if we ignore this argument and deduce that the only reason the Master wanted to kill the Doctor was because the ‘drumming’ had driven him insane, then that door remains locked.
That just leaves the total dominion of the universe route. This is also the most recognizable Master story in the series, but there comes a time when every ‘world domination’ baddie becomes either just another nut in a costume or a card-carrying villain. Since the Master doesn’t wear tights, this would mean that eventually he’ll become the latter. The latter is also a little boring as that is the most recognizable storyline in villain fiction. You can even argue that without the ‘drumming’, the Master is now sane enough to not care who owns the universe. So what now? The Master has always had a very unique relationship with the Doctor. Given that, doesn’t he deserve a better storyline than ‘I want to own everything’?
It does kind of feel like everybody wants the Master to return, but isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do once he’s back. Turn him into a good guy? Never! That is the one thing that will never permanently happen. As I said, my personal opinion of The End of Time: He was just angrier at Rassilon in that moment. Some fans have pondered that perhaps the Master might come back with a grudge against the Doctor for sending him into the Time War again. Thanks to The Day of the Doctor which takes place during and after The End of Time, holding a grudge for being locked away for like two hours seems really petty – even for the Master.
However, there is light ladies and gentlemen. What if the Master holds a grudge because after being locked in a pocket universe, the Time Lords try (as in a court of law) and imprison the Master for either running away from the war or the library of transgressions in his past? People also want darker, manipulative Time Lords reminiscent of their Classic appearances. How about torturing the Master while waiting for the Doctor to free them? Or breaking the Master out of the bubble universe to find a way to free them since the Doctor couldn’t? Just spit-balling here. Not supposed to make much sense rolling off the top of my head.
Unfortunately, the ‘I want to own everything’ route seems like the easiest to pull off from now on. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be allowed a more intimate insight into the childhood relationship between the two Time Lords. Stories like The End of Time and Master features extraordinary acumens into this complicated friendship/enemy-ship. There is also the most recognizable route available: Since the resolution in Day, the Doctor has made it clear that he wants to reunite with his people. If his feelings in The End of Time are anything to go by, the Master would like nothing more than to destroy the people who ruined his first cycle of regenerations. That attitude seems like a more interesting way to spend your second set of regenerations over the next fifty years. Plus, it doubles as irony!