Unpopular Opinion: Missy the Master
John Hussey on why he is not in favour of Missy being the Master..
As it has been well established in my recent 2nd Opinion reviews I am not in favour of Missy being revealed as the Master. Instead of ranting about it in the comment section I have decided to use this article to express my side of the argument in a calm manner that will help get across my points more and hopefully make fans on the other side of the argument see my points a little clearer.
Disclaimer: Now I will say this isn’t an article dedicated to taking a jab at Michelle Gomez, nor is it to enforce my opinion over others, thereby trying to convert people’s views on the matter. This is simply an article to express a different perspective on the Master’s gender change.
Traits are the first thing that come to mind. Now obviously my original thoughts after the broadcast of ‘Dark Water’ couldn’t really be backed-up much by portrayal alone because I hadn’t seen Michelle Gomez’ incarnation in full action until ‘Death in Heaven’. Now in itself that’s a fair point but this is where my argument still gained somewhat of a valid point: yes we had seen her in action. Missy wasn’t exactly a stranger to the show as she’d already appeared as a cameo in ‘Deep Breath’, ‘Into the Dalek’, ‘The Caretaker’, ‘Flatline’ and finally ‘In the Forest of the Night’. Some might say a cameo wasn’t enough to really get a great judge of her character but I learnt all I needed to by those few minutes of cameos to establish an idea that Missy was to be an original character created by Moffat. This was also blatantly obvious throughout ‘Dark Water’ because she continued the traits she’d established within her previous appearances.
One of the major problems about the reveal in the first place was the handling because it just seemed out of the blue and contradicted Missy as a character. One minute she was a new character, then suddenly she was a Time Lady, and before you could say “No, not the Mind Probe,” she was revealed in a last minute moment as the Master. And that’s what it felt like; a throwaway line tagged onto an already brilliant episode which fell flat for me right at the end by that poor handling of my favourite villain. Needless to say, it hit me hard.
Naturally, come ‘Death in Heaven,’ I tried my best to judge Missy’s incarnation by comparing her to the already established characteristics of the Master (which takes me back to my original point of this part of the argument). I watched carefully through the finale and really couldn’t grasp any relation to the Master whatsoever apart from a few sly moments which still left me unconvinced. Missy seemed somewhat bonkers to say the least and that isn’t what the Master was.
The Master has always been someone who’s seen the Doctor as both a rival and an equal, bordering between respect and despise. Above all the Master has always been cunning. Even during his most insane years of being near enough a corpse in ‘The Deadly Assassin’ and ‘The Keeper of Traken’ where his hatred of the Doctor was higher than ever, he still remained cunning; devising the most painful and humiliating way of defeating his nemesis.
Even John Simm’s portrayal of the Master, though completely bonkers (which I loved), still retained a cunning calmness to him. What I loved most about his return in ‘The End of Time’ was his continuous determination to survive (something of a massive character point through the Master’s many stories) and to come out on top, thereby proving himself as a worthy foe to be reckoned with. Sometimes I think he just wanted to prove himself to the Doctor, something touched upon in ‘Death in Heaven’. Missy on the other hand doesn’t come across as cunning, rather just a mad woman who likes killing people. This isn’t the Master. The Master is a psychopath, yes, but he is also a genius, something I couldn’t fully see in Missy.
Michelle Gomez did try her best, but in many ways did come across as an over the top villain who was insane for no other reason than being insane. There wasn’t anything that really justified it and she became a bit too pantomime. True to my word I’m not taking a jab at Gomez because it’s not entirely down to her, but also Moffat and his writing. An actor must work with the material they are given and if it isn’t very good you can hardly expect even the most talented of actors/actresses to get an award out of it.
This comes to my point of Missy being written as an new, individual character; a Moffat creation. This is another reason why I couldn’t take her character seriously as the Master because it felt like her character was written as a new villainess which had the Master name tagged on top for surprise purposes in a bid to gain more viewing figures. So in that respect the idea of a female Master wasn’t for character building purposes or re-visualising old concepts but rather to add in shock value. Missy’s characteristics were cringeworthy at times because I was supposed to be accepting her as the Master but she was doing everything in her power to not be like the Master. Plus her little villain piece of asking for her victims to “say something nice” before they died appeared to be sadistic but nothing I’d see the Master doing.
A lot of people might say that I shouldn’t judge Missy from past incarnations because every one of them is different. Yes that is true but fundamentally there is continuity within the Time Lord’s traits through each and every incarnation. The Doctor is the same. Though his personal traits and mindset gets shifted around each time he is still the same person with the same goals, feelings and personal habits. Some things will change but the fundamental character still remains and Missy took nothing from the past with her. It felt like a few throwaway lines were used here and there to almost remind the audience that she was in fact the Master because her performance alone wasn’t enough.
I suppose what is annoying about this change is the fact people are actually referring to the Master as a she. Why? This is what I don’t like about this change because the Master is now permanently branded a woman and because of this has shifted characteristics to be more like a woman and not a man trapped in a woman’s body (which is kind of what happened, though we still don’t know the exact reasons behind this change). It has affected the Master and the Doctor’s relationship and made it almost unbearable to watch because what was once a love/hate brotherly relationship is now a flirt off. Both of the characters have now kissed each other and I am left wondering why. It goes against their previous chemistry together and it appears to me that just because one of them is now female that means it’s okay to add in sexual tension. The Master is still a man essentially. He was born a man and has simply undergone regeneration, only this time came out with a different body entirely. In my eyes this has gone against what has already been set in stone and Moffat has somewhat abused continuity in order to try something new and outrageous.
My biggest complaint is the reasoning. There doesn’t seem to be any. Or at least none that I can believe to be a legitimate reasoning for this erratic change in character. Some may claim that the Master required some major improvements in order to make the character more interesting and fresh. I don’t know if I watch a different show to others but I thought the character was just fine as it was. In some ways it makes me think if that the writer’s can’t think of any further use for the character then why not leave it be, allowing the poetic resolution in ‘The End of Time’ to be the ultimate send-off. If character development was what the writer’s had in mind then I really don’t see why turning him female makes any real sense. How does that make him more impressive? If anything it’s a cheap gag served best for a spoof, i.e. Moffat’s ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’.
It’s almost like the society of modern day had the biggest influence on the show, rather than letting it be what it is. Sure change is fine to keep it updated for this modern age, but there has to be a point where a line is drawn and I think the changing of character’s gender should be that line. Would you have a female James Bond or Harry Potter? Or on the reverse side, would you go as far as turning heroines like Lara Croft or Ellen Ripley into a man? It is a simple concept of formula and some formulas you just don’t mess with. There is no need to change iconic character’s genders if it just doesn’t add anything. If anything it just turns the character into joke formulated by a modern ideal. That is what fan-fiction was invented for.
In many respects the worst part of all this is that I will have to keep facing this fact over and over again until Missy disappears from our screens, but even then I will still have the memories of this move. But my biggest dread is the fact that this would appear to be a test run for a female Doctor. Since the Master change has been met with a largely positive response I fear it won’t be long until they actually put the female Doctor plan into full action. Needless to say if a female Doctor comes along me and the show will be going our separate ways I’m afraid.
Well there you have it. Some perfectly acceptable reasons why I think the Master’s gender change was a poor idea. Now I appreciate not everyone agrees with my views but I would appreciate that any debate created remains friendly, civil and my views aren’t abused through aggression or accusations of sexism. I very much welcome opposite opinions and believe both sides of the coins should be heard out, so I hope you can give me the same courtesy. Thank you for reading.