Who Is The Master on Doctor Who?

John Simm as The Master as he appeared when last in male form

Last week’s episode of Doctor Who concluded with Nardole hearing some very distinct knocking sounds coming from the vault — which led us to believe that The Master was trapped inside.

But who is The Master?

He first entered the world of Doctor Who back in 1971 when the late Roger Delgado played the role. Since then multiple actors have taken up the baton.

From years of watching the series, we do know that The Master was a friend of the Doctor’s and that they went to the academy together as young children.

Things changed with regards to their friendship when The Master was taken for an initiation ceremony by the Time Lords.

This ceremony involved staring into the Untempered Schism, which is a gap in the fabric of space time.

In The Sound Of Drums, the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) explains that some go mad when they look into the Schism.

The late Roger Delgado, the first actor to portray The Master, in 1971’s Terror Of The Autons

Since his return to the series in the episode Utopia, where he was played by Derek Jacobi, The Master has been haunted by the sound a distinct 4/4 drum beat.

The same beat that Nardole reacted to when he heard the knocking sound in the vault, which was decorated with Gallifreyan symbols.

Throughout Doctor Who’s long history, The Master has been the Professor Moriarty to The Doctor’s Sherlock Holmes. He often pops up with a grand scheme that has huge implications to the Earth or even entire worlds.

He has always been very much the Doctor’s intellectual equal, but with a more devil-may-care attitude.

If someone gets killed in the process, The Master views this as collateral damage. A means to an end.

In the 1976 story The Deadly Assassin, The Master is described as wanting to be the master of all matter. His secondary objective was to make the Doctor suffer.

In his earlier appearances, The Master would utilise disguises and hypnosis to get what he wanted.

He has even allied himself with many of the Doctor’s enemies such as the Nestene Consciousness and the Daleks to get want he wants.

Having used up all his regenerations in the classic series, The Master managed to cheat his way into continued life by transferring his essence into another host body.

We witnessed him do this in The Keeper Of Traken, and again in the 1996 Doctor Who movie.

Since first appearing on the series, The Master has been portrayed by a total of eight actors — the latest of whom before the current series was Michelle Gomez, known as Missy, short for Mistress.

Michelle Gomez as Missy taunting Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor

To date we do not know how The Master changed sex, but chances are we’ll get to find out in the current run because John Simm is returning as The Master.

The first Master was played by Roger Delgado. He was followed by Peter Pratt (The Deadly Assassin), Geoffrey Beevers (The Keeper Of Trakken), and Anthony Ainley, who played the role for 11 stories ending with Survival.

Eric Roberts took on the role for the 1996 Doctor Who movie. Then in the new series Derek Jacobi played him before handing over to John Simm.

This new run of Doctor Who stories has many fans excited because it could well mean that we’ll be getting a Doctor Who first in the form of a multi-Master story, with both Simm and Gomez appearing.

To date the only way fans have been able to get a story where they have more than one regeneration of the Master has been in the audio adventures by Big Finish Audio.

Doctor Who airs on Saturdays at 7.20pm in the UK on BBC One, and at 9/8c on BBC America.

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