The latest casting twist in Doctor Who isn’t that the Master is now played by a woman….it’s that The Master will be played by two people.
Steven Moffat’s tenure at Doctor Who hasn’t been one without controversy. There were people who hated how useless Amy Pond was without her man Rory. There was taking River Song and making her a Doctor-crazy woman in love. There was that whole “Clara on a leaf” half season which is generally regarded as the worst of Doctor WHo since the reboot.
But patriarchy will out, and that means that one of Moffat’s best notions–making the Master regenerate as a woman, who styled herself “Missy”–is generally regarded as his most controversial decision ever. Nevermind that Michelle Gomez and Peter Capaldi have chemistry for days. Nevermind that their interactions are some of the best since the Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor faced off against Roger Delgado’s original Master. Doctor Who fans are offended because she has an innie instead of an outie. SCANDAL.
Which is why the announcement yesterday that John Simm, who was the last male actor to play The Master would be returning this season raised shock and awe across the Whoniverse. What did it *mean*?
Notably this is the first time Moffat will be bringing back a character from earlier in the reboot that he did not create during Davies tenure. The last time we saw this variation of The Master was during the Tennant era. His last appearance on the show was also Tennant’s last appearance as the Doctor, in “The End of Time”.
Moffat did not return to the Master until bringing in Missy in Series 8. Simm had been teasing his return to the show as a possibility as far back as 2015, which was just prior to the role being recast as “Missy”. This suggests that whatever is happening, Moffat’s been planning it for some time.
There’s always the possibility it means Moffat will undo Missy altogether and show her to be a fraud, and John Simm was the Master the whole time. But Simm’s statement, in the RadioTimes, suggests that perhaps this will be a “two Master” episode, much like we have had multi-Doctor episode specials.
“I can confirm that it’s true, thanks to the power of time travel I’m back.”
As is Moffat’s statement from the BBC:
Michelle Gomez’s Missy and Simm’s Master will be “face to face” on screen.
As for when this face off will be happening? From the sounds of Twitter, it might be part of that finale two parter.
Doctor Who Series 10 returns in eight days.