Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Master Who

Well it’s been a funny old weekend, with prominent Doctor Who fans up in arms about the return of Captain Jack and the Master – and whether or not the “viewing public” would know or care who the Master is.

There’s some “names” here, too, voicing their “concern”. Concern at what, though? The Master is an integral element of Doctor Who’s success, and has been since his introduction in 1971. He’s the perfect antidote to the Doctor – the Roger Delgado version was a superbly urbane counter to Jon Pertwee’s establishment-friendly Doctor; the Tony Ainley version was similarly designed to pose a threat to both the superior intellect of the Fourth Doctor and the reluctant Fifth Doctor of Peter Davison. Fast forward 16 years and the Eric Roberts incarnation of the Master was the diametric opposite of the 8th Doctor.

Key period in Doctor Who’s history there – the UNIT era, the end of the long-running Fourth Doctor and the attempt at a US produced series – all relying on the presence of the Master to present the Doctor with a clearly equal rival, as evil and malevolent as the Doctor is benevolent.

I am baffled, really, at why anyone should think the Master is an unknown element from the past, relying on too much backstory that the casual audience is excluded. As Utopia showed us, only two things are necessary – that the Master is a rival Time Lord, and that he is terribly evil.

That’s all that any new viewer needs to know – he’s a rogue Time Lord with a line in arch plots to usurp power and use it to his own ends. He’s an archetype, and he’s (debatably) the last instantly recognisable emblem from classic Doctor Who.

So welcome back, Master. Enjoy your theft of the Doctor’s TARDIS, enjoy your political life, and enjoy your brief moment of glory…

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