And so, we continue down the Dark Path of the Doctor's greatest foe. This time, we delve into the 80s Masters....
THE CORPSE MASTER - VERSION 2.0
For the rest of the 70s, the Master disappears from the show. We know at the end of Deadly Assassin that he's capable of plaguing the Doctor again. We see his badly super-imposed face on the grandfather clock as it dematerializes on Gallifrey. And yet, there are no televised signs of the Master until several seasons later in Keeper of Traken.
A major change has occurred between Assassin and Traken. One that can't be ignored and must, therefore, be explained.
Peter Pratt does not play the Master in Keeper of Traken - Geoffrey Beevers does. And it's not Beevers behind the same fright mask. If that were the case, we might be able to overlook the different voice. But Beevers is done up in make-up. So the Master really does have a different appearance from the last time we've seen him. Similar costume, of course - but definitely a different face.
The Doctor mentions at the end of Deadly Assassin that the Master had succeeded in leeching off some considerable energy from the Eye Of Harmony. That the energy may have been used to, somehow, save him when he fell into the fissure that had been formed in the floor behind him as he was attempting to destroy Gallifrey. Spandrell and Engin seeing the Master steal off in his TARDIS moments later seems to confirm this theory.
I propose that the stolen energy did more than save the Master from a vicious plummet. That, even after the fall, he still had some energy left over from the Power Source of the Time Lords. He took that energy and tried to induce another regeneration with it and had partial success. His body is still not in the best of shape, but it's marginally healthier. More stable than the one he had before the regeneration attempt, but still only a shadow of the man he once was.
Essentially, this is the 14th incarnation of the Master. Or, perhaps, a half-incarnation might be more accurate. He still retains the general appearance of the last Master but is different enough to say that he isn't quite the same body.
Sometime after this partial regeneration, the Beevers Master constructs a whole new TARDIS (some more of that energy he stole from the Eye Of Harmony? Perhaps he intentionally rationed it because he knew he didn't have enough for a complete regneration: so he used some of it to get a new body and some of it to build a new TARDIS). Either that, or the Master steals another TARDIS from Gallifrey in an unseen adventure. Never one to waste a resource, he still held on to the grandfather clock TARDIS that he had been using before. Parking it in the corner of the console room of his new TARDIS.
Tom Baker's Doctor makes no remark about the Master's new appearance when they finally confront each other in Episode Four of Keeper of Traken. It could be that he just didn't really have the time to make the remark. Or, perhaps, he's met this version of the Master in an untelevised adventure. We don't really know. But we have to acknowledge that this isn't quite the same version of the Master that we saw in Deadly Assassin. Even the personality is a bit different. He seems a more mellow and patient character, this time round. The Pratt Master seemed to be boiling over with rage and full of rash actions. Whereas this version of the villain is content to sit for years in a calcified Melkur, waiting for his moment to arrange the proper political circumstances to gain Keepership. I can't see the Pratt Master having the temperment to execute such a plot. His lack of patience would've gotten the best of him and he would've hatched a scheme that would've taken place much sooner.
The Pratt Master also seemed very ill and close to death. One more reason why he wouldn't have waited around for so long to execute his plans in Keeper of Traken - he just didn't have the lifespan in him to hang in there! Whereas the Beevers Master is a stabilised version of the Pratt Master - the deathly illness seems to have passed. He's still not very physically strong but he's not on the verge of passing away, either. So he can sit around for long years waiting for the proper moment to become the Keeper of the Traken Union.
So the Beevers Master is a different incarnation of some sort. But because of the similarities to the Pratt Master, I'd say it was some sort of strange partial regeneration.
THE ANTHONY AINLEY CLIFFHANGERS
From Keeper of Traken onwards, the Master becomes a frequent thorn in the Doctor's side, again. With as many appearances as the Delgado Master, Anthony Ainley's version of the evil Renegade Time Lord plagues the Fifth Doctor heavily and keeps appearing quite regularly during the reigns of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, too. The Ainley Master also takes the character arc of a crumbling sanity and a lust for vengeance to an even higher level. More times than others, his plans for universal domination are put to the side in order to execute vicious plots that will annihilate his greatest foe (Castrovalva, Mark of the Rani, Ultimate Foe). And when he's not trying to lure the Doctor into some horrible trap, he's unraveling some predicament he's put himself into because his imbalanced psyche is making more and more bad choices (Time Flight, Planet of Fire and Survival). Only once in a while does the Doctor catch him actually trying to gain power that will help him rule over the cosmos. An undertaking he was almost always up to back in the Perwee Era but never seems to have time for, anymore. With the stealing of Tremas' body, the Master may have stabilised his physical health - but his mental health seems to be another issue entirely.
During this era, a new mystery develops during the gaps between the televised battles of these two Time Lord rivals. Back when Barry Letts was producing the show, every story involving the Master ended with a, sort of, "live to fight another day" teaser. The Master might call the Doctor after escaping the explosion of the Thunderbolt missile or wave menacingly from a Navy hovercraft to let him know he was alive and well and would return to fight him again. But stories involving the Master during the JNT-era always ended with the Master in a seemingly inescapable dastardly fate. The walls of Castrovalva were closing in on him or a time-accelerated T-Rex was getting ready to devour him. A very novel way to resolve the story, yes. But there was one problem with this new formula: We never learned how the Master escaped from the cliffhanger.
He would just simply arrive in his next story and the only explanations we would get were things like: "So you managed to escape Castrovalva, after all" or "I'm indestructible. The whole universe knows that!". We would never actually find out the precise details of how he had survived the last peril the Doctor had left him in. This wasn't too bad when he was stranded on Xeriphas or his Tissue Compressor was used to play havoc with the inner dimensions of his TARDIS. But when more serious stuff happens to him, it's a bit annoying to not get some satisfying answers. I can't foresee a special episode in the New Series in which the Master finally sits down and tells the Doctor how he got away from all those nasty scrapes back when he was possessing Tremas' body so all we can do, as fans, is speculate. Here, in my opinion, are the most likely explanations to the various cliffhangers that happened during the Ainley Master Era:
THE CLIFFHANGER: There he is, hoisted by his own petards in the most succinct of fashions. The newly-regenerated Fifth Doctor and his companions manage to escape the recursive occlusion that's been engineered around them, but the Master doesn't quite make it out as the outer doors of Castrovalva close for the final time. Even worse, the citizens of the fictitious town he has created seem to be tearing him to pieces, too. This one really looks completely inescapable.
THE SOLUTION: We see just a few minutes earlier that the Master does have a device of some sort that enables him to wink Castrovalvans out of existence with the mere pressing of a button. No doubt, he gets that device out in his struggles with the mob and puts it to good work. Once he's cleared away the riot, he legs it back to his TARDIS and turns it on full blast. Using the time machine to burst out of the trap - he manages to break free, this time. Perhaps, on the first try, he was attempting to escape without damaging his TARDIS. But, this time, he's thrown caution to the wind. Better to live with a damaged TARDIS than to die with one fully intact. And he does wreck his ship in the worst of ways. The heart of his TARDIS is almost completely extinguished. Which sets us up, quite neatly, for the problem he's trying to solve in Time Flight. He used a last remaining bit of TARDIS energy to get him to the Xeraphin temple on pre-historic Earth and then set himself to work on re-vitalizing his TARDIS.
THE CLIFFHANGER: It's just a little unclear what actually does happen at the end of Time Flight. The Doctor, somehow, materializes his TARDIS just seconds before the Master is meant to land there. It somehow sends the Master's TARDIS back to Xeriphas where he'll most likely be stranded because the Xeriphans will, somehow, set themselves' free from being the power source of his time vessel. It's a bit confusing but, basically, the Master is stranded on Xeriphas. We think. Sort of....
THE SOLUTION: We almost get a complete explanation in King's Demons. No doubt, when the Master does end up on Xeriphas, the beings in the sarcophagus thingy at the heart of his TARDIS manage to free themselves and the renegade Time Lord is trapped there with no means of powering his ship. But then, he comes across Kamelion. Apparently, he was left lying around by an unknown alien race that had used the shape-shifter as a tool in a failed invasion of the planet. We're not exactly sure how a shape-shifter would be useful for such a thing (Kamelion took on the form of various Xeriphan leaders who instructed the people to surrender to the invaders but the commonfolk refused to listen and fought them off?), but the Maser avails himself of the android and uses it as a means to re-fuel his TARDIS. My guess is, Kamelion takes on the forms of various influential Xeraphin statesmen and convinces the populace that they should give the Master the freedom of mobility again. If nothing else, it gets him off their world! Perhaps it was something even more elaborate than that. Kamelion's impersonations actually, somehow, trick the Xeraphin to go back into the sarcophagus and they become, once more, the power source for the Master's TARDIS. But, this time, they don't escape. For all we know, every time we saw the Master's TARDIS after that, the entire race of the Xeraphin was trapped inside of it - acting as petrol!
The King's Demons:
THE CLIFFHANGER: Like Time Flight, this one is pretty low-level, too. And, also, a bit unclear. We're given the impression that the Master's TARDIS isn't going to work very well, anymore, because the Doctor turned on his tissue compressor and left it running in the console room. This, apparently, was going to do some nasty damage to the infrastructure and make it unsteerable so that the Master would no longer be able to properly execute his masterplan of systematically changing the histories of various important planets and re-molding the political structure of the Universe to suit his purposes.
THE SOLUTION: The tissue compressor does do a lot of damage to the Master's TARDIS but he manages to fix the damage and make his TARDIS steerable again (it seems to go exactly where he wants it to go during The Five Doctors and Planet of Fire and various other subsequent adventures). However, it would seem that the Doctor's trick with the tissue compressor inspires the Master to experiment with the effectiveness of the weapon. Which results in the horrible accident that causes him to shrink to the size of a doll and re-enlist Kamelion to aid him in restoring himself to a normal stature.
Planet of Fire:
THE CLIFFHANGER: This is the biggie. Easily, the most intense Master Cliffhanger during the entire Ainley Era. The Master employs the numismaton gas on Planet Sarn to bring himself back to proper size. However, he's mistimed things a bit. The gas reverts to a normal flame before the evil renegade can climb out of the miniaturized room he grew out of. He is burnt to a total crisp.
THE SOLUTION: The most likely solution is provided in the novelization of Mark of the Rani (not sure why Eric Saward didn't include this dialogue in the script!). Quite simply, the flame reverts back to numismaton gas a few moments after the Doctor departs. The restorative power of the gas is so potent that it can even bring the Master's charred remains back to life. My guess is, it was an extremely strong surge of numismaton gas!
Mark of the Rani:
THE CLIFFHANGER: Having tampered with the console of the Rani's TARDIS, the Doctor causes the ship to spiral out of control when his two enemies attempt to dematerialize from the collapsing mineshaft they've landed in. The act of sabotage also seems to create some random time spillage. Which accelerates the growth rate of an embriyonic T-Rex that the Rani has been experimenting on. When last we see the Rani and the Master, they look like they are about to become the lunch of the greatest pre-historic carnivore.
THE SOLUTION: This one, I felt, didn't require much thought. The Master just whips out his tissue-compression-eliminator and puts paid to the beast. They get the Rani's TARDIS back under control and she eventually brings him back to 19th-century Killingworth where he can pick his TARDIS back up and go out into the Universe, again, to cause a bunch of mischief. Michief that will eventually lead to an ongoing partnership with Sabalom Glitz and yet another infiltration of the Matrix on Gallifrey.
The Ultimate Foe:
THE CLIFFHANGER: After two really vicious end-of-story fates, things became a bit mellow, once more. Believing to have retrieved a data storage unit containing the earliest archives of Gallifreyan knowledge, the Master uploads it into his TARDIS console. That nasty Valeyard tricked him, though. The data unit is actually a limbo-atrophier. A vicious device that seems to have caused the Master and Glitz to be frozen in time.
THE SOLUTION: Again, not a hard one to work out (which frustrates me all the more that lazy script editors couldn't have taken the time to deal with this!). The Doctor is already providing part of the answer at the end of Trial of a Time Lord. He requests that the Inquisitor will exercise leniency in the retrieval of Glitz as they clean up the Matrix. No doubt, the Time Lords do fix up the Matrix and pull the Master's TARDIS out of the mess. The limbo-atrophier is shut down and an attempt is made by the Time Lords to keep the Master prisoner on Gallifrey. But, let's be honest, the Master can run circles around the Time Lords. He was breaking out of his jail cell minutes after they threw him in it. He retrieved his TARDIS and escaped back into Time and Space. Eventually, of course, his journeys will lead him to the planet of the Cheetah People. More than likely, he was brought there by a kitling that was hunting on another planet that the Master was visiting. This would explain why the Master has no TARDIS to "take him home" when the Doctor arrives there.
You will note, of course, that I offered no explanation for what happened to the Master between the The Five Doctors and Planet of Fire. That's because no explanation is really needed. This is the one occasion during the Ainley Era when there is no real cliffhanger to be resolved. Rassilon simply sends the Master back to his TARDIS where he is allowed to resume his travels. But during those travels, of course, he starts those fateful experiments with his tissue compressor that lead to the events of Planet of Fire.
Well, that sorts that out. Stay with us as we explore the 96 Telemovie and the various incarnations we've been seeing in the New Series...
Missed Part One? Here's a link:
Missed Part One? Here's a link: