Saturday, 1 October 2016


It's been quite a while since I've done a "Chronologies And Timelines" essay so I felt it was time to tackle another major villain and sort out their past. This way, I can do several installments before we get all the way through their history. Like all fans, I enjoy a good multi-part saga...

As I point out right in the opening paragraph - he doesn't actually need to have the order of his stories worked out. If you want to get technical, this is almost a "Fixing Continuity Glitches" piece. However, since we're taking the time to go through all the glitches in the order in which they arise, I feel I can apply the label I'm using.


To do a history of this particular long-term baddie is silly, of course.   Unlike the Cybermen and Daleks and other such recurring nasties, the Master and the Doctor seem to have always encountered each other in a linear fashion.    We learn in End of Time that they are required to "remain parallel to each other in the Causal Nexus" (or words to that effect).   Which was, ultimately, a vocalization of the "Gallifreyan Mean Time" theory that fans have held to be true for quite a while, now.  The confirmation of its existence, of course, makes "A Probable History of the Master" a completely useless venture.        
But, there are some other aspects of the Master's past that require serious examination.    While we know that the Master and the Doctor are meeting each other chronologically, there's a lot of things going on between their meetings that need a serious shedding of light upon them.   Certain mysteries exist within those gaps of time between their altercations that require some solving.   Or, at least, some conjecture that might help to solve them.


The very beginning of the Doctor/Master relationship seems to go all the way back to their childhood on Gallifrey.   That's the huge implication that is made during certain bits of dialogue in the New Series, at least.   According to New Who, we are led to believe that the Master and the Doctor were pretty good chums as they grew up.   The biggest indicator of this is that sequence in The End of Time as they lay on the ground together in the wasteland in London.    The Master starts speaking of how they used to run through fields together on his father's estates and stare longingly at the sky.   It's almost a bit romantic, really.
But there is a sequence from the Classic Series that seems to refute this.   It's that moment in Rassilon's Tomb during The Five Doctors where they stand before the pi-inspired chessboard and the First Doctor doesn't seem to recognize the Master as he enters the room.  
            "Have we met, somewhere?" the Doctor inquires.
            "Believe it or not, we studied together at the Academy." the Master replies.  
This bit really seems to indicate that they barely knew each other back in their days of growing up on Gallifrey.   That the Doctor was, perhaps, in a different grade at school and the Master and the Doctor knew each other more by name than association.  It definitely doesn't seem to imply that they ran together like close friends on his father's estate - that's for sure!  
This scene seems to support more the idea that the Doctor and Master first met properly when both were already out in the Universe travelling.   As I will explain in the next section, Terror of the Autons was definitely not their first encounter.   The two rivals clashed a few times before that.   Probably sometime during the end of the Doctor's second incarnation.   The First Doctor being almost totally unaware of the Master when they meet in the Death Zone certainly seems to lend credence to that notion.    So then, how do we reconcile this with the way their past is portrayed in the New Series? 
We can go two routes with this: the more mundane one being that, perhaps, the Master's Dad liked letting Gallifreyan kids run around on his estates.   That his property was some sort of field trip that all students at the Academy took.   So, even though the two didn't know each other properly during their childhood, the Master just assumed that the Doctor must have spent some time running around in his Dad's back yard.   And he guessed that, like him, the Doctor probably stared longingly towards the heavens when he did take the field trip.   
The more likely explanation, however, is that the Doctor and the Master were good friends during their childhood but that the First Doctor is just having trouble recognizing him due to certain external influences going on at the time.   The two are breaking the Laws of Gallifreyan Mean Time since the Master from the future is encountering the Doctor from the past.   On top of that, the Master is in the body he stole from Tremas on the planet Traken.   Such factors might make it very difficult for them to achieve the telepathic recognition that all Time Lords seem to have the moment they meet.    Let's remember, the Third Doctor also had a bit of trouble placing the Master during The Five Doctors, too.   So I suggest that this is, more likely, the case.   The Master even knows that some major Time Laws are being broken, here, so he treads lightly.   He gives a vague answer to establish his acquaintance with the First Doctor and then moves on with the discussion.   Knowing it's not a good idea to get too elaborate with things.  
"Yes, we were practically best friends.   Remember when we used to run around at my Dad's place?  You just don't recognize me cause I'm in a stolen body and we're meeting each other out-of-sequence..."  would not have been the appropriate thing to say during such a context.   Better to remain discreet and ensure that the Time Lines aren't damaged.  
In this way, we can get the contradiction between New and Classic Series to reconcile.   And we can believe that these two Time Lords have known each other since their earliest days.  

With their backstory on Gallifrey now cleared up, let's look at what happened just before their first meeting on the actual show.   Basically, before that fateful moment in Terror of the Autons where the horsebox materializes and Roger Delgado starts stirring up trouble.    Classic Who doesn't talk much about the history of these two rivals before this story.   But there does seem to be some insinuation that the two of them have fought a few times before.   And we're not talking about some Prydonian Debate Club during their time at the Academy.    But after both had fled Time Lord society and became renegades.   That seems to be the implication, at least, from what the Third Doctor says to the Time Lord who confronts him on the gantry of the radio telescope during Episode One of Terror.  The way the Doctor describes his history with the Master, we get the impression that the two Time Lords' TARDISes have landed in the same location in Time and Space on, at least, a few occasions.   

More than likely, this took place in the "Season 6b" era of the Second Doctor (go read The Discontinuity Guide for an explanation of what this is - I really haven't the time to explain it, here!).  It's difficult to imagine that some unseen clashes took place before Season 6b.   One would think that Jamie would've, at least, made mention of the Master at some point in a televised adventure if these encounters had occurred.   Or that the Master might even make an appearance on the screen during the "rogues' gallery" presentation the Doctor makes during his trial in The War Games.   So I think the fights between the Second Doctor and the Master happen during those secret missions that he undertakes for the Time Lords after his trial but before his exile is truly implemented.   That hidden era that gets The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors to make canonical sense.    
It's entirely possible that the C.I.A. sent the Doctor to specific places where they knew the Master was causing problems and used their reluctant agent to foil the sinister renegade's plans.  Alternatively, one suspects there were times during Season 6b where the Doctor was allowed to travel without dual control from the Time Lords and, coincidentally, showed up in the middle of one of the Master's evil plots and put paid to it. More than likely, it was a combination of these two influences that caused the first few clashes between these two Renegade Time Lords before we bore witness to a televised battle of wills. 
A bit more can be gleaned from the very brief discussion on the radio telescope between Doctor and the Time Lord that comes to warn him.   It would seem that the Master was an inferior rival in those earlier unseen altercations.   This isn't just the Doctor talking trash, either.   The Time Lord seems to agree that the Master was a pretty weak villain.   This would insinuate to me that, perhaps, the Master left Gallifrey at a much later time than the Doctor did.   And the Doctor's sheer level of experience travelling through the Universe made him a superior enemy who could easily crush the Master's plots without having to put too much effort into it.   The Master, being less experienced because he left Gallifrey at a later date, was just not able to put up much of a fight.   Chances are, he was just too busy trying to figure out how to live outside of Time Lord society to represent much of a challenge.  We almost get the impression he was a bit of a bumbler in those early days. 
Which leads some fans to believe that the Monk that was seen during the First Doctor's era was, in fact, an earlier incarnation of the Master.   Dialogue from the radio telescope scene helps support this idea.   The Doctor claims in that particular conversation to have little trouble in dealing with the Master before the events of Terror of the Autons and we see him almost running circles around the Monk during The Time Meddler and The Dalek Masterplan.   So I can see why some fans might believe in such a notion.   But the Monk being the Master is just a bit too big of a stretch for me.   The Monk bumbles just a bit too much for me to believe these two are one and the same man.   In my book, he's an entirely different Renegade Time Lord. Although, I do wish we'd seen more of the Monk in later years.   Not only to quash this particular fan theory, but because the Monk was a genuinely fun villain.   
Of course, one more important fact comes out in this all-important-but-very-brief discussion with the Doctor and the Time Lord on the gantry: The Master may have been a rubbish foe at one point - but he's not anymore.   We learn in later stories like Colony In Space and The Sea Devils that the Master has stolen some important files from the Time Lords (which would insinuate the first of several instances where he's managed to tap into the Matrix).   That, somehow, this knowledge that he's gathered has made him a greater threat to the Universe.   This is the whole reason why the Time Lord comes to warn the Doctor.   Had there not been this visit from him, the Doctor might have underestimated the strength of his old enemy and the Master could've completely succeeded in assisting the Autons in their conquest of Earth.  In fact, the Master does almost win in that story.  Had the Doctor not persuaded him to shut down the bridgehead he'd established in the last few minutes of the episode, the Nestene Consciousness would've gained a legitimate foothold on Earth through the machinations of this evil renegade.  
So, the Master's first theft from the Matrix seems to be a pivotal point in his lives and an important moment in his backstory before we see him for the first time in the series.   Before this discovery, both the Doctor and the Time Lords back on Gallifrey seemed to consider him a low-level threat.   But after he steals some secrets from the Matrix, his status becomes upgraded.   He truly becomes worthy of being the Moriarity to the Doctor's Sherlock.  It's a significant thing to note in his pre-show history.    


And so begins the Endless Enmity.   Delgado Master battles Pertwee Doctor on several occasions and Fandom, in general, revels in the whole thing.   Even claims that there was no greater time for the Master than this one (having grown up in the 80s, I find myself disputing that - I loved my Ainley Master!).     But then, of course, tragedy strikes.   Roger Delgado has a horrible accident and the Master's reign is cut short.    Although, arguably, had Delgado lived - an even worse fate was awaiting the Master.   But that's another story entirely....
The Master seemingly disappears from the Doctor's life until we see him several seasons later in The Deadly Assassin.   He's a very different man, now.    Decrepit and skeletal, he has lost all his charm and become unabashedly evil.   Apparently, he's reached the end of his regeneration cycle and has become a sort of burnt-out husk of who he once was.    The Master, in this incarnation, is actually quite awesome.   Even in the cheap fright mask!   It's nice to see the veneer stripped away and the truly wretched creature that was hiding beneath rise to the surface.   

But how exactly did the Master get this way? 
We know that Chancellor Goth somehow found him on the planet Tersurus like this.   He was on the verge of death and it seems that Goth nursed him back to life.  Or a close approximation, thereof.    We don't know if the Chancellor stumbled upon him, somehow, by accident or specifically went out into the Universe to save him.  The latter idea is entirely possible.  Perhaps knowing that he would not become Lord President compelled the Gallifreyan statesman to find an accomplice that would be willing to do some dirty work for him to help change future events.
But still, what led the Master to being that burnt-out husk that gets found on Tersurus?   We can only theorize, of course.  
Some like to believe that this was the next incarnation after the Delgado Master.   That Delgado Master was the twefth incarnation and Pratt Master was thirteenth.   Some even like to believe that Delgado Master was the thirteenth and Pratt was some weird mutation caused by an attempt to regenerate when there were no incarnations left.    I have trouble believing either of these ideas.  
I'm more inclined to believe that Delgado might've actually been the first incarnation.  Or, at the very least, a very early incarnation of the Master.   That, shortly after Frontier In Space, he gets really reckless and starts going through incarnations at a very rapid pace.   Plans keep going bad for him and he's getting brutally injured over and over and having to induce regenerations very quickly.   Some bodies, perhaps, only last a matter of days before he has to seek a new one.   Perhaps he even needs to assume a disguise once or twice and doesn't happen to have the proper materials or equipment on him to do so.  So, instead, he just regenerates.   Delgado Master was, perhaps, his second or third incarnation but he rips through fourth to twelfth in a very short time.      
Such rapid regenerations are not healthy for a Time Lord, of course.  It's a bit like us eating poorly and smoking too much.   We suddenly find ourselves very ill and close to death because of the punishment we've put our body through.    The Master that was played by Peter Pratt is the equivalent of that.   As the Master finds himself inducing his twelfth regeneration, it's too much for him.    He doesn't quite get the body he wanted or expected.   Instead, he's an emaciated skeletal figure who is deathly ill.    Perhaps he tries to take his TARDIS to somewhere where he can get medical help and ends up on the planet Tersurus.    From the sounds of things, this wasn't his intended destination.   But who knows what he'd been up to when the twelfth regeneration occurs?   Was he in the middle of some sinister plot on Tersurus that went bad?   Or was he trying to get somewhere else and, in his weakened state, wasn't able to program his TARDIS properly and ended up on Tersurus?   We can't say for sure.   But this is where Goth finds him.     
Believing that the Roger Delgado Master was the incarnation just before this one doesn't make sense for me, though.   We know the Delgado Incarnation existed for, at least, a few years.   We believe this because we see him fighting the Third Doctor in the same body for a handful of seasons on the show.    Whereas the Peter Pratt Master seems to be the result of regeneration burn-out.    I find it hard to believe that a body that stayed stable for several years could then turn into something so horrific-looking.   I'm more inclined to think that Delgado was the final long-lasting  body that the Master had.  That a sort of "regeneration sprint" occurred sometime after the last time we saw Roger Delgado as the Master.    After that, he went through a series of bodies very quickly and the result was a thirteenth incarnation that was in a terrible state.  
I also have a hard time agreeing that the Pratt Master was the result of an attempt to regenerate for a thirteenth time.   We see in Twin Dilemna what the result of such an effort is - a Time Lord just dies.   Yes, the Master was probably more single-minded than Azmael and might've clung so hard to life that he created some terrible fourteenth half-life.   Perhaps he was on Tersurus trying to use some sort of artificial means of extending his life that went wrong.   We saw him do something similar in Deadly Assassin, Keeper Of Traken and the 96 Telemovie, after all. But it all seems like too much of a stretch, really.  
Peter Pratt is the Thirteenth Master.   Roger Delgado was probably either the First, Second or Third Master.    A bunch of Masters existed between the two of them that we never got to see and lived only for a very short time.   This seems to make the most sense to me. 

Okay, Early Days Master (or, alternatively, the Master of the 70s) is out of the way. When we embark upon Part 2, we'll explore such urgent questions as: "Why does the Master look different in Keeper of Traken?" and "How the hell did the Ainley Master get out of so many of his inescapable cliffhangers at the end of his stories?"

Stay tuned....

Wondering what I meant about Season 6b? Here's another entry I did a while back that explains the idea a bit and also discusses a wild speculation of my own...


  1. You do have me interested in this one! I always enjoyed the idea of the Master being the Doctor's best foe, ala Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes. As for Goth finding the Master, there is one book that explains HOW the Master ended up the way he was when Goth found him. Its a book involving the 9th Doctor and had Susan in it as well!

    1. I've read it, too. It's an interesting take on the whole thing...


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