Oh! It’s the Blogtor Who guide to the Master’s greatest reveals
When Spyfall Part One ended on that cliffhanger, it was simply the latest in a grand tradition. Because the Master loves disguises. Sometimes it’s a full on rubber mask, but often – as with O – it’s simply passing themselves off as something they’re not. But always they delight in that ‘oh.’ That moment when the Doctor and/or the audience realizes that, yes, the Master’s back. So, in tribute to the Master’s appearance in Spyfall, Blogtor Who presents our countdown of Doctor Who’s most Masterful reveals…
12. A Scarecrow in The Mark of the Rani
Sanity has always been an optional extra for the Doctor’s greatest frenemy but his gambit here is particularly… odd. When the Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) arrive in 19th century Yorkshire, they’re observed by a scarecrow standing in a field. Once they’re gone, the scarecrow removes its outer coverings to reveal… the Master! But the Master (Anthony Ainley) isn’t expecting the Doctor, who’s arrived by complete coincidence. So why in the Universe stand randomly around in a field? Just in case a fellow renegade Time Lord happens by? He doesn’t even get to do his Spyfall style “Taa-daa! It’s me!” routine.
11. Kalid in Time-Flight
If anything, Blogtor Who has placed this higher than Mark of the Rani in recognition of being even weirder. The Master is hanging around on prehistoric Earth wearing a rubber mask and pretending to be some sort of Far Eastern magician. He even maintains his ridiculous mock-Asian accent when completely alone on an uninhabited planet. At least this time he gets to enjoy the utterly perplexed look on the Doctor’s face when he reveals himself. Although in this case the Doctor’s confusion is probably more about inwardly asking himself “Why?!” Even the credits got in on the act this time. ‘Kalid’ is credited as being played by ‘Leon Ny Taiy,’ an anagram to disguise Ainley’s presence in the cast. It makes spending a decade living as an MI6 agent just to see the brief look on the Doctor’s face in Spyfall seem sensible.
10. Sir Gilles Estram in The King’s Demons
It’s Ainley again, this time credited as ‘James Stoker’ in magazine listings to keep the surprise. And this time he has a fake nose, a red wig and beard and the most outrageous French accent this side of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s a genuinely great moment, though. It comes at the climax of a sword fight between the Doctor (Peter Davison) and Sir Gilles. The Doctor has seemingly defeated Sir Gilles when the French knight suddenly pulls out the Master’s trademark Tissue Compression Eliminator weapon and smirks in the Master’s instantly recognizable purr, “Oh, my dear Doctor, you have been naive.”
Not only does it give the Master a moment of effortless cool, as he casually snatches out of the air a knife thrown by the Doctor’s companion Tegan (Janet Fielding) but it’s a sensible disguise. After all, what better way than as a foreign knight, respected by reputation but of only vaguely known appearance?
9. Professor Emil Keller in The Mind of Evil
There’s a phrase that appears on almost every DVD commentary for the 1971 season. And it goes something like “And we had a problem, you see, because every story people would think ‘I wonder who is behind all this?… Oh, it’s Master again!'” But, of course, despite appearing in every story in the season, the one time the return of the original Master (Roger Delgado) was a genuine surprise was the first time. Despite being trapped on 20th century Earth at the end of his first story, viewers wouldn’t have expected him to immediately reappear.
So it’s still a surprise when a telephone engineer outside UNIT HQ pulls off his face to reveal… the Master! The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is less impressed a few episodes later when he finally comes face to face with the creator of ‘the Keller Process’ he’s been investigating. “Yes, I thought as much,” he says simply. No “oh” moment for the Master this time. “You don’t seem at all surprised,” he says in disappointment.
8. ‘Cloaked Figure’ in The Deadly Assassin
By the time The Deadly Assassin came around, the Master had been unseen for four seasons. While the tragic death of actor Roger Delgado in a tragic accident made it unlikely the character would ever return. So it’s understandable scriptwriter Robert Holmes feels confident enough in his deception that he even has the mysterious ‘cloaked figure’ (Peter Pratt) in Part One called ‘my Master’ by his lackey. Meanwhile the story’s concept is of the Doctor returning at last to Gallifrey. So even the horribly burned figure being a Time Lord who hates the Doctor is not an instant red flag.
In fact, it’s only in Part Two when the Doctor uncovers the body of a dead technician that the truth is realized. The man has been miniaturized, mangled and stuffed in a small box to hide. It’s the unique calling card of the Master. A villainous signature first seen in Spearhead in Space and now the fate of the real ‘O’ in Spyfall.
7. Commissioner from Sirius 4 in Frontier in Space
Frontier in Space is another example of deft scriptwriting hiding the Master’s involvement in plain sight. Some evil mastermind is manipulating the 26th century Earth and Draconian Empires into war, using a mix of hypnosis and an alliance with some alien battle fodder. Which sounds very Masterly. But as the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) puzzles over the mystery in one prison cell or another (it’s that kind of story) the Commissioner from Sirius 4 arrives on Earth. He’s here with an extradition warrant for the Doctor and Jo Grant (Katy Manning). The surprise when the Master (Roger Delgado) simply walks into the office of the President of Earth and smooth talks her into handing over the pair is fantastic. But his smug and self satisfied air when he steps into Jo’s cell and takes in her horrified expression is delicious.