We now have our best view yet at Sacha Dhawan’s Master, and at the renegade Time Lord’s new look
In a way, nothing foreshadowed the Master’s return to Doctor Who last week more than his new costume at the end of Spyfall. Having played dress up throughout the story in outback gear and tuxedos, Victorian top hats and SS uniforms. But at the end he appeared at last in what was clearly meant to be his new iconic look. Sacha Dhawan’s answer to Michelle Gomez’ evil Mary Poppins, and Roger Delgado’s Bond villain chic. But even so, designing and making such an intricate and unique outfit for just one scene always seemed like overkill. And it was the clearest indication that Dhawan’s Master would be back sooner rather than later. Now, though, the promotional photos for The Timeless Children have been released. And thanks to them we also have our best look yet at the Master’s new threads.
As with many of the costumes for recurring characters on Doctor Who, the Master’s costume was a collaborative effort between actor and wardrobe department. Sacha Dhawan had immediate ideas about the sense of chaos and whimsy in the renegade Time Lord’s wardrobe. He then prepared a number of photos to act as inspiration for the new costume. Earlier this year he posted these to Instagram, along with the final results.
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Quite a few people have been asking how #themaster costume was designed! Credit goes to the utterly brilliant @rayholman12 . I sent Ray a template of ideas (I’ve attached a few) 💡 and he came back with something pretty spectacular! I couldn’t have felt more proud when I first stepped into the costume. ❤️❤️ #spyfall #doctorwho @bbcdoctorwho
The new Master’s outfit is a heady mix of flair, illusion and madness
The strong presence of Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and the general aesthetic among the inspirations make a case for Dhawan’s being the Rock and Roll Master. And as then translated by Doctor Who costuming legend Ray Holman, it’s the perfect distillation of this incarnation’s personality. Holman has worked on Doctor Who since 2007’s Blink and 2008’s Turn Left. More importantly, he’s been the central visionary for the show’s costumes for Series Five, Eight, Eleven and Twelve. This means that by now he’s taken a central role in defining the looks of three Doctors and two Masters. So it’s no wonder the Master’s new outfit combines practicality, cool, and character in a way that creates the illusion of effortlessness.
To break it down, the Master’s coat is a purple single breasted wool overcoat that creates the appearance of an almost cosmic-hobo baginess while, on closer inspection, obviously having been bespoke fitted to fall just so. And even the placement of the pockets and the choice of buttons seem carefully thought out. They too feed the sense of a conflict between anarchy and genius. A voluminous external pocket sits on each hip, while a chest pocket sits skewed at a forty-five degree angle to the rest of the look.
Full of elements that at once co-ordinate and jar with each other, the costume is a sartorial portrait of the Master himself
The metal buttons, silver-ish in colour, with their intricate patterns inlaid with black, all match though. (Two on each side pocket, one on the breast-pocket, two on each sleeve, two on the back, and three up the front). In fact, not just on the coat; the same buttons appear on his waistcoat (five of them this time, the bottom one constantly unbuttoned). It’s a bit of organization that suggests this new Master is as meticulous as he is unbalanced.
The same impression flows through that waistcoat and its matching trousers as well. Both are cut from the same plaid material. A pattern of three vertical stripes interlocking with three lines of horizontal dashes, in varying shades of orange over a navy background. But this level of coordination is immediately undercut by the black silk, almost dinner jacket, style lapels and pocket flaps. They simultaneously suggest a formality and an offbeat eccentricity when matched with the plaid. It’s as evocative as Sacha Dhawan’s own choice to play the Master as deadly serious, but with outbursts of sudden humour or rage.
Subtle touches like the Master being literally wrapped in chains and his mismatched trouser ends show a rare depth of thought in the design
The character’s nature is also reflected in the fobwatch chain that dangles from the topmost waistcoat pocket, and the matching, ludicrously long, keychain linking his belt to his trouser pocket by way of his knee. Stylish accessories, to be sure, but unmistakably potent symbolic too. Chains that literally encompass his body, just as his insanity enchains his mind.
But Blogtor Who’s personal favourite touch is the addition of turned up trousers. This seems to serve two purposes. It’s a nice echo of the tendency in 21st century Who to clothe the Master as a dark mirror of the current Doctor. It’s not as explicit as Simm’s slim suited Master, or even Gomez’ demure governess opposite the professorial Capaldi. However it’s a nice touch that these days both Doctor and Master both wear ‘trousers that don’t reach’ as Jo Martin’s Doctor scathingly put it. But, delightfully, one detail becomes clearer in the Timeless Children pictures. While Whittaker’s cut off blue trousers are finely hemmed, Dhawan’s two trouser legs are very subtly different lengths. It’s perfect for a vision of the Master who’s never before been more like a little boy stirring up an ants’ nest with a stick, just to make trouble.
Doctor Who cosplayers have already taken up the challenge to create their own versions of the new Master
Beneath those stick out a short mile of violently purple sock, leading into some low topped leather shoes. Though it might be over-reaching our interpretation of the costume-as-character to say the laces – which have been tied and knotted within an inch of their lives – further represent the Master’s battle for self-control. He probably just doesn’t want them to fall off.
Of course, with such a brilliantly realized costume, the cosplayers would never be far behind. One of British Who fandom’s top cosplayers, Dominic G Martin, was an early entry with this costume put together only weeks after Spyfall had aired.
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Meanwhile Sacha Dhawan has already said that he’s worried that his Master goes to such dark places in The Timeless Children that fans won’t want him back. But so long as he’s so stylishly turned out by Ray Holman, we can probably forgive him anything.
Doctor Who Series 12 concludes at the earlier time of 6.50pm next Sunday with The Timeless Children
In the epic and emotional series finale, the Cybermen are on the march. As the last remaining humans are ruthlessly hunted down, Graham, Ryan and Yaz face a terrifying fight to survive. Civilisations fall. Others rise anew. Lies are exposed, truths are revealed, battles are fought, and for the Doctor — trapped and alone — nothing will ever be the same again.
Series 12 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham), Mandip Gill (Yaz) and Tosin Cole (Ryan), with Chris Chibnall as Showrunner and Matt Strevens Executive Producing. Ascension of the Cybermen guest stars Sacha Dhawan (The Master), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Julie Graham (Ravio), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Steve Toussaint (Feekat) and Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen). It’s written by Chris Chibnall, and directed by Jamie Magnus Stone (Spyfall Part One, Praxeus, Ascension of the Cybermen)