Tonight, Doctor Who returns for Jodie Whittaker’s final run as the Thirteenth Doctor. The Doctor battles familiar foes including the Cyberman, the Daleks and the Master beside her current companions, Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) alongside some familiar friends, Tegan (Janet Fielding), Ace (Sophie Aldred).
The cast and showrunner provide a glimpse into the villains of tonight’s epic adventure.
We have a focus on villains in this episode, was it hard to keep that balance of good evil? Will it be a dark episode?
Chris Chibnall: I would say it’s a fast, lively and exciting episode. What you have with the three villains is separate plans and multiple threats for the Doctor. So the Doctor is really having to contain separate attacks on multiple fronts and it’s incredibly overwhelming. She’s running from pillar to post to try and sort all of these things out. And again, it was something I had in my mind for a long time, that it’d be lovely to do the axis of evil, the triumvirate of evil in Jodie’s final episode. We hadn’t done those, and I really wanted to hold that back for her finale.
It’s a huge episode for the villains – it’s the first time we’ve got the Cybermen, The Master and the Daleks all in one. How has it been working with Sacha again?
Jodie Whittaker: I love Sacha, he’s amazing, an incredible actor and a phenomenal force of nature on set. His detail and level of commitment to The Master is inspiring. But in that he’s also a team player, he turns up and the crew love him, cast love him because he’s a really good laugh and he makes sure he’s part of the team. For me, he’s the perfect villain because in real life he’s the complete opposite and on-screen you absolutely believe everything that comes out of his mouth. If you know him in real life, he’s such a nice guy and a lovely man. So to be so convincing as The Master? Hats off. All his choices I love. A lot of my favourite scenes throughout my tenure have been with Sacha. So being told he would be part of my final episode was an absolute joy for me. I don’t feel as it would have served my Doctor to not have the moment of resolution and heartbreak with him.
How tense are those scenes?
Jodie Whittaker: What I love about Sacha’s Master, and what I think is important, is that he’s so broken and actually it’s not just two-dimensional evil. It’s got so many layers and there’s such a vulnerability to him that it makes things much more complicated for the Doctor. That he cannot let the Doctor survive is the most heartbreaking thing. Our last scenes were shot in order, which we never usually do so it had a big build-up.
It’s a huge episode for villains with the Master, Daleks, and Cybermen, all appearing together for the first time since 2005. How was it working with Sacha again? Were you excited to find out he was back?
Mandip Gill: I love Sacha. It is amazing to work with one of my closest friends for obvious reasons but to watch him as an actor, creating the work he does is a privilege to watch. Trust me – you’ll see what I mean when you see it!
What is it that you think makes The Master such an iconic villain throughout Doctor Who’s history?
Sacha Dhawan: It’s like the relationship between Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes. The Master gets to do things that the Doctor just can’t do. You can even wipe out his existence and he’ll still find a way to come back with vengeance. He’s also a character you love to hate because there’s always a certain charm and charisma in the execution of his evil plans. I think the audience really like that because it counteracts The Doctor.
And the relationship between both The Master and the Doctor has always been so fascinating because it’s steeped in so much history, not only in front of the camera, but also, behind the camera too, especially if you look at the actors that have taken on the role over the years. And it’s a show that totally embraces each new incarnation with such excitement, with each era being an historical event of our time; ‘Who was your Doctor?’
I guess it’s the fandom themselves that make both The Doctor and The Master so iconic, by being so warm and welcoming of its new additions. It’s why the show continues to thrive from generation to generation.
Can you tease what audiences can expect from The Master and the special in general?
Sacha Dhawan: There is a line that The Master says to the Doctor, ‘This is the day you die’. In fact, it’s the day that puts both their lives on the line because The Master has no real control over its outcome, which makes it all the more terrifying. The Master will set out his masterplan with plenty of room for spontaneity and chaos. He’s really pushes the dial to its limits, because the truth is, he has nothing left to lose.
Can you tell us a bit about the different incarnations of The Master we can expect?
Sacha Dhawan: One of the early ideas I had about playing the character was that I didn’t ever want to use prosthetics. It’s what makes The Master such fun to play, because I get to sink my teeth into so many different characters, and the onus is on me to make them believable and interesting. It also keeps the audience on their toes too, because I never wanted them to feel settled with my incarnation.
With this episode in particular I had early conversations with Chris (Chibnall) about each specific version of The Master and then worked closely with our brilliant makeup team and costume designer (Ray Holman) to create the right look. It does require a lot of attention to detail, not just in how the character looks, but making sure the performance of each incarnation feels truthful and fully formed. There’s definitely one incarnation you wouldn’t expect, but has been a long time coming…
Villains play a huge role in the episode, can you speak about what people can look forward to seeing?
John Bishop: My main interaction is with the Cybermen. The strange thing about most of the monsters in Doctor Who when you are on the set, a lot of them are prosthetic based so when there’s a break you can kind of know when an actor is there. With the Cybermen when they walk on set they are scary! They have a scary aura about them. If I was ever to run a nightclub and need a bouncer, I think I’d get a Cyberman!
Can you talk a bit about your involvement with the villains on set?
Janet Fielding: I’ve got such sympathy for Patrick O’ Kane as the lead Cyberman (Ashad). He is absolutely terrifying to look at, he emanates really serious menace and he’s a very big man anyway, but he so was terrific, because we were in scenes together, we would sit and wait in the breakout area and I’d think “Oh god, how uncomfortable that must be.”
And then Sacha, I mean, Sacha is so good as The Master. So menacing. I’d use the word, unhinged. He’s very unpredictable as The Master, he’s very alarming for that reason…it’s a brilliant performance.
There are a lot of villains involved in this episode, can you tease audience about what they’re going to expect?
Sophie Aldred: I was thrilled to watch Sacha, The Master, in action. I think he’s a genius and he’s so not like that in real life; he’s sweet and mild-mannered. I think the word I’d use to describe his acting is dangerous. You always feel with this Master that he is on the edge of insanity, but totally logical and has got a plan. He’s not an over-the-top villain which would be so easy for The Master to evolve into, but he’s got this edge and way about him. You don’t know where you are with him and you don’t know quite what he’s going to do next. Which I find incredibly exciting to watch as an actor, it’s like watching a masterclass, watching him work.
Patrick (O’Kane) as well is great to watch. What he goes through to be that character, he can’t sit down, or go to the toilet. He’s another menacing, brilliant actor. You’re watching and you just think wow! Similar kind of dangerousness, it’s electric to witness that.
Don’t forget to watch Doctor Who tonight at 7:30 pm on BBC One for the Thirteenth Doctor’s 90-minute conclusion.