By 2007, Doctor Who had reintroduced the Daleks and the Cybermen to the masses. But one classic villain was yet to make a comeback – The Master! In the Series 3 finale, he blasted back onto our screens, played by today’s birthday boy, John Simm!
Prior to Doctor Who, Simm was best known for playing Sam Tyler in BBC’s Life on Mars. In this series, Simm got his first taste of time-travelling drama. His character was sent back in time to 1973 after being knocked down by a car. Simm left the show after its second series, feeling that he had taken the character as far as he could.
Not long afterwards, Simm appeared as The Master following a shock regeneration from Derek Jacobi at the end of Utopia. In The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, The Master masqueraded as Prime Minister Harold Saxon, paying off the “Vote Saxon” arc so iconic of Series 3. The Master’s eventual plan was to unleash the Toclafane upon the Earth and use the planet to take over the universe. But, he was stopped dead – literally. His wife Lucy Saxon shot him down, and he refused to regenerate in The Doctor’s arms.
“Here come the drums!”
However, that would not be the last we saw of Simm’s Master. As ever, he was one step ahead, and brought him back to life in The End of Time. The Master was a resurrected but unstable force, bursting with energy and a skeletal visage. He eventually found himself in control of the Immortality Gate – and with it, the minds and bodies of every human on the planet. His victory would be short-lived, as his deeds were undone by the return of the Time Lords. Angry that they had ‘diseased’ him with the drumbeat in his head, The Master forced Rassilon and Gallifrey back into the hells of the Time War.
It would be another seven years until Simm’s Master returned. Disguised as the enigmatic Mr Razor, he befriended and betrayed Bill in World Enough and Time. Trapped on a time-dilated spaceship, he ushered in the genesis of the Mondasian Cybermen. He also teamed up with his next regeneration, Missy, to defeat The Doctor once and for all. Their alliance was a deliciously devious pairing, the first multi-Master story seen on TV. But in The Doctor Falls, The Master also fell. Stabbed in the back by Missy, he returned the favour by shooting her with his laser screwdriver. Both Masters were left for dead, with Simm’s last seen descending in a lift. His TARDIS and his regeneration awaited…
Outside of Doctor Who, John Simm has appeared in other high profile television dramas like Mad Dogs and Prey. It seems unlikely he will return to the Whoniverse again after The Doctor Falls… but only time will tell!