Over the course of the next few days I am going to be looking at ever single incarnation of the Master. I will be looking at their history in the show, their dynamic with the Doctor, look at what inspired their character, finally I will also be giving my own personal opinions on them too.
Lets start at the beginning then shall we with the very first incarnation of the Master played by the late great Roger Delgado.
The Roger Delgado Master
First Appearance/ Terror of the Autons
Last Appearance/ Frontier in Space
Story count/ 8
Doctors/ 3rd Doctor only
Other Enemies/ The Brigadier, Jo Grant, Seargent Benton, UNIT
Aliens and Monsters he worked with/ Autons, Axons, Azal, Sea Devils, Ogrons and Daleks
Main Weapon/ Tissue Compressor
The first and for me the best incarnation of the Master. This version was somewhat different to the later interpretations of the character that we would become accustomed to.
Most of the later Masters are complete psychopaths who often kill innocent people for no reason other than just sadistic cruelty.
The Delgado Master however wasn’t quite so deranged. At least not on the surface. He was more ruthless than an outright sadist or lunatic. Delgado’s Master in many ways was the one who was the most like the Doctor. He like the Doctor despised the Time Lords for just sitting back and not using their great power to make a difference, and as a result he renounced their society and ventured out into the universe just like the Doctor. However whilst the Doctor was someone who only offered his help to those who wanted or needed it, the Master believed that in order to bring peace to the universe he would need to rule it.
He believed that that was the Time Lords role as the most advanced race in the universe to bring order to a chaotic and unfair cosmos, and in his ego he believed that at the same time he should be the one to rule the Time Lords as only he would be able to rule benevolently.
The Master thus also saw any sacrifice as being worth it if he managed to obtain this supreme power as it would be for the greater good of the galaxy. Thus most of the time he did not kill out of pleasure only ever because he felt he had too.
Its clearly his favourite planet too as can be seen in “Frontier in Space” when he pleads with the Daleks to allow him to rule the earth in particular. However because he feels he needs to bring order to it and all of the other planets in the universe he attempts to conquer it unlike the Doctor who again is happy to help the planet if it is in danger from an alien menace such as the Daleks or even just from itself such as in “Inferno”, but does not feel a need to stamp his will over it.
Nothing better demonstrates the key differences between the two time lords than “Colony in Space” when the Master believes he has finally obtained the ultimate power he has sought for so long and begs the Doctor to join him. The Doctor however refuses pointing out that he would rather see the universe than rule it. The Doctor accepts the universe for what it is, a place where both wonderful and horrible things can happen. The Master however believes that the universe must have some kind of order, and ironically his desire to achieve this order for a supposed greater good ends up blinding him to the suffering he inflicts on others. Unlike the Doctor who does make a positive difference, the Master ends up making the universe a much worse place through his schemes.
Thus whilst the Pertwee Doctor and Delgado Master may have had a number of similarities such as their disdain for the stagnated Time Lord society as well as a vested interest in the planet earth and the human race. It was ultimately this key difference between the two time lords that not only made them polar opposites, but ultimately mortal enemies.
Still despite this the Delgado Master always had something of a friendly rapport with Pertwee’s Doctor and seemed to genuinely respect him. The fact that he was willing to share his power with him alone attests to this.
Many fans over the years have read all kinds of reasons for the Masters motives in “Colony in Space” when he offers the Doctor the chance to rule by his side. Whilst many theories have been developed by fans over the years. Everything from the Master being the Doctors secret brother to his secret ex homosexual lover! The way it is presented it appears more that the Master simply does not want to kill the Doctor because despite their differences the Master feels that the Doctor is the only person who is almost on the same wave length as him.
All of the other time lords in the Masters view are spineless cowards who would rather just sit back and observe the universe than do anything about it. Even other renegades like the Monk and the War chief were just petty trouble makers. The Doctor was one who thought like him, who had defied the time lords and sought to make a difference, but the Master felt he lacked the vision that he had. Thus the Master hoped that he could perhaps convince the Doctor into looking at things the way he did and become his partner in crime rather than his enemy.
The idea of the Master wanting to bring order to the universe would become a defining trait of the character in later incarnations too. Even though the later Masters are insane unlike Delgado’s you can still see shades of his character in their motives.
The Ainley Master I feel sides with the Rani because in her he feels he has finally found the ally he hoped the Doctor should have been as she is a renegade like them with a vision who wants to make a difference in the galaxy, but her ruthless streak obviously makes her closer to the Master than the Doctor.
The Simm Master who is the most insane, still has the same basic motive of bringing order to the universe. His scheme in “The Last of the Time Lords” is to build a new Time Lord Empire that will stretch out across all of creation. He even tells the Doctor that wars will end once that has happened.
Thus whilst he may seem different and is definitely more crazy Simm’s Master at his core is the same character as Delgado’s in what he hopes to achieve.
At the same time however whilst there are shades of Delgado’s more restrained villain who wants to create a universal order in the later more insane Masters, there are also hints of the more deranged incarnations in Delgado’s performance. Delgado’s Master by and large is a more charming, cold, calculating villain on the surface who does believe his plans are for a greater universal order, but there are moments where we can see what a true sociopath he is underneath.
The Master always believed that when he finally did rule he would rule justly. He would treat all races as equals, eliminate inequality, prejudice, disease and create a beautiful and perfect universe. However the aliens in “Colony in Space” say that if he did come to power he would actually abuse it, and bring great suffering and pain to millions of worlds. Even if he did genuinely think that he would use it benevolently, such power would corrupt the Master instantly.
There are also moments where his plans are foiled and he lashes out in fits of psychotic rage such as in the Sea Devils when he strikes at the Doctor with a sword. In the Sea Devils he also plans to provoke a war between two races just to simply spite the Doctor. You can see how the likes of Simm and Ainley’s more vicious and sadistic incarnations are there in Delgado’s just bubbling under the surface. Delgado’s Master is able to hold that side in more often and present himself as a more reasonable, even at times likable character, but when things don’t go his way its let out. Another example would be when he ruthlessly throws someone over the edge of a building in “Terror of the Autons”. This is one of the few times Delgado’s Master kills without reason like almost all of his successors.
I always thought that Delgado’s Master was the first incarnation of the time lord, though there is nothing to suggest or contradict this within the series itself. I imagined that the he had been driven to the brink of madness by the drum beat in his head an idea which had been retconned in by Russell T Davies.
Still whilst the Delgado Master was teetering on the brink of sanity, he was not completely mad and it would only be later events such as the accident that turns him into a deformed freak in “The Deadly Assassin” that finally pushed him over the edge, turning him into the psychopath we see in later incarnations such as Ainley and Simm. The later crazy Masters still believe as insane as they are that when they rule things will be better however just like Delgado’s did.
Thus Delgado’s Master was in a lot of ways different to the later versions, but at the same time you can see how they emerged from him at the same time too.
Delgado’s Master was very largely inspired by Professor Moriarty Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis. Terrence Dicks and Barry Letts who had created the character saw the Doctor as akin to Sherlock Holmes and the Brigadier as akin to Professor Watson. Thus they felt he needed a Moriarty figure.
However Delgado’s Master also drew inspiration from a number of other sources as well. Many incarnations of the Master can be seen as something of a pastiche of other villains. In Delgado’s case I think he was a pastiche of the suave, gentlemanly, machivillian villain who comes from abroad.
Cold War paranoia was rife at the time and thus foreign villains either from Russia or made up countries that were meant to be Russia or some other communist country were not surprisingly popular at that time. Doctor Victor Von Doom ruler of Latveria, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Fu Manchu, Delgado’s Master has elements of all of these characters in him.
Like Doctor Doom he seeks to rule because he believes that he can make the world a better place ( a desire that is caused entirely by their own ego rather than any real desire to help people), but like Blofeld and many other Bond villains he hopes to provoke a third world war and then emerge in the aftermath and rule. Delgado’s performance is also comparable in some ways to Telly Savalas as Blofeld in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” whilst the relationship between the third Doctor and the Delgado Master is comparable to Reed Richards and Doctor Doom. Two friends who knew each other, both became scientists but one devoted himself to using his fantastic intellect to helping people, the other became a power mad villain.
Roger Delgado’s Master though my definite favourite was not completely perfect. He did suffer from overuse, appearing in 8 stories over the course of just three years including every story of his first season. Like any villain who is overused this did limit his effectiveness to an extent making him seem by the end of season 8 almost like a Wile Coyote type of character rather than a true menace. However despite this Delgado always gave an excellent performance and he and Pertwee, close friends in real life always played off of each other brilliantly, far better than any other Doctor and Master.
For me Delgado’s Master was one of the most frightening because he was able to hide how malicious he truly was a lot of the time. The other crazy Masters you knew right away were complete monsters and so you’d always expect to be on edge. With Delgado you never knew when he was going to lose it. He could be charming one minute, but then if things didn’t go his way he would go completely mad and it was unexpected.
One big setback of Delgado’s Master is that his feud with Pertwee’s Doctor is not resolved. In his last appearance he literally just vanishes off of the screen. The intention was of course to have one last story where Degaldo’s Master would finally have been revealed to be the Doctors brother and he would also have apparently sacrificed himself to save the Doctor. However these planes were aborted when Roger Delgado was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 55.
His death greatly affected the rest of the Doctor Who production team. Pertwee later said that Delgado’s death coupled with Katy Manning’s departure was one of the main reasons he left the show one year later.
It would have been nice to see Delgado’s Master finish the way he wanted, but still at the very least Delgado helped to create an iconic character that has truly stood the test of time and for me and many, many others he is still the best.
Join me tomorrow when I will be looking at the deformed Master.