Now this incarnation of the Master was played by two separate actors, Peter Pratt and Geoffrey Beevers. Though both men’s gave great, unique performances that brought a lot to the character ultimately as they were playing the same incarnation I will be looking at both of their performances in the one article. Incidentally according to spin off material this incarnation of the Master is also the same one that Delgado played. There is nothing on screen to suggest this however and so therefore I am going to consider this a different incarnation to Delgado’s.
The Master (Deformed, Scarred Version)
First Appearance/ The Deadly Assassin
Last Appearance/ The Keeper of Traken
Story Count/ 2
Doctors/ 4th Doctor only, though in spin off material he encountered the first 8 Doctors when he tried to erase them all from existence in “The Light at the End of the Tunnel”
Other Enemies/ The Time Lords
Aliens and Monsters he has worked with/ Surprisingly none, though he did work alongside an evil Time Lord villain named Goth.
Actors/ Peter Pratt, Geoffrey Beevers
After Roger Delgado’s tragic death in 1973 the character of the Master was retired. Jon Pertwee said that he would not have felt comfortable acting alongside another actor in the role and so he did not reappear in Pertwee’s final year, or in Tom Bakers first few seasons either out of respect for Delgado.
Eventually however after enough time had passed Philip Hinchcliff decided to bring the character back. Now Hinchcliff ironically had not been a fan of either the character or of Delgado’s performance. He felt Delgado lacked menace and seemed more like a silly pantomime villain instead. Still Hinchcliff felt there was potential in the idea of the Master, the Doctors rival who was his equal in every conceivable way and thus decided to bring him back, but hoped to make him seem more terrifying than ever before.
Personally I feel Hinchcliff was being too hard on Delgado, as the whole point of Delgado’s Master was not that he was meant to look scary. It was the very opposite, he was meant to on the surface seem charming, debonair and even quite likable, but underneath he was a dangerous sociopath and thus with his Master you were lured into a false sense of security.
However having said that it cannot be denied that Hinchcliff’s Master certainly was a lot grittier than Delgado’s. His Master had suffered an accident of some kind that had left him horribly deformed and near death. Thus gone was the Master who sought to bring order to the universe and maybe in some small way genuinely believed that he was acting for the greater good that we saw in stories such as Colony in Space.
This Master merely wanted to prolong his own life above all else and we got to see a whole new side to him this way, as we saw what a pathetic coward he truly was. In “The Deadly Assassin” the Master is shown to be willing to sacrifice billions of worlds including his own Gallifrey just to save his own miserable neck.
It is never revealed what it was that actually happened to the Master. I always thought that Delgado’s Master was the first incarnation who had been involved in an accident that not only scarred him, but also used up all of his lives too. I always liked that idea that the Master lost all of his regenerations at once, to me it helped to add to his bitterness. For some reason I don’t know why, but I always thought this was the actual explanation in the show and not just my head canon.
However it is never said which incarnation Delgado’s is in the series itself and other pieces of spin off material have in fact revealed that the Delgado Master was the last incarnation of the Time Lord and that this version was simply a deformed version of him. At first I wasn’t too sure about Delgado’s incarnation being the same one as this one, but now I actually quite like the idea.
I liked the idea that the Master had reached the end of his life naturally and was still trying to prolong it rather than having suffered some kind of accident. He is someone who could never face his death after all and just simply couldn’t stand the fact that he would not one day be here. For all we know the Hinchcliff era Master didn’t actually even have an accident that scarred him, he instead just reached a point where he has become so old that his body is literally rotting away to nothing, yet his will still refuses to die.
I think this offers quite another nice parallel between the Doctor and the Master. Both characters refuse to die. The Doctor in his own way is just as scared of dying as the Master is. This can be seen when he reaches his final life in the new series and he does all he can to prolong it. River Song even mentions that the Doctor doesn’t like endings and indeed the Doctor not only does all he can to prolong his own life, but those of the people he cares about too including River Song. However the Doctor unlike the Master ultimately learns to accept it and when he finds a way to prolong his life in “The Time of the Doctor” it is in a heroic admirable way.
He earns new lives from the Time Lords which he uses to save them and Trenzalore from the Daleks. The Master in contrast however tries to prolong his life in selfish, dirty, underhand ways and where as the Doctor still remains the brave hero he always was, The Master ends up as a twisted caricature of his former self.
I also liked the idea that the Master had reached the end of all of his lives knowing that his quest to seek ultimate power had failed that all the killing and destruction he had caused had ultimately been for nothing. He wasn’t the man who brought order to chaos, he was just a murderer and that was all he would be remembered as. So much time had been wasted on a petty feud with another time lord.
Thus this Master unlike Delgado’s who still had some respect for the Doctor had nothing but complete hatred for him, even commenting that part of the reason he continues to linger on is his hatred for the Doctor and his desire to gain his revenge on him.
I also felt that Hinchcliff era Master had been driven mad too. Delgado’s Master had always been on the verge of madness, but this Master had been pushed over the edge by whatever had happened to him that made him a living skeleton, either a horrific accident or simply living to the end of his life knowing that he had failed in all of his life’s ambitions. This Master unlike Delgado’s was far more willing to kill simply because it brought him pleasure as opposed to Delgado’s Master who often only killed if he had too. This paved the way for later incarnations of the Master who would also be portrayed as completely insane with the Masters descent into madness being even greater in later incarnations.
Hinchcliff’s Master much like Delgado’s was introduced by Robert Holmes who wrote his first appearance “The Deadly Assassin”. This incarnation of the Master bore similarities to many of Holmes previous villains in that he was a once all powerful destructive villain who had had a spectacular fall from grace and was now crippled and desperate to try and regain his former glory. Other Holmes villains like this include Morbius (who was also a time lord), Sutekh and later Magnus Creel.
The deformed Master also much like Delgado’s was a pastiche of other villains. Where as Delgado’s Master had been a pastiche of villains like Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Professor Moriarty and Fu Manchu, Hinchcliff’s Master was a pastiche of villains from horror movies. This is not surprising as many of the Hinchcliff/Holmes era stories had a gothic feel to them and drew on old horror stories as inspiration. The Hinchcliff era Master bears similarities to the Phantom of the Opera, the disfigured bitter, hateful villain seeking revenge on those who wronged him from his underground lair, there are also even elements of Dr Phibes in him too, again the disfigured, vengeful genius with a taste for the theatrics.
This incarnation was played by two different actors Peter Pratt in “The Deadly Assassin” and Geoffrey Beevers in “The Keeper of Traken”. Its hard to say who was the better of the two of them. Pratt’s Master seemed the much more vicious of the two of them, whilst Beevers I felt was better at showing the characters manipulative side which was ideal for this version of the character who had to work through his minions more than any other.
Overall I liked this version of the character in fact I’d say that this is my second favourite after Roger Delgado. One scene I always remember from my youth that terrified me was at the end of “The Deadly Assassin” when we see the Masters face appear on an old grandfather clock. I must admit I was afraid to go near them for ten years afterwards!
Overall I’d rank this as a very important version of the Master that not only proved the character could survive Roger Delgado, but also somewhat fleshed out his character more showing us what a dirty coward he was, it also finally paved the way for many of the later portrayals by showing us how the Master had now been driven completely insane in his attempt to prolong his life.
Join me tomorrow when I will be looking at the Ainley incarnation of the Master.