2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the first appearance in Doctor Who of the Doctor’s arch-nemesis, the Master, who he once described as being his “best enemy”. To mark such a momentous and auspicious occasion as this, there are more Masters turning up in spin-off media than you could shake a Tissue Compression Eliminator at.
In January, Big Finish released Masterful, which marked the character’s five decades by bringing together for a special as many incarnations of the Master as they could muster; this saw television iterations, as played by Geoffrey Beevers, Sir Derek Jacobi, John Simm, Eric Roberts and Michelle Gomez, meeting up with Big Finish’s very own audio-only versions of the renegade Time Lord, which include Mark Gatiss and Alex MacQueen, for a celebratory story.
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Not content with doing that, and having already managed to bring back Eric Roberts in 2019 alongside some of the other Masters for a volume of The Diary Of River Song, Big Finish recently gave him a tale of his very own – Master! – which picks up his story following his apparent demise in the 1996 TV movie which starred Paul McGann as the Doctor. As well as this, there are also ongoing semi-regular series featuring Jacobi’s War Master and Gomez’s Missy.
Not to be outdone, now Titan Comics brings us Doctor Who: Missy, their own contribution to this special celebration of a half century of villainy. Originally devised by producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks, it was their intention that the Master would be the Doctor’s very own Moriarty, a rival of practically equal skill and intellect from amongst his very own people, who would be a recurring foe; actor Roger Delgado originated the role, and he played it through to his untimely death in 1973.
It seems fitting, then, that Doctor Who: Missy features this first TV portrayal of the Master, and Roberta Ingranata’s art perfectly captures the urbane yet slightly saturnine looks of Delgado, the perfect blend of gentlemanly malevolence that came across on screen. As Roger Delgado was the archetype, and also the granddaddy of the Masters who followed him, it feels only natural that he should get his due here, and it also provides a contrast with the mad-as-a-hatter Missy, whose ‘evil Mary Poppins’ vibe is caught to a tee.
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One of the huge joys of having different incarnations of the Doctor meet up is the inevitable clash of personality types, along with the joshing and bantering which arises; however, the Master has only crossed paths with himself the once on screen, with Simm and Gomez meeting up in Peter Capaldi’s penultimate adventure, so there is still plenty of untapped potential in the notion. Big Finish has been maximising on that with its releases, and some of the interplay between the various actors has been priceless.
As Delgado is sadly no longer with us, alas, we get the next best thing in this tale, albeit with something of a novel and unusual twist, as Missy is being rather underhanded about her intentions, failing to disclose what she needs her earlier self for. Writer Jody Houser has great fun with this, as well as peppering in lots of references to things which have turned up in the both original and modern Doctor Who on TV, neatly bringing together elements from the old and new versions of the series, making it all feel nicely cohesive.
With that old adage about being your own worst enemy, for the Master and Missy that may well prove to be the case. Is it possible to ever outwit yourself, when you just happen to be one of the most diabolical fiends the universe has ever seen? It sounds as though Jody Houser will be delivering a tale that promises plenty of double-crosses and backstabbing, and it should be a whole lot of fun.
Doctor Who: Missy #1 is out now from Titan Comics.