”I’m Doctor Who. I’m a whimsical madman who makes choices that seem inexplicable to lower beings like you but are intended for the greater good.”
One of the absolute genuine delights of Steven Moffat’s era as showrunner on Doctor Who was his reinvention of long-time foe the Master as Missy, coupled with Michelle Gomez’s wonderfully eccentric performance, offering the character a new lease of life. There was also some real depth present, as Missy was set on the path to an ultimately fated redemptive arc, giving her a shot at turning back to the light.
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You could tell that the Doctor had so desperately wanted it to succeed, not just because it would mean there would be one less threat to the entire universe to contend with, but to also rekindle the genuine friendship they had sadly lost along the way, after their lives had taken very different routes, ending up on opposite sides. For all her psychosis, you could tell that Missy was sorely tempted to cross the line, even though you knew in your heart it was doomed to failure.
Alas, we ended up getting not nearly enough of Missy on our screens, and while we now have a new Master – in the form of Sacha Dhawan – back to his homicidal best, it does feel a real shame we were robbed of the chance to see more of the psychotic Mary Poppins incarnation in action. Thanks, then, to spin-off media giving us an opportunity to enjoy more of Missy, from Gomez reprising the part for Big Finish audios, to the renegade Time Lord getting to have a whole new lease of life in comic strip form.
Writer Jody Houser has perfectly captured Missy to a tee, in such a way that you can very nearly hear Gomez saying the dialogue, which is a testament to Houser’s skill. With multi-Master stories still being somewhat of a novelty, Houser has managed to make good use of the marked contrast between Missy and the earliest version of the Master seen on screen, played by Roger Delgado. A lovely extra little frisson comes from Missy masquerading here as the Doctor, for nefarious reasons yet to be fully revealed.
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In fact, Missy shows you can have a Time Lord change their gender on regenerating, and it can work brilliantly without destroying the series, as some fans dramatically claimed to be the case when Jodie Whittaker took over the mantle; the success or failure – as with any other prior regenerations – depends upon the synthesis of the characterisation and the actor, rather than the gender. So, yes, Missy demonstrates here – as well as on TV – a female Doctor can work, without any shadow of a doubt.
It was therefore a huge pleasure in having the combination of Moffat and Missy, as they were able to poke and prod at some of the show’s sacred cows, and take things much less seriously – after all, just how pretentious and po-faced can you be about a TV programme revolving around an alien who travels through space and time in a Metropolitan Police Box? Sometimes, any such risk of pomposity needs to be pricked, for its own good, and Houser’s Doctor Who: Missy does just that, delivering payoffs in spades to boot.
One of the things guaranteed to drive certain types of fans absolutely mad is referring to the lead character as ‘Doctor Who’; this, they will tell you, is the name of the programme, and you should only ever call our hero ‘the Doctor’. Cue one Steven Moffat, taking every possible opportunity to refer to the venerable Time Lord as ‘Doctor Who’, even having Missy adopt the sobriquet when swanning around, pretending to be the Doctor. You could virtually hear all the gnashing and grinding of obsessives’ teeth across the land.
Houser has cannily chosen to create some further potential dental issues for that subset of aficionados, by having Missy swanning around, boldly introducing herself as ‘Doctor Who’ to all and sundry. Missy acts not just as the perfect medium to deconstruct the show we all love so, but to also provide a commentary on the series, saying all the quiet bits out loud, and pointing out the inherent silliness and absurdity of it all. As a result, Doctor Who: Missy gives us a boldness and sense of fun missing not just from the TV stories, but also some of Titan’s other recent Doctor Who comic exploits.
To put it another way, then: Doctor Who: Missy is so good, it feels almost criminal.
Doctor Who: Missy #2 is out now from Titan Comics.