Every great hero needs a great nemesis, and for everyone’s favourite time traveller The Doctor that nemesis is The Master. There have been multiple incarnations of the diabolical character dating all the way back to 1971 and for this post we will be counting down the top seven.
I will be excluding brief incarnations of the character like Norman Stanley (the Master in disguise), Gordon Tipple (a cameo in the Doctor Who Movie), Derek Jacobi (an amnesiac Master) and William Hughes (a young version). So with that caveat and a SPOILER ALERT up to Spyfall let’s get to the list:
#7 Eric Roberts (Bruce version)
There are many things wrong with the Doctor Who Movie and one of the worst aspects is Eric Roberts’ version of the Master. After being executed by Daleks for some reason and then turning into a snake creature (again for some reason) the disembodied Master possesses the body of Bruce the ambulance driver. Because he still has the yellow eyes from his previous Tremas incarnation he walks around with shades and a leather jacket to match, and he looks like a discount Terminator. Roberts delivers a hammy performance that is dull, uninspired and it would be laughable if it was not so sad.
#6 Decayed Master
There were two versions of the decayed Master, who was on his last regeneration, and both battled Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor. We had Peter Pratt in The Deadly Assassin and then Geoffrey Beevers as a less-decayed Master in The Keeper of Traken. This incarnation kept mostly to the shadows compared to his other more bombastic versions, and his plans focused on renewing himself rather than world domination. An interesting take on the Master but more memorable for the visual impact than anything else.
#5 John Simm (Harold Saxon version)
John Simm gave us a wild, almost unhinged version of the character. He was overly emotional, a bit childish, and delighted in his evil ways. But at times his off-the-wall personality was too much and took away from some of the menace of the character. And his plan in The End of Time to turn everyone into versions of himself was flat out ridiculous. It was fun, however, seeing this version playing off against the Michelle Gomez “Missy” version in Series 10.
#4 Roger Delgado (original version)
The very first Master, introduced in the Third Doctor story Terror of the Autons, was quite the mustache-twirling villain. He was fond of elaborate disguises, easily hypnotised people, including companions of the Doctor, and was ruthless, killing people in creative ways like shrinking them or having a plastic couch suffocate them. Bent on world domination he was a major nemesis for Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor and harassed him for the entirety of Season 8. He was a maniacal foe and a major challenge for our hero, but not as interesting a character as the top three on our list.
#3 Sacha Dhawan (O version)
Like finding a $100 bill in your jeans pocket Sacha Dhawan’s version of The Master was quite the wonderful surprise. He was a wonderful blend of classic Master gadgetry (the shrinking of people really made me smile) with the greater mania of modern incarnations. But thankfully he managed the manic with the sinister and never strayed into camp or melodrama (looking at you Simm). I thoroughly enjoyed this version of the Master but could not rank him higher because of his newness. Dhawan has shown the chops to be the best Master ever.
#2 Michelle Gomez (Missy/Mistress version)
How can you not love Michelle Gomez as Missy aka the Mistress? A gender-bent version of the Master may not sound appealing on paper but Gomez completely nails it. Her Missy is delightfully crazy, darkly humorous and brutally murderous. Every time she is on screen all eyes are on her and you never know what she is going to do next. And that is a wonderful feeling. She shares her previous incarnations’ love for gadgets though not for elaborate disguises.
#1 Anthony Ainley (Tremas version)
The Master took on this form after possessing the body of the Traken Consul Tremas, and this would be the most enduring of his incarnations. Like the original version this incarnation was fond of disguises and Machiavellian plots. He was also very flambouyant and bombastic which added some fun to the character. And he also had these crazy eyes which works well when you’re playing a maniacal villain. This Master battled the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors and appeared in the multi-Doctor story The Five Doctors. For his long history and charming portrayal this version wins our top spot.
So that’s my list. What’s your favourite version of the Master? And if you enjoyed this post how about a share? Sharing is caring.
For my Top 13 Doctor Who Doctors you can click here.
Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel but dreams of being Batman. Also loves creating board games and is an aspiring Caribbean sci-fi author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.