9 November, 2014, The Master is Not a Homicidal Lunatic

There's not a lot I want to say about the season finale of Doctor Who. It's a children's show, I understand that. It's like my one big guilty-pleasure show. I remember loving the hell out of Doctor Who when I was a kid, but trying to watch some of those old episodes now can be downright painful. I do try to check it out occasionally and have discovered that the best way to watch old Doctor Who is in very small doses of no more than one episode per day on non-consecutive days. So, sometimes it surprises me that I still follow the modern Doctor Who. I think it is as much nostalgia as anything else. Also, it can be entertaining. It can be amusing, and the modern show has done a good job of picking actors for the role. Christopher Eccleston was a big part of why I wanted to check out the modern Doctor Who when it first returned, and Peter Capaldi is a huge part of why I keep watching. David Tennant, yeah, he was alright. Matt Smith was very good, but Christopher Eccleston, John Hurt and Peter Capaldi are still my favorite modern incarnations of the Doctor.

Which is a longer than I expected way of saying that there's really not a lot I want to say about the season finale or even most of the season in general. The season was as hit-or-miss as Matt Smith's first season, and trying to critique the season just seems kind of pointless.

I just wanted to say a word or two about the characterization of the Master, and at first, I thought it would be really simply. Then, I realized I actually have an opinion on the Master, and I hope I can write something vaguely coherent on the topic.

The first thing to understand about the Master before trying to make any broad sweeping statements is that the Master is a pantomime villain in a serial television show. The Master cannot win, and the Master has to keep coming back week after week with some whacky plan or other.

Now, at first I thought the discussion just ends there. Pantomime villain. Okay, got it. Characterization is secondary to being a stock recurring villain. Moving on.

Then, I realized something. There's an interesting character hiding within the confines of that pantomime villain's skin, and it occasionally peeks out from around the edges. The actor, Roger Delgado, was the perfect actor for the part and probably had a huge part in conveying this, but what do I know. It's a really old TV show.

Okay, so the Master is too smart for the room. He really truly believes that he is smarter and better than everyone around him, and he just kind of finds it galling that things aren't better. I mean, shit, why do other people have nice things? Why do other people get promotions and presents and money and positions of power and get to be president and king? They're a bunch of bloody idiots, and this is what they get? It's not fair. It's not bloody fair. It's not right. It's not just. Where's mine? When's it get to be my turn? I'm smarter than them. I'm more sophisticated than them. I deserve good things.

So, yeah, the Master wants good things because he deserves good things, and he's just bloody well smarter than everybody else so if nobody is going to give him good things then he's just going to have to go out and get it himself. After all, he's smarter than everybody else. Getting the good things should be easy.

And, that's why the Master always fails. He thinks it should be easy since he's just so cleaver and smart and deserving so he never actually bothers to think through what he's doing. He only ever has half a plan like the Underpants Gnomes on South Park. Step one, form an alliance with the Autons or the Daleks or somebody. Step three, conquer! Step two, yeah, I'll work that out later.

He desperately wants to succeed so badly that he'll just hatch any plan whatsoever. The plan may have absolutely no chance of success or may not actually show any progress toward actually conquering or gaining something or getting to lord it over people. It doesn't matter. It's a plan. He thought of it, and by God, it's going to work. The Master is one of those people who keeps getting sucked into get rich quick schemes. He just can't help himself.

The Master is practically the Brain from Pinky and the Brain.

So, look, the Master is a pantomime villain. Full-stop. The Master will be whatever the episode's plot needs him to be, and he may be many things in order to fulfill the needs of the story. But, the Master is not nor was he ever a homicidal killer. He's not crazy. Missy is not/should not be crazy or even act crazy. She should kill only when absolutely necessary and would find the act of doing so rather distastefully beneath her. After all, she's better than that. She deserves so much more.

Put another way, the Master/Missy is Daffy Duck, and that freaking Doctor/Bugs Bunny gets all the acclaim that the Master/Missy so richly deserves.

“Well, I say he does have to shoot me now! So, shoot me now!”

“Oh, no. Not this time. Wait until you get home.”

Yeah, that's the Master.

copyright © 2014 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved