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A Masterful Life

By Alden Bates

He has caused the deaths of untold billions. The Master matches the Daleks for sheer ruthlessness and destruction. He has appeared in eighteen television stories and the New Adventures. (Please note that this article contains plot details of the Master's New Adventures appearance).

The Master was born in South Gallifrey, around the same time as the Doctor, and possibly slightly earlier (Borusa in The Deadly Assassin says the Master was 'not much older' than the Doctor). He and the Doctor were great friends when they were younger and both attended the Prydonian Chapter Academy at the same time.

As well as his academic achievements, the Master showed remarkable mental control and was able to dominate weak-willed people. These powers would eventually be enhanced and used for evil purposes.

Even in those days the Master would have shown a capacity for mischief which exceeded that of the Doctor, although he gained higher honours than the other Time Lord. It may even partly be because of the Master that the Doctor left Gallifrey - if the Master left first and the Doctor knew mischief was intended he might have set out intending to prevent it.

Although the First Doctor was fiercely moral he could not control his TARDIS and any meeting between the two would be coincidental. Perhaps at some point the two met, and the Doctor revealed the Master's location to the Time Lords. If the Doctor gave evidence at the Master's trial, that would explain the other Time Lord's hatred. Perhaps it was also at this point that the Doctor picked up Susan, although she hadn't heard of the Master. The Doctor, to avoid being put on trial for stealing the TARDIS and his own interference, would have escaped once again.

The Master inevitably escaped and roamed the Universe, causing havoc. The Doctor may have encountered him again, but these meetings were not recorded, and finally, the Doctor was forced to reveal his own location to the Time Lords in The War Games.

Encouraged by the Doctor's trial, the Time Lords successfully tracked down and capture the Master. During his short incarceration, the Master learnt of the Doctor's exile and presumably the subsequent Nestene invasion attempt. Thus, when he is able to escape in his TARDIS, the Master seeks the help of the Nestene to evade Time Lord tracking in return for help in a second invasion attempt.

Terror of the Autons
[Delgado Master] Although the Master's activities prior to this adventure are not mentioned, the Time Lords have tracked his TARDIS to the area. He may have been traced after raiding information from the Matrix, although he was not apprehended on subsequent raids. The Master is aware of the Doctor's exile so he must have received the information from the Time Lords, perhaps indirectly through stolen information. The Tissue Compression Eliminator is first used in this story. The weapon was probably stolen from one of the planets he visited earlier.

The Mind of Evil
The mind parasite would have been picked up by the Master prior to Terror of the Autons on the off-chance it would prove useful, although why he needed it to take over Stangmoor prison or disrupt the peace conference is never made clear.

The Claws of Axos
It is possible that between adventures the Master encountered Axos on a world he was visiting, but the short time gap since The Mind of Evil (UNIT are conducting an intensive search, and an American agent has been sent to help), suggests that Axos was in the neighbourhood and that the Master intended simply to point them in the direction of Earth and leave them to it.

Colony in Space
Although never stated, it is most likely that the Master's information about the doomsday weapon was stolen from the Matrix between The Claws of Axos and Colony in Space since the Master seems to use some of the information in Colony which could easily have been used earlier. Although previously the Master had been content with rulership of Earth (a somewhat dubious position), he intends this time to rule the whole galaxy, if not the Universe.

The Daemons
During the information raid on Gallifrey, the Master seems to have stolen quite a bit of information on Earth's history including Azal, the Sea Devils and Atlantis; undoubtedly he targeted this area in light of the Doctor's exile. The Doctor mentions at one point that he learned of Azal 'at school.' Although he doesn't mention the Master in connection with this, it seems likely that the Master had learned the same information. The stolen data may have served also as a reminder but it is unlikely that the Master would have learned the means of awakening Azal at school.

The Sea Devils
The knowledge of the Sea Devils was undoubtedly among the knowledge from the Matrix. Once again the Master knows exactly how to find them. The Doctor says at one point that he and the Master were great friends when they were younger.

The Time Monster
While the Doctor is building a device to jam the Master's equipment, he says 'We used to make them at school to spoil each other's time experiments.' He doesn't specify who 'we' includes, although it appears he is talking about the Master. The Doctor knows about Kronos, so he presumably learned about it in 'school' as would have the Master. The Kronos crystal is more likely to have been part of the Time Lord records.

Frontier in Space
The Master's short lived alliance with the Daleks seems out of character, since their sole contribution was the use of the Ogrons and possibly the hypno- device. Following the war, he would be in competition with them for domination of the two empires. No doubt he already had a plan to deal with the Daleks but this is never specified.

The Deadly Assassin
[Emaciated Master] The gap between Frontier in Space and The Deadly Assassin is the more mysterious in the Master's life. His incarnation last seen in Frontier in Space must be his last and finally his thirteenth regeneration is induced. This is always fatal in a Time Lord, but somehow the Master manages to halt it, emerging a twisted skeletal figure. This event takes place on Tersurus where Chancellor Goth finds him and smuggles him back to Gallifrey. Castellan Spandrell asks if the Master was a Time Lord, and the Doctor replies 'He was - a long time ago.' This implies that the Delgado incarnation was his last. In Mawdryn Undead, the Doctor states that loss of the regeneration ability would be the end of him as a Time Lord. If the Master had no regenerations left, he might be regarded as no longer being a Time Lord. (Perhaps Time Lords reserve their last incarnation for retirement? It may have simply have been a reference to the Master having left Gallifrey, although this is the only time that this meaning of Time Lord is used.) The Doctor also states that he 'lost sight of the Master on Earth some time ago.' This suggests that there was perhaps an unseen story after Frontier in Space, although Sarah does not know the Master in The Five Doctors. He describes the Master as a technological genius.

The Keeper of Traken
The Master possesses two TARDISes is this story: the grandfather clock, presumably the same one from The Deadly Assassin, and the Melkur, which is destroyed. The Melkur TARDIS would have been removed from Gallifrey prior to The Deadly Assassin, perhaps it was Goth's. The transfer of the Master's mind into Tremas' body is never satisfactorily explained, only that the ability was gained from his brief contact with the Source.

During this story, the Master uses something similar to the control devices in The Keeper of Traken to take partial control of Nyssa. Like so much of the technology that the Master uses, this would seem to have been stolen or acquired, probably some time before The Deadly Assassin. The Master is unaware of the significance of Logopolis leading to disastrous consequences, as is the Doctor.

Although the Master talks of a long wait in setting the trap of Castrovalva, little time seems to have passed for himself or Adric. In fact, the city created by Adric's block transfer computations need not have been created five hundred years before, but could have been created just prior to the Doctor's arrival. In Castrovalva, for the first time the Master's primary aim is to kill the Doctor instead of gaining power. Also the Master no longer simply escapes at the end of the story but is apparently caught in Castrovalva as it disintegrates. Instead of perishing, the Master is able to escape in his TARDIS.

The Master seems to go to elaborate steps to disguise himself - it is obvious that he expects the Doctor to turn up or he wouldn't have bothered. The methods by which he controls the Xeraphin, and so maintains his disguise, seem reminiscent of the Daemon science. The Master is eventually left trapped on Xeraphas (though it is never mentioned how the Doctor operates the TARDIS without a temporal limiter), where he encounters Kamelion and with the robot's help, repairs his TARDIS.

The King's Demons
No real motive is given for the Master's interference in Earth's history; there seems to be nothing for him to gain by it. Presumably it is so he could take over rulership of Earth, or in retribution directed at the Doctor. The resulting history change might have made it possible for him to conquer it later in history. At one point, the Master says he regards moral scruples as a handicap. Once again, the Master is caught in a cliffhanger ending, with his TARDIS traveling out of control having been sabotaged by the Doctor. It is not long, however, before the Time Lords intercept his TARDIS.

The Five Doctors
While the Master is in the Death Zone, the Time Lords repair his TARDIS, probably planning to reuse it. A question that this story leaves unanswered is that of the Master's reward. Would the Time Lords really have given the Master a full new set of regenerations, even if he had been successful in rescuing the Doctor? During the adventure, the First Doctor does not immediately recognise the Master who states that they were at the Academy together. The third Doctor recognises him in spite of the Master's new form, and in the scenes in Rassilon's tomb the Second Doctor seems to recognise him instantly, although it's possible one of the other Doctors might have told him of the Master's presence. Rassilon frees the Master, replacing him in the reclaimed and repaired TARDIS which he promptly steals once again.

Planet of Fire
[Ainley Master] One of the tasks the Master sets about is to experiment with his Tissue Compression Eliminator resulting in an unfortunate accident. The weapon discharges, shrinking his laboratory. Although the Master remains relatively unharmed, he is substantially smaller and seeks Kamelion's help. Using the numismaton gas the Master is able to restore himself to his normal height. The Doctor at one point says that the Master's body must be good for a 'few more years yet.' This seems awfully short for the apparent age of the body, though it did look substantially older before the Master took possession of it.

The Mark of the Rani
The Rani and the Master know each other well. The Rani knows of the Master's long standing feud with the Doctor, while the Master knows of the Rani's rulership of Miasimia Goria. As in The King's Demons, the Master displays detailed knowledge of Earth history, predicting the results of the interference. When she asks how he survived his last encounter with the Doctor, he merely states that he is "indestructible."

The Trial of a Time Lord
The Master again displays the ease with which he infiltrates the Time Lord Matrix, which makes it all the more puzzling why he should want the secrets stolen by the Sleepers. Surely he could pilfer all the information he would need by himself. Perhaps the information was hidden in a more secure section of the Matrix, or possibly simply to save himself the trouble of finding it. He is aware of the Valeyard's real identity, although there is little evidence to suggest he has encountered him (as the Valeyard) before. He knows the Valeyard's character, but that simply could have been through observing the trial. His dealings with Glitz however seem to include events on Ravolox and quite a few other deals. Eventually, the Master attempts to take over Gallifrey but is stopped by one of the Valeyard's traps. Presumably he escaped after the Matrix was restored.

During the somewhat longer than usual gap before Survival, the Master sets into motion quite a few schemes. However, one scheme to start a war goes wrong, and he only escapes by following a Kitling back to the hunting grounds of the Cheetah people. The Master is affected by the hunting world almost as much as Midge and Ace, although he is able to control it better, gaining the ability to see through the Kitlings' eyes and to exercise some measure of command over the Cheetah people. The final confrontation sees the Master consumed by his animal side, transporting himself and the Doctor back to the dying world. As the world explodes, the Doctor transports himself back to the TARDIS.

First Frontier
By linking with Shadow, the black Kitling, the Master is able to escape, the artron energy surrounding the doomed world projecting him back in time to 1950s Earth. Trapped there, as his TARDIS has been left on Antari Three, he contacts the Tzun. The Master's offer to aid in the assimilation of Earth in return for passage off the planet is merely a ruse. He is able to create a remote control unit to retrieve his TARDIS and requires the Tzun only to provide nanites to restore his regenerative life cycle. The Master is shot by Ace and regenerates, losing the contamination of the hunting planet. Just as the Tzun withdraw from Earth, the Master destroys their ship and leaves the Doctor to deal with a nuclear warhead that he has timed to start a world war and destroy the Earth. The Master escapes once more...


Since this article was written, the Master has appeared many times again. While it's tempting to try to update it to cover every appearance in the Virgin and BBC books, and the Big Finish audios, doing so (and reconciling continuity in the process) would require an article in itself. Of particular note are the Virgin Missing Adventure The Dark Path, and the Big Finish audio Master. In the former the Delgado Master and Second Doctor meet. It's revealed that the Master's original name was Koschei, and he travels with a Time Lady companion. The Big Finish audio is a must for fans of the Master, and reveals more about his friendship with the Doctor on Gallifrey, early on in their lives.

The Master's last television appearance was in the 1996 TV movie. At the beginning he's exterminated by the Daleks (who've uncharacteristically put him on trial), but survives in the form of a protoplasmic snake which is able to take over the body of a paramedic. While occupying the human host, he has the additional ability to vomit up a paralysing slime. With the ultimate aim of taking over the Doctor's body, the Master opens the Eye of Harmony situated within the TARDIS and, after a struggle with the Doctor, falls in.

As the Master's appearance at the start of the movie is shown mostly in shadow, some fans have speculated that this is the Master sometime after the conclusion of Frontier in Space - the Daleks having blamed him for the collapse of the plan to foment war between the Draconians and humans. The theory goes that after being thrown into the Eye of Harmony, the Master somehow emerged, badly burnt, on Tersurus where Goth encountered him. I prefer to think that the Master's encounters with the Doctor are in chronological order, otherwise things could get very confusing fast.

Can the Master escape a black hole? I wouldn't be surprised; after all, if there's one thing he's consistently shown, it's that you can't keep a bad Time Lord down.

This item appeared in TSV 44 (June 1995).