Published on February 2nd, 2012 | by Andrew Reynolds
The Master’s Top Ten Disguises
When devising his evil schemes the Master liked nothing better than including himself in a hastily assembled, then quickly abandoned disguise as he attempted immortality, world destruction or just a bit of mucking about with democracy.
So here is Kasterborous’ list of the top ten disguises used by batty Time Lord the Master!
Before we get down to business it’s worth giving an honourable mention to those that didn’t make the cut, take a bow: The Adjudicator, Mr. Seta, Street Preacher, The Sheriff, Count Marius Castillo, George Steer, Merlin (that’s right, before the events of Battlefield as well) and McMaster.
Now the criteria for choosing just what makes a good disguise are:
1) The name of the temporary character must be a pun, anagram or a direct translation of his own name,
2) It must have dubious value as a disguise; for instance, disguising yourself on a planet where no one knows who you are in the first place and
3) It must be used to gain access to either technology, an event or a planet with far-reaching consequences, say, for example using a disguise to access TITAN or influence the signing of the Magna Carta.
Let us proceed…
10. Kalid – Time-Flight
Having escaped Castrovalva via the magic of needing to be in this serial, the Master dons the pointless disguise of Kalid, an Asian trickster who possesses knowledge of the powerful alien gestalt; the Xeraphin in this “We have a Concorde, so let’s use it!” in Fifth Doctor serial.
Why is it so pointless?
No one on the planet knows who he is – so unless he expected the Doctor to eventually turn up and ruin his overly complex and convoluted plan there’s no need for the subterfuge.
The only explanation for having gone to such lengths is that it afforded him easy access into the citadel – although that isn’t explicitly said in the script – and it couldn’t have been possession like Tremas before him, because that raises all sorts of questions about the Masters lifespan.
Plus, he’s seen taking the costume off!
Unless this was a literal possession (the mechanics of which would be astounding) then he wouldn’t be peeling layers off and chastising the Doctor for, yet again, failing to understand his plan (the Doctor wasn’t the only one.)
The real problem is that unlike those early Delgado serials where the character developed and the circumstances changed with each appearance the Master seems to be stuck in the same rut he was in way back in Logopolis – affording us little new insight into his and the Doctor’s relationship.
9. Sir Giles Estram – The King’s Demons
When your own lead character acknowledges that this plot to stop the signing of the Magna Carta is ‘small-time’ then you really have no choice but to question why on Earth the Master was there in the first place – let alone donning the utterly unconvincing persona of Sir Giles Estram – “The King’s Anagram”.
Both Kalid and Estram seem to have been constructed to undermine the Master’s menace – both represent the nadir of shoe-horning him into plots that really don’t call for his presence (just what was he doing before the Doctor appeared? Why did he wait for him to arrive to implement his plan?)
The biggest tell in this serial is the reveal, which judging by the 13th century character’s reactions, made absolutely no difference to the story – again like Kalid, there’s little reason for him to don the disguise other than preparing for the Doctor’s inevitable arrival.
8. Bruce – Doctor Who: The Movie
It’s not easy being a paramedic, especially when rogue Chinese gangs keep killing eccentrically dressed older gentlemen who stand around anachronistic police boxes right at the end of your shift.
Not that we have any time to feel the loss of Bruce when the Master’s morphant swallows his soul – Bruce is used solely by the Master in a moment reminiscent of The Terminator to find out what happened to John Smith, only with out the menaceâ€¦or the car through the doorsâ€¦or a sense of purpose.
Bruce’s life is little more than a snoring joke and a hokey eye effect – it’s a shame that when he does become the Master that more isn’t made of the life interrupted – Napa Valley wasn’t too far away, how about a Sideways style story featuring the Bruce-Master and his old college roommate heading out for one last wild weekend of wine and women?
It couldn’t be any worse, right. After all the Master is only really there to prove that Terry Nation was indeed a powerful man.
7. Portreeve – Castrovalva
The Master makes plans like frustrated novelists write books – each week there’s twenty different ideas ready to be utilised and all of them fail. There built to fail in fact. How else could you explain the plan within a plan of both setting the TARDIS on a collision course with Event One and inputting the entirely fictional planet of Castrovalva into the TARDIS’ index file?
He must have known one or the other was going to fail. In fact, going back to Logopolis, he must have assumed that the Doctor wouldn’t be killed by his fall from the radar dish else why would he have gone to the trouble of constructing such a scheme?
For someone so keen on planning ahead; it seems a little unnecessary to construct a trap with so many variables: Why did the Master give the people of Castrovalva free will? Did he get lost in the details of his world? Did he believe that by giving them free will it make the trap more difficult to escape once he had manipulated the people with Portreeve?
Portreeve was a slightly less successful incarnation of Tremas – a likeable, rounded character who in this instant turned out to be the Master rather than forcibly turned into the Master.
All the credit rightly goes to Anthony Ainley who always made the most of the material he was given – making his Master eminently more boo-able than the previous incarnations.
6. A Member of The Four Horsemen - Smash Hit
Music is a part of the Master’s character – he not only has a penchant for the Scissor Sisters but, according to PDA novel Deadly Reunion he also played the drums in the Gallifrey Academy Hot Five. That’s right – he not only hears the sound of drums, he plays them.
However he left his tub thumping behind him when, in the 1973 Doctor Who Holiday Special, Smash Hit he hypnotised an up and coming pop group The Swifts, gave them a suitably ominous new name, The Four Horsemen, and set about hypnotizing the population (who were all listening in to Billy ‘the Kid’ Kiddsley’s show) to converge at Stonehenge – although he really doesn’t have much of a plan for the population of the UK other than a bit of converging.
It’s not really made clear how the entire population managed to be listening to the same radio station at the same time. Neither is it explained how the Doctor and the Brigadier managed to avoid being brainwashed either (although in as seen in Terror of the Autons, a strong will can deter the effects) or why the characteristically hypnotic Master suddenly needs a mind control machine when the crowds start to gather at Stonehenge (we’ve all seen Paul McKenna, surely there has to be a safety word to break the spell? People don’t stop being Chickens once they’ve had a quick flap and cluck. It’s just poor planning on his behalf.)
Still it doesn’t really matter when the whole thing wraps up with the Brigadier, under the Master’s control (yeah, now it works), trying to kill the Doctor, who thanks to a non-specific command to ‘kill’ avoids regeneration as the Brig in turn starts to ‘kill’ the Master.
With the mind control device destroyed, all that’s left for the Doctor to do is to tell one of the doubtful members of The Swifts that getting out of the pop scene might just be a good idea – as if this happens quite a lot to the Bay City Rollers.
The Master wasn’t quite done with pop music though. In PDA novel Hidden Talent he again employees his hypnotic powers to rig a talent show which if he just used a phone in could have netted him millions.
5. Colonel Masters/Telephone Engineer – Terror of the Autons
The Master is a lot of things but he’s not a details man.
His recklessness with his disguises and, eventually, his allegiance to the cause is something that follows through all incarnations of the character. You always get the sense that even if he had gone to such lengths to create a plausible ruse, all it would have brought him was time.
The fact that he changes his mind so quickly after the Doctor attempts to persuade him to repel the Nestene invasion is perhaps a sign that he was struggling with the grandness of his scheme – albeit one that he clearly couldn’t wait to share with the world.
For a man with a hypnotic hold on the human race its difficult to see why he bothered with the cunning disguise of Colonel Masters (perhaps his lack of imagination hints at the apathy he feels towards such disguises?) after all he could have simply ceased control of the Farrell Family plastics works without the incredibly thin cover of Masters (if he can adopt realistic face masks like that of the telephone engineer and his wayward flex – then why not use an existing customer of the factory as his disguise?)
Although we would have been denied one of the most iconic/mocked moments in Doctor Who – Mr. McDermott’s Ed Wood style death by chair.
4. Professor Thascales – The Time Monster
The Time Monster largely fails to recapture the potent alchemy of The Daemons – a serial it tries to ape in all but execution. The one saving grace of this tale of Atlantis is Roger Delgado and UNIT’s gradual awareness of the Master’s tricks.
The serial does a nice job of pointing out the absurdity of the Master operating under the nose of UNIT: Benton isn’t fooled by his impersonation of the Brigadier (again, it’s the details that let the Master down), the Master under the guise of Professor Thascales (Greek for “Master”) pretends to be a pacifist in order to avoid eating lunch with The Brigadier and there’s a nice moment where the Master gleefully hypnotised Percival – making him think of the â€˜good old days’.
The serial is a great example of a disguise adding to the character rather than undermining his menace – the fact that he seems unable to muster a Greek accent to save his life makes him much more likeable.
A PDA sequel The Quantum Archangel sees the Master – under the guise of Branko Gospodar – a Serbian Businessman (and yes, that is Serbian for “˜Master”) not learning any lesson’s from the events of The Time Monster while brazenly attempting to both kill off the Chronovores,Â by cutting off their food supply the Lux Aeterna, and revitalise his withering old Trakenite body using the very same power source.
The translation trend continued on in the PDA novel series with Police Inspector Lemaitre in Last of the Garderene (French) and Estro in Legacy of the Daleks (Esperanto).
3.Professor Yana – Utopia
Finally, all it took was for the Master to rewrite his entire DNA signature just to get a disguise that actually worked.
Professor Yana is a tormented man. Carrying the hopes of the human race on his shoulders and haunted by the ever presence sound of drums (not to mention the terrible coffee) his race for the prize is hampered by the conditions he finds himself on Malcassairo.
But all is saved when the Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack arrive and unwittingly break the perception filter around the Master’s Fob watch – leading to perhaps the most exciting ten minutes of television ever for anyone who holds a candle for the great Doctor/Master conflict of old.
Derek Jacobi, who had previously played an android version of the Master in the BBC webcast series Scream of the Shalka, plays the kindly, warm Professor beautifully – making his betrayal of Chantho all the more heartbreaking, and his reveal deviously malevolent.
2. Harold Saxon – The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords
The layering of Saxon into each episode leading up to Utopia was still as clumsy as â€˜Bad Wolf’ but thanks to the massive impact of the Master’s return, everything was forgiven.
This time Harold Saxon – the Prime Minister who was (satire alert!) all style and no substance – didn’t rely on the Master’s actual hypnotic effect on people (which was hit and miss most of the time) but instead used the Archangel Network to create a physic matrix around himself – making him irresistible to voters.
That’s not the only old school trick the Master kept. His disguise was now explicitly designed to gain entry to the upper echelons of power albeit with the same amount of care for the details and with just about the same level of patience with his own schemes as before.
Saxon also has the same level of charm and charisma that Delgado brought to his persona; Saxon had to be a convincing, if fraying at the edges, to work.
The line maybe very thin between the Master and Saxon but it’s definitely there, even if it’s a a little too meta to be as engaging as it could be.
1. Rev. Magister – The Daemons
Kicking off a trend of adopting direct translations of his own name – in this case Latin – the Master dons the guise of a ‘rationalist, existentialist’ priest in this classic Barry Letts era serial.
Roger Delgado is the epitome of cool, charming evil – there’s something deeply malevolent in seeing him dressed in robes and a dog collar – its one of the more successful attempts by the Master at taking on a persona rather than using another character in the show as a disguise – a trait that affected the Anthony Ainley era.