Sunday, November 9, 2014

Doctor Who: Top Ten List of the Master's Worst Aliases

I never could take the Daleks seriously, but I always loved the Master, with his rubber masks, needlessly complicated plans, "Did somebody order A LARGE HAM?!" delivery* and wink-wink-nudge-nudge aliases.

Those aliases are the best. I like to think he's snickering to himself, daring some faceless UNIT soldier to inspect his ID and say (in the voice of the squeaky-voiced teen from the Simpsons "Um, Master M. McMasters, M.A., M.S., sir? You're not part of our usual cleaning crew?") so he can kill him with his ridiculously impractical combination shrink-ray/death-ray.

The excellent TARDIS Data Core has a listing of the aliases used by the Master, in the original series, the reboot, and all spin off media. I wasn't aware of how many there were, or how ridiculous they got.

Note that, with two exceptions, this list is a collection of "So Bad they're Good" Aliases.
1.) Professor Thascalos: This was in the Time Monster,  slightly later in the Third Doctor's run, after the Master had already used the pseudonyms Colonel Masters, Martin Jurgens (Anagram of Master Gunnjir, the spear of Odin), and the Reverend Magister (Latin for Master, but also close enough to set off alarm bells. Fortunately the Master brought his Clark Kent glasses for this one.) Thascalos is worthy of special note, because it's freaking Jo Grant,  who points out that it's Greek for Master. He's not even trying at this point.

2.) Estro: This is your run-of-the-mill "X of the Daleks" story, noteworthy for two things. It attempts to explain the Master's decaying form in The Deadly Assassin by telling a story of how he was overpowered and outmaneuvered by Susan (Foreman), easily one of the most feckless companions of the original run. Seems legit to me. Also, he uses the name "Estro", which is Esperanto for Master. What is this, Incubus?!

3.) Tremas: Not quite an alias, but don't they teach parents anything on Traken? Giving your child that's an anagram of "Master" is just begging for trouble. Interestingly, Geoffrey Beevers played the Melkur in this episode, and he was married to Caroline John, who played Liz Shaw opposite the Third Doctor. I always thought that the Doctor should have mimeographed a couple copies of translations and anagrams of "Master", and distributed them to UNIT's staff. I'll he tried that, but Liz Shaw intercepted them on behalf of her future husband. Diabolical!

4.) Kalid: Boy, I don't even know what was going on with this shit. The Master steals a Concorde, which hopelessly dates the episode, and dresses up in a ridiculous costume for no reason. "Aha! Doctor! You thought I was an alien asshole with needlessly complicated plan, but I'm a different asshole from the one as whom I briefly disguised myself!"

5.) Fake Names in the Credits: These were a staple of the Davison era. They ran the gamut from the rather mundanely believable James Stoker to the WTF of  Leon Ny Taiy. The Doctor inhabits a world where people name their children "Romanadvoratrelundar", and Leon Ny Taiy still doesn't sound like a name!

6.) Sir Gilles Estram: I actually kind of like this one. The makeup is less than convincing,

"They were all out of Roger Delgado, so I went as Tony Ainley instead."
and again, the Master didn't expect the Doctor to show up, so there was no reason to disguise himself. But the name has a kind of endearing goofiness, so I'll give it a pass.

7.) Mr. Seta: Big Finish's early audio plays are dirt cheap, so there was a time when I would pick up a handful without paying too much attention to what the plot was, as even their weaker outings are generally pretty good. I was listening to Dust Breeding, and just as soon as I had the thought, "This had a pretty strong beginning, but now it's beginning to drag," somebody asks Mr. Seta to identify himself and he replies, "I am the Master, and you will obey me." and just like that, my interest perked back up. I'd have to listen to it again to see how well the Master's ruse holds up. I don't know if it was because I couldn't give the story my full attention because I was at work and the anagrammatic elements were obscured because it was an audio work, and I didn't know how the name was spelled. But this is one that I didn't see coming.

8.) Mister Saxon: Ostensibly an anagram for "Master No. Six", but that's torture the English language doesn't deserve. Jon Simm is outstanding, as is Derek Jacobi. Unfortunately, I'd been spoiled for this twist ahead of time, but I really think it could have held up. Simm is so much fun to watch in his jovial evil, and his dance to the Scissor Sister (sadly cut from the Netflix version! Boo!) remains one of my favorite moments of the new series.

But the Internet remembers!

The detail that I liked most about his early appearances was his wife, Lucy. You can see what looks like a partially healed black eye in that clip. Russell Davies was not always the most subtle storyteller, but I think that visual does more to hammer home the sheer pettiness of the Master's evil than his order to kill one-tenth of the world's population.

9.) Missy: I called it. But in fairness, everybody called it.  It's hard to keep a twist like this for an entire season, particularly for a property with a focused and (I say this lovingly) obsessive fandom. Either you can go the Lost route, and make stuff up as you go along, or you can  play fair and drop hints and just be resolved to the fact that everyone in on the Internets is going to pool their collective  knowledge and puzzle out the conclusion ahead of time. Once in a while, someone pulls it off. Veronica Mars more or less did it, but that was more than ten years ago, they had a much smaller fanbase, and it was for only one season, and some people did figure things out, though, as I recall, there wasn't a consensus. My point is, it's not easy to do this, and I'm not without sympathy.

Of course, Moffat fails to live up to even the tiny amount of charity I'm willing to extend, and bungles it completely in other ways. The always excellent Whovian Feminism (Go read the whole thing) points out the problematic aspects of the character, chiefly, that Moffat writes the Master-as-a-woman just like he writes every other female villain character on the series. She just can't wait to get it on with the Doctor. This interpretation cheapens the character, because it suggests that women can't look beyond their most basic urges.

And the number one best/worst alias of the Master is:

10.) Steven Moffat: He even clumsily disguised his name

Mister Moffat, Writer


Master: Reform if Twit

It seems this incarnation of the Master has already insinuated himself into the highest echelons of the BBC, where he has ruled unchecked for years. It may well finally be this Master who brings the Doctor low.

* TVtropes has its own large ham entry just for Doctor Who.


  1. Wait a minute...James Cromwell played a farmer in Star Trek: First Contact? Not that I recall. And he wasn't a villain. Just sayin'....

    1. Um...there was scene where he was a farmer. He looked just like that guy from American Gothic. Sadly, it was erased from history when the Borg pulled their time travel shenanigans.