Let’s close out our look at the Doctor’s venerable and villainous adversary, the Master, with a look his most recent incarnation.
If you remember, the last time we saw the Master, he had been sucked into the Eye of Harmony (or a modest replication) in the Doctor’s TARDIS. Luckily for him, the Time Lords resurrected him to help fight in the Great Time War.
And as you would expect, the Master ran, hiding himself via the Chameleon Arch (as the Doctor did in “Human Nature” and “Family of Blood”) on the planet Utopia in the guise of the gruff yet adorable Professor Yana. Unfortunately, Professor Yana discovered his true being and, after being mortally wounded by his assistant, stole the TARDIS and regenerated in a much younger and much more agile young man.
As much as I love the character of the Master, I have to admit that I was let down by John Simm’s performance. Where Delgado had elegant malevolence and Ainley has campy yet bloodthirsty vengeance, Simm seems confused over whether he wants his Master to be a buffoon, the most dangerous man in the universe, or just a catchphrase away from having his own 1980′s BBC sitcom.
Certainly, we can take into account that the Master by this point is insane, driven mad by the drumming in his head, but rather than insanity, we get… annoying. And it’s a shame because I thought, of all the actors chosen, he was someone who could definitely hold his own against David Tennant. Either there’s something in his performance or, perhaps, it’s the way Russel T Davies has written him, the Master’s return fizzles where it should have triumphed.
This is sad because we lose the potential for some great scenes. Instead, we’re giving over-the-top machinations, scenery gnawing, brashness, and smugness. One almost yearns for the mincing giggling of Anthony Ainley.
It’s doubtful that we’ve seen the last of the Master. But whenever he comes back and whomever takes over the role, let us hope for a return to the panache and curdled threats that we had when Roger Delgado, the original, first stepped out of his TARDIS.