By Joseph Lidster
Released October 2003
“Do you see me as I see myself? Do you see you as you see yourself? When you see the color red, do you see the color red that I see? Or is your red my blue?”- Doctor
Late one night, Doctor John Smith receives a pair of old friends, Victor and Jacqueline Schaffer, for dinner. A somewhat secluded and tragic individual, Smith tries his best to play the host to his friends and avoid unpleasant conversation, but it seems impossible. A series of grisly murders is the popular topic and its ghost haunts the proceedings. As the weather turns ugly, a stranger arrives in a roar of thunder.
The Doctor has arrived far earlier than he planned to resolve some unfinished business. An old debt has been called in, one that he always knew must be paid, but one that he also knew would demand a tremendous cost. But even the Doctor could not predict how this well constructed situation would pan out, or what path it would take.
Built largely on ideas developed in the Virgin New Adventures line of novels, this version of the Doctor is ‘Time’s Champion,’ a title that came with a price. The Doctor made a bargain with the abstract cosmic entity of Time and part of that deal involved his old nemesis the Master being placed in a fictional world where he would live out a life without the history of his past crimes. The fact that the Doctor has entered the fiction means that it must end and his debt must be paid. The Master will be allowed to accept or dent his role as the devious evil genius or accept the life of a new man.
Of course the Master knows nothing of this and the pair of intellectuals engage in a series of philosophical discussions on the nature of evil. The Master states that a sociopath driven to commit acts of murder suffers not from a damned soul, but a psychological differentiation.
“So, one who suffers such an affliction is merely helping the universe see the same color red?”- Master
“Perhaps.” – Doctor
“So there is no such thing as evil. It doesn’t exist!”- Master
“A man who kills because of motive can be questioned. A man who kills because he is ill can be helped. A man who kills because he was born, fated to be evil is a true tragedy in itself.”- Doctor
This story adds depth to the unspoken relationship that the Doctor and Master had in the classic program. When he is first introduced as a rough Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock, it’s clear almost immediately that the Doctor and the Master are more than just old classmates ort acquaintances. Letts and Dicks had planned a story that would reveal that the Doctor and Master were part of the same person when the third Doctor regenerated into his fourth body, but Roger Delgado’s untimely death prevented that story from being screened. In Planet of Fire, after the Doctor committed the Master to a fiery death, John Nathan Turner inserted the line, ‘how could you do this to your own brother?’ which was cut from the final transmission.
The Doctor and the Master are more than just former friends and committed foes. Their past is shrouded in mystery, allowing for stories like this to be written. ‘Master’ furthers the story of the two characters by implying that while the Doctor is Time’s Champion, the Master is Death’s Champion. Both the Doctor and the Master have decided their paths, but in each case, they have taken on the responsibility of abstract concepts, placing them further part from the rest of the universe.
There is a story of the Doctor and Master’s childhood where one of them committed murder, accidentally, to defend the other from a bully. The Doctor remember that it was the Master who killed to protect him, but Death informs him that it was the Doctor and in order to escape the guilt, he placed the blame on his closest friend, the Master. The back story and turnabout are both a bit too pat for my taste and make an otherwise brilliant meditation on sociopathy too contrived.
As the Doctor and Master learn of their true selves, so too do the Schaffers. Jacqueline reveals her secret love for the Master and Victor admits to committing unconscionable acts of violence. The intention is obviously that the potential for evil lies in all of us, but the conclusion of ‘Master’ involves the acceptance of an abstract concept of evil and death that makes this somewhat confusing.
Part of a quartet of stories delving into the inner workings of the Doctor’s greatest nemesis’s, ‘Master’ is an odd duck, but in places it is absolutely marvelous. Geoffrey Beevers once again delivers a sterling performance and given the magnificent material to work with, McCoy knocks it out of the park.