Sunday, 26 November 2017

BOOK OF LISTS: RANKING THE MASTERS - PART 2

And so, we move on to Part 2... 


THE JOHN SIMM MASTER

Russell T. Davies took on the very daunting challenge of re-introducing several key monsters/villains from the Classic Series into the New. He did so with varying levels of success. The Daleks, for instance, were brought back in Series One with great style and aplomb. Dalek and Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways are, without a doubt, some of the best stories to ever feature the metal meanies. On the other end of the spectrum - we have the return of the Sontarans in Series Four. Easily, the all-time worst story to feature the potato heads. Even turning a Sontaran into comic relief like Moffat has done with Strax is less painful to watch than Sontaran Strategem/Poison Sky (truth be told, I find Strax very entertaining - but it would be nice to see the Sontarans as a genuine threat, again).

Somewhere in the middle of these two polarities sits the return of the Master.

I think the biggest mistake was to make John Simm's Master so gosh-darn nutty. I get that RTD was trying to show the level of madness that the drumbeat in his head was driving him (although, it still sits very oddly with me that he has had this problem all his lives but no other incarnation from Classic Who mentions it), but I really think it would've been better to return the Master to a more calm and composed interpretation. In the very brief time that Jacobi's Master is actually the Master - we get to see that. And I felt it worked very well. But to transform the Master into a version of himself that would even cause the Ainley Master to say: "Shit dude, you have issues!" was not the best of choices.

When the Master was wrestling with trying to survive past his final incarnation, making him become crazier and crazier worked well. But he's been resurrected and seems to have a whole new cycle of regenerations. So, maybe, it's time to take the character in a different direction. I even get that Simm had just come off of Life On Mars and probably wanted to play a role that very flatly contradicted the somewhat stoic lead from that series in order to show off his range. But much of the Master that we see in Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords doesn't really work for me. Both in terms of how he's written and how he's portrayed. I just really felt like this wasn't the best way to take the character.

Things got even worse for me, of course, when Parts 1 and 2 of The End of Time come along. I'm not particularly fond of the story, in general. And one of the things that turns me off to it so much is the way the Master is made even more insane. Again, I get the reasons for making him that way. His resurrection is botched and it's causing him to rage out of control. But it still doesn't work for me. Him going skullface, flying through the air and shooting energy bolts from his hands makes matters even worse. None of this feels very much like the Master.

Are there any redeeming qualities to Simm's Master in either of these stories? Of course! His exits from both of these tales are very well-crafted. Proclaiming: "I win!" as he refuses to regenerate from his gunshot wound in Last of the Time Lords was quite brilliant. Counting off the drumbeats in his head as he lays in to Rassilon with energy bolts was, downright, awesome. It's just a pity that there aren't a whole lot of other moments like these in any of Simm's earlier scenes.

If Simm had lived up to his promise to never return to the show after Tennant left, then he would probably have had the lowest ranking on this list (yup, I actually liked Roberts' Master better, at this point). But, thankfully, we get one more dose of him at the end of Series Ten - and the character really goes off on a high note because of this.

There's still hints of zaniness to him. It's particularly odd, for instance, that he wants so badly to make out with himself. Elements like this still needed to be kept in or the character would've felt too inconsistent. But this is certainly a more mellowed version of the Simm Master and this works far better for me. The fact that Simm is "kicking it old school" by letting a goatee grow in almost signposts that he's a very different Master, these days. One is almost led to believe that the Time Lords did more than just fix the problems he was having with his resurrection. That, perhaps, some minor adjustments were also made to his psyche. More than likely, the drumbeat was finally removed from his consciousness and this has made him more stable.

Whatever the case, I greatly enjoy the Simm Master in this story. There's still just enough madness to him that we can believe it's the same personae but he also reigns it in to the point where it's not annoying me. He and Gomez play off each other brilliantly, too. They're almost not necessary to the whole plot of World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls. But they're just so much fun to watch that we don't really care.

Once again, the Simm Master gets the most brilliant of exit scenes, too. Shooting himself in the back because he refuses to accept Missy's life decisions is the most fitting of final gestures to this wildly unstable incarnation.

It's just unfortunate that two-thirds of his era is clouded by what I feel are poor choices.


And that's Part Two. Did you miss part One? 

Here it is: 

https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2017/11/book-of-lists-ranking-masters-part-1.html







4 comments:

  1. I agree with you. If you want to bring The Master back, DO NOT make him a insane person! When The Master is calm,cool and collective, he is a SUPERB character. But, to make him into a lunatic like this, just destroys any and all ability to believe that this is the Moriarty to the Doctor's Holmes. And Missy? To me, THAT WAS A JOKE! It fits into the Moffat era belief that Time Lords can change genders. I'll be going on about that if and when you get into her.

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    1. You may not like how I feel about her...

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  2. I wish Derek Jacobi had simply gone on as the Master...I think that was a wasted opportunity to give us a real Moriarity-esque portrayal.

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    1. It would've made for a far more interesting interpretation, that's for sure.

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