Making it True: Evil in the Master

Regarding the Master, I think that people went wrong with Ainley's Master not because of Ainley but because of the writers/directors. The Master somehow became this convenient malevolent genius that could be pulled out of a hat when the gimmick of the evil (like body snatching) was more important than the character himself. I think Eric Roberts' portrayal of the Master was revolting and way over the top, though I think Roberts is a fine actor. Somebody was either feeding him the wrong info or ordered him to play the Master for the audience of Melrose Place.

The Master's hatred for the Doctor is deep and personal. He's envious of the Doctor, and he hates his own envy, because it is an aknowledgement that the Doctor has something that the Master doesn't have, and the Master cannot face being one down to the Doctor. So he's always going to play it cool around the Doctor, and that envy will only show in a few rare instances.

But on his own, the Master embodies greatness. He understands philosophy, the arts, theology, physics, and electronics. He's very economical in his constructions, and he gets great satisfaction out of neat and tidy electronic experiments, as opposed to the Doctor's more haphazard, experimental work. The Master is gregarious and does need to be around companions. But he has no respect or love for them. So he kills them when they challenge him, or he just lets them get killed when his ventures into danger get to be too demanding on frail humans. I tend to think that if the Master had a version of Jo Grant to call his own--an attractive, sweetly sensuous, sensitive creature that unreservedly gave itself into his service--he would treat her almost exactly like the Doctor treats Jo, provided he really believed that the companion had unswerving loyalty to him (always a question with such an egotistical mind). Or he would come close. Because, after all, the Master embodies greatness, and greatness needs to be acknowledged for what it is. I do think that he is capable of taking risks up to a certain point for anything that he cherishes. The problem, of course, is that a creature like Jo would eventually be revolted by the Master's wrongdoing, as I depicted concerning Mags in Book of Five Rings. And he would destroy anything that defies him.

Finally, the Master is convinced that his rule is still a better alternative than the status quo. Earth, according to him, would certainly be better off with him as its dictator. And he can produce some amazingly good arguments in his own favor. He does truly want to turn the Earth into a garden, and when he gets ultimate power, he can afford to be generous. Anyway, this is what he tells himself. In Book of Five Rings, he does tell Jo that if she and the Doctor had let him have his way, Jo would never have fallen into the hands of the Knowledge Foundation. And Jo really has no answer against this. The Master's argument is the same as Satan's argument: the creation is so messed up that it demands an absolute ruler other than God. Somehow, in his view, the Lord has not enforced order and perfection, and therefore the imperative is there for somebody else to take over. And if the innocent perish in the grand takeover, well, it has to be done and in the end the benefits will be worth it.

But the thing to remember is that the Master is convinced that he is right and that he has a right to do what he does. He tries to put aside his envy of the Doctor, and he does deny to himself the wretch that he truly is. He fears any sign of mercy in himself because he regards mercy as weakness, yet he does still have a few tendencies towards mercy. The Master is not a psychopath. He is the last of the truly great and terrible villains, and every now and then in the ruthlessness, there flickers a sign of the grandeur of sensibility and magnificence of dignity from which he fell, a question that perhaps he can be reclaimed.

And that, oh that, is part of his irresistable charm . . .

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