“Doctor Who: Ranking Every On-Screen Version of The Master”
Whenever a hero rises, an arch-nemesis follows suit. Like Sherlock and Moriarty, few rivalries fit the bill as well as The Doctor and The Master. This evil foil to everyone’s favorite Timelord is one of the best villains of all of Doctor Who.
The Master has been around nearly as long as The Doctor himself, facing off against Jon Pertwee’s Doctor and most recently against Jodie Whittaker. Many actors have taken the role, all who have brought their own take on the character. From Delgado to Dhawan, it’s time to rank every on-screen version of The Master.
10 William Hughes
William Hughs rounds out the bottom of this list, but probably to no surprise. This version of The Master appeared only in flashback, representing the youngest first incarnation of the character. Viewers saw this Master on Gallifrey, staring into the untempered schism and causing him to go mad.
This is no fault to the actor, who, for all we know, could have given a rounded performance as the evil Timelord. But due to a lack of dialogue and screen time, there is little else to do but place him last. Better luck next time, kid.
9 Peter Pratt
Next on the list is Peter Pratt, the second actor to bring the character to life(?) on screen. This version, commonly known as one of two “crispy” Masters, leaves a lot to be desired. While this undead idea is fun, giving way to hokey makeup design, it is nothing compared to the later versions of the character.
Pratt appears in the Season 14 serial The Deadly Assasin. Going up against Tom Baker, this Master was decaying due to him vying for more regenerations. Pratt’s design is kind of creepy for sure and adds some monstrous qualities to the character, but you can’t begin to compare it to the great Masters to come, and before.
8 Geoffrey Beevers
Geoffrey Beavers was the second version of this Crispy Master. To be blunt, this is essentially a repeat of Pratt’s character; only this time, the makeup allowed for more emotive qualities in Beavers’ performance. This version, in terms of characterization, was a bit more subdued than Pratt’s though, losing a bit of the manic insanity of a dying Master.
While creepy, the design of this charred Master can’t hold a candle to the non-makeup performances of his later and previous incarnations. At the very least, it was a more compelling performance to watch than Pratt.
7 Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts is the only American version of The Master, due to the TV Movie being mainly a U.S. endeavor. This version of the Master was actually pretty great in the early parts of the film, embodying a seductive sort of evil never seen in the character. Sadly, the finale truly ruins the character.
Come the third act, Roberts drops his greaser look, featuring a leather jacket and sunglasses, for ridiculously flamboyant Gallifreyan robes. The characterization switches to become just as loud and ridiculous as his collar. Roberts has grown a following since, but you can’t help but dock him for half of his performance.
6 Anthony Ainley
Anthony Ainley gets a lot of flack by fans due to his resemblance to Roger Delgado’s outfit and facial hair choice. But, Ainley is far more than just a copy of Delgado’s Master, embodying the character with his own sense of evil mania. Ainley played the role longer than anyone, going up against Doctors five through seven.
Ainley was a breath of fresh air after Pratt and Beavers’ runs as the burnt Masters. He brought back the classic, mustache-twirling quality of the character that had been missing for so long. He was also far more theatrical than those before him, relishing in his own machinations.
5 Derek Jacobi
Although he is one of the most recent incarnations of the character, played by one of the most talented actors in the world, many forget about Derek Jacobi’s short tenure as the character. Appearing in only one episode, Utopia, Jacobi played the amnesiac version of the character living at the end of the universe.
The reveal of his true identity remains one of the best moments of the series. It’s just a shame that Jacobi couldn’t play the character for longer. The minute he turns, a sinister evil exudes from him. Luckily, if fans want more, they can turn to the radio stories.
4 Sacha Dhawan
The most recent iteration of the character, Sacha Dhawan, has appeared in a single series thus far. Facing off against Jodie Whittaker, fans instantly knew how solid his casting was. Dhawan brought brilliant manic insanity in his first appearance, relishing in the pain he brought to others.
Time will still tell his full impact, but he has already left a lasting imprint. Looking past the fact that he is the first actor of color in the role, Dhawan is one of the youngest actors in the role. He brings a brand new perspective to one of the oldest roles on TV, and not a moment too soon.
3 John Simm
While Dhawan certainly brought crazed energy to the role, he often felt very reverential to John Simm’s performance in the role. Appearing first in Utopia, Simm really brought The Master into the 21st Century. He would return a few more times after series three, continually changing and growing.
This was the first time in the series that The Master felt like a character who could grow and change. His relationship with The Doctor once again tapped into the similar Holmes/Moriarty vibes that had been missing for years. He was so loved they brought him back for the first multi-Master story, alongside Michelle Gomez’s Missy.
2 Roger Delgado
The man who started it all, Roger Delgado, was the first actor to play The Master, appearing alongside Jon Pertwee through many adventures. This first iteration would be the one to beat for years, embodying the perfect balance of menace, charm, and insanity that all great villains need.
His iconic look has been continuously referenced as time has gone on, With Ainley and Simm both eventually rocking the evil goatee. For so long, you would be hard-pressed to find an actor that could really surpass Delgado in terms of charisma and villainy.
1 Michelle Gomez
While some might still hold to the old way of Delgado, Michelle Gomez’s version of the character, newly titled Missy, is the best. Missy faced off against Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor throughout his entire run. Her characterization saw The Master as a sort of cat and mouse figure, continually taunting and torturing others out of pure entertainment.
Every time she was on screen, you couldn’t help but watch. The sheer energy and commitment she brought, as well as the obvious fun she was having, bounced off the screen. Plus, her strong redemption arch remains the most compelling writing of the character to date.
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