There tends to be a lot of controversy about which actor depicted the best Doctor Who, but what about the best Master? Limiting ourselves to the televised – and, thus, what we deem strictly the “official” – Masters, we have decided to rank actors on how they fared as the Doctor’s arch-nemesis.
10. Gordon Tipple
Sadly, Tipple’s “The Old Master” – as he is so credited – had very little influence in the 1996 Doctor Who film, his role being limited to a brief appearance in the opening sequence. That leaves him the lowest-ranking Master here.
9. William Hughes
Like Tipple, Hughes appeared only momentarily – on this occasion, in flashback as a child Master in 2007 episode The Sound of Drums. However, unlike Tipple, we at least got to see his face – and Digital Spy has hailed his “wide-eyed stare” as “pleasingly unsettling”.
8. Peter Pratt
Pratt played the Master – a deformed and grotesque version at that – in the four-part Tom Baker adventure The Deadly Assassin. However, Pratt’s struggle to emote convincingly through his over-the-top prosthetics left his performance scarcely memorable.
7. Eric Roberts
Though oft-belittled, the main villain of the Paul McGann-starring TV movie is more cool and deadpan than you might recall. Still, Roberts’ Master largely threw away this withdrawn demeanour in the final act, when he camped it up to such an extent that Who fans were distraught.
6. Derek Jacobi
You might remember Jacobi portraying the mild-mannered Professor Yana in 2007’s Utopia. This scientist was later revealed as the Master… shortly before he transformed into John Simm’s version. Jacobi is brilliantly chilling in his overly short-lived Master guise.
5. Geoffrey Beevers
Really, Beevers was playing the deformed Master debuted by Peter Pratt. However, Beevers was there for just one story – 1981’s The Keeper of Traken. Fortunately, Beevers’ endearingly trembling voice somewhat made up for his restrictive prosthetics.
4. John Simm
His appearances as the Master were sporadic, but it’s hard not to fear the Master when he becomes British Prime Minister and later appears with a beard reminiscent of the Masters played by Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley. A bearded Master still features on much Doctor Who merchandise.
3. Anthony Ainley
Speak of the devil! He somewhat looked like one, too, with that beard. Ainley was the Master from 1981 until 1989, intimidating four different Doctors along the way. He remains the Master to have had the longest tenure on the TV series.
2. Michelle Gomez
She might have been the first female Master, but Gomez’s broke even more ground in giving the Master a surprisingly soft centre. This Master – or Missy, as she was called here – was a tragic figure who might have changed our fundamental perception of the Master forever.
1. Roger Delgado
There is unlikely to be much controversy surrounding our pick for premier position. His creepy beard was the icing on the cake of a power-hungry villain. WhatCulture calls this Master the one “on which all other performances are modelled”.
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