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article imagePeter Capaldi, Steven Moffat on Time Lord gender reassignment

By Mathew Wace Peck     Nov 8, 2014 in Entertainment
Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat have been talking about the decision to change the sex of one of the sci-fi show's leading characters, ahead of this year's eagerly anticipated season finale.
Last week, the Master returned to the series after an absence of almost five years, in a twist that saw the Doctor's arch-nemesis unveiled as a woman (a.k.a. the Mistress), played by Michelle Gomez — hitherto credited variously as the Keeper of the Nethersphere and Missy.
The clue to her real identity however was "Missy": Missy => Mistress => Master
In an interview for an upcoming episode of Doctor Who Extra, Peter Capaldi — who plays the Doctor in the 51-year-old science-fiction series — and the show's head writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, both talk about the decision to recast the Master as a woman, which had been kept a closely guarded secret until last week's penultimate episode of the current season was broadcast last weekend.
Courtesy of MissyWhoTV (a.k.a. DoctorWhoTV), Capaldi says in the interview, "I was delighted that the Master came back and doubly delighted that Michelle played the Master, because I know Michelle and knew she’d bring all her customary vigour and wit and sharpness to it."
Capaldi went on to say that she was "different from the other Masters we’ve seen because obviously she’s taken a female form."
The Master first appeared in the series way back in 1971, when Jon Pertwee was playing the Doctor. The Master and the Doctor are both Time Lords, hailing from the planet Gallifrey.
To date, in the TV series, 10 actors have played the character in the TV series: Roger Delgado, Peter Pratt, Geoffrey Beevers, Anthony Ainley, Gordon Tipple, Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi, John Simm, William Hughes (as a child) and Michelle Gomez.
In the early seventies, Delgado made the part his own, appearing in a number of serials between 1971 and 1973. The Master's final planned showdown with the Doctor, however, was abandoned after Delgado was killed in a car accident while in Turkey filming his first comedy role, in the movie, Bell of Tibet.
In 1976, in The Deadly Assassin, and again in 1981, in The Keeper of Traken, the Master was recast; first to be portrayed by Peter Pratt and then Geoffrey Beevers. However, on both occasions, the Master appeared in as an emaciated, charred-looking decaying husk, the Time Lord having reached the end of his thirteenth and final life.
However, in the latter adventure, the Master was able to renew himself, by taking over the body of Tremas, the Trakenite scientist and father Nyssa, soon to become one of the Doctor's travelling companions.
The reintroduction of the Master, and his uncanny likeness to Delgado's incarnation of the Time Lord, was met with complete surprise by television viewers at the time. The productuion team had given a clue, however: "Tremas" being an anagram of "Master."
The Master (Anthony Ainley)
The Master (Anthony Ainley)
BBC / Doctor Who
Tremas and the new, invigorated, Master were both played by Anthony Ainley, who during the next decade went on to appear with no less than four Doctors:, as played by Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.
In 1996, the Master returned to fight the Doctor, now played by Paul McGann, in the 90-minute TV movie, Doctor Who; this time played, in the prologue, by Gordon Tipple, and throughout the rest of the film, by Eric Roberts.
It would be another 11 years before the Doctor came face to face with his arch-enemy again. In Utopia, by former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies, Derek Jacobi (Vicious) played the kindly Professor Yana who later turned out to be the Master in human form. At the end of the episode, the Master, having been granted a new life-cycle by his fellow Time Lords — for "services rendered" — is able to regenerate, this time played by John Simm (Life on Mars).
Simm went on to portray the Master in two two-part stories — The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (2007) and The End of Time Part One / The End of Time Part Two — the latter also marking the end of David Tennant's tenure as the Doctor.
Earlier this year, amid rumours that the Master was set to return to the series once again, after and absence of almost five years, Moffat claimed that the his story had ended. As it turned out, that was not to be the case, with plans set well in motion to not only bring the Time Lord back but to do so with the first woman, Michelle Gomez, to portray the role.
Now, of the Master's gender change, Moffat said, "It’s just a proper good old twist. We’ve been saying for years now, certainly since I took over, that regeneration can change your gender and that I thought is maybe the one they won’t see coming.”
The casting of a woman in what has hitherto been a male role is not only significant for the role itself but also in that, for many years, speculation has grown concerning the idea of casting a female actor to play the Doctor himself. Rumours of a woman playing the Doctor reached fever pitch in 2013, following the decision by Matt Smith to quit the role; with Sheridan Smith — most recently acclaimed by viewers and critics alike for her portrayal of Cilla Black in the ITV drama series, Cilla — at one point said to be the BBC's preferred choice.
In the event, though, the BBC cast another man, Peter Capaldi, in the role.
Surely, however, the stage is now set for a woman to be cast as the Doctor when the time comes for Capaldi to hand over his TARDIS key.
Other actors to have portrayed the Master outside of the parent show include Jonathan Pryce (The Curse of Fatal Death), Derek Jacobi (Scream of the Shalka) and, in a series of Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays, Geoffrey Beevers, Mark Gatiss and Alex Macqueen
The Doctor Who Season 8 finale airs in this weekend at varying times around the world. A short break then follows, before it returns for this year's Christmas special. Filming of Season 9 is set to commence in January, for broadcast later in 2015.
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