We finally got a female Time Lord, but not the one we anticipated. For those of you who have been living in a cave for the past few weeks, The Master is now The Mistress. The clues were there as usual, Steven Moffat teasing the audience similarly to the whole ‘Silence Will Fall’ arc which stretched over Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. The name Missy was, of course, a clever abbreviation of Mistress. As Missy puts it “I couldn’t very well keep calling myself the Master, could I?” Michelle Gomez’s first entrance in Deep Breath, dressed like a deranged Mary Poppins and billed as the Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere, encouraged much speculation as to this mysterious woman’s identity, with theories ranging from another incarnation of River Song to my personal favourite: an evil future version of Clara hence the name ‘Miss C’.
Gomez had the near impossible task of taking over the reins of the Master/Mistress from the magnificent John Simm, whose incarnation of the Master was mad, funny and unpredictable; an instant hit when introduced in 2007. Who else could get away with dancing around the room to the tune of the Scissor Sisters’ I Can’t Decide and still have you in tears when he seemingly dies, choosing not to regenerate just to piss the Doctor off. Enter Gomez, re-inventing and owning the role with her wide-eyes and manic smile. Perhaps Missy snogging the face off Capaldi’s Doctor was a step too far, Moffat writing it in purely because the Doctor and Master are now different genders, marking the first ever Master/Doctor kiss (minus the fan fiction.) John Simm certainly wouldn’t have got away with snogging the face of David Tennant, much to the disappointment of many fangirls, I’m sure. Many greats have played the role of the Master including classic fan favourite Roger Delgado, briefly Sir Derek Jacobi before regenerating into John Simm’s incarnation and in the 1996 TV movie by The Dark Knight’s Eric Roberts, the first American Master (and hopefully the last).
But let’s address the elephant in the room. That’s the fact that Gomez is the first woman to play the iconic role when the notion of such an idea during Jon Pertwee’s run as the Doctor would be absurd. Yes, it is true that there have been other female Time Lords, most notably the Rani in the 80’s, but none have lived up to the status of the Master. Does this mean that if they bring back the Rani for the next series that she should regenerate into a man, or would that cause uproar that a female role was given to a male? Many have noted that, like the Master until recently, the Doctor has so far only been played by white men, raising the question of why a woman has not been cast as the Doctor. Whilst the Doctor can, in theory, be played by anyone regardless of ethnicity, orientation or gender, should we be depriving children of such a rare male intellectual hero who hates violence (aside from blowing up the occasional fleet of Daleks, but that’s another debate) and attempts to find the peaceful solution, unlike a lot of Hollywood type heroes who come in all guns blazing. Should the Doctor follow in the Master’s footsteps and regenerate into a woman or would there be too much backlash from the loyal fans who are perhaps not prepared to accept the new? Would changing the Doctor to a woman be changing the key identity of the Gallifreyan hero or would it just be another interpretation in much the same way that Capaldi is playing a darker Doctor than we’ve seen before, which in itself has alienated some viewers? If Michelle Gomez has taught us anything it’s that a female Time Lord works and it is a refreshing change to mix up the formula of a show that has been running 51 years and counting.