Back in July, I wrote a piece responding to an article from the Daily Mirror which claimed Matt Smith could be set for a shock return to the TARDIS, taking over from Peter Capaldi to reprise the role he left in 2013. But rather than returning to the show as a character he’s played before, could he come back to play somebody else? And not just anybody, could Matt Smith, or other previous Doctors return as the Master, to fight the character they used to play?
Now at first this seems ridiculous, but I’d urge you to keep reading. A lot of people were strongly against Matt Smith returning to play the thirteenth Doctor, but a return as the Master would mean he wouldn’t be in the show every week. If you weren’t a big eleventh Doctor fan, then don’t worry because Matt Smith returning as the Master is a million miles away from that incarnation of the Doctor coming back. Throughout the show’s history, the Master has always been the most untrustworthy and devious character. In recent years we’ve been teased with more and more information about regeneration, to the point where it’s almost undeniable that Time Lords have some sort of control about how they’ll look next. Bearing this in mind, it would make for a fascinating plot to see the Master regenerate into one of the Doctor’s previous bodies. For the first story at least, there’d be confusion, panic, and maybe we’d even see good and kind characters be talked into despicable actions, thinking the Master was in fact the Doctor. Of course, this would mean older characters returning. Jenny, Vastra and Strax are still relevant in the story line of the show and as this is a show about time travel, it would still be a believable concept. With Gallifrey also being a potential future story arc, we could see something monumental involving the Master tricking the Time Lords into thinking he was the Doctor, making the Master more powerful than ever seen before. If this does happen, then hopefully whoever is the head writer will make the most of the chance they’d have. The show is fifty-three years old and chances to refresh it and try something different are rare and must be taken advantage of when they come along.
Now you might be thinking, why would Matt Smith want to come back and play the bad guy in a show where he’s widely adored. However, at a recent Comic-Con panel, he admitted if he’d stayed on for series eight, he and Moffat had planned to make his easy going, bumbling Doctor more dark, similar to the twelfth Doctor in his debut series. This, therefore would be the perfect opportunity for Matt Smith to add another string to his bow in the world of acting as he would be given the chance to prove he can be menacing and deceitful. At that same panel, Smith also claimed if he hadn’t played the Doctor, then the Master would be the next character he’d most want to be. So I don’t think there’s any doubt in Matt Smith’s willingness to return as the Doctor’s oldest friend, battling the character he used to play so well.
If you’re not a Matt Smith fan, then there are other past Doctors who could also potentially return. If we rule out Christopher Eccleston just because he’s never shown any interest in coming back to the show, then Paul McGann and David Tennant are other candidates to replace Michelle Gomez. Out of the two, I’d rather Paul McGann. Tennant’s proven in the past he can play evil characters. Barty Crouch Jnr in Harry Potter and Kilgrave in Jessica Jones showed what a phenomenal actor Tennant is. His legacy as the Doctor may also be tarnished if he returned as a different character. You could argue the same point for any other Doctor, however, Tennant is widely regarded as the Doctor who’s left the biggest mark on the show since Tom Baker. Even if you like the tenth Doctor or not, that is pretty hard to argue against. So if you turn to Paul McGann, fans have craved an eighth Doctor mini-series for years and have been, so far, cruelly denied. We also know very little about the eighth Doctor’s life and his story so the Master taking his form could teach us so much. The eighth Doctor was the Doctor when the Time War began, so if the Master ever did take the eighth Doctor’s form then maybe he had something to do with the Time War beginning. This is far fetched, but we’ve never actually found out how exactly the Time War began, so to actually learn why would feel like a reward for following the Time War story arc since the show returned in 2005. Could the Master have started the Time War, disguised as the Doctor and then fled to the end of the universe, hidden as a human? Could that be why the Doctor felt he needed to change his appearance in “The Night of the Doctor”? All of this could be explained if McGann ever did return as the Master, and it would give the actor the screen time he deserves on the show, and the screen time that most fans want. Of course, a story line like this would take place back in time in relation to the Doctor and the Master’s current timelines. Whoever the current Doctor was could find himself stuck in the past in his own timeline, revisiting how the Time War started and see the Master, before he became Derek Jacobi’s Professor Yana. We have seen the Doctor go back into his own timeline recently though, so even that seems like a feasible plan for a writer.
What do you think? Would you like to see a past Doctor return as the Master or do you think it’s a terrible idea? Could we actually see why the Time War started or see characters manipulated into hideous crimes? Of course, this would take a great deal of planning if any writer did attempt something like it. However, complex and convoluted plots seem to be in vogue for Doctor Who writers, so maybe it’s not as far fetched as you might have thought before reading this.