Little is known about the Master's early life. Born and raised on Gallifrey, he was a member of the House of Oakdown. He attended school on Gallifrey with his childhood friend, the Doctor, and outperformed his friend in their classes. At the age of eight he was exposed to the Untempered Schism, a rift in time and space through which the time vortex may be seen; the Doctor has implied this to be the root of his later madness. At some point he and the Doctor fell out. On the same day the Doctor left Gallifrey in his stolen TARDIS, the Master left his home to explore the galaxy and ultimately pursue his goal of universal domination.
The Master was created by the creative team of Doctor Who; major elements of his character were created by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. He made his first appearance in "Terror of the Autons". He made his first appearance in comics in The Doctor Who Annual #1973, written and illustrated by unknown creators.
The Master, like other members of his species, is capable of undergoing the process of "regeneration," by which catastrophic injury or old age may be repaired by a complete renewal of the whole body. This process results in a completely new body and face, as well as a distinctive personality, though prior memories and knowledge are typically left intact. Each incarnation possesses similar characteristics, such as sociopathic charm and cunning, but each also displays unique traits, such as childish and whimsical cruelty or coquettishness. To date the Master has had eighteen known regenerations, ten of whom have appeared onscreen.
Major Story Arcs
Having travelled for some time and established himself as a criminal and a renegade, the Master escapes Gallifrey and travels to Earth where the Doctor, his old friend and current enemy, is living in exile. He seeks revenge against the Doctor in a series of complex plots-- occasionally in association with other villains such as the Autons and the Dæmons-- that the Doctor always manages to unravel. However, the Master continually manages to evade capture.
Time LordsThe Master reemerges from hiding to reveal that he is in his thirteenth and final regeneration, and his body is dying. He attempts to restore himself with a method that would also result in the the destruction of Gallifrey, but is stopped by the Doctor. He flees, and much later is able to restore himself by infesting and destroying the mind of a Trakenite scientist named Tremas. He continues to seek new lives, and is eventually given a new regeneration cycle by the Time Lords in exchange for his help. During his continued attempts to kill the Doctor he becomes trapped on a doomed planet, and apparently dies along with its inhabitants.
The Trial of a Time Lord
The Master returns in the midst of the chaos surrounding the actions of the Valeyard in the case of the Doctor, on trial before the Time Lord High Council for breaking the laws of time and committing genocide. The Doctor's attempts to defeat the Valeyard are thwarted by the Master, who tries to destroy the Doctor and seize power on Gallifrey. The Doctor destroys the Matrix and the Master is defeated.
The Eye of Harmony
The Master is captured by the Daleks who execute him for his great crimes. His last wish is for the Doctor to transport his remains to Gallifrey, so that he may be buried there. The Doctor complies, unaware that this is part of the Master's scheme. During the flight to Gallifrey, a sentient ooze escapes the Master's remains and integrates itself into the TARDIS controls, forcing a crash landing on Earth. While the Doctor is preoccupied elsewhere, the Master convinces another man to enter the TARDIS and open the Eye of Harmony, a power source created by an artificial black hole, which may destroy the world if left open for too long. He attempts to steal the Doctor's remaining regenerations using the Eye, but is defeated when the Doctor manages to push him into the Eye, apparently killing him.
The Last Great Time War
During the havoc of the Last Great Time War the Master is revived by the Time Lords, who see him as the perfect weapon to wield against their enemy, the Daleks. Terrified by the devastations all around him, the Master flees the battle after witnessing the events at the Cruciform. He escapes to the end of the universe where he disguises himself as a human using the Chameleon Arch, which rewrites his biology and stores his Time Lord nature in a fob watch. He inhabits the life of the kindly Professor Yana, who is later encountered by the Doctor. Their meeting causes Yana to recall his origins, open the fob watch, and regenerate. He steals the TARDIS, trapping the Doctor at the end of time.
Arriving in the United Kingdom in 2006, the Master uses his hypnotic, charismatic nature to set himself up as a politician, Harold Saxon, as well as establishing a ubiquitous telecommunications network. First elected to a post in the Ministry of Defence, he later puts himself in the running for Prime Minister, an election which he handily wins. Shortly thereafter he seizes control of Earth using the monstrous Toclafane, literally decimating the population and ruling over humanity as an all-powerful dictator for a year. He begins to construct a method by which he may wage war against the entire universe, however he is stopped by the Doctor, who he has been holding prisoner. He is shot by his human wife and dies in the Doctor's arms, refusing to allow himself to regenerate in order to spite the Doctor.
The Master Race
A coven of the Master's acolytes attempt to resurrect him, but the ritual is sabotaged by the Master's human wife. Though he returns to life, he is left with an unstable body and a ravenous hunger. He is approached by a billionaire who requests his assistance in repairing a piece of alien technology. He agrees, but twists the device to his own purposes and uses it to transform every human on Earth into a replica of himself, though he cannot repair his own body. Recognizing the drumbeat in his mind that has plagued him since childhood as a signal, he uses it to begin to pull the Time Lords out of the time-lock in which they have been trapped. However, realising that he has been used as a pawn by Rassilon, and learning that rescuing the Time Lords will drag all the devastation and horror of the Time War back into the universe with them, he attacks the Time Lords, forcing them back into the time lock. He is unable to escape the pull of the Time War, and is also dragged into the time lock.
Death in Heaven
Having regenerated into a new form the Master, now Mistress, returns to Earth and over the course of centuries begins manipulating the minds of humanity's dead, trapping them in an "afterlife" where they unknowingly await rebirth into the bodies of Cybermen. When she finally creates her army she gifts them to the Doctor, offering him the opportunity to conquer the universe, to set right whatever wrongs he wishes, so that she might bring him down to her level and they may become friends once more. Her plan is defeated when the Doctor passes control of the army to Danny Pink, who sacrifices himself to destroy the Cyberman cloud. Clara Oswald insists that the Doctor must kill the Mistress, in order to prevent her from doing any more evil. The Doctor reluctantly agrees, and the Mistress graciously accepts his acknowledgement that she has won, as he has finally sunk to murder. Before he can kill her, the Mistress is apparently vaporised by a Cyberman-converted Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
Powers and Abilities
The Master is a Time Lord, and so possesses all the traits inherent to his race. He has two hearts and other differences that make it so that he does not internally resemble a human although, to date, his exterior has always been that of a regular human. He has an extremely long lifespan that has been implied to theoretically last forever, and he has performed repeated and varied experiments to prolong his life beyond his natural capacity. He is capable of regeneration: when faced with a mortal wound or other fatal ailment he can regenerate his whole body, and thus restore himself to perfect health. This has a side effect of altering his physical appearance and personality, though he maintains a general continuity of identity. He is the only Time Lord known to have altered his physical gender in a regeneration.
He possesses psychic abilities that allow him to interact with other beings, especially Time Lords, telepathically, and is capable of defending his mind against psychic attacks. He also has a noted capacity for hypnotism and, most importantly, for the mental domination of others; he is extremely suave and charismatic, and more than capable of persuading and even totally dominating others without recourse to his special abilities. He possesses a ruthless, cunning intelligence that has been remarked to be equal to or possible even exceeding that of the Doctor.
Equipment and Weapons
The Master possesses a number of items of Gallifreyan technology. He is frequently in possession of a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension[s] In Space) or TARDISes, machines that can travel through time and space. All versions he has been shown to be in possession of have fully functioning chameleon circuits, such that they are capable of shapeshifting to blend into their surroundings.
In the past the Master wielded a tissue compression eliminator, which could shrink an opponent to a doll-like size, a process which killed its victim. He later possessed a laser screwdriver, a supposed improvement on the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. It could be used to kill or to rapidly age a victim, and was also possibly useful for other genetic manipulations that went unexplored. His screwdriver was biometrically coded to be wieldable only by the Master. More recently she possessed a small, handheld device that was usable as a miniature computer, a control device for her technology, an environmental scanner, and as a disintegration beam-based weapon.
Literature and Audio
The Master has appeared as a primary character in a number of novels and audio productions, the canonicity of which is largely debated. Notable productions featuring the Master include the so-called "Master Trilogy" by David A. McIntee, a number of novelisatons written by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke, and the audio play Master.
Spoofs and Charity Productions
Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death
A parodic version of the Master appears in this Comic Relief sketch as an antagonist of the Doctor's. He is portrayed by Jonathan Pryce.
The Master was originally created for the Doctor Who television series, making his first appearance in the first serial of the eighth season of Doctor Who. To date he has been portrayed by ten actors on screen. In canon order these are William Hughes, Robert Delgado, Peter Pratt, Geoffrey Beevers, Anthony Ainley, Gordon Tipple, Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi, John Simm, and Michelle Gomez.
Destiny of the Doctors
The Master appears as the primary antagonist in this computer game based on the television series. Anthony Ainley reprises his role.