So I have been watching the series 3 episodes of Doctor Who (the new one) and its getting down to the last few episodes before the finale, and things have been getting good. (Spoiler below the jump)
So the big revelation last week was on the episode Utopia where the Master returned. Woot! I have been waiting for the master to return since the series rebooted. And he is played by John Simm who I really enjoyed in Life on Mars. So I should be happy as a clam, right?
After watching last nights episode "The Sound of Drums" I am a little disappointed. The episode was a little glib, and seemed a bit off kilter, and I marked that down to me not being totally up on the Tony Blair gags that seemed to be going over my head, but whatever. I went ahead and watched the doctor Who Confidential show for the episode, because I had seen that it was to have a over view of the Master in past series, and the actors who played him. And I did enjoye that, but there was some comments by the writers about their take on the character that bothered me.
Specifically they kept repeating over and over again that the master is a lunatic. totally psychotic and was driven mad as a child when he looking into the Eye of Harmony. So while in the older series, he was this personification of Dr. Moriarty type menace always bent on world domination, the writers felt they had to convert him into a man with a psychotic break to explain his actions.
There is something very modern about redefining evil as a mental illness to make it understandable and less threatening. now when we are talking about reality, I cringe when someone calls another person or people 'evil'. But when it comes to fiction, the rules are different. I am always a fan of intelligent evil villains. And the Master was text book example in the old series cut from the cloth of classic stage melodrama.
The heart of the problem (for me) is that the shows creators seem to have approached the question of how the Master fits into the new series, as him being defined as a foil for the doctor. They repeatedly said that he was the dark version of the doctor. Identical in as many ways as possible, except a psychotic. It probably gives balance to the show, and theoretically it means that the Master will be around for a long time, since it seems like the doctor can't kill him anymore then he can kill his own shadow.
And that is the crux of my problem with it. The Master is now defined as just a doppleganger of the doctor. the doctor is the original, and the master is his 'evil' copycat. Thus rather then being an wicked genius who crossed paths with the doctor his nefarious schemes came to the doctor's attention- now he just exists to torment the doctor, and never quite kill him. So I find him somewhat lessened.
The other interesting thing the writers mentioned was that the Master had to have a sense of humor- and be able to deliver the one line zinger with the same flair as the doctor. the old Master was a very serious man, whom the doctor would outfox with his puns and word play as they verbally sparred. But as they stated, the Master was to be the doctor's equal in every way possible, and they decided that that extends to the doctor's humor as well. Now in the reality of the show, a sense of humor is inconsequential. but in terms of fictional characters, a sense of humor is hugely important. Having the power of joking for the audience's benefit is better then a super forcefield. No one who is gaily tossing out witticisms can ever be beaten. he is a trickster character, and that means that he always gets away.