The Master (Part 5 – Still in Need of a New Body)

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The Doctor seems to be ignoring his Moriarty.

1996. Friends were tops on TV. Clinton was running for re-election against Bob Dole. And Doctor Who was coming back to television. Paul McGann was the Doctor, Daphne Ashbrook was the companion, and Eric Roberts was . . . the Master?

Okay, it’s a curious bit of casting. The man who, at that time, was best known for being the brother of actress Julia Roberts, surely could play tough guys and villains. But did Roberts have the chops to rise to the challenge of the Doctor’s Moriarty? The reviews are mixed. Without getting into a discussion over the rights and wrongs of the TV Movie (as the 1996 version is called), having Roberts play the Master was tantamount to Clint Eastwood playing Hercule Poirot. It just doesn’t seem right on the surface, but somehow, he almost carries it off.

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Dressed for the occasion!

Honestly, attempting to describe how the Master goes from the Cheetah planet to his execution on Skaro to becoming a gel snake that takes over the body of Bruce, a hapless San Francisco EMT with sleep apnea, frankly is enough to make your head spin and pretty much cements the ’96 movie as a slapdash, every-bit-of-mythos-we-can-think-of mess that it really is (sorry, Aloysius). The Master is both chilling and camp: a ruthless killer but one with the ability to “dress for the occasion.” Roberts’s Master flirts dangerously with generic baddie territory, never truly establishing a niche like his predecessors. There are some moments where you almost root for Roberts to go all the way, only to see it descend into mustache twirling and hammy acting.

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The Master finally has his own companion in the form of Chang Lee.

Paired with the vacuously draining Chang Lee, the Master is on the prowl for a new body, and just not any body will do: he wants to take over the Doctor’s body. Not content to defeat his old enemy, he wants to become him and take over his beloved TARDIS. Once again tapping into the power of the Eye of Harmony as he did in “The Deadly Assassin,” the Master seeks to transfer the Doctor’s remaining lives in his already deteriorating body. The Master’s plan is foiled and the Master is consumed by the Eye of Harmony. Never to be seen or heard from again, or at least not until the next time . . .

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2 Responses to “The Master (Part 5 – Still in Need of a New Body)

  • No offense taken Gonz, it is a hard sell to convince people of the movie’s merits . . . it’s mostly that it COULD have been so great! If they had stuck with the original script it might have been a much better story, but that’s a whole other article in the making.

  • Not to mention that the eye of harmony is actually on Galifrey! They’re still trying to fix that one 🙂

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