Missy: The Evolution of a Time Lord

Missy and the Master Incarnations The discussion of gender-bending Time Lords has been around since at least the 1980s. A few years ago, the possibility became fact in the episode “The Doctor’s Wife,” when the Doctor offhandedly mentions a Time Lord known as the Corsair who had been both a man and a woman.

A sizable number of fans have been calling for a male-to-female regeneration on the show for years. And in season eight, they got it, just not as they expected.

Enter Missy.

It’s not precisely clear how the Master escaped his encounter with the Time Lord Who Totally Couldn’t Be Rassilon* in “The End of Time.” However, it was deadly enough to trigger a regeneration, this time into a woman who now calls herself Missy in order to be enigmatic throughout all of season eight.

If actress Michelle Gomez wasn’t so good at being so terribly awful, I probably would have hated it.

The Importance(?) of Gender

If the Doctor ever regenerates into a woman, I totally expect that fact will dominate her episodes. Does she stick with female companions, or will she take up male ones? What sort of relationship will she have with them? People will make  a big deal about the Doctor being a woman, and writers will feel compelled to address it.


Missy has not escaped unscathed from this thinking. She’s already planted a big, awkward kiss on the Doctor. Now, that was a gesture of mockery, not affection, but it’s still a gesture clearly guided by gender.  Likewise, she jokingly refers to the Doctor as her boyfriend.  Why?

Beyond that, however, her gender has thankfully been irrelevant, and she’s been plenty busy being a wonderfully horrible person.

World’s Worst Frenemy

Before the Doctor left Gallifrey, he and the Master were close friends. Insanity eventually took hold of the Master, and they repeatedly found themselves on opposing sides as the Master attempted to conquer and destroy various sections to the universe.

Every once in a while, however, a glimpse of that former friendship comes through. Showrunner Steven Moffat, while reflecting on Missy’s place in the upcoming season nine, shares:

I was looking back at the old Jon Pertwee/Roger Delgado [episodes] and what’s fascinating about that is that they only ever play it as friends. They never, ever play it as enemies at all. They’re just two gentlemen having fun with each other. The Doctor’s best friend is a murdering psychopath, that’s actually quite fun. (Source)

He may be exaggerating just a wee bit, but there is a level of complication between the two enemies.

Will we see that again? Missy’s entire plan last season centered on creating an army which she could give as a gift to the Doctor, tempting him with the possibility of using the army for good rather than evil. “I need you to know we’re not so different. I need my friend back,” says Missy.

Was she being serious, in her own twisted way, or was the entire plan a mockery of their former relationship?  I’m not sure she even knows.

State of Mind

The Master has become distinctly more unhinged as he has progressed through regenerations.  Delgado’s Master was a quite coherent schemer.  Ainley, on the other hand, tended to twirl a metaphorical mustache when he spoke, and his very first plot was to ransom the entire universe in “Logopolis.”  John Simm was a buffoon, obsessed with destroying everything the Doctor loves.  One such plan transformed every human being into a copy of himself.  While impressive, there’s really not a lot of tangible benefit from such a stunt.

Missy is certainly bonkers.  The problem is writers try too hard to remind us of it.  Twice Missy has described herself as “bananas.”  The second time she says it is just before she disintegrates Osgood, even though she even acknowledges it would make more sense to keep her alive. Her actions are nonsensical, and she feels the need to give a reason why: she’s crazy.

But why explain?  The Master doesn’t need anyone’s approval.  Moreover, no mater how illogical an action might look to us, I have a hand time imagining the Master not having a reason for his actions.    The reason might be it will torment the Doctor, but there will be a reason. So explaining she’s crazy as an excuse for her behavior makes no sense at all.

John Simms as the Master

John Simms wearing Master-causal

Overall, however, Missy has been brilliant. The evil Mary Poppins look is just the right amount of over-the-top, and the anachronism of the outfit is a nice reflection of the Doctor’s own love of out-of-place costuming. The dark color and formal style reminds us of his old series wardrobe; I never could take John Simm’s Master-in-a-hoodie look seriously.

So what’s next for our terrible Time Lord Lady?  She was apparently disintegrated at the end of “Death in Heaven” last season, but I’m confident absolutely no one thought that would be the end of her.  My best guess is she made sure the Cybermen’s weapons couldn’t harm her, and she was teleported somewhere safe.  It’s a cheap escape, but most of the Master’s escapes are.   We know she’s appearing in the season nine opener, “The Magician’s Apprentice,” which will air September 19th.

Personally, I’m most curious how she’ll continue to relate to the Doctor.  Will this be something along the lines of the Pertwee/Delgado relationship, as Moffat referenced?  It would be a beautifully complex picture, because it can’t just be about Missy’s constant attempts to subjugate the universe anymore.  The Doctor actively tried to kill her in “Death in Heaven.”  In Missy’s mind, does that work for or against him?

*Rassilon has long been established in the old series to be the first of the Time Lords, the inventor of time travel for Gallifreyans. His tomb sits in the middle of what is called the Death Zone, and while he is not quite dead, he’s not up and walking around. The current President of Gallifrey cannot possibly be Rassilon, and why the writers chose that name is beyond me.

Lucretia Strange, time traveler, has never met a historical period she didn’t like…except the 18th century, which was just rubbish.   You can find all of her articles HERE.  Her alter ego blogs at History, Interrupted.

History, Interrupted

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