- After the mixed critical reaction and unspectacular ratings of Chris Chibnall’s era, Russell T Davies’ return as showrunner signals a brave new era of Doctor Who.
- While villains from Chris Chibnall’s era were divisive, one stands out as a highlight and should be brought back in future seasons.
- This villain has the potential to be even better under Russell T Davies’ guidance, providing scripts and stories worthy of their unique performance.
The return of Russell T Davies as showrunner signals a brave new era of Doctor Who, and while carryovers from Chris Chibnall’s tenure are unlikely, one villain deserves to keep their place. Chris Chibnall oversaw arguably the most divisive period of Doctor Who‘s history, and while the showrunner made plenty of positive changes – increased diversity in the TARDIS, for example – other decisions contributed to mixed critical reaction and unspectacular ratings. Looking to bring back its glory days, Doctor Who rehired the man responsible for said glory days. With a Disney+ deal in place, Russell T Davies looks set to unleash a brand-new universe of Doctor Who.
Villains were among the biggest points of contention from Chris Chibnall’s era. Doctor Who season 11 utilized a roster composed entirely of fresh monsters, but season 12 and Doctor Who: Flux relied upon classic enemies or carbon copies that felt eerily similar to past villains. It seems unlikely, therefore, that Russell T Davies will be bringing back Tzim-Sha or the Pting to face Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor in Doctor Who season 14. There is one villain from Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who, however, that RTD would be remiss to ignore.
Sacha Dhawan’s Master Was Great (& Still Has More To Give)
Of the many villains to appear during Chris Chibnall’s time as Doctor Who showrunner, Sacha Dhawan’s incarnation of the Master stands head and shoulders above the mischievous throng. Expertly cast, Dhawan’s “Spy Master” brought fresh, modern ideas to the iconic character – a previously unseen level of maniacal hatred, but with the playful glee of a circus ringleader. Dhawan also worked as a throwback to previous Masters, dropping the sympathetic notions introduced by Michelle Gomez and, to a lesser extent, John Simm in favor of pure, unrepentant evil. If most villains during the Chris Chibnall era were either forgettable new creations or rehashed classics, Sacha Dhawan’s Master was the perfect blend of old and original.
Despite appearing in a total of five episodes, Sacha Dhawan still has plenty to offer as Doctor Who‘s resident Master. Dhawan’s regeneration enjoyed a compelling cut-and-thrust relationship with Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor, one of the more human versions of Doctor Who‘s protagonist. Watching Dhawan’s brilliant wit and turn-on-a-dime personality spar against a totally different Doctor, perhaps a less forgiving, more alien Doctor, would result in a markedly different dynamic between these eternal rivals. Dhawan’s eclectic and unpredictable performance suggests there are still layers and shades to this Master regeneration that Doctor Who has not yet shown.
Classic Doctor Who Rarely Changed Master Actors
Doctor Who has already set a precedent for Sacha Dhawan’s Master staying on for Russell T Davies’ new era. Back in the days of classic Doctor Who, the Master seldom regenerated. Roger Delgado portrayed The Master against the Third Doctor, the villain took on a more monstrous form during Tom Baker’s era following Delgado’s sad passing, then Anthony Ainley took over until Doctor Who was canceled. The concept of each Doctor Who era casting its own Master has only arisen since the show’s own regeneration in 2005. Sacha Dhawan staying on as the Master into Doctor Who season 14 and beyond, therefore, is no revelatory or novel concept.
That does not mean Sacha Dhawan’s Master returning as early as Doctor Who season 14 would be advisable. The Master appeared in Doctor Who‘s 2022 special, “The Power of the Doctor,” as the cause behind Jodie Whittaker’s regeneration. Troubling Ncuti Gatwa in Doctor Who season 14 would risk overexposing the Master and wearing the villain thin. Having said that, the Master coming back is as inevitable in Doctor Who as British biscuit references and companions from modern-day Earth. When the villain eventually does show his face again, that face should at least be Sacha Dhawan’s.
Dhawan’s return would also avoid a Doctor Who repetition problem. Every single modern version of the Master – Derek Jacobi, John Simm, Michelle Gomez and Sacha Dhawan – has pulled an identity bait-and-switch, with the Master initially concealed as a different character. Russell T Davies repeating this trick for the fifth time in a row would have diminishing returns. Retaining Sacha Dhawan avoids the Master’s usual game of “Guess Who?”
Dhawan’s Master Can Be Even Better In RTD’s Doctor Who
Sacha Dhawan’s Master may be a highlight from Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who era, but the episodes he appeared in did not always play to those strengths. Doctor Who‘s “Spyfall” two-parter was warmly received, but the Master’s next appearances were hampered by clunky and controversial Timeless Child exposition. “The Power of the Doctor,” meanwhile, was always going to be dominated by Jodie Whittaker’s swansong and the Fourteenth Doctor’s debut.
From “Dalek” and “The End of Time” to “Blink” and “Turn Left,” the original Russell T Davies period of Doctor Who contains the vast majority of the modern show’s most memorable and celebrated episodes. The Ninth and Tenth Doctor eras represent the peak of Doctor Who‘s storytelling prowess. Under the narrative guidance of RTD, Doctor Who has the opportunity to explore Sacha Dhawan’s Master more fully, providing scripts and stories worthy of his uniquely unhinged performance.