Warning! The following contains spoilers for Doctor Who Season 12's "Spyfall - Part 1." Read at your own risk!
After a full year without new episodes, Doctor Who returned for Season 12 and really flipped the show on its head. Part 1 of "Spyfall" was a thrilling ride from the start, but it was the end that set the fandom on fire with an insane reveal. It turned out the Doctor's trusted intelligence colleague "O" was not who he said he was, though he did know our Time Lord better than anyone expected. Shockingly, "O" revealed himself to be the Doctor's nemesis The Master back once again.
It was a jaw-dropping reveal, though an incredibly confusing one. Is The Master truly alive again, and in a new body? Or is this a pretender posing as The Doctor's greatest rival? Didn't The Master kind of end things as an anti-hero last time Doctor Who featured the character? Let's talk all this out, and try to figure out what's real or not ahead of Part 2.
How Is The Master Alive?
The biggest question I have here revolves around The Master and his/her survival. As some may remember, Peter Capaldi's Doctor convinced Missy (The Master's feminine incarnation) to join the good guys, which angered a past incarnation of The Master (John Simms), who was disgusted by his future-self. To make a long story short, Missy attacked the past Master, and the implication was that the two destroyed themselves, thus preventing Simms' Master from ever becoming Missy.
The scene left many believing The Master was dead for good, though his sudden re-emergence puts all that into question. Did Missy really kill John Simms' Master after all? Is this a Master incarnation that either predates or comes between those two? These questions will be bouncing around my brain until we know the full story.
Possible Explanations Behind The Master's Return
Much like The Doctor, The Master can regenerate, so as I'd mentioned above, it's possible this version of The Master (played by Sacha Dhawan) predates John Simms' Master, or that Dhawan's incarnation happened before the Missy regeneration. This most recent Master did say he took on O's identity from the day he first joined the MI6, all in an effort to infiltrate the world's intelligence agencies with his glowing spies. He's seemingly been at this for years, too, even while The Doctor fought other versions of The Master in other eras across time and space.
Another explanation is that O is not actually The Master, which isn't a ludicrous line of speculation to go down. He could just be a pretender posing from another alien race, and using this title to merely rattle The Doctor into thinking she's not up to the challenge of defeating someone who isn't her worst enemy. It would be a great trick, though it could definitely put some fans off if not handled smoothly.
Why "O" Is Most Likely The Master
Historically speaking, The Doctor has rarely been truly outsmarted by an enemy. In the reboooted era of the show, however, battles with The Master have been complicated and have taken the character to its limits. There aren't many in the lore who can out-think The Doctor, and it was clear how shook she was when The Master revealed himself. Combining the elaborate measures he went to in order to ensure her failure with that look of shock on Jodie Whittaker's face, and I'm willing to put myself out there and say this is the real Master.
Additionally, I don't believe Chris Chibnall would bring back The Doctor's greatest foe only for it to be a misdirection that gets reversed in the next episode. Doctor Who Season 11 had solid praise, but drew heavy criticism from the fanbase for not opting for villains. To kick off Season 12 with a fake Master would be quite the slap in the face to those who've already been told Season 12 will feature more well-known enemies, and would certainly ruffle a few feathers that don't need ruffling. That said, Chibnall really liked subverting expectations last season, so it's also possible this could all end with another big switcheroo.
"Everything You Think You Know Is A Lie"
The words above were The Master's last words to The Doctor, which came across as both telling and confusing. The Doctor has experienced A LOT, so "Everything" is quite a broad and meaningful term in this respect. While it hasn't been touched on in quite a while, one thing The Master and The Doctor have in common is their home planet of Galifrey, which could have something to do with this "lie."
The Master's line could've also been a message to Doctor Who fans themselves, who may just need to forget everything they know about this mythos until Chris Chibnall and crew lay it back out. Let's be honest for a second, character consistency in this series' most perfect attribute, and there are plenty of plot devices that can be used to essentially retcon characters. This may be a gentle reminder for everyone to just take a breath, and trust that whatever the answer may be, it'll all make sense in the end.
What The Master's Return Could Mean For Doctor Who
One really important takeaway from The Master's supposed return to Doctor Who is that it seems the BBC and BBC America series is finally ready to bridge the gap between the past and the present. The Master's return could contain some very real answers as to why things haven't been too familiar for The Doctor as of late. Is The Master responsible for all this unfamiliarity in Season 11?
Even from a perspective outside the plot, bringing The Master into Season 12 of Doctor Who is a big step forward in honoring the franchise. He's definitely not the only past villain making an appearance this season, which should be welcome news to any fan shell-shocked by Season 11's lack of recognizable villains. It feels like this could be a major meaningful connection to the past of the show, which could bring back some fans who were turned off by the newness of the season prior.
Doctor Who fans, were you excited about the return of The Master? Sound off in our poll below and get ready for more Doctor Who on BBC America Sunday, January 5, at 8:00 p.m. ET. Of course, continue to stick with CinemaBlend for more on the series as it unfolds, and to stay up to date on all the latest and greatest news happening in the world of television and movies.