Y’know, it’s funny how people still use the name “Koschei” for the Master when every other part of The Dark Path has been forgotten.
I guarantee that 95% of the people who use it don’t even know where it’s from. (Self included, embarrassingly enough; I looked it up at one point and then promptly forgot it.) And that a further 50% think it’s “somewhere in Classic Who, I dunno, can’t be arsed to watch any of it” and thus the canonest thing ever to canon.
Since this seems to be fanon pretty much unique to Doctor/Master shippers, I suspect its staying power comes from a desire to have some more direct or intimate form of address than their titles. Which, frankly, is dumb as shit—this idea of schoolboy nicknames (that the Doctor doesn’t even really like!) being somehow more intimate than the names they’ve been using with each other for 700+ years. I mean, ‘Theta’ and ‘Koschei’ have also stuck around because they’re super-über-narratively convenient for Academy-era fic, which is valid and useful fanon, but surely I can’t be the only one to get completely thrown off when I’m reading Tenn/Simm fic and then suddenly they’re moaning their stupid adolescent monikers into each other’s ears.
(It would be GREAT if they used them to be catty though. “Sure, you laugh at humans now, but remember that time you got so obsessed with Earth mythology that you started ordering people to call you Koschei the Deathless? Naah, it’s okay, I’m not judging you, my mum went through the same phase. Wanted everyone to call her Morgana Winter Ravenfox. It could happen to anyone.”)
Realized the other day while rewatching End of Time: the Doctor’s utter freakout at the climax of Utopia, when Martha tells him the professor’s got a fob watch. I always figured he guessed right off the bat that if another Time Lord survived, of course it would be the Master—his own personal bad penny, turning up once again.
That still never quite explained the blind panic with which he delivers that line in the title though: “Brilliant, fantastic, yeah. But they died, the Time Lords, all of them, they died!” Okay, yes, that is a nicely impersonal way to say “But I killed them, all of them, I killed them,” and so if Yana’s a Time Lord then the Doctor’s got some ‘splaining to do… but still. The intensity of the panic and fury there is weirdly disproportionate, less “it must be the Master and he must be up to something and I’ve got to stop him” and more “the world just crashed down around my ears and if I don’t get up there RIGHT NOW it means the end of absolutely everything.”
And then it clicked as I was watching EoT. Ten making all his pretty speeches about how he never would, and he won’t take a weapon, and he must be better than the Master even at the cost of the human race… and then the instant he finds out the Time Lords are back, he grabs Wilf’s gun and charges into the breach, because every item on his priority list has just been superseded by “Make sure the Time Lords stay dead.”
The Doctor in Utopia isn’t afraid that Yana will turn out to be the Master. He’s afraid Yana WON’T turn out to be the Master. The Master he can deal with. What he’s really afraid of is what the rest of the Time Lords became.
(Master/Martha, NC-17, dubious consent)
A hidden gem found while trawling Livejournal archives from 2007. Is it a work of breathtaking genius and insight? Nope, it’s pure porn. But it’s hot, and creepy, and wrong, and I have a secret adoration for this pairing: amidst the reams and reams of fic where the Master tries to hurt the Doctor in horrifying and personal ways, it’s often forgotten that Simm!Master accorded Martha the same twisted kind of, erm, respect.
So, the fic: sometime during his 18 months on earth, the Master picks Martha up in a nightclub and then they done sex. The thing that makes it creepy is that in the narration, which is entirely Martha’s POV, it’s not creepy at all. There’s no subliminal sense of wrongness or danger. As far as she’s concerned, she ended up having hot sex with a charming stranger, which isn’t ordinarily her thing but Tish did drag her out to the club to have a good time, and it’s not as though he’s a creeper. After all, he seems so trustworthy—not putting any pressure on her at all. In fact, it’s almost as though he’s getting off on her enthusiastic consent more than anything else. (See? Creepy as hell.) It’s left totally up to the reader to fill in that Harry-who-works-in-defense, with his infectious smile, is in fact grinning like a fucking shark the whole time.
Because actually, his motives in Last of the Time Lords are really hard to fathom.
The most charitable reading I can come up with:
The Doctor has spent the entirety of the past season giving in to the urge to play god—and not a benevolent god, a vengeful one, almost Lovecraftian in his willingness to let uncomprehending humans be pawns in his games of gods and monsters. The Racnoss, the Family of Blood, even the way he casually imprisons the Carrionites for all eternity: the show has gone out of its way to emphasize that despite his cute harmless exterior, there is a terrible price to be paid if you cross him. That’s where the dramatic tension is supposed to come from when he goes all blue and sparkly—it’s all building up to a monumental smackdown that is deliberately withheld. Why is it withheld? Perhaps because the Master has made him face himself as he really is, or as he really could be. He makes the choice to check himself, subscribe to a higher set of values, and make himself not like the Master.
Where this falls through:
The uncritical use of Messianic imagery. Christianity just doesn’t play very well with Lovecraftian demigods, especially ones who want to turn around and play Christ. If your Jesus figure is going to go around forgiving crimes committed against other people, he’d better be sinless, pure of heart, and vested with the divine authority to do so, else he’s a presumptuous hypocritical crackpot. If Ten—unstable, deeply flawed, not always benevolent Ten—decides to become a better person by arrogating to himself the imagery and authority of the sole and perfect Christian God, it should be underlined somewhere in the text that this isn’t going to end well. And indeed it doesn’t, because Last of the Time Lords is just one incident on an ultimately downhill slide involving Ten’s god complex, but within the episode it’s treated as a happy-happy feel-good moment and that just places it somewhere between ridiculous and unsettling. Considering some of the dark places the show had already gone at that point and the even darker ones yet to come, I don’t think it would’ve been out of Russell T Davies’ power to subvert all that Messianic imagery somewhat, if only to make it a bit less cloying.
There are less charitable readings as well: perhaps the Doctor, knowing that “I forgive you” was in fact the cruellest blow he could ever deal to the Master, was using it as a winning move. Perhaps he and the Master were both so thoroughly in demigod chessmaster mode that he accepted the Master’s near-destruction of the human race for what it was—a targeted way to make him suffer—and was so eager to keep his equal and fellow chessmaster around that he thought nothing of forgiving any slights against himself, even ones that involved the enslavement of billions by way of collateral damage. After all, not only does he assume the authority to judge or to forgive on the behalf of the whole human race, he denies everyone else that authority: “he’s a Time Lord, that makes him my responsibility.” The struggles of the higher powers, in other words, play out on cosmic planes beyond man’s ability to judge or comprehend. He questions not the Master’s right to bend the universe and the lesser species to his will, but his wisdom in doing so only to destroy. H.P. Lovecraft would be proud.
(Reposting this because an anon asked for rebloggable versions of things)
Fic prompt: Baking a cake: Delgado!Master and Saxon!Master
The Master set down the graduated cylinder with a barely audible sigh, expressing his exasperation in a calculated dosage. Even greater than the insult of being interrupted was the injury of being forced to entertain, and this company in particular would linger forever at the slightest chance of someone paying attention. He faced steadfastly forward and reached for the whisk, as though he were still alone with himself.
Which was, of course, precisely the issue.
“Fancy meeting you here,” a youthful, male voice chirruped. It dripped with an uncouth smugness that set the Master’s teeth on edge.
“Get out of my kitchen,” the Master ordered his future self. “If you value our continued existence.”
“Aw, how precious. You think that’s a threat, don’t you? What’s next? You tell me to ‘obey’ you?”
The other Master’s smirk was audible, a smarmy, needling tone just begging to be taken down a peg. Fortunately, the Master knew himself far too well to rise to such obvious bait.
“Have we forgotten all our manners, then?” the Master said mildly. “Or is it fashionable for company to leave paradoxes in their host’s parlour in the future?”
He began pointedly whisking his bowl of batter, still refusing to look at his future self. If there was one thing he hated, it was being dismissed.
“It’s my parlour too,” his future self hissed. “And my kitchen. You stuck-up twit. Sometimes I can’t believe I used to be you.”
The Master didn’t need to turn around to sense the intruder was coming closer. The twist of the timelines was like a punch to the stomachs and he stepped aside at the very last second, if nothing else to avoid a break.
“What do you want?” he growled, increasingly alarmed. He could see himself out of the corner of his eye, and it was increasingly clear that something was wrong, worse than his future self being present in the first place. His future form was wiry and small, which was acceptable; pleasing to the eye; but his eyes were old, older than the Void itself, and the emptiness there was nothing short of terrifying.
“Our Xylian cake recipe,” his beardless self replied lightly, in a sing-song that did not match the crooked slant to his smile. “It’s our birthday, in the future. Got to celebrate properly. Earth cake’s rubbish.”
“Our TARDIS has it in her databanks,” the Master said, edging ever so slightly away.
“Our TARDIS is lost,” the other Master snapped. “I came back because I remembered us making it. The Doctor’s TARDIS was here in this time stream. It wasn’t hard to track you down from UNIT.”
A confusing diatribe, more a collection of facts than an explanation. The Master had no idea what the Doctor’s TARDIS had to do with anything, but he was beginning to get a very nasty picture.
“You remembered ‘us’ making it,” he repeated, risking a glance at his future self. “Do you mean me, or do you mean -”
“Us,” his future self said. His grin was a manic slash across his face. “Predestination paradox. I didn’t leave a paradox in the parlour. Our parlour was a paradox all along. Good old Alexandrian dilemma. Go back to find the cause of the fire? Knock over some pissant’s lantern!”
He spun in a spastic circle and horribly, began singing, something breathless and human and even more awful because the Master didn’t sing.
“We didn’t start the fire…well I-guess-we-did light it but we’ll try NOT to fight it (or-rip-the-universe-opennnn…)”
“That’s quite enough! This is ridiculous. You’re ridiculous,” the Master barked, inwardly reeling. His future self was spinning, but he was the one who felt he might be ill. Oh Rassilon, was this him? Really, truly?
His future self stopped on a dime, staring at him with glittering eyes.
“It is ridiculous,” his future self agreed. “Because you were making a cake for the Doctor, weren’t you? You were going to leave it in his insipid little lab.”
The Master said nothing, because he knew his other self knew the answer. He inhaled hard through his nose and let it out slowly, searching for composure, finding none.
“He won’t appreciate it,” his future self said. “He’ll think one of his pets made it. The ditzy one, with the fluffy hair.”
“Miss Grant,” the Master stressed, and his voice was going to obey him, and it was going to be steady, “is hardly likely to stock Xylian fireberries in her pantry.”
“‘Strawberries’,” his future self hissed. “He never pays enough attention to tell the difference. He never pays attention long enough to listen.”
And there was the truth, the ugly, vicious truth that the Master had been trying not to hear, from the moment his future self had stepped into his TARDIS. He’d known what it meant, hadn’t he? That his future self was alone. Young or old, bearded or clean-shaven, in the end it’s always this: he and himself, no one else.
For a moment the drums were so loud their cacophony was blinding.
His beardless self was still waiting when he came back to himself, watching in that hungry way. The Master wondered if he was depraved enough to consider touching his own mind. He wondered if he would even mind the forbidden violation.
“What would you have us do?” he asked instead, tired in a way he’d never been in his existence.
“Bake a cake,” his future self shrugged. “Give it to me. Stop being a repressed hopeless sop. I said he never listens to us, I never said we ever give up.”
The Master watched in despair as his other self drew closer, those dark, dark eyes flashing, and he knew what it was like to stare into the Schism all over again. All that raw power, none of the focus.
His future self slung an arm around the Master’s shoulders, making every inch of his skin crawl, and the Master tried not to weep.
“‘Original recipe’,” his beardless self grinned. “Oh, you and me. It’s so good, isn’t it?”
*flail* This is PERFECT. Especially your Simm!Master, who is unsettling and unpredictable as all fuck and rightly so.
And ha, Delgado baking Three a cake—I wonder if he was going to poison it, just because he considers it his job to make the Doctor’s life interesting. Or better still, NOT poison it and hope the Doctor exhausts everything in his lab trying to figure out what’s wrong with it.
i wish more people wrote about the Masters crippling fear of the Time War and Daleks
((Is it a contradiction? Self preservation and all that is very Master. He doesn’t like to die. Too vain. Yes you wouldn’t expect him to be a chicken shit but he is out to save his own ass. (Except for EOT when it came to the Doctor dying)
The Doctor always says he runs away but when like the entire fate of the universe is on his shoulders then he will fight, he says he doesn’t like violence but he will use it when needed.
I am supposed to be doing math homework and maybe this is wrong but thats just what I thought. WOULD STILL LOVE TO SEE SOME SHALLSHOCKED MASTER THO.))
That’s how I saw it too - the Doctor fights for ideals, for others. He runs, but not from causes. The Master fights for himself. He’s damn good at it, but lifetimes spent focusing almost completely on doing anything you had to to survive probably wouldn’t give him much experience in fighting wars.
Yup. Also, as enamored as he is of UNLIMETEDE COSMIC POWAR in theory, whenever he actually manages to unleash an eldritch horror and realizes it’s not going to do what he wants, he usually defaults to making the Doctor deal with it and/or groveling for his life. Black-and-white power dichotomies are a bitch like that.
So yeah, given the copious hints that the Time War was the mother of all eldritch horrors, I can easily imagine that at a certain point the Master just went “fuck this, I am so out of my depth, time to save my skin and declare this to be someone else’s problem from now on.” Which is something the Doctor could never do—in fact, the Doctor spends most of his time barging in on Someone Else’s Problem and taking it upon himself to fix it whether it’s his job or not.
You know what’s intense? Watching ‘Utopia’ with a classic Whovian whose one and only spoiler for the series finale is that the Master is somehow involved.
Like, yeah, the other two episodes were great as usual, we snickered at how much kink RTD managed to cram into a family show and facepalmed at the messianic imagery and muttered about asshole Time Lords who deserve each other, but HOLY SHIT watching him progress from “Utopia? Oh, this is gonna end well” to “how delightfully old-school!” to “So I’m guessing Jacobi’s character is somehow the Master but HOWWWWW?” and then the perfect succession of escalating “oh my GOD” faces and both of us on the edges of our seats giving ZERO FUCKS about Ten and Jack in the radiation chamber because YANA YANA YANA—
I mean, I knew what happened and I was STILL sitting there clutching my face in excitement. Perfect reveal sequence is PERFECT.