That was physically painful to type, by the way. Before I get into the actual post, given my neglect this weekend, I would like to half-apologize for the last couple blog posts. It’s a half-apology because I was having a wonderful time quite some distance away from all of my troubles. It was spent in the company of two of the most fantastic people I know and it gave me a chance to finally meet a couple really terrific people as well. Drinks were had, tabletop games were played, and I had some of the best times I’ve had in a while all crammed into a weekend. I’d also like to point out that the Hyatt House in Dulles, VA, was the best hotel experience I’ve ever had in all of my travels. Great price, great customer service, and the rooms are like tiny homes-away-from-home without that weird feel of actually being in another person’s house using all of their appliances, their bed, and their shower. That’s a universal feeling most people, I imagine, have while staying at a hotel.
The rest of this post will contain spoilers. I’d like to avoid them, but this is a commentary I really would like to make on the recently-completed series of Doctor Who, which was spectacular but seems to have stirred up a bit of fan-rage. If you read past here, you cannot claim you’ve not been warned of the impending spoilers. I’ll have no complaining to the contrary.
Doctor Who started the eighth series of its reboot, and Peter Capaldi’s first round as The Doctor, with a return to some of the most fun aspects of Doctor Who. There was some humor and a bit of fumbling about with the new regeneration, and though there was perhaps a bit too much emphasis on how The Doctor isn’t Clara’s boyfriend it still played out nicely. Even if Steven Moffat continued his time-honored tradition of referencing previous episodes he wrote for the show. True to form, this episode set viewers up with the mystery that would find resolution (or at least some resolution) in the finale.
I wasn’t one of the fans who, by the end of “Deep Breath”, was shouting that the enigmatic Missy of Paradise was clearly The Master. I had some very serious suspicions, but I dismissed them as wishful thinking left from John Simm’s exit during “The End of Time” coupled with the understanding that Gallifrey might be back out there in the vastness of the Whoniverse. Fast forward to the concluding moments of “Dark Water”, the series finale’s first part, when The Doctor demands to know who Missy really is. Her response is delightfully playful, but almost had me fearing she was really lying. To have any Time Lord come back as a woman seemed a bit shocking, but to have The Master come back as The Mistress (shortened to Missy, a detail that only added to this iteration of The Doctor’s never-dying arch-nemesis) was even more of a jolt.
A quick search of the internet reveals that not everyone was happy with this change, but I think it was a huge leap in the right direction in terms of how the show handles diversity in terms of leading characters. I have to concede that I am one of however many fans who think the show could benefit hugely from The Doctor regenerating into a Time Lady. This is a show with a huge audience, its fan-base spanning the entire globe for over fifty years now. The idea of The Doctor being one of the next big positive role models for girls in popular culture seems like the right sort of progression this show needs. However, this isn’t about what could be so much as what has recently come to pass.
Back to Missy. Michelle Gomez was The Master (or The Mistress; when confronted with this question of Master or Mistress, Missy mouths that it doesn’t matter). She had two episodes to establish herself after John Simm’s approach to the role, and the way she handled all of The Master’s fury and madness and deception were just brilliant. Gomez and Capaldi acting opposite of each other in this way made for what could have been one of the best series finales of the entire reboot. Moffat does seem to have a bit of a weird thing for sassy female antagonists with short, dark hair and red lipstick, yes, but I’m willing to look past that and at the actual writing that went into this character. Missy shows The Master as a lady who is no small force to be reckoned with, and while there are plenty of women out there who want to be heroes I’m sure there are just as many who love the notion of being the villain. Missy makes for a Hell of a role model in a very “So You Want to be Empress of All You Survey” way. The ending was lazy and disappointing, but I’m willing to forgive that based on the understanding that there is no way this is the last we’ll see of Missy the Mistress/Master (the best Time Lord in the series).
To a lesser extent, this change also goes back to The Master’s tendency to be deceptive and mercurial, always changing the “what” of her goals while keeping the grander aspects of them the same. The Doctor desperately wants to be a ginger, and perhaps The Master really wanted to see what things were like as a Time Lady. Who knows? She did, afterall, declare herself completely bananas a good few times. At least we don’t have to endure that catchy drumbeat anymore.