Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
I Am The Master: Legends of the Renegade Time Lord (Hardback)


Authors: Various
Publisher: BBC Books
336 pages
RRP: UK £12.99, US $16.99, Cdn $27.99
ISBN: 978 1 78594 631 8
Publication Date: 05 November 2020

“Everything you think you know… is a lie.” The Doctor and the Master; their conflict of light and dark has spanned many times and faces across the universe. This collection – of five short stories and a novella – explores the depths of darkness in the Master’s hearts; the arch-schemer’s secrets and sinister ambitions revealed through brand new exploits and encounters. Join six incarnations of evil for undreamed of adventures: a quest to free alien warlords; a meeting with Bram Stoker; a trial of wits to gain untold power; a dangerous mission to save a vital ally; a shattering of lives on a distant world; and drop in on the Master’s latest regeneration during his 77 years of imprisonment on Earth…

Knowing that this anthology comprises a novella plus several shorter tales, I had assumed that the novella would form a linking narrative for the other stories – a format that has been used before in Doctor Who spin-off fiction. However, it turns out that the only connection between these adventures is the Master himself. We begin, appropriately enough, with the earliest screen iteration of the evil Time Lord, as played by Roger Delgado…

Blackmailed by a sinister biomechanoid, the Master must use his talents to liberate three alien warlords held captive on Earth. Can he turn the tables on his oppressors…?

Anger Management, written by Peter Anghelides, evokes the Delgado serial The Sea Devils in that the Master is imprisoned and confronts popular culture. In the 1972 six-parter, the prison was a quite literal one, a high-security fortress, whereas here it is one of the mind, a virtual jail used by an alien called Loge to force the Master into doing his bidding. In The Sea Devils, the pop culture was provided by Clangers on the Master’s television screen. Here (with some populist politics thrown in as well) it takes the form of three kinds of famous personality: a high-profile footballer facing racist abuse from the terraces, a member of a Spice Girls style girl group weathering behind-the-scenes backbiting, and a far-right American presidential candidate. There’s possibly a moral in this satirical story about over-ambition, as all of these individuals end up literally flying too close to the sun, but the lasting impression it leaves is one of knockabout farce.



Holidaying in Whitby, Bram Stoker is plunged into a world of horror when a grandfather clock washes to shore together with the hideous remains of the dying Master – who will do anything to survive…

Mark Wright’s The Dead Travel Fast features the emaciated Master portrayed by Peter Pratt in The Deadly Assassin. In what is my favourite story in this collection, the author effectively channels the style and content of that era (Season 14), as we find the horribly injured time traveller seeking, like Magnus Greel in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, to revive himself by draining the life force of innocent victims. Such vampiric activities appal the Master’s unwilling assistant, one Abraham Stoker, but will ultimately inspire him to pen his most famous work, the Gothic horror novel Dracula. Wright himself has plenty of form with vampire fiction, having co-created (with Cavan Scott) the character of Cassandra Schofield in Project: Twilight and its sequels.



Is cleaner Daphne Nollis really the best choice to enter a contest to possess the ultimate power in the universe? And is the manically helpful hologram Miss E all she seems…?

Deviating from a chronological presentation of the Master’s various forms, next comes Missy’s Magical Mystery Mission. Like Anger Management, this is a light-hearted romp, being told from the point of view of a planetary dictator’s cleaning lady. Writer Jacqueline Rayner spoofs the typically male-dominated villainous get-togethers that took place in classic series stories such as The Daleks’ Master Plan. The assembled (and ultimately ineffectual) despots featured here include the Embodyerment Rouge (a spin on the Embodiment Gris, a rival of the delegate Zephon mentioned in The Daleks’ Master Plan), while the enemy of another resembles a Christmas tree with glowing eyes (as the representative Sentreal did in Mission to the Unknown).



The Master is forced to engineer a daring and desperate heist in order to save the architect of his many disguises from certain death…

Next up is a story about a man who works behind the scenes, from a man who used to work behind the scenes! A Master of Disguise is penned by late 1980s visual effects assistant turned writer Mike Tucker and introduces us to Moses, the being who carefully crafts the Master’s masks. The narrative briefly flashes back to Delgado’s incarnation of the villain, but the main Master in this tale is the version played by Anthony Ainley, who was the performer at that time that Tucker was working on the classic show. This is not the first time that Tucker has written about this Master, and he captures the sadistic scientist well. However, he slips up when he states that the tissue compression eliminator cannot harm a robot – despite the fact that it put paid to Kamelion in Planet of Fire.



A farm worker from a backwater planet, Tala has always dreamed of meeting a stranger from the stars. When the Master arrives, the truth of her world is exposed in ways that will change her for ever…

The Night Harvest, by Beverly Sanford, starts out seeming like a story that could have been written for the Doctor. Here we find the John Simm Master, complete with TARDIS, investigating a dark secret on a human colony world, in the process exciting the interest of a young female inhabitant, Tala, who yearns to join him on his travels through time and space. However, the Master ultimately proves to have very different methods from his fellow Time Lord – such as having no qualms whatsoever about killing anyone who gets in his way.



Marooned by the Doctor on Earth for 77 years, the Master becomes the scientific advisor to the Soviet equivalent of UNIT – with a deadly agenda of his own. But his plans take a strange twist with the coming of the unearthly Comrade Cap…

If The Night Harvest suggests that the Master might at some level aspire to be more like the Doctor, Matthew Sweet’s The Master and Margarita comes right out and says it. We find the renegade Time Lord passing his days on Earth (following the events of Spyfall) by attaching himself to UNIT’s Russian counterpart and making the acquaintance of a Silurian. The time period is the early 1970s, when the Third Doctor is similarly exiled to our planet, and the Master discovers that he rather enjoys being treated like the hero for a change. Neither the Master nor Margarita (a parrot) is immediately apparent as this novella opens, but the writer gradually peels away the layers of deception and illusion. My only real issue with this devious Russian doll of a story is that the calm, calculating and considered main character it depicts has little in common with the utter insanity of the villain portrayed by Sacha Dhawan in Series 12.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

Kindle edition
Kindle edition