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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. William Whyte
    August 31, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    Half of me loves this, half of me thinks of it as Day of the Daleks without the space trikes. Did the Daleks bring the space trikes?


  2. WGPJosh
    August 31, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  3. WGPJosh
    August 31, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

    Great article as always, though I have to disagree with your claim that losing "The Final Game" was a blessing. Perhaps it would have turned out to be a train wreck as you predicted, and I agree the signs are there given the spotty track record of Sloman and Letts. However, part of me wishes some variant of that story had made it to screen because I think showing The Master and The Doctor as two aspects of the same personality would have been an intriguing way of looking at the core of the show and the character.

    The whole idea that The Doctor and The Master need to come together could have been a nice cap to the Pertwee era, which we've seen clearly shows The Doctor in an unnatural state at times both implicitly and explicitly. What better way to conclude your story about The Doctor needing to learn a lesson on Earth to refine his philosophy and "become more complete" than to show that, at this stage he is in fact literally incomplete as a person? That he needs those parts of The Master: The scheming, the manipulations, the antiauthoritarian zeal and the occasional gleeful indulgence in chaos are important aspects of who this character is, although he must learn how to synchronize and blend them better with the rest of his personality and hone them into more constructive and more complex ways. This could even be phrased in a slightly Neo-Whitakerian fashion: The Doctor lacks true elemental balance which he needs to be truly enlightened, or he had it and one point and lost it for whatever reason (much has already been made comparing Pertwee and Troughton, for example). If the lesson here is that The Doctor needs a more nuanced and cosmopolitan view of the universe than just running away or shooting monsters, the fact that he has yet to attain balance and true enlightenment could be straight-up literalized through the character of The Master and the necessity for the two to be united (or perhaps reunited: Maybe they were split at one point in the relative recent past).

    In my opinion anyway this would have (or at least could have, a very important distinction to make) tied very neatly into the reoccurring themes you've pointed out throughout the Pertwee era and would provide a really interesting transition to the Tom Baker one. That just seems to me a far better and far more appropriate use of the character than what we get later. At the very least it would have spared us the bland moustache-twirling of Anthony Ainlay and the horrifying, cringe-worthy antics of Eric Roberts if nothing else.

    I grant my alternate history of Doctor Who requires a whole lot of what-ifs, most importantly Roger Delgado not tragically dying in a car crash, but also the script probably being extensively rewritten and passed to someone more capable then Sloman and Letts (maybe Robert Holmes, though I don’t know). Nevertheless I still think there was some merit in the core concept of “The Final Game” and would at least like to see someone take a stab at it today as a fanfiction or Unbound story or something.

    EDIT: Double-post plus typos. Re-uploaded comment here. Apologies. Also, I'm the same person as "forestofillusions", though for some reason I can't post with my WordPress account here anymore so I'm using this profile. Sorry again about the confusion.


  4. Spacewarp
    September 1, 2011 @ 4:34 am

    Funny that we're now supposedly hip-deep in the "Glam era", and yet Jo is still wearing knee-high boots and mini-skirts, while the Master mostly sports a Nehru jacket. I've always maintained that Glam was not anywhere near as influential as people think, and the Sixties really carried on way into the 70s until suddenly slaughtered by Punk in 1976.


    • Elton Townend-Jones
      September 14, 2021 @ 9:30 am

      Yes. Though, I like to think Glam spawns punk and its imminent variations…


  5. inkdestroyedmybrush
    September 1, 2011 @ 10:07 am

    Except that i think looking at the Master and the Doctor as simply the ying/yang halves is, for TV at that time, somewhat enlightened, but ultimately utterly boring and just too easy an out. I would prefer to have a flawed character whose longer arc would eventually dovetail rather nicely into the more alien fourth Doctor.

    Pertwee's Three is truly still tied in the an authoritarian class structure, and to often taking the easy "listen to me, I'm right" way out. Granting him the freedom of the Tardis and the guilt over taking the crystal from metebelis 3 was an intersting way of shoehorning the Buddist ideas that had been slipped in along the way by individual authors. And it certainly was different than the Tory approach of the mid-Pertwee years.


  6. WGPJosh
    September 1, 2011 @ 11:29 am


    Everything you mentioned is very true and I actually wasn't thinking in terms of Yin/Yang balance. I'm not entirely sure which framework exactly I'd approach "The Final Game" from but I think the closest descriptor that comes to kind is the concept of Chakral or Satori elemental balance, where energy systems and power vortices work dynamically and the goal is to equalize and balance all of them so no one aspect overwhelms the others.

    The problem of both the Third Doctor and The Master is that they can be seen as fundamentally unbalanced characters, just in different ways. They can be read as having one or two predominant elements that overwhelm all the others and thus, incapable of achieving balance and enlightenment in their current state. If you take them both as representations of different elements or forces run amuck, then their symbolic fusion could be seen as a metaphor for the various elements coming together to work in harmony instead of discord, and thus ascension to enlightenment.

    Now I grant this conception somewhat weakens them both as complete characters (one possible major argument I see is why can't the two attain balance as individuals and I concede that) but I was phrasing this in terms of classical philosophical fiction where the characters are used more as symbols. I haven't thought it through enough to give a truly refined and elegant version of "The Final Game", but my main point is simply that the core concept was not unworkable from the start and probably could have been made to work with some adjustments and TLC.

    Additionally, I certainly have no problem with the Buddhist undertones of Season 10 and "Planet of the Spiders" and actually think those points you raised could have been made to work with a "Final Game" type story as well. Like I said though, it probably demands some more thought.


  7. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 1, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

    I can certainly see how a story like "The Final Game" could have worked, especially within the Pertwee era, but I can't imagine that a Sloman script could possibly have looked much of anything like what I can see working.

    Now if it were Christopher Bailey writing it…


    • Elton Townend-Jones
      September 14, 2021 @ 9:40 am

      I gave a letter from Roger Delgado who certainly knew of the “idea” of his final story and he suggests that the Master was going to be finally destroyed for good in some kind of atomic explosion.

      I often wonder if he wasn’t supposed to be in The Green Death: BOSS/Master, hypnotism/mind control and so on. I have no idea of when these scripts were completed in relation to Delgado’s death, but maybe he was supposed to fulfill the BOSS/Stevens function and die in THAT explosion.


  8. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 1, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

    Spacewarp – Jo and the Master may have not been dressed very glam for this story, but on the other hand, look at that photo of the Draconians with the massive emerald chest pieces.


  9. WGPJosh
    September 1, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

    @Phil (may I call you Phil?)

    I agree: Sloman and Letts were the wrong people for the job. The core concept was a solid one, perhaps even a very good one, but it was in the hands of the wrong team. Had the opportunity arisen itself, it would most likely have needed to be heavily rewritten by someone else and handled with the utmost of care to avoid being a total embarrassment. In the most likely (i.e. non-wishful thinking) alternate scenario I have a feeling we'd be let down pretty hard.

    I just get hung up on this one a bit because I find the core concept to be one with a lot of potential and I find the ramifications for the series had it gone through (or at least gone through WELL) to be really intriguing. As a writer who dabbles in experimental fiction myself, I occasionally have this compulsion to tweak and edit abandoned or failed story ideas that stick with me. "The Final Game" is one of those Doctor Who stories I keep mentally playing with to find a way to heavily rewrite and make work because for some reason they keep nagging at me (others, incidentally, include "Tomb of the Cybermen" and "Erinella" and I'm very curious to see if you'll touch on that one when the time comes).


    • Elton Townend-Jones
      September 14, 2021 @ 9:44 am

      Whatever we think of them as writers, the ONLY hands on the tiller for anything resembling The Final Game would have been those of Letts, Sloman and Dicks.


  10. Seeing_I
    September 7, 2011 @ 6:31 am

    I always thought that RTD stripped the Buddhist parables from "The Final Game" and made it the engine of his Master stories in Seasons 3 & 4B. To good effect, I thought (floaty Dobby Doctor aside).


  11. goatie
    July 22, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

    The way I'm reading this potential Doctor/Master singularity is that upon final defeat, the Master regenerates into William Hartnell. What a total mindfuck that would be.

    After all, the Doctors are not numbered on screen until The Five Doctors, and the original intention of the multiple faces in Brains of Morbius was to show that Hartnell was not the first. And as you progress through your academic career, you become a Master before becoming a Doctor.

    It would explain why the Doctor can always outwit the Master – he's already lived it, and the Master hasn't. It also calls in some problems, like how the Doctor can let the Master kill so many people. But that's probably down to the law of time, and he should let things play out as he remembers them, lest he nullify his own existence.

    This is a fan theory that can only exist during this era, and is completely impossible by 1983. But what a ride, eh?


    • Elton Townend-Jones
      September 14, 2021 @ 9:53 am

      Right now I’d bet my ass that this Timeless Child crap we’re currently being forced to endure will end with a regenerating Master being sent into that gateway thing to emerge as the girl Tecteun finds and grooms/raises to be the Doctor. How about that for a singularity? In a paradox.

      Failing that, Jodie will be sent through and the Doctor will become/ be prove to have been some orobouric eternity version of himself; forever-looped,without beginning or end…

      I approve of neither.


      • Hickory McCay
        January 21, 2024 @ 4:28 pm

        This may seem a little late, but I actually have thought the Master as the Timeless Child would work a lot better because it would be less of a cliched Cambellian chosen one plot, the Master has powers no other Time Lords do and there’s no useful concept like “the dark side can lead to powers some may find unnatural”, to quote one of the more mediocre Star Wars installments, and the Master finding out he created Gallifreyan society and they were trying to hide that from him would give him an excellent reason to bomb the shit out of the Time Lords.


  12. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 12, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

    I first ran across this theory of The Master in an issue of Doctor Who Magazine, around 15 or so years ago. If memory serves, they did a lengthy article trying to figure out The Master, and WHY he did all he did, because onscreen, most of it makes no sense.

    And then they had an interview with Barry Letts, who spelled it out. I was stunned. It had never crossed my mind. Strangely enough, I never ran across another reference to it for at least the next 10-15 years. It was as though, despite the publication of the interview, nobody knew about it.

    Letts has often been referred to as a fan of STAR TREK. Go way back to the early part of the 1st season– "THE ENEMY WITHIN". Due to a transporter accident, Captain Kirk is split into 2 people– one "good", one "evil". Except… they're not. They're both him, they're bnoth incomplete, and neither can really survive without the other. In the end, they find a way to reunite them, and he's a whole person again.

    With Letts doing the occasional ST tribute in some stories, this seems a natural basis for what he had in mind. The question it brings up for me is, WHEN would such an accident have occured, and how long had The Doctor been an incomplete person? Has The Doctor we'd known up to this point ALWAYS been incomplete??? He did say "You could say we were at school together…" Did he mean this figurative– or literally? If the latter, it must have happened a LONG time before we ever met Hartnell!

    I believe at least SOME of what was intended for "THE FINAL GAME" did find its way into "PLANET OF THE SPIDERS". I mean– look at it!! You've got K'ampo, and Cho-je, who, it turns out, are the same person. (Not quite the same thing, but similar.) But more– you've got "Lupton". I'd seen "SPIDERS" several times before reading that interview, but the next time I watched it after reading it, it suddenly hit me. "Lupton" was supposed to be The Master. HE's slotted into the spot in the story The Master would have had. Once again, he's hiding out in secret with some group he's manipulating for his own purposes, he allies himself with the spiders for his own purposes. But more– listen when he talks about his past. So much of what he said, with only the most minor modifications, COULD have been describing The Master when he lived on Gallifrey!

    And then you have the end of the story. After it's all over, and The Doctor is about to regenerate, Cho-je appears, to help give him a push. And what does he say? "Look after him. He may be a bit erratic." And who do they get to replace Jon Pertwee? An actor who, up to then, had mostly played VILLAINS.

    I wish Delgado had done the story, in wehatever form it took. Imagine, if he'd lived, when WHO conventions got popular, he probably would have been one of the most popular guests anywhere he'd have appeared. I'm sure I'd have preferred meeting him to meeting Pertwee!


  13. Henry R. Kujawa
    September 24, 2014 @ 6:58 am

    Reading these comments again, WGPJosh, I'm in total agreement with yours.

    Obviously, Robert Holmes would have been the guy to do the finale justice. He did the 1st Master story after all.

    The idea that The Master was The Doctor all along would not only explain what he was up to– note, all his schemes never seem to be about conquest or destruction, but in proving a point to The Doctor– it would also explain why this Doctor is SO different frmo all the others (I'm totally discounting Peter Davison on the grounds of terrible writing). It even explains The Doctor being too lenient with the guy. He must have known what was going on. Try watching all their stories together with this thought in mind, and they all take on a different and far more intriguing level.

    Perhaps a final piece of the puzzle was supplied by my friend in Wales, who suggested the split might have happened when Troughton was forcibly regenerated into Pertwee by the Time Lords– indicating the split was DELIBERATE. The Time Lords CREATED The Master! When you think about that, it does not reflect well on them, does it? But, it does tie in directly with a later Robert Holmes script, "The Ultimate Foe", when he had Colin Baker say, "TEN MILLION YEARS, that's what it takes to become REALLY CORRUPT!"

    It even ties in directly with the first 2 Master stories. The Time Lords warn The Doctor that The Master is on Earth in "Terror of the Autons". But, in "The Mind Of Evil", we learn he's been working on that scheme for an entire year. That means he arrived on Earth THE SAME TIME that Pertwee did– and The Time Lords never bothered to tell The Doctor this. They must have known.

    I wish I could see Roger Delgado in "THE THREE MUSKETEERS". Finding out he was in that sure "explained" that sword fight in "The Sea Devils". My friend in Wales has often said, Delgado would have made a better Doctor than Pertwee did. He even suggested that when Pertwee left the show, he might have regenerated INTO Delgado– instead of Tom Baker.


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