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Doctor Who: Missy's Timeline, Explained

Missy’s timeline played an integral part in Doctor Who as it showed that she was at the center of many mysteries. The Master has always been the Doctor’s greatest enemy, but the Missy incarnation stood out as she pushed the Doctor to their limits and acted as their perfect foil. As a fellow time-traveler, her encounters with the Doctor didn’t always take place in a linear order, so it can be somewhat difficult to track the character’s timeline across her several appearances in the show. But following the character’s supposed death in “The Doctor Falls,” the exact timeframe of her incarnation became clearer.

Previous incarnations of the Master have been played by actors, such as John Simm and Derek Jacobi, and while they both perfectly encapsulated the character’s intelligence and instability, nobody brought the character’s debilitating moral struggles to life quite as Michelle Gomez did with Missy. She was always fascinating to watch, and her complex timeline ensured that the audience was never quite sure whose side she was on, filling her appearances with suspicion and uncertainty. Despite their ideological differences, the Twelfth Doctor saw something special in Missy, and it was in these regenerations that the pair came closest to true friendship.

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When Missy was introduced in Doctor Who season 8, it had been five years since everyone last seen the iconic villain on-screen. Their previous incarnation had disappeared after the 2010 Special “The End of Time”, where they sacrificed themselves to prevent the Time Lords returning and destroying Earth. The Master is the Doctor’s oldest friend, and despite their complicated history, this sacrifice proved that he still cares for him. It was long assumed that this rebellion marked the end for this incarnation of the Master, but he actually survived and would later meet his demise at the hands of his future self in “The Doctor Falls” (season 10, episode 12).

The final scene of “The Doctor Falls” sees a future version of the Master (now Missy) betray her previous incarnation by stabbing him and forcing him into regeneration. The transformation isn’t actually shown on-screen, but it’s was confirmed that Simm’s Master regenerated directly into Missy (the same incarnation that would go on to betray her previous incarnation in an endless cycle). This marks the beginning of Missy’s timeline on Doctor Who, where she would quickly become the best incarnation of the Master that the show has ever seen. Her life started because of her own betrayal, and she carried much of this bitterness into her rivalry with the Doctor.

After waking up in her new body, Missy quickly set her mind on reclaiming the Doctor as her ally. Their conflicting beliefs had always pitted them against each other, but Missy believed that her old friend would finally see the light if she was able to successfully manipulate him into seeing the world in the same way as her. Her plan required the Doctor to have a vulnerable companion, so she scouted out Clara Oswald. She did this by adopting the identity of a tech support assistant and offering Clara the direct line to the TARDIS in an attempt to bring the pair together.

Doctor Who has included several versions of Clara, but the character’s journey effectively began when Missy introduced her to the Doctor in “The Bells of Saint John” (season 7, episode 6). Their relationship only grew from there, with Clara quickly becoming one of the Doctor’s closest friends and most beloved companions. He developed a duty of care for Clara, which forced him to bend his own rules and make immoral decisions to protect her whenever she fell into harm. It was this exact vulnerability that Missy had intended to create within the Doctor, proving that she’d executed her plan perfectly.

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After Missy made the Doctor emotionally vulnerable, she made her next move – creating an entire army of Cybermen warriors. One of Doctor Who’s smartest and most villainous plans, Missy came close to victory as she offered him control of her Cybermen army, hoping her emotional manipulation would convince the Time Lord to realize that the pair aren’t that different after all (season 8, episode 12, “Death in Heaven”). When it became clear that he wouldn’t accept her offer, Missy tried to reconnect with him again by lying to him about the location of Gallifrey.

This was a hugely important moment in Missy’s journey, as it proved that all she’s ever wanted is a friend to share the universe with. Although her methods were undeniably evil, her motivations were ultimately driven by loneliness and her desire for friendship. This marked the beginning of Missy’s complex development over the next few seasons, as she slowly began to realize that she doesn’t need to burn the world if she has somebody to share it with. The Doctor and the Master aren’t completely different – but Missy believes she’s gone too far to turn back now.

After the Doctor refused to take control of Missy’s army, she fled from the scene and continued to wreak havoc across the universe. She was eventually captured by an unknown species and placed on trial for her crimes, where she was found guilty and sentenced to death (season 10, episode 6, “Extremis”). The Doctor was selected to carry out the execution, but after sabotaging the machine and transporting Missy to a secure vault on Earth, he swore to protect her and reform her. Missy spent much of her time in the vault thinking about the crimes that she’d committed throughout her lifetime, questioning her actions and beginning to display remorse.

Throughout the several years that she was trapped in the vault, Missy became much more emotional and mature than she’d ever been before. It seemed like she was finally becoming the ‘best’ incarnation of the Master – which the Doctor had always wanted her to be. He began releasing her from the vault for short periods of time, taking her on trips across the universe and allowing her to accompany him on his adventures. They grew closer than they’d ever been before, and Missy finally seemed to be using her power and intelligence for good rather than evil.

RELATED: Why The Master Hated The Timeless Child Even More Than The Doctor

After finally learning to trust Missy, the Doctor brought her along to a Mondasian colony ship for a brief adventure. However, the excursion soon got out of hand when Missy encountered her previous incarnation living aboard the ship (season 10, episode 11, “World Enough and Time”). He’d been hidden there for several years, secretly building an army of Mondasian Cybermen (much like Missy’s plan in “Death in Heaven”). The Master had outsmarted the Doctor once again by transforming his companion, Bill, into a Cyberman, but the situation became dangerous when he lost control of the deadly army and found himself in their sights.

Unable to put aside their differences for the sake of the greater good, the Master turned his back on his old friend and fled the scene. The Doctor begged Missy to stay with him, but despite her compassion, she found herself unable to fight the good fight. She fled with the Master but soon realized that her actions were wrong, stabbing him in the back (season 10, episode 12, “The Doctor Falls”). In retaliation, he shot her dead with his laser screwdriver. Although she’d come incredibly close to proving herself and atoning for her crimes, Missy died as the Master escaped (moments away from regenerating into Missy himself).

The origins of Sacha Dhawan’s Master is still a mystery and that’s because it’s never actually been explained in the show. Although Missy seemingly died on the Mondasion colony ship, this latest incarnation of the Master is undoubtedly from a later point in her timeline. Thankfully, a tie-in audio story titled, “The Lumiat,” explained that moments before her death, Missy tapped into an Elysian Field (a forbidden Time Lord technology) to grant herself a new regeneration cycle that would be entirely “good”. From the ashes rose the Lumiat, a new incarnation of the Master who dedicated her life to reversing the evil acts of her previous incarnations.

The Lumiat was eventually killed by Missy when she traveled back in time to spread some goodness across her timestream. This next incarnation was Dhawan’s Master, who found himself completely filled with hatred towards the entire universe. He planned to erase The Doctor from existence, ultimately proving that Missy’s reformation was completely undone. The Master had reverted to the bitter loathing that had always characterized the iconic Doctor Who villain. Although Missy’s strive for goodness ultimately didn’t lead to anything meaningful, she proved that the only thing keeping the Master evil is their own loneliness and isolation from the universe.

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