Doctor Who fans are obsessed with continuity, with where everything is supposed to fit and when. Ahead of this weekend's season finale, fans have been wondering where the latest Master (played delectably by Sacha Dhawan) fits in the timeline.
The last time we saw the Master was in the final episode of Series 10, where the Saxon Master, played by John Simm, fatally shot Missy (Michelle Gomez) after she fatally stabbed him. He stated that she wouldn't be able to regenerate and this would be her – his – final death. Many people assumed that the Saxon Master would escape and regenerate into Missy, but that was never absolutely clear.
Then-showrunner Steven Moffat is the cleverest screenwriter in the world. He's the envy of screenwriters and writing students everywhere for being very clever, sometimes too clever. He's also a responsible producer who knows not to break the toys. He knows he's obligated to put them back in the box for his successor to use should Chris Chibnall choose to. Moffat has said that he's content to let fans fill in the holes anyway they see fit.
Fans keep asking how Missy could have regenerated into Dhawan's Master. That's been the assumption. They wonder how she could have overcome a fatal wound designed to block regeneration. What if she didn't? Perhaps she's truly dead once and for all?
What If Series 12 Master Came Before Missy?
Let's go with the theory that Dhawan's Master is a previous regeneration, before Missy came along.
Think about it. Missy's story completes the Master's arc. She has finally decided to do good and stand with the Doctor in his last stand against the Cybermen. The Doctor won and didn't even know. Missy died trying to reach him to do the right thing. It's all deliciously tragic and ironic.
Dhawan's Master actually feels like an earlier regeneration who could have come after the Saxon Master. He possesses the same childish glee and malice and emotional wounds that the Saxon Master fostered. He might not even be the first regeneration after the Saxon Master. We don't know how many regenerations the Master had before arriving at Dhewan' Master or Missy. There's nothing to indicate he came after Missy, but his personality traits feel like an earlier version before evolving into Missy's more mercurial whimsy.
There's no ironclad rule that Timelords only encounter each other in linear time. After all, the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) encountered the "hidden" Ruth Clayton Doctor (Jo Martin) and doesn't know if the latter is a past or future regeneration.
Here's hoping this weekend's finale might throw a light on all of this…