Earlier this month Wales Online published a rather revealing piece which discussed the fact that a certain Eastenders actor was sporting some facial hair. Harmless enough? But sometimes a beard is more than a beard. For the uninitiated an extra whisker or two is merely a male prerogative or fashion statement. Yet for the Whovian idly twiddling his sonic screwdriver as he gazes forlornly into a blank Who-less TV screen, a beard is so much more. It is nothing less than a spoiler. We begin to wonder if a certain villain, the Doctor’s arch enemy – and no, not the one with the sink plunger – is about to make a masterly return (See what I did there?) And rather more to the point, we worry if this Time Lord renegade will be bearded or not.
Roger Delgado played the first Master in 1971’s “Terror of the Autons”. Like Sean Connery’s James Bond and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes he was considered by many to be the original and the best. For several Whovians he is the one and only Master. Charming and incorrigibly evil, Delgado undeniably set the bar high. As for the physiognomy, well it’s rougher than it is smooth. The first Master is well and truly bearded, so Blue Peter style, let’s switch on the Beardometer and light up the first beard!
In 1976’s “The Deadly Assassin” and 1981’s “The Keeper of Traken” Peter Pratt and Geoffrey Beever’s decrepit Master was in pretty poor shape and in need of a regeneration or two. In the fight for survival growing a beard was maybe not top priority. Scores on the Tardis doors? Bearded 1 – Unbearded 1.
In the Eighties Anthony Ainley was the Master for a new generation of Whovians. Producer JNT was a crowd pleaser and reassuringly modelled this new incarnation in the style of Delgado. The beard was back and stayed with us to the end of the classic series. 2-1 to the beards.
In 1996 the continuity-heavy TV movie inevitably featured the Doctor’s arch nemesis. But sans barbe. This American version was far more interested in strangling spouses and vomiting venom than growing a beard. But when he was sucked into the Eye of Harmony hopefully he was carrying a razor beneath his flowing Time Lord robes. Otherwise an eternity spent in the Tardis engines would have led to considerable beard growth! We digress. 2-2!
The Master returned to Nu-Who with Derek Jacobi in 2007’s “Utopia” It was perhaps a wise choice that he had no beard, as that might have spoilt the surprise of his return. The shaven now lead with 3-2. John Simm’s unique and fruitcake version of the Master make it four in the same story. Many a classic Whovian had prayed for a beard, but were to have their hopes dashed. The “Sound of Drums” must have drowned out the hum of an electric shaver. Incidentally the Great Moff wrote a most amusing double-entendre around the non-existence of the Master’s beard in “Time Crash”, but more importantly what is the score? A resounding 4-2 to the Unbearded! The final score. We don’t count stubble from “The End of Time”!
But hang on! What if we count – blink and you miss him – Gordon Tipple before he was exterminated by the oddly-voiced Daleks at the beginning of the TV movie? And what about all those thinly disguised versions of Delgado and Ainley’s Masters with beards? The waters are well and truly muddied. But perhaps it doesn’t matter. If there is a “New New Master” he will most definitely have a beard. Unless he doesn’t. We simply do not know.
But why care? What is it about a beard that seems so “masterly”? It could be argued that a beard symbolises the Master having something to hide. It might be a sign of his vanity and self-aggrandissement. The beard perhaps gives the Master an air of mystery and superiority. However I reckon we are simply harking back to the days of Delgado and Ainley. It is nostalgia that rules our hearts. We believe a proper Master should always have a beard. Once a beard. Always a beard.
Time for an experiment! Let’s send the bearded Master to the barber’s and take a look at the unbearded ones when a little more hirsute.
Does a beard add to their “masterliness” or lack of one take away from it. The jury is out. What do you think? At the end of the day what really matters is that the Master returns. Be he clean-shaven, sporting a goatie or with a face like a Yeti! That said, I must declare a personal preference. I hope the Master points his tissue compressor at all the electric shavers and razors in his Tardis and gives Whovians like me what we want. The Master rebearded!