OK, first things first: I am writing this in Indonesia, and I have not seen either part of the season ending two-parter of Doctor Who – neither Dark Waters nor Death in Heaven. So I’m aware that probably the question I’m pondering has already been answered, or is on the verge of being so. But for me, it’ll probably be another week at least before I can check it out. But until then, for me, it hasn’t happened yet. Quantum uncertainty and all that.
So, Missy…the mysterious woman that we’ve seen in roughly half of the episodes of Season Eight of Doctor Who, played by Michelle Gomez. Who is she? What’s her story? What secrets does she hold?
What do we know for sure? Well, she’s almost certainly the woman who was responsible for Jenna Coleman’s Clara getting in touch with the Doctor back in The Bells of St. John a year and a bit ago. She seems to be watching the Doctor’s journeys on her iPad, alternating between being surprised at what she’s seeing and being satisfied that she knew it all along (kind of like a lot of the show’s fans). Most mysteriously, she seems to be collecting people who die over the course of the series, and bringing them into some sort of afterlife. So far, we’ve seen her (or her operation, which gives the impression of being large) collect the half-faced man from Deep Breath (who we actually saw dead beforehand), a soldier from Into the Dalek, and a police officer from The Caretaker, and bring them to a place that we’ve heard described as “The Promised Land”, “Heaven”, “Paradise” or “The Nethersphere.”
Also, she seems sort of crazy, refers to the Doctor as her boyfriend, and acts as if she has some manner of control over what happens to him.
But who is she? And…is she someone that we’ve seen before?
Now, I have to admit that as excited as I’d be to see some old foe returned to the show, my personal favorite option is that Missy is a brand-new threat that we’ve never seen before. If that’s the case, some part of me will be a bit disappointed, but if it’s well done, that will ultimately be the most satisfying answer. I’ve wanted a new recurring threat on the show for years.
But, if we look at possible returning baddies, the one I’ve heard mentioned the most is that she’s none other than the Master. There were rumors that the Master was returning this year, and though he’s always been played by a man (about eight men so far, if I count correctly), they’ve been throwing out plenty of hints for a while that Time Lords can change genders when they regenerate that that wouldn’t be hard to get around. The Master was also always known for his elaborate and ridiculous plans, and the primary “Master” of the revived Doctor Who also pranced around like a lunatic, like we’ve seen Missy do a little.
And then there’s the matter of the name: Missy could be short for Mistress, which of course is a feminine version of Master.
Personally, I don’t like this idea. I think it’s a little bit boring. The Master was an interesting concept in his day, but to me that day was back in the 1970’s. In the 80’s he was mostly a caricature of his earlier self, and in the 90’s, he was a bit of a lazy villain to throw into the story. But worst of all has been the revived series Master, who is dangerous but encapsulates all the silliest things of the Russell T. Davies era of the show (aside from that one great episode where he was played by Derek Jacobi).
So as memorable a move as it would be the make Missy the Master, I’m really hoping they don’t go there.
But if not the Master, than who?
Well, here’s a quick observation. So far in the revived series of Doctor Who, the production team has managed to re-introduce a villain or a monster from the classic series each season. In Season One, there were the Daleks and the Autons. Season Two – the Cybermen, and the Macra. Season Three brought us the Master. In Season Four, we had the Sontarans and Davros. In Season Five, we were re-introduced to the Silurians. In Season Six, we almost didn’t have anything, but the Cybermen’s cute pets, the Cybermats, turned up in Closing Time. And in Season Seven we had the Great Intelligence and the Ice Warriors. Even in the 50th Anniversary special, they brought back the Zygons.
But in so far in Season Eight, there hasn’t been anyone – no returning monsters or villains from the classic series. Sure, they did bring back the Clockwork Soldiers (or their cousins) from The Girl in the Fireplace, but that’s not from the classic series.
So I was pondering – could Missy be a character from the original series, but who unlike the Master we have not seen before?
If so, there are a few possibilities.
First, and most obviously, there is the Rani. Who? The Rani was another renegade Time Lord (like the Doctor, and the Master, and Drax, and Omega, and Morbius, and etc.) who was also a cold-hearted scientist. She wasn’t out to rule the universe like the Master was, but just to get on with her cruel and unethical experiments. She showed up twice in the original series and then again in a lamentably bad 30th anniversary special mini-story during the show’s “dark period”, a few years after it had been cancelled. There’s been a lot of speculation for a long time about the Rani’s potential return. She was a major contender for some for the true identity of River Song, and especially for the hand that picks up the Master’s ring at the end of The Last of the Time Lords (both guesses were wrong). And at least one of the Rani’s appearances involved her collecting people out of time, so that’s a bit like what Missy seems to be doing.
I really hope it’s not the Rani. That would be far more boring than the Master. Really, Doctor Who traded far too much on the whole “renegade Time Lord” thing for villains. And the Rani, as a character, really doesn’t have much by which to distinguish herself as a character. If you’re going to use the Rani, you might as well just make up somebody new, frankly.
Another possibility would be Omega. Omega debuted in the show’s 10th anniversary story and was described as the founder of Time Lord science who had accidentally wound up in the anti-matter universe where he had absolute control over everything. He appeared twice in the series and died twice, but that’s never stopped any of these bad guys before. Maybe the Nethersphere is really the anti-matter universe? Omega was never a woman before, and he’s unlikely to regenerate as he was eventually reduced to being a creature of pure thought – but I’m sure a being as powerful as him could get past a little obstacle like that. He was last seen looking to take over the Doctor’s body to keep himself alive, so maybe he got ahold of some poor woman and turned into Missy (see a few paragraphs down for a thought on who). And Omega was always a little bit crazy.
The final one I want to mention is The Black Guardian. The Black Guardian appeared in four classic adventures (three of which were a linked trilogy) and seemed to be an immensely powerful near-omnipotent villain who out to reduce the universe to chaos. One thing he did was manipulate events so that an agent of his would join the Tardis crew as one of the Doctor’s companions, and try to kill the Doctor through this poor dupe (Turlough, played by Mark Strickson back in the 1980’s). Perhaps this is similar to what Missy is attempting to do through Clara? The previews for Dark Waters seem to show Clara acting as antagonist to the Doctor.
The Black Guardian was always counterbalanced by a White Guardian, who seemed to be all about order. So if Missy is the Black Guardian, then where is the White Guardian? Maybe it’s that guy Ceb, who at first glance appeared to be Missy’s employee. But maybe he’s actually Missy’s other half, and the dark stare that she gives him reflects their differing approaches to dealing with the influx of dead people into the Nethersphere.
I suppose that of all the options for a new returning classic threat, this one is my favorite.
But whoever she turns out to be, whether it be one of these mentioned ideas or not, I wonder if the body of Missy may turn out to be an older Clara Oswald, possessed by some villain in her future – and that’s what she really meant when she said she chose Clara.
But after all is said and done, I think my absolute favorite option for Missy’s identity (aside from a completely new menace, as already mentioned) is this one, which I’ve just thought of as I was writing this:
She’s the Zygon who impersonated Queen Elizabeth in The Day of the Doctor. She survived her encounter with the real Queen Elizabeth in that story, eventually changed her appearance and went crazy, and somehow became hugely powerful (obviously there’s a lot that I haven’t really worked through in this scenario yet). The people she’s bringing to “Heaven” aren’t really the people who died at all – they are actually stunted Zygons who need to take on someone else’ personality and identity in order to regain their full strength and to live again. Somehow, Missy is able to swipe the identities of the various people who die in the vicinity of the Doctor and is using them to bring her new Zygon army to life.
And this explains why Missy refers to the Doctor as her boyfriend, as she impersonated Queen Elizabeth before she married the Doctor, but after they were engaged.
Actually, I think that’s the whole reason I came up with this idea in the first place. Who else that we’ve seen before would consider the Doctor to be her boyfriend? Not River Song – she’d think of him as her husband. And not really the Master, the Rani, Omega or the Black Guardian.
But the Zygon who impersonated Queen Elizabeth? Trapped with a distorted version of her human memories and personality? Sure – that fits, perfectly. In a way that, really, nobody else would
Unless of course…she’s actually Rose Tyler.
Now, wouldn’t that be something!