Warning: There’s a spoiler in here for those who haven’t been downloading Doctor Who lately, or who haven’t been following third season casting announcements. I expect most of my readership either knows what’s going on or doesn’t care.
A couple times in the new series, the Doctor’s dropped hints about his family. No detail, just off-hand comments. Like in Smith and Jones, he mentioned something about having a brother.
Odd that the Master shows up at the end of this season then.
It’s always been a bit vague as to the Master’s precise relationship to the Doctor. Like most aspects of the Doctor’s past, it’s largely left undefined. That’s kinda what Doctor Who is about. Hence the title.
All we really from the original series is that the Doctor and the Master went to the Time Lord Academy together. It’s hinted that they have some amount of shared history, but it’s left intentionally vague. Mostly, though, the writers of the original series were content with leaving the Master as simply a really mean Time Lord bent on (a) survival at all costs and (b) universal domination. Oh, and vengeance against the Doctor, probably for his interference with (a) and (b). He was basically just a pulp-style arch-nemesis for the Doctor. Ming the Merciless to his Flash Gordon. Something like that.
I don’t get the impression that Russel T Davies will let it go at that, though. He’s all about character. He’s going to try to define the relationship between the two Time Lords, at least for himself, because he has to know what having the Master back means to the Doctor on an emotional level.
I have a theory about what he might define that relationship to be. I’m not sure he will do it, or even that he should, but I want to put it out there just so if it turns out to be right, I can gloat and say I called it.
It may very well turn out that the Doctor and the Master are brothers.
It’s not a particularly new idea. Back in the 90s, there was a series revival attempt that’s referred to as Fathers and Brothers. It was utterly apocryphal and talked about how the Doctor and the Master had to go out and find their lost dad Rassilon (otherwise known as the founder of the Time Lord race) or some nonsense and it sounded pretty horrible. (There’s a book about Doctor Who revival attempts that I should really get some time…).
What’s fueled most of the fan speculation, I think, is a hard-to-make-out line in the 5th Doctor episode Planet of Fire. The Master says to the Doctor, “Would you show no mercy to your own–? Argh!” and then dies in a fire. The Discontinuity Guide writes this off as referring to their shared heritage or biology as Time Lords. The novelization of the episode omits the line entirely. But the question was always out there: your own what?
So RTD has been easing us up to the idea of the Doctor having family and needs an emotional kick for the Doctor and a convincing reason for the Master’s crazy vendetta. Wouldn’t it make sense for him to reveal, at the climax of the season, that they’re more than just old school chums? Maybe even brothers? Hm…