Missy the Anti-Villain

Doctor-Who-MissyCompanion Tropes Extra 6

“What have you got to do with it? I’m his friend. You’re just… You’re the puppy.”

It might seem odd to hear Missy describe the Doctor as her friend, after so many centuries of being his enemy. We know that they used to be friends, but how could their relationship still possibly be described as a friendship? Well, for a start the Master rarely tries to actually kill the Doctor. In fact, most of the time that’s the last thing he wants. Instead, all he wants is for the Doctor to lose at what he possibly sees as a game played across the universe. You could even put together an argument for the Master wanting the Doctor to win, such is the pattern of their adventures and the relish the Master seems to have for their encounters, despite being beaten time and time again. But Missy’s encounters with the Twelfth Doctor go much further, examining the nature of their “friendship” and eventually presenting Missy as a reformed character… perhaps.

The last time we see her, Missy has become an anti-villain, or perhaps an anti-hero. When the characterisation is good enough, a character falls halfway between the extremes of “hero” and “villain”, perhaps veering back and forth from one to the other, and it becomes impossible to definitively select one trope rather than the other. They become one in the same. But since the Master’s default role in Doctor Who is to be the villain, let’s stick with anti-villain. In fact, if we look at the terms on their most basic level, the Doctor and Missy make up a partnership of anti-hero and anti-villain: those being heroes whose personalities differ from the idealised norm, and villains whose personalities differ from the usual perception of a moustache-twirling evil-doer. An anti-hero doesn’t always do good, and an anti-villain isn’t always evil. By the 21st Century, Doctor Who has evolved enough to work almost constantly within the realms of shades of grey.

The fact that I am writing about Missy in a “companion tropes” article shows how far she travels down the anti-villain path, even so far as to function as a companion to the Doctor. The quote at the top of the article is taken from The Magician’s Apprentice, and that represents the first major step in Missy’s journey from enemy to companion. At this stage she is still a killer, but she spends most of the story fulfilling the traditional companion role, alongside Clara, while the Doctor battles Davros and the Daleks. However, true to form, she eventually betrays the Doctor and almost manages to get him unknowingly to kill Clara. And we thought Turlough was an untrustworthy companion.

By Lie of the Land, Missy is on the path to redemption, and is feeling remorse for her victims:

“I keep remembering all the people I’ve killed. Every day I think of more. Being bad, being bad drowned that out. I didn’t know I even knew their names.”

All the evidence suggest this is a genuine emotion, although she’s far from being a hero yet. She still retains some of her villain tendencies, seeing no problem in sacrificing Bill to save the world.

“Your version of good is not absolute. It’s vain, arrogant and sentimental. If you’re waiting for me to become all that, I’m going to be here for a long time yet.”

…and by Eaters of Light the Doctor is ready to face the possibility that Missy could be a reformed character:

DOCTOR: I don’t know. Maybe you’re trying to impress me.
MISSY: Yes. Probably some devious plan. That sounds about right.
DOCTOR: The alternative would be much worse.
MISSY: Really?
DOCTOR: The alternative is that this is for real, and it’s time for us to become friends again.
MISSY: Do you think so?
DOCTOR: I don’t know. That’s the trouble with hope. It’s hard to resist.

And then, of course, Missy betrays the Doctor, as we always knew she would, but it’s a transitory moment. You could call it a lapse. By the end of The Doctor Falls it’s her former self who gets betrayed, and Missy has made her choice. She’s on the side of the Doctor now:

“Oh, because he’s right. Because it’s time to stand with him. It’s where we’ve always been going, and it’s happening now, today. It’s time to stand with the Doctor.”

Unfortunately we never get to see Missy truly “stand with the Doctor”, and presumably the next time we see her or him a regeneration will have resulted in a personality shift, just like it does with the Doctor. I would be surprised if the Master’s anti-villain days aren’t behind her for now. But for one fascinating series of Doctor Who, she was the Doctor’s friend once more.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyard.blog Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Companion Tropes, Doctor Who, Entertainment, Science Fiction, Television and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Missy the Anti-Villain

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Michelle Gomez’s Missy as the first female Master was clearly the mellowing that Jodie has in her own way proven to be for the Doctor. Both the Doctor and the Master, even for a species that can outshine the conditioned sense of gender, have been male for so long. In that sense we might all see that they both simply needed a profound change to finally heal their pain from many centuries of conflict with each other and themselves. The Doctor as a female has mellowed so nicely to the point where even if she’s forceful against an enemy, she’s in some ways more serene without that God complex that was becoming stagnating for male Doctors. So in all fairness, it must also work for a female Master.

    This is just my opinion as I’ve shared on the Junkyard before. But seeing the Master become the Doctor’s friend again has been imaginable long enough for it to finally come true, which would be demanding of the most profound game-changer for Dr. Who at this juncture. If making them both female felt realistic enough for that reason, then the Master’s or Missy’s return, hopefully for S12, should be more impacting than ever.

    Thank you, Michelle 💖, for Missy and thank you, RP.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. DrAcrossthePond says:

    A brilliant write up! And sadly, I think you’re right. I’d love to see you be wrong, but when the Master next appears, I suspect they will be enemies again. ML

    Liked by 2 people

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