Word Count: 1,472
Author's Summary: In which the Master suffers a setback. Set before the events of "The Deadly Assassin".
Characters/Pairings: The Master
Warnings: Some somewhat grotesque imagery related to what happened to the Master in the gap between Frontier in Space and The Deadly Assassin
Recced because: We looked at a story yesterday that dealt with the Daleks, so it seems appropriate today to move on to a fic that considers his other great enemy, the other one that really gets under his Timelordly skin...
I think it's one of the big shock twists in Doctor Who history, yet another reason why The Deadly Assassin is the timeless classic it is; and not only does the Master make an unexpected reappearance, but...it's not the Master we remember from last time. Not at all. Of course, the offscreen nature of the changes the character undergoes, and even the fact that the Master is still around at all after the end of the Three era, is largely down to the circumstances of Roger Delgado's untimely and tragic death, which also meant that the planned "final confrontation" between Master and Doctor was never made. It's still extremely effective, and really set the stage for the career the Master had afterwards, where no matter how unlikely it might have seemed at the end of his last story, the Master always survives and returns for another round with his best enemy (any day now in the new series, I tell you - any day now). One of the great questions in Who fandom, though, remains - just what did happen to him between stories, to change him from the droll and debonair evil mastermind he had been into...that thing?
One attempt to answer that question came in author John Peel's novel Legacy of the Daleks, part of the EDA range. Legacy, and its companion piece War of the Daleks are, strictly imho mind you, something of a waste of space and time, what with their weak attempts at retconning great swathes of onscreen Dalek continuity for the sake of making some not particularly good fanw*nky points. Still, that shouldn't discourage you from giving your love to this fic, which takes the scenario presented in the novel as its starting point and examines the Master's horrific but ultimately self-inflicted predicament from his own inimitable point of view.
The thing is, even in that predicament and undergoing the horrifying changes forced upon him by having the bad luck to get so badly injured while being out of regenerations, he's still at the end of the day the Master. This fic does an excellent job of conveying that, of highlighting all of the characteristics and viewpoints that make him the character he is, doomed to failure in the end perhaps, but still intensely dangerous and capable of getting out of the tightest of scrapes. He's always looking for an angle, an opportunity he can exploit, and when that opportunity falls to him, he sets about using it and manipulating it like, well, like a master.
I would say that this fic greatly transcends its source material from the novel, building upon it and enriching it with its character insights. As far as missing scenes bridging the gap between Delgado!Master and the Deadly Assassin Master go, this might well be the gold standard. It's also very nicely written indeed.
I urge you once again - go and read this fic now. And leave some words of encouragement for the author to see.
Sometimes when the Master wakes from another fitful sleep that never quite drops below theta level, he imagines that he is whole again. Bearded, dapper, elegant. He imagines that if he opens his eyes, he will find himself inside his TARDIS, and that soon it will be time to saunter out and face the day and a tall, white-haired figure in a satin-lined cloak...
When the pain rushes back in, surging over every nerve, he is never sure whether these moments of imagination are a brief mercy or yet another kind of brutal punishment.