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SYFY WIRE Doctor Who

How the next 'Doctor Who' special, 'Legend of the Sea Devils,' hints at the Master's return

The iconic villain seems poised to make a return this spring. 

By Lauren Coates
Doctor Who Season 13 Trailer Still Jodie Whittaker

With just two episodes left in Jodie Whittaker's tenure as the 13th Doctor, Doctor Who has more than its fair share of plotlines and narrative threads to wrap up before the rainbow-clad time lord bids her final farewell. From details about the timeless child reveal to Yaz and The Doctor's blossoming romance, the writers have plenty on their plates already, but heading into the spring special, "Legend of the Sea Devils," fans will be keeping their eyes peeled for yet another plot thread that's yet to be addressed: the return of the Master.

Though the moment was easy to miss in the grand scheme of all of Flux's major reveals, one large moment that hasn't been followed up on (yet) is Time telling The Doctor to "Beware of the forces that mass against you, and their Master." In any other TV show, master would likely just mean 'leader', but this is Doctor Who, and both the show's social media accounts and the official episode transcript for "The Vanquishers" confirms that it's Master with a capital 'M' — as in the Master, the Doctor's best enemy. Time's ominous warning is a not-so-subtle hint that the Master (most recently brought to life by Sacha Dhawan) will likely return before Jodie Whittaker's time on the show is up — and if history repeats itself, his return may be sooner than fans expect.

While there's yet to be an official full-length trailer, teasers and stills have confirmed that the next special (which doesn't have a solid release date yet), airing this spring, will be titled "Legend of the Sea Devils" and follow the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan as they head back to the 1800s and encounter the fearsome pirate Zheng Yi Sao — also known as Madame Ching. But what's more is that the special will also feature the return of classic Who monsters the Sea Devils, marking their NuWho debut, and the first time they've appeared in the flesh since 1984.

But what does any of this have to do with the Master? As it turns out, the first-ever appearance of the Sea Devils (appropriately titled "The Sea Devils") just so happened to also be a story heavily featuring the surprise return of the Master. In the episode, The Master aids the Sea Devils in their attempt to take over the Earth — and the episode ends in the Doctor and the Master engaging in a swashbuckling swordfight — conditions that could certainly be replicated, given that we know Legend of the Sea Devils is going to feature its fair share of pirates.

Given showrunner Chris Chibnall's penchant for making references and homages to classic Who, and for laying long-game easter eggs in plain sight, I don't think it's a stretch to say that the Master could make his return in Legend of the Sea Devils — not only would it be the perfect full-circle way for the series to reintegrate the Sea Devils into a new modern setting, but it would also allow Dhawan's an opportunity to once again cause chaos in the Doctor's life, and wrap up some hanging threads from his previous encounters with Yaz and the Thirteenth Doctor.

As you may remember, we last saw the Master as he was trapped in the soon-to-be-obliterated remains of a Gallfirey in ruins, after he destroyed his home planet and revealed to the Doctor the true meaning of the Timeless Child. While it was implied that the Master was killed in the ensuing destruction of Gallifrey thanks to the death particle, this certainly wouldn't be the first time the Master has made a surprise return from the Dead.

An appearance in "Legend of the Sea Devils" would also be the perfect time for the Master to return because of the recent revelations about Yaz and the Doctor's feelings — the two are on the verge of admitting how they feel to each other, and are navigating a delicate emotional balance that would give the Master a golden opportunity to reappear and throw things into turmoil.

It's an easy-to-miss detail, but all the way back when he was masquerading as O in "Spyfall," there were very deliberate moments that featured the Master flirting with Yaz. At the time the exchanges led to some hair-brained theories about Yaz turning on the Doctor, but as we know, Chibnall likes to play the long game (teasing Yaz/the Doctor since Arachnids in the UK) and it's entirely possible that he was laying the groundwork for the Master to return and disrupt the Yaz/Doctor romance that's finally beginning to take shape.

Though "Legend of the Sea Devils" doesn't have a proper trailer or a confirmed release date quite yet, new content about the episode is due any day now, and the closer we get to the episode, the closer we are to seeing when and how Sacha Dhawan will make his much-anticipated return as the Master. Whether he's stirring up trouble for planet earth, revealing more information about the Doctor's hidden past, or attempting to ruin Yaz and the Doctor's romance, fans can be sure that wherever and whenever the Master appears next, chaos is sure to follow.

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