By Diane Darcy
The first time I saw Missy on the telly, she was portrayed by the wonderful Michelle Gomez in Doctor Who, specifically in Series 8 of the Peter Capaldi era. At first glance, she looked like an evil Mary Poppins, complete with early 20th Century attire and an umbrella. It was obvious from the start that she was up to no good. Like everyone else, I too suspected she was the Time Lord known as the Rani who appeared in the 1980s Doctor Who serials. It made sense to me at the time, especially considering how Missy was seen using human beings as specimens for a seemingly new experiment – which was very much the Rani’s MO.
I was looking forward to the Rani’s reveal and much-needed comeback until Missy revealed herself to be a female incarnation of the Master. My jaw dropped as everyone else’s did, but not for the same reason as the naysayers. I was actually even more intrigued! When I revisited all of Missy’s episodes leading up to the Series 8 finale, I picked up on more of Missy’s Master-like qualities and I loved her even more than when I initially thought she was the Rani!
And there’s a lot I love about Missy. She’s definitely more than another Master to me. While she still blends everything I love about the classic Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley Masters with the energetic insanity of John Simm’s Master, Missy is also her own special brand of diabolical. Missy is intelligent and dangerously calculating, but she also has fun with her catastrophic plans for the universe; like a kid playing with their toys.
This playful quality of Missy’s character coupled with her dangerous intelligence makes her wildly unpredictable, which makes her stand out from all the other Masters (including the Sacha Dhawan iteration) who are largely driven by anger, hatred, and envy. Missy is much more relaxed and confident in herself than her male incarnations, and feels no need to compete with the Doctor to prove her superiority. Missy already subscribes to her own superiority, which allows her to turn every situation to her favour, toying with both the Doctor and his companions in ways that genuinely frighten them.
These are the qualities I love most about Missy as a character and the qualities that cement her place as a Doctor Who icon in her own right. It’s those iconic traits which writer Jody Houser brings to the table as she reunites with her Thirteenth Doctor collaborator and artist Roberta Ingranata to bring Missy back to life for her very first Doctor Who Comics story. They are joined by colourist Enrica Eren Angiolini, Flatter Shari Chankhamma, and letterer Richard Starkings to give us Missy #1.
The story opens with a blast from the past: the 3rd Doctor and his TARDIS are stranded on Earth as punishment for their involvement in the events of the classic Series 6 story “The War Games”. He makes an important phone call to Stormcage (River Song’s prison, famously) to check up on a certain inmate: the Roger Delgado Master, the original iteration of the character. Once he is reassured the Master remains secured, the Doctor ends his call and Missy immediately appears at Stormcage… posing as the Doctor. She’s here to break her previous incarnation out of prison for plans she has yet to disclose.
I have to admit, I do love that Missy’s first comic book adventure has her interacting with the original Master himself. Not only does this juxtaposition help cement her place in the Master’s legacy and the larger Doctor Who canon, but the interaction between the two is delightful as they both try to upstage each other. The fact that the original Master has not yet caught on to the fact Missy is his future incarnation speaks to her unique qualities and brilliance as a character, and it creates exciting tension for the entire first issue.
In execution, both Houser and Ingranata succinctly capture Missy’s playful and unpredictable nature as she tries to (unconvincingly) pose as the Doctor. Just like in her depiction in Series 10 of the Peter Capaldi era, her sinister and contradictory behaviour often come through in ways that may or may not be informing the Master of her true identity. Similarly, Houser and Ingranata equality capture the cold and rigid personality of the Roger Delgado Master, which really stands out in juxtaposition with Missy’s more versatile and upbeat personality.
In addition to seeing two different Masters in action, Houser and Ingranata also throw in plenty of references to both the new and classic eras of Doctor Who. From the classic era, there is the obvious “3rd Doctor being stranded on Earth” status, which at least places the Missy story sometime before the events of Series 10 of the Jon Pertwee era. There is also mention of the Key to Time, which was featured in Series 16 of the Tom Baker era. The first issue even replicates the classic sword duel between the Master and the 3rd Doctor in Series 9 with the same Master and Missy. All of this serves to further reinforce her position within the wider series canon – important when you remember the backlash to her first appearance.
That reinforcement continues through cameo appearances from fan-favourite monsters – such as the parallel Earth Cybermen, the modern Silurians, the Silence, Dorium Maldovar (and even the Pting, which is a very recent addition from the Jodie Whittaker era). The primary cover for Missy #1 even features cameos from almost every Master in Doctor Who canon: from Roger Delgado to Eric Roberts to John Simm to the more recent Sacha Dhawan. Several Doctors also appear, notably including Jodie Whittaker, alongside David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, Tom Baker, and Jon Pertwee. Again, this all effective conveying that everything is canon and “secure”, with room to now further expand.
While Doctor Who Comics: Missy #1 does more to set up for the second issue than offer a proper first instalment of a bigger story, Houser and Ingranata more than make up for it by depicting a fun, diabolical interaction between Missy and the classic Roger Delgado Master. I’m excited to see what happens next!
Doctor Who: Missy #1
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini
Flatter: Shari Chankhamma
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Diane Darcy is a Latinx blogger and podcaster primarily known for running the Helena Wayne Huntress website, as well as being a co-host on the Huntress Podcast. Diane’s other interests include manga and anime, horror and sci-fi genre stories, music, travel, photography, web and graphic design, and audio production. You can find Diane on Twitter here!
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