Doctor Who spoiler: Who returns in Ascension of the Cybermen (and why we expected it)

A major character returned once more in tonight’s Doctor Who episode, Ascension of the Cybermen. A return that perhaps won’t be too surprising for some fans. (Spoilers follow.)

Tonight’s episode of Doctor Who ended on a major cliffhanger. Unsurprisingly, Ascension of the Cybermen featured the titular race. But, more than that, another major foe makes an appearance. One that, admittedly, some fans were expecting, but it was still fantastic to see. (Spoilers follow.)

On a distant world, the Doctor is lead to a portal – a portal that could send the last of humanity to safety. She’s shocked to find where the portal leads – the ruins of Gallifrey. She’s given an even bigger surprise when the Master arrives from the other side.

Yes, that’s right – Sacha Dhawan is back as the Master. First introduced in Series 12’s opening story Spyfall, this incarnation is as mad and dangerous as ever. While Missy – his previous incarnation – tried to be friends with the Doctor once more, Dhawan’s Master isn’t afraid of trying to kill the Doctor when possible.

He also wasn’t afraid of using some of his old tricks. During Spyfall, he had allied himself with a race from another dimension – the Kasaavin. He had also planned to betray them once he didn’t have a use for them. Of course, the Doctor revealed those plans to the Kasaavin, so when they were sent back to their own dimension, they made sure to take the Master with them.

That was the last time we saw Dhawan’s Master – trapped in another dimension with no possible means of escape. So of course, we always knew that he would return.

Doctor Who

Sacha Dhawan returns to play the Doctor’s archenemy once more.
Photo Credit: James Pardon/BBC Studios/BBC America

An inevitable return

There are a few reasons why the Master’s return isn’t exactly the biggest surprise. For one, the Master has been trapped somewhere inescapable before. More than that – we’ve even seen him die! Several times, in fact! So a return for one of Doctor Who‘s greatest villains was inevitable.

But it’s more than that. The ending of Spyfall made things even more personal between the Doctor and the Master, in a big way. Not only did he destroy Gallifrey, but it was clear that he knew a secret. Something that he wasn’t willing to tell the Doctor. At least, not at the time. It was setting up the beginning of an arc, an arc that should naturally conclude during the final episodes of this series.

Barack Stemis

If all of that wasn’t enough, well, there was the cast list released for Ascension of the Cybermen. One of the characters was listed as “Fakout”. Seriously. On top of that, the actor playing him was listed as “Barack Stemis”. Nothing odd about that name, (well, OK, the surname is definitely odd,) but it didn’t take fans long to realize that the name was an anagram for “Master is back”.

To be honest, while it was pretty obvious, it was also a nice touch. During Eighties stories, Anthony Ainley’s Master would usually turn up in disguise, and would even be credited as someone else. One of my favorite examples was the character of “Sir Gilles Estram” in The King’s Demons, as played by “James Stoker”. “Estram” of course was an anagram of “Master”, and even “James Stoker” was an anagram of “Master’s joke”. So having a similar joke with the fans for Ascension of the Cybermen was a nice little nod.

Having said that, it is great that the BBC did treat his return as a surprise. (Unlike the way they revealed the return of John Simm’s Master in Series 10 by showing him in every possible trailer they could.) And it is a surprise that will work for many. It also helps to kick off the next episode in a big way. So while a lot of us may have expected it, it was still nice that the surprise wasn’t spoiled by the BBC until after its UK broadcast, at least.

Next: Torchwood: The entire TV series is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer!

Did you expect the Master to come back in tonight’s episode? Or did you think he’d return next series instead? Are you happy that he’s returned, or do you think we should’ve waited longer? Let us know in the comments below.

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