According to the always reliable British press, Benedict Cumberbatch, the current star and title character in BBC’s hit "Sherlock" is “a lock” to play The Master in upcoming episodes of "Doctor Who." This would, according to reports, coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the show in 2013.
So, a little bit of background, for those of you who have no idea what we’re talking about:
- The Master is the opposite of The Doctor, a Timelord, who uses his abilities to try and control time and space, rather than exploring it and being all twee and whatnot.
- He was last played by John Simms during the David Tennant years, and was pretty unequivocally killed and obliterated out of existence forever. Granted, this was after he was resurrected – twice – and we’re also talking about a show based in time travel, so grain of salt and all.
- Benedict Cumberbatch had been previously rumored as a candidate for Doctor Who back before the current Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, clinched the part.
- Steven Moffat, Executive Producer of the show, has previously said that there’s no way his two hits – "Sherlock," and "Doctor Who" – would ever cross over.
Okay, background out of the way, what are the chances this is actually happening? We’ll certainly have a better idea once this current, 2012 season is in the books, as well as this year’s Christmas Special. Once those are all done, we’ll have a better idea of the direction Moffat and company are going in for the show, and whether the return of The Master is in the cards.
As for whether Cumberbatch will actually play him? The biggest problem we forsee is that the actor is incredibly busy now. Sure, "Sherlock" only films for part of the year, including a third and fourth season of three linked movies each to be filmed over the next two years. But beyond that, he’s playing the villain in the new Star Trek movie, plus playing multiple characters in the Hobbit movies, and he’s rumored to be attached to new projects nearly every day. Add in junkets, press tours, and red carpets, and he’s an in demand actor who may not have time to devote to being the over-arching villain on a BBC show.
Working against that? Guy owes Steven Moffat pretty much everything, for casting him in the career-defining role of a modern Sherlock Holmes. And we imagine The Master wouldn’t appear in every episode, just the first, and last two or so of the season. Given how serialization has worked in the past few seasons of the Moffat Who, it’s more than likely every other episode will end with the Doctor looking at his picture, and saying, “Hmmm…” before we actually wrap things up.
The bigger question though is, would we want to see Cumberbatch as The Master? Heck yeah, we would. We can see him channeling the intelligent intensity he brought to Sherlock, but with a quieter, more calculated, more restrained tone. That would contrast nicely with both Smith’s manic Doctor, and John Simm’s “I like to dance to the Scissor Sisters when I’m victorious” take on The Master.
That all said, who knows? This could be a rumor, or it could turn out to be fact. We’re guessing we’ll find out a lot more about all of this when the first official Doctor Who Convention kicks off in the UK in March, so stay tuned.