As reported by The Radio Times and by multiple media sources, the news was leaked on 6th April following a press screening of 'The Pilot', the first episode in the new series of 'Doctor Who' which was first aired on Saturday 15th April, 2017. The 'next time' trailer ended with a split-second glimpse of John as The Master, complete with blonde hair and a beard which appears to pay homage to an earlier incarnation of the character, as first portrayed by the late Roger Delgado in 1971, when Jon Pertwee was the current Doctor.
Whether it was intentional or not, the leak helped to create a big buzz ahead of Saturday's showing! The Twitter reactions following the transmission were almost overwhelmingly of the 'OMG - he's back!' variety - clearly John's Master is as popular as he ever was.
John first appeared in 'Doctor Who' as the Master's alter ego, Harold Saxon, in 2007. Unbeknown to the then David Tennant's Doctor, Harold Saxon was really the Master - and, as was his trademark, he had a dastardly plan to conquer the universe! John appeared in three episodes - 'Utopia', 'The Sound of Drums' and 'Last of the Time Lords' - at the end of which, he refused to regenerate (to spite the Doctor, who begged him to change) and appeared to die. But a hand seen retrieving Saxon/The Master's signet ring from the ashes of his funeral pyre seemed to hint that he might someday return... In 2009, John did indeed reappear as the Master - but damaged by the botched resurrection (thanks to Harry Saxon's wife Lucy, who tried to stop his return) the character sported white hair and an alarming tendency to eat people - revealing his skeleton when he was particularly hungry!
It transpired that the reason for the Master's growing insanity was down to President Rassilon, a time lord who refused to die in the time war. He went back in time to the Master's childhood and implanted the drums, a repitive four-beat rhythm which gradually drove the Master insane. When Rassilon attempts to bring Gallifrey out of the Time War in the second episode of the two-part finale, 'The End of Time' (coincidentally David Tennant's last outing as the Doctor), the Master flings the last of his life energy at the evil Rassilon, and when Gallifrey is sucked back into the Time War bubble in which the Doctor had imprisoned it many years earlier, the Master is drawn back with them.
The character reappeared, apparently having regenerated into a female version, now calling herself 'Missy' (played by Michelle Gomez) during Peter Capaldi's tenure, and continued to torment and attempt to outwit the Doctor. Fans never gave up hope that John Simm's Master might someday return, and on 6th April the Radio Times confirmed the leak, and quoted John as saying 'Yes, it 's true - thanks to the wonder of time travel, I'm back!'. Show-runner and writer Stephen Moffatt confirms that John and Michelle will be seen on screen together - and further reports that John was filming for several weeks support the theory that he may be in as many as three episodes. The show has featured 'multi-Doctor' stories several times since it first aired in November 1963, but this is the first 'multi-Master' story!
Keep watching this space for more news (and pictures) when we have them!