As a series, Doctor Who is all about change. Once you get to the core of it, everything - the protagonist, TARDIS, screwdriver, companions, and showrunners - can/will change. With regeneration, the concept has permanently been instilled in the series.
The villains are no different. Daleks evolve, Cybermen upgrade, and The Master regenerates. Over the fifty-six years of the show's history, The Master has had many faces, from Roger Delgado to Michelle Gomez. Looking ahead, The Master is sure to make an unrealistic comeback. But who might we see square up against The Doctor? Actors who appeared in one-off roles will also be considered, as Doctor Who is not above double-dipping.
10 James Nesbitt
James Nesbitt is an actor of many talents. Hailing from Northern Ireland, he is widely known as the actor to portray Bofur, the dwarf in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit Trilogy. A sweet dwarf might not be the best example of his villainous capabilities but don't fret. Nesbitt gave an instantly iconic performance as one of literature's greatest villains.
In Steve Moffatt's Jekyll, Nesbitt played a modern-day iteration of the mad doctor. This manic and chaotic performance shows a dedication to the craft of acting, and it is the exact energy that would make him the perfect Master. Nesbitt channeled primal energy and wild charisma that would honor The Master's past and rejuvenate him for a new era.
9 Reece Shearsmith
Reece Shearsmith might not be instantly recognizable as an individual performer, but his work with his comedy partners revolutionized British comedy. As one-third of The League of Gentlemen, Shearsmith helped bring the horrors and absurdity of the Northern Countryside to satirical life. While he is mainly known for his comedy, his work as a dramatic actor has not gone unnoticed.
His other passion project, Inside No. 9, is an anthology series he helped create alongside his comedy partner Steve Pemberton. It is in this genre-bending adventure that Shearsmith's acting chops come to play. Balancing horror, comedy, drama, and several other genres, Shearsmith's chameleon yet signature acting style would be perfect for The Master. Shearsmith has actually appeared in an episode of Doctor Who already, but the show should be able to find a way to re-introduce the actor as The Master.
8 Tamsin Greig
With the casting of Michelle Gomez as Missy, timelord rules were permanently changed. While the switching of gender was always a possibility, it was Missy's introduction that made it a reality. With this change, now anyone can play The Master no matter race, gender, or identity.
With that in mind, Tamsin Greig could play a completely different Master than Michelle Gomez. Missy channeled a sort of madcap Mary Poppins figure. Looking into Tamsin Greig's many performances, she would bring a more composed and calculated version of Missy. There is still a wink of playful mischievousness and sarcasm, especially considering her role in Black Books, but her Master could be far more calculating in her schemes. Greig deserves a bigger role in Doctor Who than an unnamed nurse in Season 1's The Long Game.
7 Dev Patel
Considering how in-demand he is, Dev Patel becoming The Master looks to be less of a possibility by the day. Patel blew onto the film scene with the Danny Boyle directed hit, Slumdog Millionaire. Now with an Oscar Nom under his belt, Patel is set to become one of the most valuable performers of his age.
That being said, in the off chance Patel was offered the role and took it, he would be just the thing to keep the character fresh and exciting. He would be the single youngest performer ever to take the role, as well as the first Asian actor to play the Master. Patel's differing perspective would bring a youthful energy to the role akin to Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. Not to mention, he's already rocking that signature goatee.
6 Ben Miller
When David Bradley brought the First Doctor to life again, fans lost it. Twice Upon A Time offered both a comical look at Doctor Who's past as well as a welcome return and reinterpretation of a classic character. The same can be done for The Master.
While it is hard to imagine someone else attempting to embody someone as sacred to Doctor Who as Roger Delgado, other iterations are certainly on the table. The second performance that comes to mind is obviously Anthony Ainley's. This Master terrorized The Fourth Doctor through the Seventh. Ben Miller, who played the Sherrif of Nottingham in Series 8's Robots of Sherwood, would be uncanny as this version of the Master.
5 Helen McCrory
Most audiences might know Helen McCrory from her stint in the Harry Potter series. McCrory played Draco Malfoy's complicated mother Narcissa in the final films of the franchise. McCrory is no stranger to Doctor Who either, appearing in Season 5's The Vampires of Venice.
McCrory carries an aura of regality in many of her performances. This ice-queen persona would be very different than most versions of The Master while still falling in line with the character's more classic iteration's tendency to play him as a gentleman. A more confident and secure version of the master would make her that much more terrifying.
4 Sean Pertwee
Sean Pertwee has a valid career in his own right, but he has never hidden the pride he feels for his father: The Third Doctor John Pertwee. Many have suggested Sean Pertwee could step into his father's shoes, similarly to David Bradley as the First Doctor. What if instead, he played The Master?
Any attempt to embody John Pertwee's Doctor would just feel like a shallow impersonation, even if Sean is his son. A more exciting prospect would be to see Sean embody a brand new character to the series. He would be incredibly imposing, but charismatic, in this villainous part. The Doctor Who connection he already has would make it that much more special.
3 Fiona Shaw
Fiona Shaw is one of Ireland's most respected, yet underrated, actors. Immediately, most viewers will recognize her as Harry Potter's abusive Aunt Petunia, but Shaw has had a long career outside of that series. An accomplished Shakespearean actor, she has won accolades for many of her performances. Most recently, she received the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress as Carolyn Martens in Killing Eve.
Shaw can play any number of roles, but she is an excellent foil. He classical background would bring an aura of excellence to The Master. Imagining Shaw as a villain who could seem calm, cool, and collected one moment, and manically evil the next is easily done.
2 Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Marianne Jean-Baptiste is a multi-faceted talent. Not only is she an accomplished actor in both the UK and the United States, but she doubles as a Blues writer and composer. Marianne Jean-Baptiste's work at home and abroad has secured her as one of the most accomplished artists to come from Britain.
As the master, she would bring a perfect sense of authority to the role. Her role as Sharon Bishop in Chris Chibnall's other series, Broadchurch, showcased this perfectly. Chibnall has a pattern of recruiting actor friends from past projects as well, making this casting a definite possibility.
1 Johnathan Pryce
Johnathan Pryce, a long working British Actor known by many for his roles in Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones, would be an excellent Master. Following in the footsteps of Sir Derek Jacobi, Pryce would bring a more classical feel to the role.
Pryce has actually played The Master once before in a Comic Relief sketch called The Curse of Fatal Death. Although this performance was in jest, Pryce could bring an element of madness to the role of The Master. As the High Sparrow, his religious fervor was nightmarish. An endowment of power, similar to David Tennant's performance in The Waters of Mars, would make his version of The Master incredibly impactful.