Former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has now explained why he never brought back Eric Roberts as The Master. Times are changing on the BBC's Doctor Who, with Jodie Whittaker soon to take up the mantle of the galaxy-saving hero from Gallifrey. However, there's one phase of the Time Lord's life that is often overlooked, despite being canon. Sometimes referred to as simply Doctor Who: The Movie, the British-American-Canadian TV film premiered in 1996 and starred Paul McGann as the 8th incarnation of The Doctor. It also featured Roberts as a manifestation of his eternal nemesis The Master. However, that wound up being the one and only time Roberts would play the character.
The 1996 movie was intended to pilot a new U.S. version of the show, but it was also a continuation of the original narrative from the BBC production when it was cancelled in 1989. As such, McGann was shown regenerating from the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), and the plot had him transporting The Master's remains to Gallifrey after he was executed by the Daleks. However, after a landing on Earth, the remains 'infect' an ambulance driver named Bruce (Roberts), who then becomes The Master and attempts to destroy the planet. It was an action-orientated show that never took off, but McGann is still part of the official lineage and has reprised his character on several occasions, most notably in 'The Night of the Doctor' where he regenerates to John Hurt's incarnation (known as 'The War Doctor'). When the show was restarted by the BBC in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston, most of this chapter was ignored, including Robert's Master.
In an interview with Digital Spy, Moffat shared his thoughts on Robert's interpretation of the villain and why he never considered asking him to reprise it:
"I like that TV movie and I liked him as the Master, I thought he was funny. But he's not part... and sometimes this just happens... he's not part, somehow, of anyone's pantheon of Doctor Who. Not because he didn't do well - he did do it well - and not because that film isn't good - it is quite good - it's just not really there."
The most recent versions of The Master have been memorably played by John Simm and Michelle Gomez - and while the portrayals have been pretty flamboyant, they weren't necessarily as much of a pantomime villain as the version seen in the TV movie. Following that role, the incredibly prolific Roberts went on to appear in everything from The Dark Knight to Sharktopus, so he certainly didn't lack for the work. Still, Moffat's polite summary is probably the best way to understand why he was never invited back.
With the first look at Whittaker's 13th Doctor having now arrived, and a new Tardis Team assembled, the next season of the show already has all the pieces in place. Despite the apparent death of the character, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that The Master will return to Doctor Who yet again in the future. Meanwhile, in some alternative Universe, it could just be that they will be played by Eric Roberts, when they do.
Following a Christmas Special, Doctor Who returns to the BBC in Fall 2018.
Source: Digital Spy