After going to all the trouble to work out whether or not a roguish Time Agent with more exes than the Paris Hilton sex video was destined to become a giant severed head, it's time to tackle the biggie.
The War Chief, a dark, bearded, cunning Time Lord with a history with the Doctor, sides with an alien menace to take over the universe, but intends to take over for himself. However, the plan goes tits up and the War Chief is executed. A season later we meet the Master, a dark, bearded, cunning Time Lord with a history with the Doctor, siding up with alien menaces to take over the universe, but intends to take over himself.
Are they one and the same?
Nowadays of course, the answer would be "no." Why? Frankly, it's too much hassle. David A McIntee's Master trilogy (The Dark Path, Face of the Enemy and First Frontier) make it quite clear he's a different person. But this trilogy was written only after Terrance Dicks wrote Timewyrm: Exodus. The book is his first sequel to The War Games, wherein the Seventh Doctor and Ace stumble across a second campaign by the unnamed aliens and that same renegade Time Lord the War Chief (who is killed off at the end for good). Even the most rabid of fans would have to jump through hoops to connect the two renegades now.
Leaving aside the ludicrous idea of any sequel to the first nine episodes of The War Games (since everyone involved was either mind wiped or erased from history), it has to be said the War Chief isn't used particularly differently to the Master. Considering their very common origin, Exodus reveals the War Chief also uses ridiculous alias (in this case "Krieglieter", which is German for "War Chief"), requires the Doctor's body for its regenerations since he lost his own, and also is desperate to kill the Doctor for revenge. In short, he might as well have been the Master, and it's a trut face that the first four New Adventures originally featured the Master as the major enemy.
Terrance Dicks co-wrote The War Games and co-created the War Chief, so it's unsurprising that many fans decided that he probably knew what he was talking about. But then, this was before the endless palimpsest novel he churns out using Find And Replace, and the horror of Warmonger which totally contradicts itself five times a page.
There's some real evidence that Dicks didn't do much research on The War Games. While the events of episode ten are still debated thanks to Season 6B, the first nine episodes are pretty clear cut. Dicks seems to believe that if a man is removed from history, his son will not just survive but also have his memories intact, and he remembers a completely different ending to the War Chief.
On TV, the Doctor announces he intends to summon the Time Lords no matter the consequences to himself. The War Chief runs off to try and escape and is caught in the SIDRAT bay by the War Lord and his guards. The War Chief tries and fails to bluff his way out of things and is gunned down. By the time the Doctor and his gang arrive, the War Chief's body has been dragged into a corner. The scene then has the Doctor, Jamie, Zoe and Carstairs fleeing when the Time Lords arrive. All it seems to happen in real time.
In Exodus, however, the War Chief describes something totally different to what we saw on screen...
"The War Lord's troopers were about to dispose of my body when they realized I was still alive. Just barely, but alive. You know how amazingly tough we Time Lords are... They called one of their scientists, and he was so amazed he ordered me sent back to their home planet - they were starting to retreat by then. I was on the last ship to leave... There was no thought of curing me; they just wanted to see how long it would take me to die. They threw me in the ship's hold and on the journey back to their planet, I started to regenerate."
So, either we assume that the entire end of episode nine was some kind of forgery (though there's no explanation for why anyone would want that forged), and the aliens were really using space ships rather than SIDRATs to get from the planet, and that despite a massive Time Lord containment crew attacking both planets simultaneously, they forgot to look for the War Chief? Exodus reveals that, despite all the claims made by the War Chief on TV, he only left Gallifrey because Borusa was after his blood (unlikely, since the Cardinal has no real interest in politics until The Deadly Assassin, centuries after The War Games).
It's worth noting Malcolm Hulke also co-wrote The War Games and his novelization has the Time Lord announce that the War Chief has been found dead. So, at least one of the authors believed that the War Chief was dead, so why should we trust Dicks' baffling rewrite of events instead? However, Hulke's novelization of The Doomsday Weapon, where the Keeper of the Matrix reminisces about The War Games does not contradict the idea that the Time Lord helping the aliens is the same Time Lord who just nicked the Doomsday Weapon files.
It's worth noting that before 1992, it was widely assumed that the War Chief and the Master were one and the same. Certainly, the idea that two so similar Time Lords encountering the Doctor in quick succession was considered unlikely, though the idea that the War Chief is a later regeneration of the Monk doesn't work (the Doctor and the Monk had not met each other before The Time Meddler, whereas the Doctor and the War Chief clearly recognize each other more than just as fellow Time Lords, and it's stated they have not encountered each other since leaving Gallifrey).
The early nineties are also worthy of the concept of Magnus. Oft mentioned in The Missing Adventures, Magnus is part of the old gang on Gallifrey, an arrogant and foolish Time Lord who recklessly used up regenerations. Sound familiar? In 1992, there was a special comic strip depicting the First Doctor and Magnus back on Gallifrey, and ending their friendship when Magnus callously used a harmless lifeform as a fuel source for his experiments. The bearded Magnus was immediately identified by readers as a younger version of the Master... or the War Chief. DWM refused to comment either way.
Gary Russell's Divided Loyalties contains the infamous Gallifrey 90210 sequence where we discover every renegade Time Lord we ever met just happened to be in a gang called the Deca, lead unofficially by the Doctor. Notable among them was Magnus - clearly the War Chief since all he ever talked about was the Aliens in The War Games and how he'd like to work with them when he grew up. This left Koschei (the Master) wandering around looking and acting in exactly the same sort of fashion, at one point wistfully wishing he could be as cool and badass as Magnus. It's difficult enough to tell them apart.
But that bit of Divided Loyalties is categorically a dream sequence, and it's fair to say that had Dicks not shot his mouth off all those years ago Magnus and Koschei would have been one and the same. Similarly, McIntee's The Dark Parth is a very good origin story for the Master... but is only needed if we assume that the Master wasn't the War Chief in The War Games.
It's interesting to note that the War Chief was never mentioned on TV again. Or in the Big Finish audios. And Season 7 and 8 had something of a cavalier attitude to continuity. Jamie and Zoe were not mentioned in Spearhead from Space despite the fact they should have been, and the Brigadier clearly didn't think the Second Doctor trustworthy after saving all their lives in The Invasion. Terror of the Autons doesn't, for example, have a scene where the Doctor explains that the Nestenes were the ones responsible for window dummies coming to life and slaughtering thousands. So, a scene along the lines of "He used to be called the War Chief" not being screened is hardly out of keeping. Especially as the Doctor admits his memory has been tampered with to a significant degree.
What's also worth noting is that the very scene which introduces the Master was heavily edited. On screen, we learn that the Master is an old enemy of the Doctor, a cleverclogs from Gallifrey. The original scene not only notes that "the Master" is a recent alias, but the Time Lord escaped custody by stealing his TARDIS thanks to some unexplained alien interference. Later, the Third Doctor gets a phone call from the Master and does not recognize the voice at all. "Who is this?" he demands.
So, the Master is just the latest name for a Time Lord the Doctor has encountered before, a Time Lord who has recently regenerated, and a Time Lord last seen at the mercy of his own people. As the penultimate scene in The War Games clearly shows the Time Lords arriving in the alien base while the War Chief's body is still warm, it's not hard to assume that, like Dicks says, the War Chief survived by regenerating, only to be taken prisoner by his own people. Also, the edited scene with the Third Doctor and the Time Lord makes it clear they want the Doctor to kill the Master to save Gallifrey from further embarassment over letting him escape.
Another question about the Master is... why does he hate the Doctor so much? There's no doubt that they were once the best of friends during their childhood, and even after the Time War they are still reluctant to actually kill each other. What crime did the Doctor do to make the Master want to kill him? It's not simply a matter of spoiling a few plans. So what was it?
If we assume that the Master is the War Chief, a lot of things fall into place. For a start, there is the explanation for the two bearded traitorous Time Lords. The War Chief put a lot of effort into the War Games, moreso than the Master ever did, and it's reasonable this screw up taught him not to put his eggs into one basket. The War Chief also, is not really upset when the Doctor ruins everything - it is only when the Doctor announces he is breaking cover and calling in the Time Lords than the unshakeable War Chief snaps. Despite all the War Chief's protests, the Doctor not only gave himself up, but also the War Chief - and it's quite clear the Time Lords would be more lenient with the Doctor, since he wasn't the one selling Gallifreyan technology to an alien empire. Effectively, the Doctor sold out the War Chief.
It's a good as reason as any to explain why the Master would hate the Doctor. Even The Dark Path doesn't really give a good reason as to why Koschei hates the Doctor (though he is betrayed by the Time Lords, the Doctor has nothing to do with it) though it explains his desire to conquer the universe, showing that morally, the Master was on a slippery slope LONG before he could be classed as "evil".
Another interesting note is that in The Deadly Assassin, the Master blames his decayed appearance and lack of regenerative ability on the Doctor. While on TV it looks a bit like Delgado's Master may have been dumped in a vat of acid or set on fire, the scripts merely note that it is because the Master cannot regenerate, he's withering away slowly but surely. (It's also worth noticing the scripts do not mention a 'thirteen' limit to regeneration, and it's stated that the Master's LOST his ability to renew his body, not that he's used up all his lives - he's still a relatively young man. Also, the Doctor is notably cagey when Borusa asks exactly HOW the Master got into this state... so was the Doctor responsible?)
In Exodus, the nasty injuries inflicted on the War Chief are so bad his regeneration fails - and in The War Games, the War Lord is probably going to use ammo that can do some serious harm to a Time Lord, cause he's not basically stupid. In Exodus, the Doctor notes that the Time Lords have 'regenerative therapy' that could help a Time Lord. So, we can now see a pattern forming.
The Time Lords arrive to stop the War Games, find the half-dead War Chief and (knowing he's responsible thanks to the Doctor) isolate him. The War Chief manages a partial regeneration and the Time Lords finish it, but in doing so, the War Chief loses his ability to regenerate any more. He's effectively been doomed to die thanks to the Doctor - and the new War Chief understandably vows revenge. The Doctor is exiled to Earth, but we do not know what happens to the War Chief.
We know from The Five Doctors and Sound of the Drums that the Time Lords wanted the Master to be an agent for them, and would it be put past for them to offer the War Chief a chance at a new set of regenerations in return for cooperation? The War Chief probably agreed, bided his time, before scarpering. No wonder the Time Lords were embarassed. They realize he'll go after the Doctor and warn him. It seems no coincidence that soon after it's the Doctor they're using to travel time and space doing their dirty work, so presumably the War Chief/Master was the one lined up for Solos and Peladon until the relative last minute.
So, is the Master the War Chief? Assuming we disregard the spin off materials, there is strong evidence - certainly Robert Holmes thought so, and Robert Holmes created more of Doctor Who than is often acknowledged. Ultimately, it comes down to Ockham's Razor - either we have two ludicrously similar Time Lords, one of which is never, ever, ever mentioned again, or we have the same Time Lord.
I believe it. And not only is there no real evidence against it, it makes a lot of sense of everything from The World Distributor Annuals to the DWM Comic strip to the latest episodes of RTD. As was said all those years ago by the War Chief himself:
You may have changed your appearance, but I know who you are.