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Doctor Who newcomer Sacha Dhawan on the importance of playing The Master

© Robert ViglaskySacha Dhawan
Sacha Dhawan

Doctor Who newcomer Sacha Dhawan has told of his pride at being the first British Indian actor to portray the Master in the sci-fi series.

Dhawan, who made his debut on New Year’s Day as the popular character in the first episode of the 12th series of the show since it was revived in 2005, said there was once a time that “actors like myself” would not have been considered for such a major role.

A recurring character since 1971, the Master – described as a renegade alien Time Lord and the Doctor’s nemesis – has been played by actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, John Simm and, most recently, Michelle Gomez.

Dhawan said: “It’s an amazing feeling, especially being the first British Indian actor to portray the role. I’m really proud and excited for people to see it.”

He added: “There was a time when actors like myself, wouldn’t even be considered for a role of this nature.

“Doctor Who has always been a landmark show, but I feel it’s becoming an even more landmark show due to the stories that are being written, and the actors being cast to represent them. Yes, I’m a nemesis alien Time Lord, but that’s only the surface.

“For me, the role becomes ‘iconic’ because if you look beyond that you’ll see that there’s a much deeper story that’s going on.

“Once I realised that, I couldn’t feel more proud to be incarnating the character.”

Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker faced off against aliens in Spyfall, the first episode of the new series.

But as the instalment started to wrap up it became apparent that the Doctor’s acquaintance, O (Dhawan), was really the Master, who was last seen in 2014 when Gomez played a female incarnation of the character, known as Missy.

Dhawan, whose other TV roles include Marvel’s Iron Fist, BBC comedy Last Tango In Halifax and the new BBC adaptation of Dracula, said that his first feeling upon learning he had been cast in Doctor Who was “pure terror”.

“I thought: ‘there’s no way I can do this!’ Then I eventually calmed down,” he said.

“My first port of call was to extract the bare bones of the character because there is so much information out there. I was keen to approach the part like I would with any other character, which in a way, gave me confidence to make the character my own.

“Yes the character is playful, unpredictable, dangerous, but I was keen to explore where that ‘persona’ originates from.

“That’s when I really became excited by the possibilities in terms of where I could take the character, because I started to uncover a much darker, more melancholic side to the Master, which I felt hadn’t been explored before.”

Doctor Who continues on Sunday at 7pm on BBC One with the second half of two-part episode Spyfall.