Follow TV Tropes


The Master

Go To

The Master: I like it when you use my name.
The Doctor: You chose it... Psychiatrist's field day.

Beware of any character whose name is simply "The Master". They're often in charge of things (duh) but most often these things include a reclusive mansion in the middle of nowhere, or a castle, or a laboratory, or all three! If they don't rule on the periphery of civilization like an old-school noble, they may rule right under our noses in civilized society. Whatever they're up to, expect them to have a big mustache, a great dining hall, and any number of Evil Plans.

Note that characters who have a name to go with "Master" are exempted from this — for example, Master So-and-So who teaches martial arts. Often a student will simply refer to their teacher as "Master", but that's also an exemption.

See also Names to Run Away from Really Fast, Spell My Name with a "The", Just the First Citizen.

Rank Scales with Asskicking is usually in effect.

Not to be confused with the Paul Thomas Anderson film (though the Master in that does fit the theme to a degree), or with the TV show Master Ninja (also known simply as The Master), or the similarly named trope Old Master.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Occasionally, fanfics will make the Masters from Doctor Who and Buffy the same guy, with the explanation that the Doctor Who villain gave vampirism a shot in his pursuit of immortality. Sadly, there appears to be no team-ups or fights between the two because they would be too confusing (although theoretically, the confusion could be averted by referring to the Doctor Who Master by one of many aliases like "Harold Saxon").
  • The Metro Master of Kalos is also known as "L'esprit malfaisant du train," a vengeful ghost who dragged the previous Metro Master to the underworld for neglecting the subway. Nobody knows his real name. In reality, he's Subway Boss Ingo, who was mistaken for a ghost due to a pileup of circumstantial evidence, and is unable to tell anyone his name due to the language barrier. Ingo isn't evil, but he is completely terrifying.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Brave Little Toaster: The owner of the titular character. That's not his name, though; he doesn't even call himself "the master". It's just the appliances' name for him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Knocked Up, Martin can only get out of the dirty man challenge by explicitly referring to Jason as The Master.
  • Barry Gordy's The Last Dragon: Sho'Nuff, The Shogun of Harlem insisted everyone call him "The Master".
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: A character called Master was one half of MasterBlaster in the film. He was played by Angelo Rossitto, co-founder of the Little People Society of America and star of Freaks.
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate: ThE mAsTeR wOuLd NoT aPpRoVe BeInG oVeRlOoKeD fRoM tHiS lIsT. nO, tHe MaStEr WoUlD nOt ApPrOve.
  • The Master is about the rise of a Church of Happyology-style cult leader who's called "Master" by his followers.
  • TRON gives us a digital example in the Master Control Program (MCP).

  • One of the titles of Gerridon from the Chronicles of the Kencyrath is "The Master of Knorth", usually shortened to just "the Master".
  • Subverted in Marc Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: the title Yankee was styled The Boss by the British.
  • A "stale beer with a martini olive" Spy Fiction series by William Garner featured a British intelligence chief who was referred to and occasionally addressed only as the Master. The main character had been one of his agents before the series began, and sometimes wound up reluctantly working for him again.
  • Note the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit, though he's by no means an evil mastermind; more of a cowardly Obstructive Bureaucrat.
  • The villain from Garth Nix's story "Hope Chest" is called the Master. He's a Hitler-like character in an alternate America.
  • The Master and Margarita: One of the eponymous characters from M. Bulgakov's novel is of course the Master – though this is not a villain, but one of the most good and kind-hearted characters in the book. He was a writer, but after his book was banned, he went out of his mind, and started to call himself "the Master" (an important note: in Russian "master" means not "lord", but something like "maestro"). He was actually given the name by his lover (that would be Margarita) who was devoted to him and his novel. His real name is never revealed, but it's implied that his skill is so great that Master is the more fitting name anyway.
  • In The Master Of The World by Jules Verne, the titular character is the inventor/pilot of the speedboat/submarine/automobile/aircraft called "The Terror" (it was 1904, folks).
  • The Shadow: The Black Master, one of the earlier novellas in The Shadow Magazine, sometimes referred to the eponymous criminal mastermind as "The Master" before settling on "The Black Master".
  • In The Sisters Grimm, the leader of the Scarlet Hand and Big Bad gets the title "The Master".
  • The Strain has an ancient evil vampire simply called The Master. That's revealed to be a pseudonym, and his true name is Sariel/Ozaryel, and implicitly he's the Angel of Death.
  • Superman: Last Son of Krypton pits the Man of Steel, and Lex Luthor, against a tyrant named The Master, who is determined to wrest the rule of the entire galaxy away from the Guardians of Oa.
  • The race of aliens in The Tripods are called the Masters. Guess what they're like.
  • Wayward Children: The Master is a Card-Carrying Villain Vampire Monarch in the Dark World of the Moors. His title is doubly ominous, referring both to the human towns he controls and to the girls he raises as a twisted father figure to be his willing victims.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Bones the Serial Killer Gormogon apparently preferred to be called "The Master", though admittedly the only people who did so were his apprentices.
  • The season 1 villain for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a vampire ancient enough to have outgrown human features, who wanted to open the Hellmouth and bring about The End of the World as We Know It. He shows up again in various flashbacks and rules Sunnydale with an iron fist in the Wishverse, before coming Back from the Dead in Season 8.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The series's longest recurring solo villain and the Doctor's Evil Counterpart — who actively chose the title just as the Doctor did theirs, which tells you rather a lot about them as a person. Going by this name so amuses the Master that even while incognito, they often choose a Paper-Thin Disguise alias based on its sound or meaning (Mister Magister, Professor Thascales, Col. Masters, Prof. Stream, Missy, etc.). On the rare occasions anyone's asked what they're the master of, the answer tends to be "the master of all matter" or simply "The Master of All". By the same token, the Doctor is "a doctor of many things" or "The Doctor of Everything" plus a couple of less-used versions referring to time-travel. It's been suggested that the Master's name comes from their degree at the Time Lord Academy. Bear in mind that a master's degree is just one step below a doctorate — this might explain the enmity between the Doctor and the Master! In "A Good Man Goes to War", it's hinted that the word "doctor" (which means "person of knowledge" or "healer") comes from the Doctor himself. So it would be fitting for the word "Master" (which means "controller" and "man of knowledge") to come from him as well.

      On at least three occasions in the Second Doctor's run, the Doctor is told that "The Master" wants to see him (on one occasion it's the Great Intelligence, on another it's the Master of the Land of Fiction, and on the other it's Professor Maxtible). In each case he reacts with alarm. Since the Master proper hadn't been invented then, his misgivings can only be down to his knowledge of this trope. (In-universe, in the Master's debut story, "Terror of the Autons", a Time Lord informs the Doctor that the Master has taken to referring to himself by that title; though the Doctor knew the character before this, he is apparently unaware of the change in his moniker.) After the Master proper had already been established, the Fifth Doctor, while playing cricket, was informed that he played as well as "the Master", and got progressively more nervous until the other man clarified that he was talking about "the other Doctor" — W. G. Grace.
    • The Great Intelligence also uses "The Master" as a pseudonym in "The Abominable Snowmen".
    • "The Master of the Land of Fiction" from "The Mind Robber", who was usually called the Master for short. He wasn't a villain, though. However, he was controlled by a computer called the MASTER Brain.
  • In real life, heads of Oxford colleges have a number of different titles (Warden, President, Rector...). But Inspector Morse villains seem to gravitate to colleges where the traditional title is Master.
    • Matthew Copley-Barnes, Master of Beaufort College has a decades-long history of abusing children.
    • Clixby Bream, the Master of Lonsdale College in "Death Is Now My Neighbour", is a very nasty piece of work and even harasses, manipulates and takes advantage of a woman throughout the episode which ultimately causes her death.
  • The title of the leader of the Sword of Logos in Kamen Rider Saber is "Master Logos".
  • In Legend of the Seeker, the male confessor son of Darken Rahl in the final episode of season 1 was referred to as The Master. This seems to be a side effect of confessor powers, as female confessors are usually referred to as "Mistress" by those they've confessed.
  • In Midsomer Murders, Death in Disguise the Master is actually a very nice guy who wants to look after people and help them.
  • Aversion: Even though Lee Van Cleef was "The Bad", his titular character in the TV series The Master (a.k.a. Master Ninja to MST3K fans) was a good guy.
  • The Master is the name of the Sealed Evil in a Can of Power Rangers Mystic Force.
  • On Red Dwarf, the Master is the title given to the monster from Terrorform. It's revealed to be a representation of Rimmer's self-loathing, and attempts to torture him with a hot poker.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gul Dukat spends some time leading a cult of pah-wraith-worshipping Bajorans who call him "the Master".
  • The main antagonist in The Strain is known as The Master.

  • In the world of the metal band GWAR, "The Master" is a giant pair of buttocks.
  • The Rammstein song "Der Meister" (The Master) is about the apocalypse.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • Averted entirely by the Magistra of Suburban Senshi. (The Magistra being the feminine Latin word for Master) This was brought up exactly once in RP where someone compared her name to that of the Master and the fact that she is a Time Lady. It was quickly pointed out that the Master was male and dead and that her name came from Magistra Magi (despite not being one) because she was the first spell-casting Time Lord and wanted to reference that. (Which match previous and later statements made by her player.)


    Tabletop Games 
  • Battletech: Thomas Marik - that is to say the original Marik and not his body double - is known as the Master to his organization, The Word of Blake.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Big Bad from the X4/X5 adventure series is known as the Master, and is the ruler of the dangerous nation of Hule. The "Master" is really a mental projection of Hosadus, an evil prophet whose true body lies inert in a sarcophagus.

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom Hearts χ introduces to the Kingdom Hearts franchise a character called "The Master of Masters," with no other name. Amongst his powers is the ability to see the future, which he uses to unknown ends. To clarify, he saw the Keyblade War coming, and not only did nothing to stop it, but he practically encouraged it to happen through his apprentices. It's eventually implied that he's the Greater-Scope Villain of the series as he was The Man Behind the Man who manipulated Xehanort into starting the Second Keyblade War.
  • Mega Man:
  • According to bandits' tales in Metro: Last Light, the Master (or Tunnel Master) is the name of a psychic Eldritch Abomination within the system's haunted metro tunnels. Periodically, it will compel people in far-off stations to suddenly wander off into uncharted tunnels, never to return. If you ask them where they're going, all they say is "I've been summoned by the Master," and if you tie them down, they'll bite through their restraints to escape. The Master might just be an urban legend, since you never encounter it or anyone it summons in-game, but considering all the other paranormal phenomena in the metro...
  • Porky/Pokey from the Mother franchise likes to identify himself with the prefix of "Master".
  • Paper Mario: The Superboss and most powerful enemy in the original game, the head of a martial arts dojo, is known simply as The Master.
  • Quest for Glory IV has a character whom almost everybody knows only as "The Master," who rules Mordavia from an old castle on the north side of the valley. She has a name, Katrina, which she has shared with her apprentice Ad Avis and her adopted daughter Tanya, and then with the Hero when they meet; nobody else knows her name.
  • Street Fighter has a half example. In Japan the villain is named Vega (and the one named Vega is called Balrog). However, in America, he got a more famous name: Master Bison.
  • Strider has Grandmaster Meioh, commonly simply referred to as The Grandmaster. Of note is that "Meioh" isn't his name but is simply another title meaning "Dark King" or "Lord of Darkness".
  • The Master Hand from the Super Smash Bros. series. And, as of the Wii U and 3DS versions, Master Core.
  • The Master is a major boss in Tales of Maj'Eyal.

  • Charby the Vampirate: The cruel and sadistic necromancer that brought back Mye and Hex as his zombie slaves was only known to them and referred to by them as The Master. His true name remains unknown but he is also known as the "Bear Witch".
  • Girl Genius: The Master of Paris is a powerful Spark over 200 years old who instills dread in most of the other players in the political sphere of Europa and can control everything, including the very bricks in his city, to use as weapons against his opponents or those who would defy him.

    Web Original 
  • In Dark Dream Chronicle, Slendy is referred to as "the Master" except by a few Rebels.
  • Fansadox #37 has the titular psycho tattooed on his back the word "Master" in Japanese (or so he says), and he likes (read: forces girls he rapes) to be called this. This becomes a plot point when the girls escape, they find the sheriff and demand the supposed rapist-slash-sadist show his back. Turns out he wasn't the psycho, but the sheriff himself. Prime example of Bondage Is Bad.

    Western Animation 
  • In Road Rovers, The Rovers' boss is called The Master, but he was originally known as Professor William F. Shepherd.
  • The Venture Brothers: Dr. Orpheus' mysterious master, that he gets to though his daughter's closet is a rare good example of this trope. He is the master of all these who seek mystical powers, and always takes a new form. And for someone as obviously powerful as him, he is surprisingly humble and easy to talk to.
  • Yin Yang Yo! has the Night Master, the Evil Sorcerer Big Bad. After his defeat it's revealed that he's a Legacy Character and that anyone with the ambition to be evil enough can become the next Master.

    Real Life 
  • Subverted by the not-at-all evil and thoroughly fabulous Noël Coward, nicknamed "The Master".
  • The Enigma machine theft involved "an unnamed buyer in India, referred to as 'The Master'."
  • Josef Stalin was referred to by his underlings (but not to his face) as Vozhd. This translates roughly to boss, chief, or master.
  • Anyone who claims to be a member of the "Master Race" is clearly worth keeping an eye on.