Attention: If you have yet to see Doctor Who’s episode “Deep Breath” please be aware the following article contains episode spoilers.
Oh the theories floating around the social media-sphere. Is she some incarnation of River Song? Could she be the TARDIS? Are we finally seeing the Rani or another Time Lady return? The Master? Is it possible that Stephen Moffat simply introduced a new character? And people have frustratingly strong opinions about a character that we’ve only seen for a couple of minutes, me being no exception. It is well known Moffat is especially good at weaving in detail, and often the answers are right in the open, but we fans don’t ask the right questions until the very last minute, when we figure the story line out at the big reveal as intended. He throws red herrings at us, lies in interviews, and delivers some of the best kept secrets in show business when the loose ends finally tie up.
There is certainly a familiarity about the character of Missy (played by Michelle Gomez). She seems to have an extensive influence on the Doctor’s life from deciding to “let him keep” his Scottish accent to calling him her boyfriend to saying, “he loves me so much.” The psychopathic characteristics are reminiscent of the running theme of “only one psychopath per tardis, don’t you think?” as River Song told The Doctor in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” And the biting at the air is reminiscent of Idris learning that biting is like kissing, “only better.” Eagle eyed fans immediately drew a connection between the reuse of the set from “The Girl Who Waited” and “the promised land.” Whether there is an actual connection or not remains to be seen, as re-using sets has happened throughout Doctor Who history. At Christmas 2014, Clara is shown running down the very same steps Rose runs up in Christmas 2010, yet it was a simple re-use of the set rather than secret connection. Other examples of re-used sets can be found throughout the series, so it is possibly a budget issue. Fans argue though, that Moffat is too deliberate in the framing of the shot to be coincidence. Others have noted the similarity between the garden and the TARDIS interior, with a central circular column and the garden appearing to suit the needs of the user.
Some fans believe Missy must be a version of River Song, referring to the romantic relationship implied and psychopathic actions. It is a possibility, but I feel Moffat has already done the “who is River” storyline a few different ways, so it is unlikely. Further, while she does say The Doctor loves her, River would be unlikely to call him her “boyfriend” versus husband as she does in “The Angels Take Manhatten. If it were to be River, it would have to be a version that was pre-Mels (who regenerates into the River we know and love who dies in “The Silence in the Library” and her consciousness is uploaded to CAL, but The Doctor was unable to save her physical form). We do have a gap between the 6 year old girl regenerating on the Florida streets and Mels’ version, so it is not ruled out, but we can hope Moffat has moved onto a new story at this point. The return of The Rani would be fantastic, but it also seems unlikely as any Time Lord/Lady possibilities. She certainly could be a Time Lady, but if she is, it would be impossible to know how she is not locked in the pocket universe without talking to Mr. Moffat himself. It would explain how she is seemingly omnipotent, knowing about the confrontation between the cyborg and The Doctor and the cyborg’s desire to reach “paradise”. But creating too much drama around how she fits into The Doctor’s life, as well as this universe, would complicate what is looking like a very complete story arch without another mystery woman in The Doctor’s Life. The “mystery woman card” has been played every series Moffat has lead; S5 was dedicated to the mystery of Amy, S6 dedicated to the mystery of River, and S7 dedicated to the mystery of Clara. To dedicate yet another season to a mystery woman seems far too formulaic for a writer determined to shake things up.
The idea of the return of The Master in Missy form presents many of the same issues as a Time Lady. While The Master may know The Doctor has a love towards him, as a friend or worthy adversary, it would be uncharacteristic for The Master to brag about how much The Doctor loves him. The boyfriend comment would be completely inane, and while The Master has influenced The Doctor and the Who-verse, he has no control over whether or not The Doctor will keep his accent or not. While psychopath would be a good description of The Master, the evidence thus far does not seem to point in that direction. I do not doubt we will see The Master again in the next few series, but from what we’ve seen thus far, Missy is not the way we will be meeting him/her.
While Missy could simply be a shortened name for mistakes, and she could represent The Doctor’s subconscious, or a friend enlisted to help The Doctor remedy his past mistakes, this theory too has its issues. If the cyborg was pushed out of the balloon, literally or metaphorically, The Doctor would likely consider that a mistake, and could somehow be addressing it. This theory is good, except it is incredibly vague. Why his subconscious would call himself his own boyfriend would be a true mystery. Why we would be able to see his subconscious would be an even more complex issue. With our limited information, it may be that Moffat chose the name symbolically, but I have serious doubts it is anything more.
Alton Brown in “Doctor Who Live Post Show” was thinking of the only other Missy in the Who-verse, a member of the punishment platoon in “Nightmare in Silver.” It could tie in as that specific Missy lived in the 51st Century, the same as both ships the SS Marie Antoinette, and the SS Madame Du Pompadour. This theory largely ignores that there have been many references to the 51st Century throughout New-Who. Most notably, Captain Jack was from the 51st century originally, as was “The Time of the Angels,” “Silence in the Library.” That Missy was a member of the Empire and did not seem to have time travel capabilities, and when the Cyberman attacked, she showed no regenerative properties. Interestingly though, that Missy is from an episode featuring the Cybermen, and the last companion The Doctor has lost is “Handles” a cyberman head from “The Time of the Doctor” so there may be a tie in between Handles, 51st century Missy, and the newest Missy, but if they are connected, the how and why is far from clear. I also assume that while there may be something to the fact that many stories take place in the 51st century, we are celebrating the 51st year of the show’s history and it would not be unlike Moffat to honor the anniversary with a tie in such as the ship being from that century.
To my mind, if Missy is not a new character that we have yet to meet, then I believe she is a young version of Tasha Lem. Tasha was shown in “The Time of the Doctor” to flirt with him quite blatantly, which would explain the “boyfriend” comment that Missy makes. And Tasha seems to have a certain level of omnipotence over The Doctor’s life, seemingly aware of his history, not only knowing about the Kovarian Chapter breaking off, but not even blinking when The Doctor proclaims he wouldn’t have “made it there alive without River Song”. However Tasha fits into The Doctor’s life, they seem to have a partnership with mutual respect and love, which comes in many forms, and Tasha seems to not judge The Doctor’s history when it is mentioned. The Daleks attack her and tell The Doctor that she died several times before giving up any information, which implies she has or had until conversion, some sort of a regenerative process to be able to come back to life several times. The Doctor also tells Clara that Tasha is against aging which is why she looks the same after 300 years have passed. If Tasha has some regenerative properties and can control how young she looks, she could conceivably have been in the form of Missy at some point in time. The Doctor tells Tasha she has been fighting the psychopath inside of her for her entire life and she can hold strong and continue while Missy of the Nethersphere eludes psychopath in the first and only few minutes we’ve seen her. Tasha is the head of a church that keeps you “safe in this world, and the next.” If as the Papal Mainframe of the church, Tasha has the responsibility to keep life safe in the next world, a gatekeeper to a nethersphere would not be out of the question as a part of her job. It also invites us to look a bit closer at Tasha’s title of “Papal Mainframe.” I’m not hugely into computers, but I would think a mainframe could project an image to a cyborg, letting him spend his death in the “relevant afterlife”. This may be a version of Tasha that is prior to Trenzalore or even close to the same time as she is leading the church. If Tasha were to need to have a second form in the next life, as opposed to her “Tasha Lem” form in this life, it is entirely possible she is “Missy.” So far she meets all of the credentials and is one of the few characters Moffat has dropped in without full explanation yet. While we never saw The Doctor’s original meeting Lorna Bucket, who is presumably a character with some import, as she is from the same Gamma Forrests from which River Song gets her name, there are very few other examples of unexplained characters being dropped in. This would neatly tie up both the story of who Tasha Lem and Missy are, and explain how she fits the part so well with the same quirky mannerisms and relationship to The Doctor. It would allow her to be in The Doctor’s life throughout many years and give us Whooligans some amazing set ups for future storylines without taking away from the development of The Doctor and Clara as lead characters. Again, at this point it is impossible to know who Missy truly is. One thing is for sure, her character is sure to excite, thrill, and even frustrate fans this entire series!