Part Ten: The Masterplan
As the 25th season took shape, Cartmel began looking to introduce his own ideas into the show, and took a proposal to JNT. This proposal, which was later to become known in fan circles as the ‘Cartmel Masterplan,’ found immediate acceptance with JNT and, when it was raised with him, Colin Baker, because of its intention to take the Doctor down the darker path that Baker had envisioned for his character when first taking on the part, albeit not in quite the way originally planned by him and Saward. The Doctor’s past, which had never been explicitly revealed in the show before, would return to haunt him.
There was, however, no place for Paul Darrow’s Nova Rek in the Masterplan - Cartmel intended for him to be dropped at the end of the season, and Darrow’s contract not renewed. JNT agreed to this, perhaps as a form of revenge for Darrow’s blocking of his Bonnie Langford casting. In the end it was agreed that Rek should depart in the penultimate serial of the season, Crooked Smile.
A change to the shape of the season was required to be made when the BBC decided to move the final serial to the Children in Need night in November (this had previously been done with Five Doctors, the show’s twentieth anniversary special, in 1983), edited to show the complete story in one go. The serial chosen for this was Silver Nemesis (to symbolise the ‘silver’ anniversary), written by Terrance Dicks - his first planned writing engagement since 1983 - from an idea by Kevin Clarke.
Silver Nemesis is generally regarded as the best story of the 25th season of Doctor Who. It saw the return of old enemies the Cybermen, but is more notable for introducing a new ‘old enemy’ of the Doctor’s (the characters had backstory together, but had never before been seen together on screen), Lady Peinforte, played by Fiona Walker.
Lady Peinforte was in some ways a combination of the best traits of the Master and the Rani - a dark mirror of the Doctor, as powerful and intelligent as he, but using her knowledge for evil and not good, and with a clearer, more human, motive than the Master had ever shown. There was, and remains, speculation that Lady Peinforte was once the Doctor’s wife, although this has never been confirmed within the show (though neither has it been officially denied) and the rumour is believed to originate with JNT creating the story just to see if it leaked. It did.
With the decision to rest the character of the Master, Lady Peinforte was to become the chief recurring villain for the remainder of Colin Baker’s tenure as the Doctor, threatening him with not only her evil plan of the week, but also the knowledge that she, and only she, could reveal the terrible secrets from his past.