The Master (trope)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
The Master, The Master, The Master, The Master, The Master, and...oh yeah, The Master

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 in 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.

The reason for this trope may have to do with Bondage Is Bad.

Not to be confused with the film by Paul Thomas Anderson of the same name.

Examples of The Master (trope) include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books



  • The Master and Margarita: One of the eponymous characters from M. Bulgakov's novel—though this Master 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.
    • Despite not being a villain, he's still pretty scary in his own way, when you consider that the devil himself comes to Earth just to find him, and he seems to be channeling the consciousness of a biblical figure who's been dead for 2,000 years...
  • 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).
  • One of the titles of Gerridon from the Chronicles of the Kencyrath is "The Master of Knorth", usually shortened to just "the Master".
  • The Stone Dance of the Chameleon features an entire race of people called the Masters, and they are terrifying.
  • The villain from Garth Nix's story "Hope Chest" is called The Master. He's a Hitler-like character in an alternate America.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The race of aliens in The Tripods are called the Masters. Guess what they're like.

Live Action TV

  • The recurring villain from Doctor Who, THE MASTER!
    • On the rare occasions anyone's asked what he's the master of, his response has been that he's "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.
    • Doctor Who also had "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.
    • On at least two occasions in the Second Doctor's run, the Doctor is told that "The Master" wants to see him (on one occasion 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 character's debut story, "Terror of the Autons", a Time Lord informs that 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 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".
    • He's also a very interesting foil of the Doctor himself.
    • Going by this name so amused The Master that even when he went incognito he often chose a paper-thin-disguise alias based on its meaning (Mister Magister, Professor Thascalos, etc.).
  • 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.
    • Occasionally, fanfics will make both Masters the same guy. Sadly, there appears to be no team ups (or fights) between the two. I guess it would be too confusing.
    • He shows up again in Season 8.
  • The Master is the name of the Sealed Evil in a Can of Power Rangers Mystic Force.
  • The Master of Lonsdale College in the Inspector Morse episode "Death is Now My Neighbour" is a very nasty piece of work.
  • 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 Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans) was a good guy.
  • In Bones the Serial Killer Gormogon apparently preferred to be called The Master, though admittedly the only people who did so were his apprentices.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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.


Video Games

  • The Master (formerly Richard Grey) from Fallout 1.
  • Paper Mario: The Bonus Boss and most powerful enemy in the original game is known simply as The Master. He's the guy in charge at a martial arts dojo, so its clearly a translation of "Sensei" or something of that nature.
  • In Mega Man ZX Advent "Master" is given as the title to the members of the Sage Trinity. Two out of the three are evil.
  • Mega Man Legends 2 has "The Master" The last human being with everyone else in the game being robots or clones or robot clones.
  • In Assassin's Creed, the leader of the assassins is named Al Mualim, literally 'The Master'. Turns out at the end of the game that he was just using you to give him undisputed control of the Piece of Eden, an ancient artifact capable of brainwashing the world.
  • ActRaiser subverts convention. You are the Master and you're not at all evil.
    • That is, in the Western version. In the Japanese version, the Master is known as God.
  • The villain from Evil Twin: Cyprien's Chronicles is known as simply "The Master".
  • Ditto for Heart of Darkness.
  • The Master Hand from the Super Smash Brothers series

Web Original

  • 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.
  • In Dark Dream Chronicle, Slendy is referred to as "the Master" except by a few Rebels.
  • Unsurprisingly very common, along with its Distaff Counterpart 'The Mistress', in stories on The Erotic Mind Control Story Archive.

Real Life

  • Subverted by the not-at-all evil and thoroughly fabulous Noel Coward, nicknamed "The Master".
  • The Enigma machine theft involved 'an unnamed buyer in India, referred to as "The Master"'.