The War Chief was a renegade Time Lord of the High Council who assisted the War Lords. After the failure of the War Lords, he regenerated and travelled back in time to use the Nazis as his agents. Adopting a German translation of his title, Dr. Felix Kriegslieter, the War Chief was foiled once again by the Seventh Doctor.
Some sources gave his birth name as Magnus. Although one Time Lord historian's history of Gallifrey treated the War Chief and the Master as different individuals, (PROSE: A Brief History of Time Lords) according to at least one account, the individual who allied with the War Lords was an incarnation of the Master, predating the one who habitually antagonised the Third Doctor in his UNIT days. (PROSE: Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons) Rumours that the Master had somehow been implicated in the "War Chief incident" reached the Celestial Intervention Agency, although its Coordinator Rowellanuraven deemed them to be fanciful. (PROSE: CIA File Extracts)
Life on Gallifrey
Like all Time Lords, the War Chief was taken from his family at the age of eight for the selection process in the Drylands. Staring into the Untempered Schism as part of a Time Lord initiation rite, he was driven mad by what he saw in the Schism. (PROSE: A Brief History of Time Lords)
According to a nightmare the Fifth Doctor had under the control of the Celestial Toymaker, Magnus was the leader of the Academy clique known as the Deca and later went on to become the renegade Time Lord known as "the War Chief". He had a particular interest in the construction of TARDISes and an obsession with a banished race who wanted to use time travel in their War Games. He had an attraction to Ushas, and was once warned away from her by Mortimus.
After the disappearance of Rallon and Millennia, Magnus was appointed to the scientific research department for the rest of his time at the Academy. He stood by the Doctor while he was held accountable for their disappearance. (PROSE: Divided Loyalties)
The War Chief soon began to rise rapidly in the Time Lord hierarchy, (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus) becoming a member of the High Council. (PROSE: The Legacy of Gallifrey) The warmongering Time Lord's social climbing caused Cardinal Borusa to see him as a threat to his own position of power, so he persuaded the Celestial Intervention Agency to manufacture evidence of treason against him. Believed to be a criminal, the War Chief fled from Gallifrey, became a renegade, and swore revenge on the Time Lords. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus) The Celestial Intervention Agency had little information about the War Chief; they believed that he had indeed been implicated in the Prydonian Academy Revolution and had fled Gallifrey thereafter, in a Type 42 TARDIS. (PROSE: CIA File Extracts)
Ally of the War Lords
The War Lord encountered his future War Chief in a Trastevarian jail, where he was so close to death that he regenerated. He told the War Lord that the Sisterhood of Karn's Elixir of Life was vital to his people's regeneration process. (PROSE: Save Yourself)
Now calling himself "the War Chief", he worked with the War Lords. They abducted soldiers from wars spread across Earth's history, though they didn't go too far because of the risk of humans' technological knowledge, for simulated versions of the wars from which they came. Thinking humans the most vicious species in the galaxy, the aliens hoped to pit the survivors against each other and use them to conquer Mutter's Spiral once they had eliminated the weak and the cowards and were left with the hardier warriors.
The War Chief aided the War Lords by helping them build SIDRATs, TARDIS-like space-time machines. They used them to kidnap the human soldiers and travel between era-specific zones which they had created. The War Chief and the Second Doctor met and recognised each other. The War Chief solicited the Doctor's help to double-cross the War Lords and seize power for themselves. The Doctor pretended to accept the War Chief's offer.
The Security Chief of the operation distrusted the War Chief, believing he meant to call in the Time Lords. While the Security Chief was willing to accept the War Chief had upheld his part of the bargain and had been afforded every need, he had still refused to tell them how to construct the SIDRATS.
The two engaged in a series of machinations against each other which ended with the War Chief disgraced when the Security Chief recorded a condemning conversation between the War Chief and the Doctor, and he took it to his leader. The War Chief got his revenge when he shot his rival dead. Unable to resolve matters, nor return the soldiers to their own times, the Doctor summoned the Time Lords for aid, while the War Lords uncovered the War Chief's plans and executed him, though he tried to talk his way around it, claiming those plans had been faked, but he wasn't believed. (TV: The War Games) Unknown at the time, while the War Chief remained on the War Lords' ship, the War Chief did not die but, rather, underwent a faulty regeneration. His new form looked like two bodies fused together. He took to wearing cloaks, hoods and cane sticks to disguise the fact, with white hair and a bushy white beard, eventually convincing the War Lords that his 'betrayal' of them was just a misunderstanding. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus)
Having helped the War Lords to break the time loop the Time Lords had erected around their world, the War Chief helped them travel to Nazi Germany. He served as an occult advisor to Adolf Hitler under the name "Doktor Felix Kriegslieter" at the head of the Black Coven, hoping to change history with the Nazis as his agents, believing that they were so vicious that they barely needed the War Lords' conditioning. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus) One time, concerned with Hitler's health, Martin Bormann telephoned him. (PROSE: Players)
The Seventh Doctor later confronted the War Chief, prompting him to try to take the Doctor's healthy body and his six remaining regenerations. However, his efforts to replace Hitler with Heinrich Himmler were thwarted by Himmler's devotion to his Führer. This allowed the Doctor to alert Hermann Goering to "Kriegslieter's" betrayal and destroy the War Chief's base by overloading its nuclear reactors, the brainwashed Nazis falling to the superior initiative of their mentally free opponents.
In the final moments before his base at Drachensberg castle collapsed, Ace looked down and saw the War Chief engulfed in flames. No longer malformed, he appeared healthy once more — "young, tall, dark and satanically handsome". (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus)
Some accounts depicted the Time Lord who'd posted as the War Chief as having later become the Master. The Doctor and the Master were stated by the Keeper - who had been one of the Time Lords sent to the War Lords' colony-planet to put an end to the War Chief's schemes after the Doctor called in the Time Lords - to have been the only two renegades ever to escape Gallifrey, and fondly remembered the mess that these two TARDISes being stolen had caused back in the day. (PROSE: Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon) A short time after the Second Doctor's sentence and forced regeneration, a Time Lord messenger was sent (TV: Terror of the Autons) by the High Council (PROSE: The Legacy of Gallifrey) to warn the Doctor about the Master, (TV: Terror of the Autons) who was out for revenge for "past deeds". (PROSE: The Legacy of Gallifrey).
However, at least one account conflicted with this notion, claiming that the Master, or "Koschei", and the War Chief, or "Magnus", had been two separate childhood friends of the Doctor's. (PROSE: Divided Loyalties) One Gallifreyan historian's A Brief History of Time Lords accounted for the War Chief and the Master's experience with the Untempered Schism at the age of eight as two different events, though in both casing ending with the young Time Lord initiate being secretly driven mad by what he saw in the Schism. (PROSE: A Brief History of Time Lords)
The War Chief was an ambitious and arrogant individual, cunning, and with great tactical abilities. He pretended to serve the War Lords loyally, while plotting to take control of them after they succeeded in their plans. He also made feuds easily which made it easy for his allies to turn against him. (TV: The War Games)
Magnus was unconcerned about using up regenerations and never listened to the Doctor, who advised him not to waste them. (PROSE: Invasion of the Cat-People) Behind the War Chief's actions lay real idealism, tainted with power lust.
While allied with the Nazis, the War Chief considered much of their racial beliefs, scientific works and belief in the occult to be nonsense. However, he was perfectly willing to play along with all of this to win favour with the Nazi leaders, especially Heinrich Himmler. He used a laser weapon disguised as a silver cane. During a sacrifice ceremony he wore a goat mask. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus)
Behind the scenes
- The necklace prop the War Chief wears in The War Games is the same prop previously worn by Zephon in The Daleks' Master Plan.
Connection with the Master
Ever since two Target novelisations (Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon and Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons) called back to the events of The War Games while also stating that the Doctor and the Master were the only two renegades ever to have run away from Gallifrey, the notion emerged of the War Chief having been an early incarnation of the Time Lord who, from his Roger Delgado incarnation onwards, would call himself the Master on television. After all, although the character was never called anything but "War Chief" in his only televised story, there was no evidence that this was a regular moniker or modus operandi; during the story, the term "War Chief" was treated more as a title (akin to "War Lord" and Security Chief) instead of a name. In The Dark Path, incarnations of the Master before Roger Delgado were confirmed not to have used the "Master" title. Although, in any event, the notion of the Master and the Doctor as the only two renegades in Gallifrey's history was soon abandoned, the idea was referenced, discussed or pointedly contradicted in many licensed and unlicensed works of Doctor Who fiction.
Games and merchandise
Legally, the likeness of Edward Brayshaw's War Chief is a distinct license from license to use the likenesses of other incarnations of the Master, at least as far as the production of merchandise action figures is concerned.
The 1980s board game Doctor Who: The Game of Time & Space stated they were indeed and the same, as was the Monk, thus allowing the notion of the Doctor and the Master as the only two Renegades to stand. The module Legions of Death in FASA's The Doctor Who Role Playing Game has the War Chief as a renegade Time Lord distinct from, but a former ally of, the Master, who himself was also known as the Monk. However, neither is considered a valid source by this wiki due to the branching storylines which naturally result from a roleplaying format.
Issue 6 of Doctor Who Poster Magazine included a feature entitled The Time Lords of Gallifrey... and other Gallifreyans, which included short illustrated profiles of all named Time Lord or Gallifreyan characters in televised Doctor Who. It included an entry for the Monk separate from the Master, but none for the War Chief, implicitly supporting their conflation (although only the likenesses of Roger Delgado, Peter Pratt and Anthony Ainley's Masters were featured, omitting Edward Brayshaw).
Novels and novelisations
The Target novelisations of Doctor Who TV stories were the main medium in which the idea of the War Chief eventually becoming the Master gained traction, including under the pens of Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks, the two co-writers of The War Games and co-creators of the War Chief.
Though Malcolm Hulke's 1979 novelisation Doctor Who and the War Games stated that the War Chief was declared dead by the Time Lords, 1985's CIA File Extracts highlighted that the Time Lords had never found a body. A post-War Games War Chief later featured in Dicks' original novel Timewyrm: Exodus. That story specified that the War Chief was forced to leave Gallifrey due to his political career; similar explanations were given for the Master's running away in Birth of a Renegade and Time and Relative. At the end of the novel, the War Chief was briefly glimpsed by Ace as having regenerated into a healthy body once more following his time as the deformed Felix Kriegslieter.
The novelisation Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon - written by Malcolm Hulke and edited by Terrance Dicks - established that the Doctor and the Master were the only two renegade Time Lords who had ever left Gallifrey in stolen TARDISe, implying by process of elimination that the Master was the War Chief. Shortly after this assertation, the events of TV: The War Games were also recalled. Doctor Who and the War Games called back to the notion by having the War Chief explicitly state that he and the Doctor were the only travellers in the galaxy with their own, stolen TARDISes.
Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons, written by Terrance Dicks, stated that "Master" was a new title and that the Doctor had interfered with the Master's schemes in the past but that the Master had escaped the Time Lords before his TARDIS could be deactivated. This prompted the Doctor to comment, "He was luckier than I was." It also nodded toward The War Games by mentioning that, had the Master not escaped, his lifestream would have been reversed, just like the execution of the War Lords. Finally, Dicks' later novelisation of The Three Doctors stated that the Master and Omega were the only two Time Lords that the Doctor had ever fought.
In 1985, Gary Russell penned The Legacy of Gallifrey, a prose overview of Gallifrey's history from the perspective of Rassilon. In that story, the Doctor's friends and fellow dissenters at the Time Lord Academy were a mere group of three future Renegades: the Doctor, the Master and the Rani. The War Chief was mentioned in the summary of the Second Doctor's trial as having been a treacherous member of the High Council, once more attributing the Master's common political backstory to the War Chief, and a Time Lord messenger later warning the Third Doctor about the Master (as seen in TV's Terror of the Autons) was reframed as a direct consequence of CIA-loyal Time Lords being told to keep an eye on the Doctor after his trial, with the Master now being described as "seeking revenge for past deeds".
Nevertheless, and even though the distinction was never actually made clear in any story they oversaw as such, Virgin Books' editorial policy was that the Master and the War Chief were two distinct characters. Gary Russell later parodied this approach in his novel Divided Loyalties, where the Celestial Toymaker gives the Fifth Doctor nightmares about his time in the Academy. In the dreams, "Magnus" (who plans to ally himself with the War Lords) and "Koschei" (clearly the Master) are intentionally characterised as extremely similar; Magnus is obsessed with the War Lords, and Koschei looks up to Magnus. Nonetheless, this novel established an in-universe distinction between the two characters that would be later cited in A Brief History of Time Lords and elsewhere.
Further complicating matters was, in 1992, the comic story Flashback from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine, which introduced the character Magnus as the First Doctor's close friend on Gallifrey who became his rival after a betrayal. The story hints that Magnus already had more than one body. The name "Magnus" means "great" and was popular among royal houses in the Middle Ages. Most readers immediately identified the character as a younger version of the Master, as the Master had previously been established to be the Doctor's Academy friend in TV: The Sea Devils; indeed, according to DWM editor Gary Russell, this was the original intention. However, Russell later chose to retcon Magnus into being the War Chief so as not to conflict with other versions of the Master's past.
This led to Invasion of the Cat-People mentioning "Magnus" as someone whom the Second Doctor had once warned to be careful with his regenerations (clearly tying into the fact that the Master had quickly used up all his regenerations, an important plot element in The Deadly Assassin and The Keeper of Traken) even while the aforementioned Divided Loyalties explicitly identified "Magnus" as a younger War Chief distinct from the younger Master.
At any rate, the Master/War Chief connection continued to be pushed, including by stories not licensed to use either character. The Book of the War implies very strongly that the War King of the War-torn Homeworld, who used to be its greatest criminal, was not only once the Master, but also the War Chief, as he keeps a disassembled hypercube in his chambers as a nostalgic keepsake, in a clear allusion to the denouement of The War Games — besides which there is the sheer parallelism in the monikers of "War Chief" and "War King". Craig Hinton and Chris McKeon's unpublished novel Time's Champion, in its completed unlicenced charity version, similarly treated the War Chief and the Master as the same person (also working in Magnus from Flashback).
Pride of place was given to the Master - or rather the Masters: the familiar, music-hall villain in his velvet penguin suit had been captured in all of his melodramatic glory, but there was also a suave, older man, his eyes radiating a fierce, evil intelligence wrapped in charm, next to which was positioned the portrait of a young, satanically handsome man with long, sharp sideburns and a thin, beard length moustache, whose hand vainly clutched at a strange medallion hanging around his neck, as if clinging to the only power in his possession. And then there was an image of the cadaver, that rotting corpse that Mel knew was all that remained of the Doctor's oldest friend and oldest enemy, animated by nothing but pure malice and spite.
Statements by writers
I'm kind of pulled between two opposites on whether the War Chief is the Master. Personally I prefer to think he is — but professionally I wasn't allowed to!
Asked in 2021 whether he thought of "the Master and the War Chief to be the same character, or two, separate characters", writer of various anthologies Dave Rudden, citing the wisdom of Malcolm Hulke, answered:
I am of the House of Hulke in this matter... They're the same in my book - actually, maybe that's a book I should write... I'm kidding, what would people argue about if it was ever fully explained.
Conflicted. Since I grew up feeling they were definitely different, my heart probably says no. But my head probably acknowledges that it’d make a good deal of sense.
-  comment by Neil Corry regarding the Doctor Who: Figurine Collection
- Gary Russell forum post about Magnus