The Doctor has been battling with some of his enemies for hundreds (thousands?) of years, and I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten the reason for the individual conflicts and how they got started. But, for the rest of us, here’s a brief guide to a few villains that rattle the Time Lord’s cage.
Cybermen come from the planet Mondas and at one time were flesh and blood until they began experimenting with swapping their organs and limbs for artificial parts in a means of surviving. Over their long, tumultuous history they became more machine in nature and since there are fewer in numbers, than say the Daleks, they are always looking to snatch humans and upgrade them into their ranks. There have been many different versions of Cybermen over the years but all seem to have the basic thrust to preserve their species by eliminating or adapting anyone in their path. So, because The Doctor has battled them (first time in 1966’s The Tenth Planet) and won on numerous occasions, that makes him their enemy.
Blame it on Davros, the scientist, who genetically altered his own race known as Kaleds during their war against the Thals. He outfitted them with their stout little tank shells and erased all emotion except hate, giving them an annoying habit of repeating “Exterminate!” when they prepare to destroy anyone. The First Doctor (William Hartnell) encountered them in 1963’s The Daleks and nearly all the Time Lord incarnations have been fighting them ever since. Considered the The Doctor’s #1 enemies, but why do they despise him? For starters they want to purge the universe of all non-Dalek life but he continually stops them at every turn, and on one occasion he almost wiped them out of existence.
The Great Intelligence has no actual physical shape (in 1995’s Downtime he even admits he has no idea of what he originally looked like) but is still able to communicate. His main mission is to—you guessed it—take over the universe. The Second Doctor referred to it as a “Formless, shapeless thing, floating out in space like a cloud of mist, only with a mind and will.”
He is usually assisted by stooges like the Yeti, Whisper Men, Spoonheads, and my personal favorite, The Snowmen. The Great Intelligence first appeared in 1967’s The Abominable Snowmen but was retired a couple years later due to a copyright disagreement between the creators of the character and the BBC. The Great Intelligence returned in a big way with the incomparable Sir Ian McKellen in 2012’s “The Snowmen.”
Ice Warriors (and Ice Lords)
These towering, humanoid-reptilian aliens are—like the Daleks, Cybermen, Great Intelligence, and The Master—trying to take over the Earth, but they have a much better reason than most because they were originally from Mars before that planet died. Not entirely evil in the way of Daleks and Cybermen, and some Warriors have actually helped the Doctor (1972’s The Curse of Peladon).
Writer Mark Gatiss (“Victory of the Daleks,” “Robot of Sherwood,” etc.) was a fan of the original Ice Warriors and championed their return in 2013’s “Cold War” where The Doctor and Clara Oswald find on a submarine an Ice Warrior named Skaldak who believes he is the last of his kind. That episode has the distinction of showing an Ice Warrior out of its armor plating which is a source of great shame for the species. That Warrior, Grand Marshall Skaldak, only did so out of desperation and as a last resort, believing he had nothing else to live for.
At the age of eight The Master was forced to peer into the Untempered Schism, a gap in the fabric of space and time, which makes some individuals go stark raving mad and that is exactly what happened to The Master. His goal is also to rule the universe though he puts it more scientifically in 1976’s The Deadly Assassin as “the master of all matter.” However, he also has a personal vendetta with The Doctor who he has known since childhood. The Master gets rather emotional with Ten (David Tennant) in “The End of Time” when they both suspect they wouldn’t be much without the other. The original actor to play the part was Roger Delgado and his unexpected death in 1973 was given as a reason by Jon Pertwee, a close friend, as to why he left the show. Five other actors have also played the Master including Peter Pratt, Anthony Ainley, Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi, and John Simm.
The late, fabulous Kate O’Mara (1939-2014) played the renegade Time Lord called Rani and, yes, her goal was to be ultimate ruler, as well. But in a curious turn, her interest in carrying out various scientific tests, including the manipulation of other species’ biochemical makeup, had become an obsessive pastime. She was banished from her home planet after some of her experimental mice overgrew and ate a cat belonging to the Lord President.
Rani has so far appeared in only two serials—The Mark of the Rani (1985) and Time and the Rani (1987)—and a final appearance in 1993’s Dimensions in Time. Rani’s TARDIS, unlike The Doctor’s, is fully functional as a chameleon-like vehicle. It’s interesting to note she is roughly the same age as The Doctor and was, basically, a youthful friend of his as was The Master.
Trivia: Rani means “Queen” in Hindi.
One of the most powerful enemies The Doctor has ever faced and first introduced in 2011’s “The Impossible Astronaut.” Powerful because once you look away from The Silence you forget their presence and history. They are completely erased from one’s mind. The Doctor and his team (including FBI agent Canton Delaware) in due course begin marking their skin in order to “remember” their encounters. According to Wikipedia, a few critics noticed The Silence resembled Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “the Gentlemen” from the “Hush” episode. However, show producer and lead writer Stephen Moffat says he drew inspiration from Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream in addition to the Men in Black.
Memorable scene from “Day of the Moon” (2011) has Canton asking a Silent if he’s armed. The creature responds, “This world is ours. We have ruled it since the wheel and the fire. We have no need of weapons.” Canton then draws his weapon and wounds the Silent yelling, “Welcome to America.”
“Sontarans never do anything without a military reason.”
–The Fourth Doctor, The Sontaran Experiment
An extraterrestrial race of humanoids who live for no other reason than to battle and kill. They all pretty much look the same due to cloning instead of sexual reproduction. They are shorter than humans but extremely stocky and stronger than an Earthling. In “The Sontaran Stratagem” (2008) they are humorously described as resembling “a talking baked potato.” And maybe it’s a little easy putting them on this list because they just don’t hate the Doctor for thwarting their war faring plans but they pretty much despise anyone who’s not a Sontaran. An exception is the continuing education of Strax—a likable twelve-year-old (adult in Sontaran years) who has a hard time telling human gender which makes for numerous chuckles with every appearance. He’s paying his dues as a nurse (after his failure to stop The Doctor in the Sontarans attempt to invade Earth) and he joins Madame Vastra and her wife Jenny Flint to make a formable 19th century defense against all forms of wrongdoing.
“There is some evil in all of us, Doctor—even you. The Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say you do not improve with age.”
So far, The Valeyard has only appeared (not counting other tie-in media) in all four segments of The Trial of a Time Lord (1986), featuring the Sixth Doctor played by Colin Baker. That seminal episode features The Doctor being accused of conduct unbecoming of a Time Lord, chiefly an “incorrigible meddler in the affairs of other peoples and planets.” The Valeyard is a Time Lord and his name stands for “learned court prosecutor” (though The Doctor snidely refers to him as “the Boneyard” and “the Scrapyard”), and in “The Name of the Doctor” (2013) the Great Intelligence says that “Valeyard” is one of the names by which the Doctor will be referred to before the end of his life. Considering we are currently at the twelfth incarnation (yeah, I know there’s the War Doctor) I’m wondering if The Valeyard is going to play a bigger role in the Peter Capaldi era.
The Tenth Doctor: Almost every species in the Universe has an irrational fear of the dark. But they’re wrong. ’Cause it’s not irrational. It’s Vashta Nerada.
Donna Noble: What’s Vashta Nerada?
The Tenth Doctor: It’s what’s in the dark. It’s what’s always in the dark.
More precisely, the Vashta Nerada are microscopic hungry killers who live in clusters, move at lighting speed to devour their prey. Ten refers to them as “piranhas of the air” and admits he has never seen an infestation on the level he’s encountering in 2008’s “Silence in the Library.” So, technically, they don’t have a personal beef with the time lord but they are some of the worthiest ‘villains’ he’s ever faced. Memorable scene has him tossing a chicken drumstick into a shadow and watching how quickly the flesh is devoured.
Winged Humanoids that The Doctor describes as “the only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely.” Because you don’t really die—though they haven’t been above snapping a neck if their plans get off track—but are zapped into the past and then they live off your energy of your life that would have been in the present. First introduced in the intense “Blink” and consistently voted by Whovians as some of the most chilling episodes of the show’s half century history. The Angels don’t seem to have a master plan other than gaining the energy they seek to flourish—essentially survivalists. In “The Time of Angels” Eleven describes them to an initially unconcerned Amy Pond as “The deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent life form evolution has ever produced.” Soon enough they claim her and her husband Rory in the tear-jerker, “The Angels Take Manhattan.”
Some trivia from Wikipedia: “Blink” was written by Steven Moffat and was based on his short story called “‘What I Did on My Christmas Holidays’ by Sally Sparrow.”
Some real ugly here: Zygons are shape-shifting creatures with deep inset faces and suckers over their bodies. They first appeared in 1975’s Terror of the Zygons and like the Ice Warriors want to conquer Earth because their own planet was destroyed. Well, at least that seems more reasonable than universe megalomaniac conquest, right? The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) memorably made out with a Zygon in the shape of Queen Elizabeth I that led to this humorous exchange with the Eleventh Doctor played by Matt Smith:
Eleven: One of those was a Zygon?
Eleven: Big red rubbery thing covered in suckers.
Eleven: Venom sacs in the tongue.
Ten: Yeah I’m getting the point, thank you.
So who would you pick as your favorite Time Lord villains? Which ones would you like to see return and who could you do without for a while? For me, my overall favorite is the Cybermen and I would like a long break from the Daleks.
David Cranmer is the publisher of the BEAT to a PULP webzine and books and editor of the recent collections The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform and Other Stories and A Rip Through Time: The Doctor, the Dame, and the Device.