When you spend your days casually traveling through the infinite reaches of time and space in a big blue police box, you’re bound to run into a fair share of weird and wonderful characters from all sorts of kooky worlds and dizzying dimensions. The Doctor certainly has in BBC sci-fi series “Doctor Who,” which has been broadcast on British television screens since 1963 and is now approaching its 33rd season and 800th episode.
Throughout its near 50-year reign on worldwide TV screens (though with a 16-year hiatus from 1989 to 2005), “Doctor Who” has presented us with heroes, villains, creatures and monsters who have wowed and perplexed us nerdy viewers since the black-and-white days of ‘63. So, let’s take a look at the top ten characters (according to me) to have ever featured in this ground-breaking series, from the very beginning to the current incarnation.
Note: I’m including certain alien species as one entry as many of their members are, frankly, indistinguishable from one another, and to not include them seems unfair.
10. The Autons
First up, it’s the Autons, who were not only the first villains to be battled by the third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, but also by the ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Ecclestone; they were also the first “Doctor Who” villains to be shown in glorious Technicolor. First popping up in the 1970 episode “Spearhead from Space,” where they tried to take over our world, they are essentially window shop dummies who come to life, walk about and vaporize people using guns that pop out from their wrists. They also have the ability to bring everyday plastic objects to life, such as plastic chairs or artificial flowers. The Autons are creepy as hell, dangerous as hell and can also be used to deter people from window shopping for too long – buy something soon or we’ll vaporise your ass.
9. Sarah Jane Smith
Probably the most popular companion/assistant The Doctor has ever had, Sarah Jane Smith joined the intrepid time-traveller on his perilous adventures from 1973 to 1976 and has reappeared several times since. Played by the late, great Elisabeth Sladen, Sarah Jane Smith is an investigative journalist who first met the Doctor, who was in his third incarnation at the time, in the 1973 episode “The Time Warrior” after boarding the TARDIS during an investigation. The character has been regularly voted by viewers as the Doctor’s best companion, and was also given two spin-offs: a failed 1981 TV series called “K9 and Friends,” which never amounted to anything more than a pilot episode, and the much more successful “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” which was first broadcast in 2007 and ran for five series until Sladen’s death in April, 2011.
8. The Weeping Angels
Now, the thought of a statue may not seem a particularly scary one, but the kinds of statues shown in “Doctor Who” ain’t no regular kinda statues. The Weeping Angels, first depicted in the 2007 episode “Blink,” are an ancient race of extra-terrestrials that have the appearance of motionless angel statues when you look at them, but turn your back or close your eyes for a single millisecond and these stony figures will tear you to shreds. You see, the Weeping Angels are unable to move when any sentient being is looking at them, but when no one’s peepers are focused on them, the homicidal Angels they can freely move around at impossible speeds and feed on the energy of their unsuspecting victims. Well, statues seem awfully scary now, don’t they? Yeah. Maybe you’ll think again about passing by that lion statue on the way to work now, huh?
7. The Brigadier
The Brigadier – or Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, if you wanna be fancy – is one of the Doctor’s closest and oldest friends. Always clad in military uniform, The Brigadier first crossed paths with the Doctor in the third episode of the 1968 serial “The Web of Fear,” in which the two men together fought a gang of robot yetis (yep) attempting to invade London. Following this, The Brigadier – known then as a colonel – was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and became one of the men in charge of UNIT, an Earth-based organisation that deals with alien threats. English actor Nicholas Courtney played the legendary role right up until his death at the ripe old age of 81 in February, 2011.
6. The Valeyard
The Valeyard is said to be the penultimate incarnation of the Doctor; it may surprise you, then, that the Valeyard acts as a villain in the series. Played by English actor Michael Jayston, the Valeyard appears in all four episodes of the serial “The Trial of a Time Lord,” which was broadcast in 1986. The Doctor, in his sixth incarnation (played by Colin Baker) is put on trial, accused of genocide and disobeying the Laws of Time. The Valeyard is his prosecutor, but it goes unrevealed for some time that the Valeyard is in fact a future version of the Doctor himself, and has been appointed by the other Time Lords to have the sixth Doctor executed before he discovers the wrongs that they have done. In spite of the fact that the Valeyard evades capture at the end of the serial, he has never returned to the series since, so he may very well be due a comeback sometime soon.
5. The Cybermen
A classic villain now: the Cybermen, an army of crazed metal men obsessed with deleting things; give them a computer keyboard and they’ll no doubt abuse the backspace key. The Cybermen first reared their ugly metal heads in the 1966 serial “The Tenth Planet.” They were shown to be a humanoid alien race that was dying out and thus started replacing their body parts with Cybernetic parts, eventually turning themselves into cold, emotionless robots. They live to conquer, working as an army to forcibly turn those from other worlds into Cybermen too. They have reappeared many, many times throughout the show’s history, always with the word “delete” on the tip of their mechanical tongues – oh, those Cybermen and their silly deleting of things. What are they like?
4. The Daleks
Essentially salt and pepper shakers with toilet plungers lodged to their fronts, the Daleks are terrifying creatures who have had all sense of compassion and kindness sucked out of their system, leaving only anger and hatred to reign free. First popping up in the 1963-1964 serial “The Daleks,” these loathsome, genetically-engineered beings have since appeared in countless (okay, 92) episodes, frequently screeching the word “exterminate” as if suffering from a malicious version of Tourette’s syndrome. The true form of a Dalek is rarely glimpsed, as the octopus-like creature hides behind a metallic tank-like body that can zap people with a death ray and fly high into the sky. They’re vicious little buggers determined to conquer the universe and destroy anything un-Dalek, which of course leads to some smarty-pants allegories to the actions of the Nazis in WWII.
And if the Daleks are the Nazis, then say hello to Adolf Hitler. This fugly, crippled brute you see above is Davros, the creator and occasional leader of the dreaded Daleks. First showing his ghastly face in the 1975 serial “Genesis of the Daleks,” the one-eyed Davros created the Daleks during the legendary thousand-year war between his people, the Kaleds (an anagram of Daleks, y’see), and his enemies, the Thals. Davros believed his monstrous creation to be the ultimate supreme being, though he has since been betrayed by them on several occasions. Well, Davros, that’s what you get for being a fascist git and having such a silly name – you sound like a Greek pop singer, for crying out loud.
2. The Master
While Batman has the Joker and Superman has Lex Luthor, the Doctor has the Master. Making his first appearance in “Terror of the Autons” in 1971, the self-titled Master is the Doctor’s loony swine of an archenemy. Like the Doctor, he is a Time Lord, but not the good kind, commonly depicted as a moustache-twirling evildoer hell-bent on being a bastard. The Master has his own TARDIS and is determined to claim the universe all for his greedy self, as well as harm and torment the Doctor whenever such a situation arises. Six actors have portrayed the Master over the years, most recently “Life on Mars” star John Simm, who played him rather excellently in 2007 and 2009 – judging by his last appearance, the Master may not return again, but you never know; the writers could always contrive something to bring the brute back – they’ve been doing that with the Daleks for years.
1. The Doctor
Oh come on, who else could it have possibly been? And don’t you dare say K-9. The Doctor is, of course, the bold and heroic protagonist of “Doctor Who.” He is considered to be the universe’s last surviving Time Lord, the rest of whom perished in the Last Great Time War against the dreadful Daleks. He’s made it his sole objective in life to protect and save the universe from all sorts of dangerous threats and crises; it’s a good thing then that he just so happens to stumble upon one every time he steps outside his time-traveling blue box. On most occasions, he travels with at least one human companion, most of whom are female, though he has never been seen to “tap dat.” You know what I mean. The character has been played in the series by 11 actors so far (what with the Doctor’s ability to regenerate when fatally wounded), the current Doctor played by the more-than-splendid Matt Smith. But I must ask you one final question: Dr Who?
By Stephen Watson