It’s time for Doctor Who to regenerate some classic villains from the franchise’s history ahead of Jodie Whittaker’s debut as the Thirteenth Doctor. Since returning to screens in 2005, new Who has been nothing short of a runaway success. Yet despite its achievements, there have been some recurring criticisms of the modern era throughout the last thirteen years.
Some viewers couldn’t connect with Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner, others turned off when Matt Smith regenerated into the recently-departed Peter Capaldi and the TARDIS love stories always prove controversial. However, there is one particular criticism that has gained more traction with each passing season: Doctor Who‘s reliance on a small group of classic villains, namely the Daleks, the Cybermen and The Master.
Other classic monsters have featured in recent seasons of course – The Ice Warriors, Sontarans and Zygons immediately spring to mind – but their appearances have been largely standalone, with the more significant arcs saved for bigger name baddies. While this made perfect sense for the early few seasons (the Dalek battles that concluded Seasons 1 and 2 were glorious and The Master’s initial return was arguably the show’s best twist to date) the formula hasn’t changed much over the last ten runs.
This Page: New Doctor Who’s Villain Problem
The vast majority of modern season finales have featured some combination of the aforementioned trio of villains, with the rest either opting for a large scale team up (“The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang”) or avoiding a central villain altogether (“Hell Bent”). A notable exception to this is the Great Intelligence’s appearance in “The Name Of The Doctor” – although the episode is unfortunately remembered more for its overly-convoluted story rather than Richard E. Grant’s turn as the classic villain.
As a result, a certain element of predictability has surrounded Doctor Who. An inevitable sense that each season will boil down to something similar to the last. In a way, it’s hard to begrudge the show’s formula, the Daleks and the Cybermen are the most marketable foes in the franchise’s arsenal and proven merchandise shifters, while The Master is arguably the titular hero’s arch nemesis and one of the most versatile and complex antiheroes in fiction.
But even that infamous bunch have a shelf life and this is something that Doctor Who‘s creative team realized as far back as the 1970s when both the Daleks and Cybermen were afforded an extended break during Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Doctor. It might be unrealistic to expect something similar in 2018 but there’s certainly an argument to be made that doing so would benefit these villains in the long term, as their frequent use has resulted in both a lessened impact upon the audience and a number of unsuccessful soft-reboot attempts.
This has been particularly obvious in the case of the Daleks. The pepper-pot shaped villains made a huge impact as they fought David Tennant at London’s Canary Wharf but are now little more than part of the Doctor Who furniture. Perhaps it’s for this reason that Steven Moffat attempted several Dalek resets, firstly with the poorly-received ‘Power Ranger’ Daleks and again in “Asylum Of The Daleks” when the villains supposedly forgot who The Doctor was. Neither reshuffle had a lasting impact.
There is certainly a place for these oft-utilized antagonists but perhaps sparingly and with the right story. Fresh blood from Doctor Who‘s illustrious past would also help and, happily, there are a number of suitable candidates who have yet to be seen in the new era but would make excellent modern enemies nonetheless. Here are five possible classic-era Doctor Who villains that Jodie Whittaker could face in her forthcoming debut season.
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