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Posts Tagged ‘31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters’

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #21: Sil

October 21st, 2012 No comments

My favorite episode of Colin Baker’s mercifully brief tenure as the 6th Doctor–an admittedly low bar–was Vengeance on Varos. It was a clever, self-aware story about televised violence which cast the Doctor and Peri as unwilling stars in a perilous journey through the “Punishment Dome.”

What I liked most about the production was its conceit of having the entire tale play out on the television screen of a bored married couple who never interacted with the other characters, commenting on the action like a Greek chorus. When the Doctor inevitably put an end to the system of video torture, they were merely left to wonder what they were going to watch.

Another notable element was the introduction of a new recurring villain, a cunning capitalist who was literally a slimy slug, a little creep named…

Sil!

Vengeance on Varos (1985)

Sil was a striking creation that took advantage of the short stature of actor Nabil Shaban, who was born with brittle bone disease. He made a surprisingly credible alien, sitting atop a bubbling water tank, sucking down “marsh minnows” and gleefully gurgling over his sadistic pleasures.

He was one of the Mentors, a race of rapacious investors who later got in dutch with the Time Lords over their attempt to grant themselves immortality via brain swapping.

I’ve long thought that Sil would’ve fit in nicely on the modern Doctor Who series, perhaps in an alliance with the equally mercenary (and silly) Slitheen.

Tomorrow: never underestimate the power of organic crystallography!

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #20: The Ambassadors of Death

October 20th, 2012 No comments

While yesterday’s entry was all about aliens that had been given the wrong names, today’s is about some that had no name at all. In fact, their only identification is the one given by the title of their story…

The Ambassadors of Death!

The Ambassadors of Death [duh] (1970)

Like the Ice Warriors, the Ambassadors hailed from Mars. However, they were not native to that world. They first encountered humanity when they intercepted a manned space probe, and later replaced three Earth astronauts with three of their own, apparently to make peaceful overtures. Unfortunately, they were kidnapped by a xenophobic British general who was able to control them and use their ability to project blasts of radiation as part of a plan to discredit the aliens as invaders.

For most of the seven-episode storyline, the space-suited aliens remained hidden. When they finally removed their helmets, their revealed faces seriously freaked out my eleven-year-old self. (I first saw the story in 1976; WTTW-TV in Chicago bought the initial syndicated run of Jon Pertwee’s first three seasons and aired them in a random order, which was a great way of building viewership for a serialized show.)

Tomorrow: care for a marsh minnow?

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #19: The Ice Warriors

October 19th, 2012 No comments

At least two of the recurring alien species of the Whoniverse suffer from the lack of proper names for themselves. It’s not that they’re unnamed, but rather that the only names we know have been supplied by others.

Consider the Silurians. The 3rd Doctor surmised that those reptilian humanoids originated in the Silurian Period of Earth’s prehistory, and the moniker stuck. After fans pointed out that reptiles didn’t evolve until much later, he declared “The chap who discovered them must have got the period wrong. No, properly speaking, they should’ve been called the Eocenes.” (Note that the Doctor himself was that “chap.”) This too was incorrect; the creatures were supposed to be contemporaries of the dinosaurs and the Eocene Epoch occurred some 10 million years after the dinos became extinct. (Give or take a few.) Still later, the 11th Doctor referred to them as Homo Reptilia. Again, wrong. In taxonomy, “Homo” is a genus of the Mammalia order, not Reptilia.

What we have learned here is that the Doctor talks a lot of shit.

However, he was not to blame for another woeful misidentification…

The Ice Warriors!


The Ice Warriors (1967)

It was a hapless human scientist who coined the term “Ice Warrior” for the giant that had been dug out of an Earth glacier in the 34th Century.

Natives of the planet Mars, the Ice Warriors were yet another species of humanoid reptiles. They wore armored carapaces with arms that ended in large clamps, adding them to the list of aliens that had heard of manual dexterity but had decided to do without. Those who mocked their design flaws were likely to receive a blast from the sonic weapons embedded in their wrists.

About this “Ice Warrior” thing: keep in mind that the sole reason they were called that was because the first ones encountered by humanity had been unlucky enough to get themselves frozen. It would be as if, after rescuing me from a big hole, you began referring to me as a “Pit Person.”

But, as with the Silurians, the name stuck. By the time of their fourth appearance in 1974’s The Monster of Peladon, they were calling themselves Ice Warriors. Furthermore, it was revealed that–unlike actual reptiles–they were rendered sluggish by heat.

In general, Doctor Who is a bit crap when it comes to science.

Tomorrow: more invaders from Mars!

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #18: Sentreal

October 18th, 2012 No comments

For today’s entry in the Doctor Who / Halloween countdown, I’m going to invoke one of most obscure creatures in the show’s 49-year history.

In the year 4000, a group of alien delegates from the Outer Galaxies met on the planet Kembel to forge an unholy alliance with the Daleks. Of them, perhaps the most mysterious was the sinister chess piece named…

Sentreal!

Mission to the Unknown (1965)

Very little is known about Sentreal, and no footage of him is known to exist. He appeared in a one-off episode called Mission to the Unknown which served as a prelude to the epic The Daleks’ Master Plan. Sadly, both Mission and most of Master Plan were destroyed during the BBC’s infamous tape library purge.

Really, the only reason that I include him in this countdown is that I think that he just looks cool. He’s like a sinister chess king. You can’t quite see it in the photo above, but he even has a little cross atop his head, furthering the resemblance.

Sentreal perished when his Sicilian Defense proved no match for the Nimzowitsch–Larsen Attack.

Tomorrow: invaders from Mars!

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #17: Meglos

October 17th, 2012 No comments

Across time and space, the Doctor has found himself challenged by evils in many forms: human tyrants, cybernetic zombies, sociopathic blobs, all manner of giant insects, titans, demons and gods.

And then there was that time he fought a cactus.

I’m not talking about a cactus-man, or some sort of robo-cactus. I’m referring to an actual decorative plant. In a pot.

This menace from a garden center referred to itself as…

Meglos!

Meglos (1980)

The “last of the Zolfa-Thurans,” Meglos sought to reclaim the Dodecahedron, a mysterious 12-sided object that could generate tremendous energy.* He intended to use it to power a planet-smashing doomsday weapon.

It would’ve been a short episode had Meglos been restricted to his pot, so fortunately he was able to transfer himself into a human’s body. He subsequently transformed into a copy of the Doctor…well, a copy of the Doctor with green skin and spines. So, not much of a disguise.

Oddly, Meglos very nearly showed up in the modern Doctor Who series. In early drafts of the 11th Doctor story The Lodger, Meglos was the villain at the top of the stairs. Amusingly, he was frustrated to learn that the Doctor didn’t even remember their previous epic conflict.

Tomorrow: checkmate!

*It was also handy for determining the amount of damage done by a greataxe. Meglos played a barbarian in Sutekh’s Friday night Dungeons & Dragons game.

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #16: Eldrad

October 16th, 2012 No comments

Female villains were relatively rare on classic Doctor Who. Offhand, I can recall Queen Xanxia, Cessair of Diplos, Hilda Winters…come to think of it, a fair number of them appeared opposite Tom Baker’s Doctor.* One of the most memorable villainesses, however, turned out to be something of a tease. I’m referring to the Kastrian warlord named…

Eldrad!

The Hand of Fear (1976)

Eldrad was a silicon-based lifeform sentenced to obliteration by the Kastrian people. All that remained was a hand which fell to Earth. One hundred fifty million years later, the Doctor’s friend Sarah Jane Smith discovered it in an English quarry–one of the few times that the show went on location to a quarry because they actually needed to show a quarry and not an alien world.

The fossilized hand sported a chunky ring which contained Eldrad’s intact consciousness. Possessed, Miss Smith was forced to carry the hand to a conveniently-located nuclear reactor. Eldrad absorbed the radiation and regenerated into a form allegedly modeled on Sarah’s physiognomy, a pebbly femme fatale with glowing blue eyes.

Appealing to the Doctor with a tale of wrongful punishment, Eldrad was transported in the TARDIS back to Kastria, where she seemingly was killed by one of the booby-traps left behind to prevent her possible return.

Reborn into a new body, Eldrad assumed his true form–a male Kastrian. A bit disappointing, really. So few women break into the field of interstellar conquest.

Tomorrow: stuck on you…

*Several others appeared late in the show’s run, among them the Rani, Morgaine, Helen A and Lady Peinforte.

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #15: The Ogrons

October 15th, 2012 No comments

The modern Doctor Who series has done much to rehabilitate the once-damaged reputation of the Daleks. These days, few make jokes about the their inability to climb stairs. And if they do, the Daleks float up and exterminate their asses.

However, as much as nu-Who has tried to sell us on the idea that the Daleks’ traditional plunger arms are terrifying murder devices, the fact remains that after millions of fictional years in which to refine their design, the Daleks have never built themselves a proper hand.

So, when nothing but an opposable thumb will do, they must turn to other, less-supreme species. Such as today’s entry…

The Ogrons!

Day of the Daleks (1972)

Hulking brutes from a rocky, unnamed planet, the Ogrons were (barely) smart enough to serve as hired muscle. They could operate complex equipment and even spacecraft, but the mind boggles at the number of diagrams and Post-It Notes that must have been involved in their training.

From an alternate timeline in which the Daleks were the masters of 22nd Century Earth, Ogrons were sent back to the 20th Century to thwart a group of future human rebels who themselves had traveled back in time to prevent the events that would lead to World War III. In one of classic Who‘s few examples of “timey-wimey” plotting, the humans were actually the ones responsible for creating the Dalek-controlled future in which they lived. (If it all sounds a little like the Terminator films, keep in mind that this episode predated them by more than a decade.)

The following year, the Ogrons made a second appearance as minions of the Master, who in turn was working for the Daleks. It was all part of a complicated plot to pit 26th Century Earth against the Draconian Empire, leaving both sides too weak to fend off a Dalek invasion. Surely the Ogrons themselves didn’t understand it, but were happy to play along nonetheless.

Tomorrow: Eldrad must live!

 

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #14: Kroll

October 14th, 2012 No comments

Monsters are a big part of Doctor Who, and they don’t come any bigger than the tentacled terror of the third moon of Delta Magna…

Kroll!

The Power of Kroll (1978)

Kroll began life as just a run-of-the mill giant squid until the fateful day he devoured the holy relic of the Swampies who had been forcibly relocated to Delta III. The Swampies were unaware that their religious symbol was actually a disguised segment of the all-powerful Key to Time, hidden in the Delta Magna system after the Key was split into six pieces for safekeeping.

The energy of the Key segment caused the cephalopod to grow to enormous size, topping out at a mile wide. The Swampies dubbed it Kroll and worshipped it as a god. Meanwhile, the large quantities of methane it excreted drew human harvesters to Delta III. That’s right, the “power of Kroll” was squid farts.

Tomorrow: You’ll never make a monkey out of them!

 

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #13: The Tractators

October 13th, 2012 No comments

The three-year run of the 5th Doctor was a bit light when it came to introducing new and notable monsters. There were returning creatures such as the Cybermen, Daleks, Silurians and Sea Devils; as well as recurring villains Omega, the Master and the Black Guardian. But a fair number of the would-be monsters seemed more like afterthoughts. The Garm, the Ergon, the Plasmatons and the Magma Beast didn’t even qualify as second-stringers. And the less said about the Myrka

There were a few exceptions. And my favorites among them were the scourges of the planet Frontios, the gravity-generating mealworms…

The Tractators!

Frontios (1984)

In the far, far future–beyond even the scope of the Time Lords’ knowledge–the human colony of Frontios was frequently bombarded by meteors drawn to the planet’s surface. And one by one, the colonists were being swallowed up by the ground itself.

The Tractators were mindless creatures that needed a controlling intelligence–the Gravis–to focus their gravity-manipulation abilities. Its plan was to dig a honeycomb of tunnels that would transform the entire world into a “gravity motor.” And for its next trick, it blew up the TARDIS!

Admittedly, the Tractators suffered from the inherent limitations of trying to turn a human actor into a convincing non-humanoid life form in the days before inexpensive computer graphics. The stiff costumes kept them from curling around their victims as originally intended.

Tomorrow: Kroll! Kroll! Kroll! Kroll!

31 Classic Doctor Who Monsters #12: The Yeti

October 12th, 2012 No comments

In the old days, it didn’t take much to vault one into the topmost pantheon of Doctor Who monsters. All you needed do was to show up for a return bout. How else to explain that such heavy-hitters as the Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans were mentioned in the same breath as the animatronic plushies masquerading as…

The Yeti!

The Abominable Snowmen/The Web of Fear (1967/1968)

Unlike fellow two-timers the Autons and the Mara, the Yeti didn’t even wait a full season before darkening the TARDIS door again. A mere two stories separated their initial appearance in the 2nd Doctor’s adventure with The Abominable Snowmen before they engulfed modern-day London in The Web of Fear.

In 1930s Tibet, an astral presence calling itself the Great Intelligence possessed the local monastery’s high lama, instructing him to construct fur-covered robots based on the “real” Yeti. In best Scooby-Doo tradition, they were intended to scare off visitors to the monastery. Silver “control spheres” concealed within their chests allowed the Intelligence to direct them.

While the Doctor drove the non-corporeal evil from Tibet, it manifested a second time in 1970s London. The reactivated Yeti enveloped the tunnels of the Underground in a web…as Yetis are known to do? Perhaps confused by the unsuitability of their Tibetan disguise in a London subway, they were routed again.

A Yeti robot made another non-sequitur appearance in the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors, inexplicably drawn into the Game of Rassilon being played in Gallifrey’s Death Zone.

Tomorrow: the 5th Doctor underestimates the gravity of his situation!