A hero is only as great as the villain they overcome! Or so we’ve been told and shown a bajillion times. So, with how awesome the Doctor is, you know the villains have got to be pretty spectacular! And with ten seasons behind us, the cast of villains is huuuuuuuge! I mean, just take your pick between alien races, freakish monsters, nefarious masterminds, and more! Daleks, Cyberman, Sontarans, the Silence, Silurians, Slitheen, Zygons, Weeping Angels, the Master, the Great Intelligence, Davros, Rassilon the President, even the Devil himself in a pair of episodes, and still the list goes on! So many recurring threats, and so many one-shot villains, it’s amazing. 🙂
Many of these villains, as with all storytelling, are walking embodiments of humanity’s own fears and demons. The Daleks represent hatred for all things; the Cybermen are enforced conformity; the Master is madness, and a reinforcement of the Doctor’s loneliness; Rassilon fears death and holds himself superior to all others (much like the Daleks); creatures which represent our fear of the dark, our fear of what we can’t see, our greed and prejudice, they’re all here, and all dangerous in their own way.
Sifting through all of this, I found that while many of the villains are superb examples of evil, I was drawn to the ones who appear only once (or maybe twice) and, in their one episode, succeed in challenging the Doctor in unexpected ways. A surviving Slitheen, for instance, who used the Doctor’s own body count as a means to connect with him and beg for her life. Or those cat-nurse-nuns who did utterly reprehensible things “for the greater good,” saving life by treading on the very sanctity of it. And, if I am honest, I loved the episode where the Doctor went up against the witches, but that probably has more to do with Christina Cole’s performance as Lilith than anything else. She was my first pick for favorite villain. 😉
But if I am going to pick a favorite, there is one who appeared in only one episode, yet challenged the Doctor perhaps in the most potent way I’ve seen, standing toe to toe as an equal with the last of the Time Lords even when he was played by David Tenant, and may well have seduced the Doctor to his side if not for the presence of his beloved companions Sarah Jane Smith and Rose Tyler.
I speak of Brother Lassar, aka Lucas Finch, leader of the Krillitanes, played by none other than Anthony Stewart Head.
There’s a reason why people wanted him to play the Doctor, back before the revival. 🙂
The Krillitanes are arguably the biggest leeches in the universe, intergalactic parasites that give even the Doctor pause. “Think how bad things could possibly be and then add a whole suitcase full of bad,” he says. They invade worlds and cherry pick the best bits of each race, including physical attributes, which may or may not have something to do with how they kill and eat the natives. Then, when the Doctor and Lassar confront one another, the latter describes the Time Lords as, “Such a pompous race. Ancient, dusty senators, so frightened of change,” and “Peaceful to the point of indolence.”
So, in some ways, the invasive, absorbent Krillitanes and the reclusive, observant Time Lords are opposites of one another, and strangely equal. The Time Lords may have mastered time and space, but the Krillitanes, under Lassar, aimed even higher and further. They obtained the Skasis Paradigm, a code which, once solved, would make them practically gods, able to warp all of time and space and matter to their liking. Even the Time Lords and Daleks, both of which created a means to destroy reality, never managed anything like molding reality.
Of course the Doctor immediately intended to stop this effort, but then comes Lassar with the most tempting of offers: he asks the Doctor to join him. Lassar’s may be magpie mind, but he still knows that the Doctor can provide them with one essential thing they lack, and desperately need if they’re to be gods: wisdom. The Doctor can be the wisest of them, and can guide them in using the power for good. Just imagine, so many doomed civilizations spared, so many lives saved, even the Doctor’s own people could be saved, the hellish Time War simply written out of existence. He could even make his beloved companions immortal alongside him, never separating from him, never aging, withering, dying, never needing to say goodbye, which is a potent balm for a soul as lonely as the Doctor.
In short, the Doctor could have everything he ever wanted: the power to help, and lasting love, and he could have his home back.
A single episode, with about two conversations between Lassar and the Doctor, and the former has already brought the latter’s very soul right to its knees, so smoothly and elegantly. Not just any villain could have pulled that off.
If the Doctor had not had Sarah Jane Smith with him, right at that moment, there’s no telling what the Doctor would have chosen, with all his greatest desires dangled like a carrot in front of his nose. Fortunately, he chose better, but Anthony Stewart Head made Lassar into one heck of an evil salesman!
So, what about you? Who’s your favorite Doctor Who villain?