I bet you thought you’d be getting an Eighth Doctor retrospect right now, didn’t you? Well, as ol’ Uncle Miltie said, “Boy, I love wearing women’s clothes.” Wait, does that apply? Anyway, the Eighth Doctor will have to wait a bit longer, so instead I decided I’d whet your classic Who whistle with a look at the Doctor’s most persistent adversaries. These are villains who’ve fought our favorite Gallifreyan as the main adversary or component of a story more than two times in the entire history of the series. This does not include stories where they make only minor appearances. Villains who fall just below this criteria at exactly two appearances include The Meddling Monk, the Yeti, Omega, the Mara, Sil, and the Rani.
The villains will be listed by number of appearances from the most to the least. Note: I’m going by number of STORIES, not number of individual episodes in a multi-episode arc. Since the two most perpetual baddies have such a huge history, I’ll talk about them in this post and save the remaining four, with far less a piece, for a second post later in the week.
After the jump, pure evil….
22 Stories: 19 classic, 1 TV movie, 2 new
The granddaddy of all Doctor Who villains, the Master premiered in the 1971 Third Doctor story Terror of the Autons. The Third Doctor’s era was mostly stationed on Earth with him being part of UNIT, a sort of military-driven X-Files, lead by the ever-serious Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The Doctor and Brigadier’s relationship had a Holmes and Watson dynamic and the production staff decided they should introduce a Moriarty-like arch nemesis into the fray. Initially played by veteran character actor Roger Delgado, the Master was an evil renegade Time Lord with the ability to disguise himself as anyone and persuade people via hypnosis. His plots almost always involved world domination, stealing the Doctor’s TARDIS, or conspiring with, and usually double-crossing, other invading alien forces. Throughout his appearances, we learn that the Doctor and Master were in school together and were friends. The Master appeared in every story in season 8, his inaugural season, which was a novel idea, though by the fourth story, when we find out “My God, the Master’s behind it!” the whole concept loses its punch. Still, the last story, The Daemons, is a memorable one and an excellent ending to the season. He was used more sparingly after that, appearing in two stories in season 9 (The Sea Devils and The Time Monster) and one in season 10 (Frontier in Space).
As Jon Pertwee’s tenure as Doctor was drawing to a close, it was decided that he should fight Delgado’s Master in his very last story. During it, they would reveal that the Doctor and Master were in fact brothers before the Doctor eventually killed the villain for good, getting badly wounded in the process, triggering his regeneration into the Fourth Doctor. However, Delgado tragically died in a road accident while filming a movie in Turkey and the entire idea was scrapped. Frontier in Space stands as Roger Delgado’s final appearance as the diabolical Time Lord and, while a good story, ends rather abruptly and he never gets a proper send-off.
The Master would not return again for three years, when his hideously scarred and decaying visage popped up in the Fourth Doctor masterpiece, The Deadly Assassin. In it, the Master (Peter Pratt), decomposing as he has reached the end of his regeneration limit, is trying to gain access to the Eye of Harmony, the Time Lord relic which bestows them with the ability to rejuvenate. Though he is thwarted, he slips away in his grandfather clock-shaped TARDIS.
The rotting Master, this time played by Geoffrey Beevers, would return in Tom Baker’s penultimate story, The Keeper of Traken, with another nefarious plot to elongate his life by inserting himself as the planet Traken’s immortal keeper. When the Doctor derails his plan, the Master transfers his essence to Consul Tremas, played by Anthony Ainley, and he was again young, though still without the ability to regenerate. Ainley played the Master for the remainder of the classic series, building off of Delgado’s mold to become a scene-chewing Snidely Whiplash character.
This incarnation of the Master fought the Fifth Doctor five times, where his “grand schemes” were often fairly small in scope, though it did give Ainley the opportunity to dress up in strange costumes and makeup for the episode or two when we’re not supposed to know he’s the Master. Of the five, Planet of Fire is probably the best, and Time-Flight is easily the worst, and he also took a prominent role in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors. He returned as a secondary villain in the Sixth Doctor stories Mark of the Rani and The Ultimate Foe, last segment of Trial of a Time Lord, and was oddly involved in the very last classic series story Survival, where he becomes part cat from being on a orange-hued, feral planet. This guy just wouldn’t die, though, and his persona is again transferred in the 1996 TV movie, when his snake-like essence inhabits the body of a San Francisco paramedic played by Eric Roberts (yes, THAT Eric Roberts). He does battle with the newly-regenerated Eighth Doctor to gain access to the Eye of Harmony again, this time inexplicably located within the Doctor’s TARDIS.
The Master would remain dormant until the 2007 episode Utopia, wherein the kindly Professor Yana (Derek Jacobi) from the year 100 Trillion is revealed to be the Master, having hidden his Time Lordiness in a fob watch during the Last Great Time War. He is shot and regenerates into John Simm before slipping away in the TARDIS to present day. His plan during the following two episodes, to use future people to destroy present-day people, is probably his loftiest and maddest to date and, barring the bit with the Dobby-Doctor and his Jesus-like resurrection, this is a fantastic story arc. His final appearance to date is in David Tennant’s farewell story, The End of Time, where he faces off with the Tenth Doctor, and, wouldn’t you know it, the entirety of Gallifrey. This is a story so ridiculous, it must be seen to be believed. He’ll probably return someday, though I doubt it’ll be John Simm playing him, as he was the Delgado to Tennant’s Pertwee.
21 Stories: 14 classic, 7 new
If I were basing the ranking on number of years covered, number of Doctors faced, or number of individual episodes, the Daleks would easily take the top spot, but I conveniently picked the one criteria wherein they were number two. I’m a jerk like that. Debuting in the very second story ever, the Daleks have the distinction of fighting ten out of the eleven incarnations of the hero. They had very modest beginnings, as the antagonists of Terry Nation’s 7-part story, now given the banner title The Daleks. The show’s co-creator Sydney Newman had stated very clearly that he wanted to avoid any “bug-eyed monsters” on the show and that every story had to have some educational material; it was aimed at kids after all. However, problems with scripts meant that producer Verity Lambert was left with only Nation’s 7-parter story ready to produce. The rest, as they say, was history.
The Daleks’ design was a reaction to other film and television creatures that were very clearly just a guy in a suit (like almost every future Doctor Who monster) and designer Raymond Cusick decided, based on Nation’s scant description, to give them a very non-humanoid look. They are essentially personal armored tanks that the mutants inside (initially called the Dals, later the Kaleds) could pilot. Their odd, mechanical shape and harsh, grating voices extolling their mantra “EX-TER-MIN-ATE!!!” lend a very intimidating air to what is essentially a guy pushing himself around on a stool. The ratings improved dramatically over the seven episodes and by the end, Doctor Who was a certified hit.
The first serial depicted the horribly mutated Daleks still trying to wipe out the now-peaceful Thals off of their planet, Skaro. Right from the start, their main character trait is their unrelenting fear and hatred of anything different from them. This sets them apart from most villains as they do not crave domination but complete obliteration of anything non-Dalek. The rampant success of the creatures lead to their return the following season in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, where they have somehow survived the events of the previous story and have come to Earth in the year 2164 to subjugate and destroy the human race. This serial amped the allusions to the Daleks as Nazis and even featured shots of Daleks marching humans into camps. This serial proved even more popular than the first and a third appearance (the second in the same season) was inevitable.
With The Chase, Terry Nation took the concept a different direction by making the Daleks more comedic and bumbling as they relentlessly chased the TARDIS through various points in time and space. A low mark comes at one point with the once-feared pepper pots being tossed about by a robotic version of Frankenstein’s monster. Again, of course, the Daleks were defeated, but their most ambitious outing was yet to come.
Season three’s The Dalek’s Master Plan, the first story not penned entirely by their creator Terry Nation, was an epic in the true meaning of the word. At a whopping twelve episodes, Master Plan is the longest single-arc story in the show’s history and saw the return of the Meddling Monk as well as the first death of a companion (or two, if anyone wants to argue that point). Only three of the episodes still exist, thanks to the idiotic junking policy of the BBC in those days, but the complete audio is available with linking narration. In total, William Hartnell’s First Doctor faced the Daleks in four separate stories, the most of any Doctor to date, and in only a span of three years.
Terry Nation, it should be stated, is the only writer ever to get rich from Doctor Who, as he retained the rights to the Daleks and a piece of all the licensing that followed in what has been dubbed “Dalekmania!” He even tried to sell a solo Dalek series to American television with no success. Dalek’s Master Plan was the last Dalek story written by Nation for 8 years, but it would not be the end of the creatures’ involvement in the series by a longshot.
The Daleks’ next appearance would be in Patrick Troughton’s initial story, entitled The Power of the Daleks. Written by former story editor David Whitaker, the six-part Power had the gargantuan task of not only dealing with the very first new Doctor, and all that a sudden change would mean to the companions, and the audience at home, but also to show the Daleks at their most insidious. For most of the story, the evil salt shakers are playing possum, pretending to be the “SER-VANTS” of the human scientists on the planet Vulcan (no, not THAT planet Vulcan). Of course, they aren’t really serving anyone and the still-unsteady Second Doctor has to foil their plan to breed and replicate exponentially.
Troughton fought the Daleks again at the end of the season in another script written by Whitaker. The Evil of the Daleks was designed to be the “final end” for the nasty little buggers. In it, the Daleks enlist the Doctor’s help in isolating the “Human Factor,” the unique characteristics inherent to human beings that have allowed them to foil the Daleks for as long as they have. The Doctor, ingenious man that he is, uses this to create human-like Daleks who think for themselves and question their orders, eventually rising up and overthrowing the Dalek Emperor on Skaro. Both of these stories are immensely interesting and engaging, but unfortunately, only episode two of Evil still exists, though, again, the audio is available and well worth a listen.
Daleks in the 1970s were a mixed bag. The Third Doctor fought the Daleks in three stories: The timey-wimey Day of the Daleks written by Louis Marks, and two by Terry Nation, Planet of the Daleks, a paint-by-numbers retread of his earlier work, and Death to the Daleks, which sees the Daleks without weapons and nearly harmless for a good portion of it. Nation’s next script, the Fourth Doctor story Genesis of the Daleks, would prove to be his best since Invasion of Earth, and one of the best and most loved stories of all time. In it, the Doctor and his companions are taken to Skaro on a mission from the Time Lords to go back and prevent the creation of the Dalek race en mass. Skaro at this time is nearly desolate from the ever-escalating war between the Kaleds and the Thals. Both have begun to use chemical warfare which have caused mutations on either side. The TARDIS crew encounter Davros, the mad and deformed scientist who is the father of the Daleks, mutating his own people to create the perfect master race,, played with insanity and gusto by Michael Wisher. Prone to megalomaniacal rants and cruel experiments, Davros is Hitler and Mengele rolled into one. Davros proved to be such a powerful character that for the rest of the classic series, every time the Daleks appeared, they were accompanied by their creator.
The Fourth Doctor next met Davros (this time played by David Gooderson) and the Daleks in 1979’s Destiny of the Daleks, the last script for the series written by Terry Nation. I dislike this story so much, I refuse to talk about it. So there.
For the next 9 seasons, the Daleks would appear only thrice, having one adventure with each of the ensuing Doctors and all of them involve Davros at odds with the Daleks. Resurrection of the Daleks pits the Fifth Doctor against the Daleks who, still under threat from the virus that infected them during Destiny, need Davros to find a cure. In Revelation of the Daleks, the Sixth Doctor finds Davros conducting hideous experiments on people in a funeral home and turning them into a new breed of Daleks, much to the chagrin of the racially-cleansed Supreme Dalek. And in Remembrance of the Daleks, the Seventh Doctor travels back to 1963 where the series began and battles the Daleks for control of the Hand of Omega, a Time Lord device that has the power to destroy planets. All three of these stories are top notch and feature actor Terry Malloy as Davros.
After a very brief mention in the TV movie, the Dalek race finally returned in the Ninth Doctor episode Dalek, written by Rob Shearman. In it, the Doctor finds that he is not indeed the only survivor of the Time War. It’s one of the best stories the new series has delivered still to this day. That season’s two-part finale, Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways, saw the Doctor in a losing battle against a whole army of Daleks led by the new and improved Dalek Emperor. They are finally destroyed by Rose Tyler who has absorbed the power of the time vortex. In order to save her, the Doctor absorbs the power into himself, triggering his regeneration into the Tenth Doctor. He meets the Daleks again in the form of the Cult of Skaro, the four surviving Daleks, in Army of Ghosts/Doomsday in a The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly-style standoff with the Cybermen. In the following series’ Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks, the Cult of Skaro have made their way to Depression-era New York where they plan to make human/Dalek hybrids, and in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End from series 4, Davros makes his return along with an entire fleet of Daleks who escaped the Time War.
The Daleks get a makeover in series 5’s Victory of the Daleks, a rushed and uneven homage to Power of the Daleks set in WWII England, and make their final appearance to date in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang where they are part of the alliance of aliens and later a single, petrified Dalek chases the heroes around an empty museum. The problem with Daleks in New Who is that they’re VASTLY overused. Frankly, I’m tired of looking at them. A new interview with executive producer Piers Wenger has stated series 6 will not have any returning villains, and I can only hope this includes the Daleks who frankly could use the rest.
So there we have the Doctor’s two fiercest foes, but next time we’ll take a look at the other evil doers who’ve pestered the hero time and time again.