5 Dark Doctor Who Concepts

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Guest contributor Christopher Johnson examines the darker side of Who.

Doctor Who is one of those shows that can make something as simple as a statue or something as ridiculous as a man made of sweets become terrifyingly creepy. Fear is one of the things that have helped Doctor Who stay in culture for 50 years. Even without that sink plunger heading for Barbara, something would have been missing from the show. They didn’t just put a scary mask on for kids, the writers made the ideas of these frightening creations incredibly clever also. This Halloween, I shall be exploring five of my favourite ideas: ideas that really make you think about just how dark they actually are and force you to confront what they do the poor person they are inflicted upon.

N.B. I shall be leaving the Cybermen out as they have already been explored in great detail and I would like to give credit to ideas that haven’t been touched upon. This shall also be excluding the ideas from Torchwood as it is an unfair judgement compared to a family show due to its more adult themed nature.

(Some parts not for the faint hearted…)

The Toclafane

Toclafane570The Toclafane are the last “evolution” of the Human race. Disgusting creatures, locked in a metal killing machine (these guys were going replace the Daleks for the revival – good candidates)

Humans in the Whoniverse have been shown to be the survivors; always carrying on, always pulling through and staying strong: being ‘the best of humanity’. Russell T. Davies throws this idea on its head and explores how our survival instinct can also be negative and have horrible ramifications. It’s obvious the Toclafane didn’t naturally evolve into the creatures we saw in Last of the Time Lords; they adapted to “Utopia” (a dark, cold, uninhabitable planet) by working on themselves, similar to the original Mondasians changing into Cybermen. But I think the Toclafane are a more chilling notion. They didn’t get rid of emotions – instead, they relished in the most sadistic of them; perhaps this wasn’t the plan but either way the process caused terrible effects.

I began to think about how they actually changed. The rocket landed on Utopia, out of fuel, losing energy most likely, on a wasteland. These last ‘fragments’ of humanity have to survive. They come up with the last model of humanity; the last shape they can take. And obviously, everybody will not be supporting this decision, so some are forced. I won’t be going into how they actually change you – it’s difficult to contemplate – but it must be torture. Just look at the design: metal clamps on their face, mutated skin, and those eyes – they look like they’ve been through hell.

Maybe it drove them to insanity. Some could have been lobotomised by the operation (they did have the mind of children after all so something was clearly done to the brain) which would explain their fast childlike movements, their behaviour and actions killing thousands of innocent lives, acting gleefully while doing so. The Master could easily use them by promising to get them away from the dark and cold. They must have been easily influenced after what they have been through.

Look at Creet: he was a small, innocent child, turned into a mass murderer. He finds slaughtering the race he was once part of as a fun thing to do, it’s a game. That in itself is a dark, disturbing idea. He was a small, brave, optimistic child eager for a new life. And now he’s a sick, disgusting, insane mutated parody of humanity who has nothing left but to kill because it’s fun.

The Toclafane explore why our fight for survival isn’t always a positive characteristic as it can lead to something not human at all.

The Midnight Entity

Sky-Silvestry-midnightIn 2008’s Midnight, Sky Silvestry – a passenger on-board the Midnight Crusader 50 tour cruiser – was taken over by an unknown entity. Mechanic Claude saw a shadow – ‘like something shifting’ – on the cliffs. It ‘broke in’ (metaphorically, perhaps) without opening the bus, but it did dent it and shred the seats. I think it has some physical presence, perhaps not a full being. So it can touch, but also break in without opening an entrance. Anyway, I’m not here to talk about how aesthetics or how it works to break in (but it does add on to the subject). Rather, how you will feel if it comes for you.

Now, let’s look at Sky’s view: The bus stops, far away from any form of salvation. The banging starts. You’re terrified. The banging gets closer. The lights are flickering on and off – swift, but uncanny nonetheless. You see a glimpse of the creature, out the corner of your eye. It’s looking for you. Hunting you like a predator… The seats are ripped apart… and it’s there. Right in front of you. The banging continues – you become aware that your fear has induced a physical and mental vulnerability. You are a perfect target. Or, subsequently, a perfect host…

How does it take over? It might morph into you, grab you and mentally join with you (with the entity dissolving or vanishing). Whatever way, your brain would go everywhere. It might just shut down out of the shock as it’s too much. But Sky does look partly conscious. Behind that eerie unsettling stare you can also see a bit of fear, like the terrified woman is still there, but stuck inside. I can only compare what Sky feels during the episode to something akin to a stroke: she can see, has awareness, but can do nothing.

I think Sky herself is still being taken over while the passengers get their torches. She has her head crouched down, and doesn’t react till the entity is in full control. She’s paralysed, terrified, and probably in pain as the creature takes over (the crouched position suggests this to me and suggests the takeover is in progress). Look at the Doctor. He didn’t get attacked – it just ‘slithered’ in there. He looks like he’s having a dying mental battle in there. Perhaps the main part is in Sky, and it latches on to other hosts, taking their knowledge and building up, like a smart parasite, spreading to different minds. The Doctor has been hypnotised or had a mental attack before (The Pyramids of Mars, Mindwarp) but here he really seems disturbed, which shows how much of a threat the creature was to him, because it has serious effects on the Doctor, a man who could shrug off being taken over; it gives the creature more fear. And of course we fear the unknown, which this creature is. Never seen, never truly heard, and always a mystery.

The Fate Of Oswin Oswald

oswin-asylum-of-the-daleksOswin crashed on the Dalek asylum and went to investigate. But during her search she was kidnapped by a group of insane Daleks and was fully converted into a Dalek herself by nano-cloud technology. After a few re-watches of Asylum of The Daleks I started to think how this may have felt for Oswin, and what would be seen in the Dalek casing.

She must have been scared witless. Being forced into some apparatus – then feeling herself change into a Dalek, trying to fight back the whole time.

What happened to Oswin physically is a disturbing thought. It can’t just be a human in there can it? Something must have affected her. She could have been deeply mutated – maybe fully changed into a Dalek? It would be a horrible process; her arm changing, morphing into tentacles, her skin turning frail and green. If she changed fully into a Dalek, how long did it take? A few minutes? A few hours? Either way the process would be extremely painful. If she hadn’t changed fully into a Dalek, what would you find if that casing was opened? A disgusting abomination with the features of Oswin?

Now let’s explore the mental process. She is seen trying to fight the mental changes from the start (“I am human, I am not Dalek!”). Oswin was so determined to stay human that she made her own dream-world; stuck on a ship making soufflés, still with some hope of rescue. But the Dalek influence seeps through. At the very start Daleks scream “LET US ENTER!” Daleks in intensive care hardly ever spoke, so perhaps that was the Dalek side of her trying to overtake the human side. But she blocks it out. And then there are little hints: the shape of her ship is similar to a Dalek head, her vision through the screen is the Dalek eye-piece, and the patterns on the screens of her ship are Dalek text. Then once the dream is crushed by the Doctor, the human side has a breakdown. She’s lost all hope, she knows the truth, and now she’s vulnerable. The Dalek takes full control and is just about to kill the Doctor…then the human fights back.

Her exit is an unusual mix of melancholy and positivity. After all the things Oswin went through: kidnapped, experimented on, changed drastically, she died as a brave human being who saved the Doctor.

The Krynoid

Krynoid-seeds-of-doomThe Krynoid is “a galactic weed” which feeds on animal meat. This focuses on their life-cycle (for those who do not know it) and how it affects the poor victim. If you know of the process you can skip ahead.

The life cycle consists of three stages. A complete Krynoid will shoot out seed pods all over the vicinity, which will make more Krynoids in the process. Through some unknown way, they hurtle through space and land on planets in pairs, starting the stages of its life.

Stage One: The Krynoid seed pod releases a shoot which attaches to a host, infecting it. It turns the host’s skin into a green vein pattern. The host is put in shock and trauma which renders it unconscious or in deep shock. While this is happening, the host develops rough areas of plant matter all over its body.

Stage Two: The Krynoid is now in control. It’s bigger, with parts of the plant creature all over the body and no sign of any part of the Host. The body consists of green plant matter, which spawned at stage one, but is now swollen in size and has grown throughout the whole body. There are also root tendrils around the creature. While the Krynoid has taken over it still has characteristics of its host. For example: if it has used a human Host, it will be in a simplified shape of a humanoid, two arms, legs, a head etc. And the head may have retained eyes and a mouth, but it would be barely visible. It may have also fed on the host’s mind. During “The Seeds of Doom”, the fully-grown Krynoid speaks English, which could point to the fact that it may feed on the mind of a host (This is not fully confirmed).

Krynoid-seeds-of-doom-largeStage three: The Krynoid creature has gone to the final stage. It is no longer anything related to the host. A fully grown Krynoid resembles a large green creature; the size of a full mansion, with large vines which it can use for attack. This process starts by the humanoid Krynoid (or any creature it has taken over) changing into a fairly large creature, which grows bigger over time. In the next part of the process, it’s about the size of a cottage, and has very tough power. Then the next part of the process it will change into a fully complete Krynoid creature, as described above. The full Krynoid creature has the power to control plant life in the local vicinity and can fire out many seed pods over the area it is situated, thus starting the Krynoid process again.

But what about what’s underneath the green skin? When the shoot stings you it releases the infection; spores going into your bloodstream and your veins turning vessels for it to spread, parts of the Krynoid growing inside you and changing you. When you are in the half way process the Krynoid has now just about fully taken over you. It’s fed on your mind, used you as a mould for itself. You’re useless. But remember they are meat-eaters. They could be feeding on you as it’s changing into stage two. You can’t scream; your voice box may be wrapped in a root, or is it consumed? As more of you changes you could be slowly feasted by the creature for energy.

This is a hard part to write as most of this is just speculating. It’s just my guess as to what happens during this process. We only see the physical changes and have no idea what goes on underneath, is the host dead, or is it silently tortured? Whatever way, what the Krynoid does is horrible; you are nothing but a meal, a base for its growth. And by the end you’re gone. This is more focused on my imagination’s view of it so others will most likely have another idea.

The Trickster

sarah-jane-wedding-tricksterHe faced the Doctor, his brigade featured in Doctor Who and Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures is in the Whoniverse so the Trickster is allowed a spot.

Some may think this is an unusual choice but I think he is one of the most horrible, darkest villains in the show, and he isn’t even in the show fully (yet). To me the best villains are the ones that meddle and manipulate you by turning your mind and emotion against you. And the Trickster does just that. Using emotion as a gain to get what you want is a cruel thing to do to someone. Have you ever lost someone? Ever wanted to turn back the clock and do something different? Well you can, all he needs is your agreement to this deal, no catch according to him… but there always is.

To those who do not know what the Trickster’s method is, here is what it entails. He finds someone who is in connected in some way to a chaotic event. He finds a low moment in that person’s life, which in a certain direction can halt the chaos or will make it happen. Example: saving Peter Dalton’s life with his agreement leading to Peter meeting Sarah Jane. This led them closer together, and for her to leave her old life behind of saving the world. This would lead to chaos, which the Trickster wants.

I love this idea; using human emotions to bring chaos. He is like a dark angel, giving people a positive choice to make a happy life; but using it to bring disaster and death in the conclusion. I think The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith is him at his cruellest. Sarah was so happy and had a great future with Peter, but the Trickster gave her a debt. She would move on in life and stop saving the world. It’s a terrible choice, Spend a happy life with someone you love with the cost of moving on, or lose that person. And it’s not even her own choice. She has to tell Peter the effects and convince a man she loves to die.

I find the Trickster one of the darkest villains because he finds you at your most vulnerable and then manipulates you into doing something for his own gain. It’s a simple idea but done in a very creative and horrible way.

This was a hard list to make. Doctor Who has had so many horrible things happen through its history. Other candidates included: The Wirrn, The Empty Child infection, Weeping Angels and many more. But it came down to these fantastic creations. Going by the list you may see I prefer the ideas that affect humanity at its core. It brings the horror closer to home, as we can truly imagine these horrific ideas happening to us. With ideas like this, Doctor Who will continue to terrify children and creep out adults beyond its current 50 years. The show needs fun, fantastic ideas to keep it going; but it’s the dark ideas that terrify us and force us to confront our greatest fears that gives it the extra push.