‘Doctor Who’ Underrated Villain of the Week: The Doctor


You know Daleks and Davros and Missy the Master, Angels and Silence hell-bent on disaster. But do you recall the most underrated Doctor Who villains of all?

Each week, I will dig into the depths of the Whoniverse to examine one rejected, misjudged, or altogether forgotten big bad. Bear with me, as I present a truly underrated—if not altogether unforeseen—villain: the Doctor himself.

Doctor Who

The Doctor is his own worst enemy (via BBC America)


First appearance: “An Unearthly Child” (1963)—series 1, episode 1

Home planet: Gallifrey

Doctor: N/A

Companion: N/A

Meet the Doctor, a centuries-old alien—a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey—who travels through time and space with various companions in a stolen TARDIS.

Defender of the universe and protector of Earth, the Doctor (in all his incarnations) has saved the cosmos countless times. By all accounts, the world would be a much bleaker place without the renegade Time Lord swooping in to save humanity:

  • During the Last Great Time War, the Sisterhood of Karn resurrect the Eighth Doctor, because they believed only he could stop a battle that threatened the existence of the entire universe.
  • In a parallel realm where the Tenth Doctor never meets Donna Noble, the Earth is fraught with death and destruction.
  • When the Great Intelligence changed time so as to negate the Doctor’s victories, entire star systems disappeared.

“A universe without the Doctor. There will be consequences.”

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), the TARDIS, and the bowtie (via BBC)

For all his alien tendencies, the Doctor brandishes a humanity seldom seen in most people. But even an endless inventory of good deeds can’t hide the character’s dark side.

Walter Simeon: “It was a minor skirmish, by the Doctor’s blood-soaked standards. Not exactly the Time War, but enough to finish him. In the end, it was too much for the old man.”

Madame Vastra: “The Doctor has been many things, but never blood-soaked.”

Simeon: “Tell that to the leader of the Sycorax, or Solomon the trader, or the Cybermen, or the Daleks. The Doctor lives his life in darker hues, day upon day, and he will have other names before the end. The Storm, the Beast, the Valeyard.”

Cynicism and despair lurk deep inside the Time Lord—often hidden by his compulsion to play the hero. There is no good without bad, and what sort of champion would the Doctor be if he didn’t wield a bit of depravity once in a while?

After all, nice guys tend to finish last.

Doctor Who

Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) regenerates (via TheGaroStudios)

The Doctor has been known to rewrite history to serve his own ambitions. But even the Daleks don’t dare tamper with fixed points—like the one the Tenth Doctor modifies in “The Water of Mars” to save the crew members of Bowie Base One.

“It’s taken me all these years to realize the laws of time are mine, and they will obey me,” he declares.

Finally reaching his breaking point, the Time Lord lets go of his self-pity and guilt, proclaiming himself a winner and, for all intents and purposes, a god.

Tenth Doctor: “I’ve done this sort of thing before. In small ways, saved some little people, but never someone as important as you. Oh, I’m good.”

Adelaide Brooke: “Little people? What, like Mia and Yuri? Who decides they’re so unimportant? You?”

Tenth Doctor: “For a long time now, I thought I was just a survivor, but I’m not. I’m the winner. That’s who I am. The Time Lord Victorious.”

Adelaide: “And there’s no one to stop you.”

Tenth Doctor: “No.”

Adelaide: “This is wrong, Doctor. I don’t care who you are. The Time Lord Victorious is wrong.”

For the first time since the series reboot, the Doctor’s arrogance is laid bare. And it provokes the untimely death of a brilliant astronaut and brief friend.

Doctor Who

The Ninth Doctor’s (Christopher Eccleston) iconic dark look (via BBC)

It’s not hard to pinpoint moments of darkness in Doctor Who; you don’t have to look to closely to find the titular Time Lord’s sinister side.

He’s been referred to as the “Oncoming Storm,” “Destroyer of the Worlds,” “Predator,” and “Great Exterminator” and called “Valeyard,” a “cruel tyrant,” and the “Doctor of War.”

This year’s Christmas special in particular capitalized on the character as the villain: Two Doctors resist regeneration—and the potentially calamitous consequences of their survival.

“Oh, there it is. The silly old universe. The more I save it, the more it needs saving. It’s a treadmill,” the Twelfth Doctor realizes, moments before giving in to inevitable change.

More than 1,500 years of preservation can wear down even a Time Lord. And, in the end, if the Doctor’s selfishness can cause the destruction of the universe, the only person who can save it is, well, the Doctor.

Doctor Who

Doctor, meet the Doctor (via BBC)

Bill Potts: Perhaps there’s just some bloke, wandering around, putting everything right when it goes wrong.

First Doctor: Well, that would be a nice story, wouldn’t it?

Bill: That would be the best.

First Doctor: But the real world is not a fairy tale.

Bill: You dash around the universe, trying to figure out what’s holding it all together, and you really, really don’t know?

First Doctor: You know me in the future. Do I ever understand?

Bill: No. I really don’t think you do. Everyone who’s ever met you does. You’re amazing, Doctor. Never forget that. Never, ever.

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