Who are your favourite Doctor Who aliens of all time - and should Steve be EXTERMINATED for dissing the Daleks?
PUBLISHED: 13:40 27 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:55 27 September 2018
We all know the Cybermen, but who remembers the Quarks, which looked like chests-of-drawers on legs?
I don’t remember being scared witless by the Daleks but I did have a few wobbles, apparently, back in the swinging ’60s. When you’re five years old and tiny, standing at the bottom of the stairs, the landing seems eerily still and faraway. At that age, the wall between your imagination and reality is rice-paper-thin and easily breached. Which is how I experienced the odd moment of “anxiety” – thinking a Dalek might any minute appear on the top step.
We all did. Didn’t we?
Anyway, that’s 50 years and 10,000 hours of therapy in the past. With a new era soon to begin, I’m looking back at the top 10 (ish) aliens that have thrilled and chilled me.
* The Woman Who Fell to Earth, the launch of the Jodie Whittaker era of Doctor Who, is on BBC One on Sunday, October 7, at 6.45pm (though do double-check closer to the date).
10. Cheating a bit, but I offer three for the price of one to kick off. The first alien I remember seeing (in black-and-white-TV Patrick Troughton days) is the yeti. In the weeks before my fifth birthday in 1967. Not abominable snowmen but furry robots controlled by the Great Intelligence.
The following year came Quarks (worker-bee robots like chests-of-drawers on legs) and disturbing, slow-moving clockwork soldiers. Then came the seventies…
9. In those days we didn’t have wheelie-bins and didn’t really recycle. If you didn’t parcel-up your food waste, and keep the dustbin lid as secured as Fort Knox, the flies did their worst.
The maggots that could spill out on warm days weren’t as huge as the giant ones in 1973 Doctor Who story The Green Death, but were just as yucky. The big uns were created by the waste from a chemical plant, which killed a miner turned a glowing green.
8. Futuristic aliens are rarely as good as “monsters” that take the form of something we know. Proof: The animated scarecrows in 2007 two-parter Human Nature/the Family of Blood. That scary sideways movement of the head when the first scarecrow comes “alive” means we’ll never again walk comfortably in the countryside.
And when someone at the village hall dance snaps open the curtains, and finds a scarecrow staring in from the other side of the glass… well…
7. The claustrophobic 1971 serial The Dæmons was tight with impending doom as an archaeological dig excavated a Bronze Age burial mound known as Devil’s Hump – despite the warnings of a local white witch to leave well alone or there’ll be trouble.
Roger Delgado is there as the original Master, the ultimate baddie, but the best thing was a winged and horned imp-like gargoyle/statue called Bok, brought to life by the devilish Azal. Being stone, he couldn’t be stopped by bullets.
With a sticky-out tongue and sometimes-glowing-red eyes, Bok popped up and made us jump. If the scarecrows later made us wary of fields, Bok meant we could never again walk comfortably past a gargoyle-adorned church.
6. Is it an exterminatable offence to dis the Daleks? Yes, the tin cans are iconic, but these relentless killing machines come to life only when allowed a bit of personality. Such as with Dalek Caan, for whom the price of becoming interesting was insanity.
A lone Dalek gliding through narrow and many-cornered underground passageways is always frightening, though.
5. Cybermen! Another mid-table classic foe. Not the modern, sleek, fast-marching, noisy version but the “homemade” vibe of the 1960s original that really did look like a human had been half-turned into a machine with tubing and a spare air-conditioning unit.
It’s funny how speed is so critical in building a sense of threat. A slow-moving old-school cyberman knocks spots off its faster, shinier descendant in the peril stakes.
4. Having established that Doctor Who means we can’t walk past fields and churches without feeling uneasy, we can add the seaside to the list.
The Sea Devils were reptiles that had ruled the Earth before humans. The Master summons them to form an army to take over the world. (Naturally.)
There are striking shots of Sea Devils coming slowly out of the water and walking onto the shingle. Forget Jaws: This image means I can never go to the coast without casting a nervous glance at the North Sea.
3. Gas masks are always scary – even in your imagination you can “smell” the rubber – but they’re truly the stuff of nightmares when they grow out of people’s faces and when a sinister small boy in one asks “Are you my mummy?” over and over again.
Even worse, you’re hiding under a table, holding your breath, as he walks slowly into the room and pauses… One of the reasons why 2005’s The Empty Child is talked of as one of the best episodes ever.
2. It was 11 years ago that we were urged “don’t blink” – which is a long time to keep your eyes propped open with matchsticks.
“Blink” is the best ever episode – and, oddly enough, barely features the Doctor and his companion. Instead, Carey Mulligan’s clever and brave Sally Sparrow just about keeps one step ahead of the Weeping Angels – statue-like beings that feed off the potential time energy of those they despatch by sending them back in time.
As David Tennant’s Doctor says, “The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely.”
The Angels can’t move if someone is looking at them, though – including one of their own kind. In such cases, they turn to stone and are immobile. We never see them actually move. Which is why they’re one of my favourite aliens. Again, slow threat is more delicious than swift strike.
By the way, the Angels should never have been brought back for another story. That original 45-minute episode was perfect; a reappearance diluted the magic.
1. The Jon Pertwee era was brilliant partly because he was earthbound (punished by the Time Lords for stealing the Tardis). Stories had added punch as they brought futuristic jeopardy to a world we all knew.
So I can’t skip gaily through scarecrow-protected fields, past gargoyley places of worship, along beaches or through angel-decorated graveyards. To this, add: department stores.
When you’re seven and blank-faced shop dummies in dressing-gowns and coats come to life (price-tags still attached) – smashing through display windows, moving along the high street and shooting people with “guns” concealed behind hinged hands – you don’t forget it. It means that, even now, I don’t linger as I walk past Burtons menswear. That’s why the Autons claim the crown (to match the dressing-gown). Model aliens.