Top 10 mad scientists
The fools! How could such narrow minds comprehend the vision of these geniuses? Martin runs down the ten battiest boffins in movies and TV...
10: Graeme Garden
Though it’s almost pre-requisite that mad scientists obsess about their work, very few have actually gone out for a romantic stroll in the forest with a computer (see picture below). One of the geeky pleasures of working at Dennis Publishing is the fine view from the foot of the post-office tower, which was toppled by Garden’s overblown ‘Kitten Kong’ in an early episode of The Goodies. Barely a week seemed to pass where Garden would not inadvertently launch a lighthouse into space or set some ghastly new genetic hybrid upon the unsuspecting citizens of London …
9: Victor Frankenstein
Since H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West is firmly based on him, Mary Shelley’s classic meddler in the forces of nature will have to cover both the Frankenstein and Reanimator movies. Determined to conquer death, the hero of the original novel is little more than an irresponsible genius who flies with horror from the folly of his youth, rather than the perennially obsessive and evil mastermind deliciously portrayed by Peter Cushing (amongst many others).
8: Dr. Zarkov
Keep your foot on that pedal, or we’ll all be killed by the acceleration! Topol played Flash Gordon’s scientist buddy in Mike Hodges’ hugely enjoyable 1980 tale of Alex Raymond’s swash-buckling sci-fi bonehead, and caught the unhinged dementia of a classic mad scientist perfectly. To think, if Zarkov had been inspired to move that pointless pedal one foot nearer the flight position, he wouldn’t have needed Flash and Dale at all, and the Earth would have gone ka-plooey under the torments of Ming.
7: Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
The Muppet Show ’s lovable yet eyeless scientist seems to share some core genetic material with The Fast Show’s Dr. Denzil Dexter. Dexter, however, had a more amicable relationship with off-screen assistant ‘Dave’ than Honeydew with hapless and wide-eyed assistant Beaker, who was forever being boiled, fried, electrocuted, shrunk or shrivelled by his boss’s batty experiments.
6: Seth Brundle
If this man offers you doughnuts, politely decline. Since I consider the 'Jekyll' archetype to be covered by Bruce Banner, Jeff Goldblum’s ‘Brundlefly’ is perhaps a bit superfluous, but an irresistible inclusion. Brundle’s experiments in teleportation go awry when his genome gets mixed up in a trial run with that of a house-fly. Before you know it, he can’t eat a meal without regurgitating on it first, he’s walking up walls and dare not scratch himself in case another bit falls off. Ugh.
5: Dr. Morbius
When unwelcome visitor Leslie Nielson (not to mention his crew of square-jawed, sex-starved space-squaddies) starts leering at Walter Pidgeon’s sheltered daughter, the reclusive mad scientist sends his ‘Id’ on the warpath, in the classic 1956 sci-fi retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Morbius spent twenty obsessive years studying the extinct ‘Krell’ race, whose remnant technology has allowed him to boost his IQ beyond human levels. But the greatest madness of Morbius was to try and keep the lovely Ann Francis under wraps on his lonely, planet-sized island. How you gonna keep them down on the farm after a dose of the Nielson charm?
4: Bruce Banner
Mad? He’s livid! Well, more sort of gan-green, really. And he’s the reason Dr. Jekyll is not in this list, since Banner’s schizophrenic character is cut from the same (shredded) cloth. Yet more proof, if any were needed, that bombarding yourself with lethal doses of radiation leads to super-powers and heart-breaking life-crises, rather than cancer and 7 months in bed looking at game-shows in an angled mirror.
3: Dr. Strangelove
A multi-tasking Peter Sellers turns up several times in Kubrick’s classic tale of the Cold War heating up, but is most memorable as the Teutonic technical advisor to George C. Scott’s president, whose persistent allegiance to the Third Reich keeps bursting out in the form of Nazi salutes.
2: Doc Brown
One point twenty one gigawatts! Christopher Lloyd remains the archetypal batty boffin for at least one generation of film-goers. The very first shot of '50s Doc' in Back To The Future finds the looney academic with an aluminium cage on his head, trying to read minds with a dime store sucker, but this beloved and slightly autistic character goes on to greater depth in the Robert Zemeckis trilogy, finding meaning in his work, rescuing his dog, falling in love and…robbing a train. It’s a science-experiment!
The emperor of the Daleks will have to stand in for Dr. Solon (in The Brain Of Morbius) and many many others from Doctor Who canon, as the most malignant and determined blasphemer of the benevolent intent of scientific research. His investigation into the genetic future of the race on Skaro led Davros to create a new genus of trundling exoskeletal warriors, and the rest is history. Until a bit later in series 4, that is…
Honourable discharge: Dr Barnard (The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951); Dr. Susan McCallister (Deep Blue Sea, 1999); Prof. Quatermass (various 1950-80); Dr. Moreau (various 1932-96); Sebastian Caine (Hollow Man, 2000); C. A. Rotwang (Metropolis); John Hammond (Jurassic Park, 1993); Dr. Steinman (Bioshock); Eldon Tyrell (Blade Runner, 1982); Norman Osborn (Spiderman, 2002).