Doctor Who: a celebration of henchmen

Feature Andrew Blair 2 Aug 2012 - 20:59

Andrew counts down the top five henchmen ever to appear in Doctor Who. Find out if your favourite made the cut below...

This article contains spoilers.

It's all very well for villains. They get to stand there, leather gloves pressed against freshly creased suits, all manner of fey foibles acceptable just because they've welded Kent to the Moon. They get to do the maniacal laugh at the cliffhanger, and they get to press the big red buttons and wield stubby lasers that go 'Vreeee' at people. All in all, it's pretty sweet being a villain.

Spare a thought, then, for their henchpeople. The ones who put the actual work in. Spare a thought too for the admin that must go into such endeavours. Doctor Who is not a show that concerns itself in the presumably large amount of paperwork such schemes must accrue. However, the clerical teams of Atlantis, Global Chemicals, Iceworld and the Pandorica Alliance must go without celebration for now.  Let’s talk henching.

It is often said that the Doctor's companion is an audience identification figure, someone to give the viewer a way in to the show. The same is often true of henchmen. They are the ones who give some recognisably human reaction to the insane schemes, who are swept along by the charismatic mad'un. Take Bloodaxe from The Time Warrior, loyal henchman to the warrior Irongron. If you look at his eyes you can see the exact moment he realises that sitting next to Irongron at squire practice all those years ago was clearly a colossal mistake, but it's now far, far too late to extricate himself.

So, as a salute to men such as Bloodaxe, we at Den of Geek have compiled a list of the top five henchpeople ever to appear in Doctor Who. Unfortunately for those who think our list is somehow wrong, I'm afraid our word is final, and we will brook no disagreement.

5. Tamsin Drew (Niky Wardley), The Eighth Doctor Adventures Series 4

Tamsin's personality isn't what sets her apart from other henchpeople, it's the way she's a catalyst for events. At the start of the fourth series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Tamsin was the brand new companion about to embark on thrilling adventures. In the middle of the series she was disgusted by the Doctor's morality and left with the Meddling Monk (a renegade Time Lord), becoming his companion/henchlady. By the end of the series, the Monk's meddling had devastating consequences, and Tamsin had been exterminated.

Which, let's be honest, is one hell of a journey. It is worth seeking out the final series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures to hear a meticulously plotted, all-guns-blazing finale, complete with breathtaking action and sci-fi concepts along the way. While the writers and actors deserve credit (Jonathan Morris plays a blinder), special mention must go to Nicholas Briggs and Alan Barnes for devising the whole thing.

4. Stotz (Maurice Roeves), The Caves of Androzani

Stotz is massively gitty. Although he does have really warm hands, if his dice are anything to go by. A gun-runner by trade, a duplicitous and grinning sadist by nature; it's a mark of genre-stalwart Roeves' charisma that you almost feel impressed when he bids his fellow smugglers (henchlings? The unterhench?) adieu, then walks back in through the door and guns them all down.

Stotz currently remains the only person to use the word 'slut' in a Doctor Who telly programme. I like to think that his first name is Tim, and that he spent his childhood calling himself 'Tim Henchman'.

I'll get my coat. 

3. Bok (Stanley Mason), The Daemons

When you have introduced an animated gargoyle as a henchthing for a giant demonic alien and the Master, it's only polite that you should name it after the sound of someone being hit on the head with a with a cricket ball.

Maybe it's the glowing red eyes. Maybe it's the way he sticks his tongue out, the little teaser. Mayhap it's the nonchalance with which he reaches out a hand and disintegrates a UNIT redshirt in a puff of smoke. Maybe it's the way he runs - is it because Stanley Mason is trying to evoke a sense of a stone creature so unused to movement, or is it because he can't see what the hell he is doing and he's got giant jabolite feet to contend with?

Most likely it's because he is, as he e'er will be, the 'chap with the wings'. 

2. Nyder (Peter Miles), Genesis of the Daleks/I, Davros: Guilt

Nyder is terrifying. He is the mind and body of a school swimming instructor somehow born into a world where he could become a Lieutenant in the Kaled Military Elite, and from there gain the position of Davros' henchman. Born into the endless war between the Kaleds and the Thals that ultimately leads to the creation of the Daleks, he flourishes in the hostile environs of mutually assured destruction.

When Davros tells Nyder his plans for the genocide of not only the Thal race, but also the Kaleds, Nyder responds to the destruction of his own people with the question 'The whole of the Kaled would go that far?'

'Did you ever doubt that I would?' replies Davros.

'No,' says Nyder. And then he goes and carries out the order.

Seriously. Nyder is terrifying.

1. Packer (Peter Halliday), The Invasion

Ah, Packer. The uberhench.

There are many reasons that Packer is supreme.

It's partly because his violent urges are frequently curtailed by his own incompetence. It's partly because he is constantly thwarted and exasperated by the demands of his boss, Tobias Vaughn. When your supervillain is a cybernetically augmented version of Alan Sugar - only one who has decided to conquer the world, rather than mess about with gameshows - it's obviously going to be a demanding task. It's partly because Packer manages to be both a credible threat and an endearingly inept oaf. When he does get a chance to inflict pain, he generally takes it with malicious glee. Maybe that's it.

Mostly, though, I think it's the way Kevin Stoney pronounces the word 'Packer'. It's so arch it could be used to support man-made bodies of water. And for this tenuous and highly subjective reason alone, he's the obvious choice for the position of 'Best Henchman in Doctor Who (So Far) Ever'.

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You left out Mr Sin, played by Deep Roy in Talons of Weng-Chiang. Way better than Bok!

Not really keen on this list myself, it just feels like it was cobbled together from memory, especially when Packer is above Nyder.
I also wouldn't include anything from Big Finish myself, just because they're a bit ambiguous in the world of Who: some treat them as canon, some don't. I'm in the middle so I wouldn't include them for the sake of argument.

I know I'm being negative, but this doesn't feel like a very good list when so many great henchmen and women have been left out.

Nice to see a reference to Peter Halliday. Yes, I remember his Packer. I remember his brilliant John Fleming from A for Andromeda and The Andromeda Breakthrough better though. One of science fiction's unsung anti-heroes, the angry young man at the frontier of science. The BBC's take on the series now? "Starring Julie Christie" is the best they can do. And apart from Halliday, it had a role call of first rate actors including Mary Morris in its cast. Not that the BBC gives a fig for that.

The inclusion of an audio adventures henchman is stretching the point somewhat. Mr Sin and many other ON SCREEN henchmen deserved a mention in my opinion.


I like the unnamed pilot from The Horns of Nimon. (stomps out, stomps back in) "WEAKLING SCUM!" (stomps back out again)

Scorby!!! Really, no one remembers the thug that humiliated the 4th Doctor by shoving him about into bins and stuff before chucking him into that compost maker?

John "Boycie" Challis at his finest. A great henchman should be in the top 3!

"I love your butler, he's so violent". Special mention must also go to the Ood from "The Doctor's Wife", he was particularly scary coming up on Amy from behind

I have to agree with cmend753, Scorby is brilliant, wonderfully menacing but with a brain in his head to give him a third dimension. El Akir in the Crusade is pretty tough as well. Personally I love a mad scientist, Lesterson in Power of the Daleks, Solon in Brain of Morbius and Kerensky in City of Death are favorites of mine. For the Thug class Lytton from Revelation and Attack is pretty good as well

LOL!, the moment I saw the title of the article that is the very first thing I thout of.

Great article! Should be expanded to TOP 10 to include "Soron" (Brain of Morbius), the butler from City of Death, "Mr Sin" (Talons of Weng-Chiang), "Lytton" (Revelations of the Daleks & Attack of the Cybermen) & Scorby. Naturally though, I cannot dispute your choices of Nyder, Stotz, & PACKERRRRRRR (!!!). Stotz always stuck with me from my childhood as one of the most charismatic 80's villains. Nice to be reminded of him trying to force that guy to bite the cyanide capsule with the knife. Really intense stuff for a 10-yr-old. Loved it. Wish the modern series had as much intensity to it.

This list should be expanded to at least ten henchmen so we can get a better cross-section.
One inclusion I would make would be the Robots (from "Robots of Death"). Once they were reprogrammed they became cold emotionless henchmen to the Evil Taren Capel.

Definitely Scorby. I also liked Condo from Brain of Morbius.

I'm sure there are dozens, the Chief Clown from GSITG, Josiah Smith from Ghostlight, the Haemovore from Fenric, the Destroyer from Battlefield, the Kandyman, Ratcliffe from Remembrance, Midge from Survival all have their moments and that is just from the 7th Doctors era

Mr Fubuli from The Pirate Planet. Great performance by Andrew Robertson.

In nearly 50 years of Who there are many, many henchmen and women. A bit more research would have improved this "off the top of my head" list

Oooh! GREAT call!

Inclined to agree with you. This particular adventure has what I consider to be the funniest line ever spoken by any Doctor (and I'm recalling it from memory over 30 years ago, so may not be word-perfect). On hearing one of the pirates talking in a crowded street on an alien world lightyears away, the Doctor's Companion says: "I wonder why he's talking with a Somerset accent?" The Doctor replies; "Maybe he's a cricket scout looking for a new fast-bowler?"

Me too - unfortunately, Condo kept reminding me of Freddie Mercury on a bad day!

What about Dibber of Glitz & Dibber fame? (And "fame" is a strong word where season 23 is concerned.) When I first saw their stories as a kid, I thought Glitz stole the show. Watching again as an adult, it's clearly Dibber holding the act together.

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