Doctor Who: the classic monsters we want back

Feature Cameron K McEwan 22 Mar 2013 - 07:00

Cameron talks us through the classic Doctor Who monsters due for a return to the screen, feat. plantoids, spiders, woodlice and more...

With Doctor Who series seven part two seeing the return of the The Ice Warriors (well, one at least), thoughts turn to which other monsters from the classic era of the show should return to face Gallifrey's finest for the first time in the new era. Here are nine of the best and my apologies to fans of The Monoids, the Sensorites and the Mandrels - so very close! 


Their first and only telly appearance* came in the Colin Baker story (no, stick with us), Terror of the Vervoids; which formed part of the larger story arc, The Trial of a Time Lord. Considering the turmoil the show was in and the poor production values of the time, these Plantoids (that's a word, right?) really did look damn good. Though humanoid in shape, still very alien - and a tad scary too! 

Just check out the deadly seeds being shot out from their hands! Something kids everywhere could imitate. As a slave race who turn against their masters, they're not your typical nasty monster (The Ood are, perhaps, a nod to these guys) and could return either malevolent or friendly (depending on what they remember The Doctor did to them). 

*Actually, the Vervoids did turn up in the 1993 Anniversary 3D Special, Dimensions In Time. But let's just say it isn't "canon"…  


Sticking with the eighties, and another one shot (and also appearing in Dimensions In Time!), these underground-dwelling insectoids were a powerful bunch, using their antennae to control gravity. In Frontios, a terrific 1984 Peter Davison story, they were led by The Gravis (the only one of their kind with intelligence) and used their abilities to batter their planet with meteorites (and the odd TARDIS) and drag the human inhabitants down to their doom. 

Writer Christopher H Bidmead based The Tractators on woodlice (which his own flat was infested with at the time) and the sense of creepy-crawliness is all too apparent with them; an old school scare. Whilst not brilliantly realised in their day (particularly when they move), the Tractators could now make for a formidable alien with contemporary production values. Dragging people underground would still do the trick for sofa-hiding.


I know what you're thinking but Doctor Who didn't suddenly go all S&M in the sixties. It's questionable whether or not these chaps or chapesses count as "monsters" as we never see them out of their figure-hugging rubber wetsuits during the William Hartnell story, The Keys Of Marinus. But they do have an odd appendage and they're a troublesome bunch, so let's just stick them in the monster pile for the moment. I can imagine Matt Smith's Doctor having all sorts of fun with them...  


People often cite City of Death as the very best of classic Who and whilst the dynamic chemistry of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward (when they were in love, before they got married) and the trademark Douglas Adams humour is unbeatable, for some of us it's the villain of the piece we remember, Scaroth. 

As the last of his kind, the Jagaroth, splintered in time across the Earth (Clara, anyone?), he made for a fascinating character (played with supreme suaveness by the legend that is Julian Glover). But it was the horror of their design that still lives with me - it's my earliest memory of Doctor Who and one that terrified me solidly. So the mask may be a little shonky now but that look and the drive of their Mona Lisa-loving species is one that deserves another chance. 


More plantoids! And what a story these human-hating intergalactic weeds got - the stunning 1976 Tom Baker six-parter, The Seeds of Doom. Their seed pods were found in Antarctica and it wasn't long before someone got infected resulting in all sorts of The Thing-based havoc being wreaked. 

The transformation from human to massive Krynoid is expertly realised, and horrifically so in parts. I doubt whether or not these numerous scenes would get passed the Beeb's family censor these days (more's the pity). Its psychic ability (every proper Who monster needs that) to control local vegetation could also put kids off their greens for a while. 

And remember, "No touch pod!" 

Eight Legs 

More creepy-crawly fun now with those unpleasant inhabitants from Metebelis III who made Jon Pertwee's finale so very memorable in Planet of the Spiders. Given that so many people have a phobia about arachnids, they make for a perfect monster, given their larger-than-normal size. During the 1974 six-parter, the Eight Legs would jump on the victim's back in the most unnerving of styles (something that was revisited in the brilliant 2008 story Turn Left, with the less-than-successful "time beetle"). 

Best of all is their insane leader, The Great One, whose hysterics and maniacal ramblings are truly spine-tingling and drip menace with every utterance. And given their relationship with The Doctor, a revenge story from the Eight Legs could be delicious. 


"I've never been able to reconcile the Terileptil's love of art and beauty with their love of war," opines Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor of this unruly bunch. As the main enemy in the 1982 classic The Visitation, they helped start the Great Fire of London but it's their backstory that makes them such a good returnee candidate. They're clearly a cultured lot, gaining the Time Lord's admiration, with a bit of history; the scarred missing eye on the Terileptil, indicating it was once a prisoner, for example. 

From a design point of view, they've got a whole fishy thing going on but like so many classic aliens, movement is their downfall, revealing the limitations of the costume. With prosthetics and costuming so much more advanced now, the Terileptils would be an most awesome foe. 

And we hope they bring along their android guard, just to scare the crap out of everyone.


Kinda, the story where the Mara originate, is a personal favourite of mine so please do indulge. In the 1982 Peter Davison classic, the Mara infiltrated the mind of one of the Doctor's travelling companions, the feisty and rather wonderful Tegan on the luscious locale of Deva Loka. It was a bit of a druggy old trip for her as she seemed to enter the David Bowie Ashes to Ashes video for a while (and team up with half the cast of The Bill) as she became infected with the Mara's influence and passed it on like a shared needle to the first bloke she met. 

The episode culminated in the physical manifestation - a massive and, it has to be said, slightly unconvincing snake. Thankfully the recent DVD release of Kinda CG'd up the slithery demon and gave it the respect it deserved in a very fine moment of computer jiggery-pokery. 

The Mara returned a year later in Snakedance, which, typical of eighties sequels, was not in the same class as its predecessor, though its force was as formidable as ever and it's a credit that the initial effects of Tegan's encounter had not completely worn off. Perhaps its evil could arise again, somewhere in someone's mind. 

(Fact fans may note that The Mara was name-checked in the excellent Torchwood episode, Small Worlds.) 


Well, of course, it had to be! I can't imagine there's anyone who doesn't want the suckered ones back. But why? Why do the Zygons get cited so much? Even former Who-er David Tennant loved them and wanted a return. 

Their story, Terror of the Zygons, is without a doubt a firm fan favourite and its DVD release later this year is highly anticipated. The Tom Baker four parter from 1975 is perfect Who (ok, let's forget the sock puppet Skarasen) with shape-shifting aliens in the highlands of Scotland (or, rather, West Sussex) planning world-domination. 

And the design of the Zygons is exquisite. It's organic yet very alien and their whispering voices accentuate calm treachery as they take over the local inhabitants. Full marks for having the microphone as part of their design (look closely), nice touch. 

The Zygons, like The Ice Warriors, could be brought back as is (or was, rather) - no remodelling or re-imagining needed for the new series. Just plop on those original costumes and get them terrifying the youth of today! With current show runner Steven Moffat hinting at a return in a recent interview, it may well be sooner rather than later.  

(Pedant's note: technically we possibly saw Zygons in human form in last year's The Power of Three.) 

Honourable mentions to The Yeti, Ogri, Zarbi, Draconians, Kraals and Nimon.

Read Cameron's updated round-up of what we know so far about Doctor Who series 7b, here.

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Disqus - noscript

With respect, these all look -- oh, what is the word? -- preposterous.

Krynoids and Zygons. They're the two in this listing that I very much would like to see return. Both very solid monsters that require very little updating for the modern era.

i don't think i could ever take the jagaroth seriously! he looks like he's eating a scarf!

the voord. the original pedo-bear.

Where are the Osirians? More Sutekh please! ;)

Have you never seen Dr Who before?

The Mentors, specifically Sil, please.

I don't know where you got the Voord pictures from but they're bloody hilarious.

the vervoids look like vaginas. why would you want to look at a vagina monster at tea time?

Not co-incidental that the blogtor favours a lot of JNT monsters in his article.I didn,t find many of them very effective but i think the Mara would be worth revisiting as a concept too.The giant Spiders of Metebelis three scare me ,just when i see still photographs still so i still haven't recovered from their last go.A zygon or krynoid story couldn't fail,in my opinion.

Let's get those Zygons on the way! I personally think the Sensorites would be great, they're bloody adorable. Now that you mention it, the Krynoid does not sound bad...

vervoids in an alliance with alpha centuri and Erato

Only for decades.

There's good reason why we haven't had all this stuff in new Who.

Certainly agree with the Krynoids, the Zygons, the Spiders and the Tractators.

Yeah, we only have serious monsters now, like the Absorbaloff or Flying Christmas Sharks

The shark is in a Christmas Special. But let's add in all the old absurd monsters, by all means.

The Valeyard, though not technically a monster, he was such a good villain.

I hope with the return of the Great Intelligence the Yeti wont be far behind...

I'd love to see the Terileptils return - The visitation is one of my favourite classic adventures - we had just done The Great Fire at school when it was shown so the final episode had me rapt. However, Scaroth of the Jagaroth has to be my favourite - one of my very earliest Who memories. Scared the living daylights out of me when he pulled his mask off at the end of City of Death's first episode.

Looks more like an evil, hipster Teletubbie.

Don't engage him. He's just a troll/flamer. He's just an idiot who likes to wind people up and pretends he knows it all. I had the misfortune to see a really weird conversation he's been involved in beneath another article on this site. He loves to have the last word too. You can be almost certain he'll put some bizarre comment below mine just to get the last word. We can only hope he doesn't - it would be a blessed relief.

Don't engage him. He's just a troll/flamer. He's just an idiot who likes to wind people up and pretends he knows it all. I had the misfortune to see a really weird conversation he's been involved in beneath another article on this site. He loves to have the last word too. You can be almost certain he'll put some bizarre comment below mine just to get the last word. We can only hope he doesn't - it would be a blessed relief...

What about the ridiculous "Stones of Blood" ?
Seeing the Doctor being purchased by monoliths is a great memory !

By the time Trial of a Time Lord was shown Michael Grade had done a pretty good job of making sure that hardly anybody was watching!

To an impressionable five year old it was the scariest thing ever seen!

The Nimon-like creature in "The God Complex" was probably the closest we'll get to the Nimon return. But that creature was so Nimon-like, and the hotel in that story with its shifting corridors so close to the Nimon's "Power Complex", that it IS the return of the Nimon, as far as this Nimon-lover is concerned...


I've met many fans like me that went from just liking DW to being a fan because of City of Death, the next time I was in town I bought DWM for the first time and I am still a fan 34 years later. For me it is one of the 3 best classic series stories with Pyramids and Androzani.

I loved it since Destiny of The Daleks, the adventure before CoD - I think that may have been the first story I ever saw.

Earthshock is another one I love. I was only a schoolboy and the idea of a boy travelling with the Doctor was, to me, something really special. I know Adric divides opinion but he remains one of my all time favourite companions. Yes he can be annoying but it made for some interesting conflicts with the Doc and the other companions. When he was killed I was genuinely upset - it was probably my first experience of grief.

The Wirrin! They scared the crap outta me when I was a kid. Who'da thought bubble wrap could be so terrifying!

I have never understood everyones love of Sutekh and Pyramids of Mars.

I too love the Sensorites but with the Ood being from the same part of the galaxy and having a similar appeal but looking way cooler I don't see it happening.

Vervoids, Tractators and Zygons. Yes, yes, yes. I think the Tetraps could make a welcome come back as well

And who wouldn't want a return of the Quarks.................... i jest

depends if i was having fish..............

Although not my favorite companion I did like Adric, the few scenes between the 4th Doctor and Adric in Logopolis were really good, a real Father/Son relationship, later he was simply a victim of the crowded Tardis.

If you don't care for Sutekh that's fine, The unrealized potential of pure evil. His quick banishment was about as frustrating as Darth Maul sliced in two. I guess some of us saw a villain that could have been grand versus just good.

No. Leave all the old silly monsters in the past please. Constant call backs to classic Who are not needed.

When were the Zygons in human form in the Power of Three? I don't remember that...

I haven't seen the classic series of Doctor Who (I was born after the classic series stopped and before Doctor Who was revived) but some of these monsters look really good... I want to watch the classic series now!

Yeah, let's add your mom.

What an impressive display of intellectual prowess.

Your mention of the Quarks reminded me of another much-neglected series villain from the early days (the William Hartnell era) - the Celestial Toymaker. He was played by the late great Michael Gough (Batman's "Alfred" before Michael Cain took on the part). He was a megalomaniac psychopath with beautiful manners (a'la Fu Manchu) and might even have been an exiled Time Lord, though this wasn't made clear. I think there is potential to bring him back today.

I agree, providing they no longer look like demented Wombles.

What?!!! And a man with multiple reincarnations, a space-and-time machine, and beautiful companions he doesn't even think of groping, isn't? Why don't you abandon gravitas and sieze the sheer, wonderful entertainment values. Is it any more preposterous than News At Ten?

I need to ask a question here. I seem to recall reading in some magazine or paper that the Ood are supposed to be the Sensorites. Does anyone have info on this?

I'm sorry about that. It was so reflective and thoughtful that it required a response I wasn't able to give at the time, and then slipped off the screen.

What a memory that must be of that fateful late November in 1963.

It is an interesting coincidence that, as JFK died, Doctor Who emerged and the Beatles were preparing to take over America shortly after.

lol :D

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