Doctor Who: the classic monsters we want back

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”…  

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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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