Spoilers: contains reference to unofficial series 13 filming photography
Doctor Who began life as a time-travelling sci-fi show with a historical bias and an educational bent. One thing – or, rather, one race – changed all of that: The Daleks. Those oppressive pepper pots gave the public a taste for the fearsome, the far-off and the fantastic, and the following five decades would be stacked with all sorts of aliens and monsters, from the sub-slime to the Drashig-ulous, and everything in between.
A new showrunner always wants to put their stamp on the series, but if novelty is vital to Doctor Who, then so is nostalgia. The allure of bringing back an old foe to put face-to-face with a Doctor’s new face is too strong to resist. At first, Chris Chibnall let Jodie Whittaker settle into her performance unburdened by the baggage of monsters past, but it wasn’t long before the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master and the Judoon arrived to claim their places in the ever-expanding continuity of the Who-niverse.
Series 13 is on its way, and yet more familiar monsters have been spotted as joining the fray. Here are the alien races confirmed as returning, along with some speculation as to who else might come back in the seasons to follow…
The Sontarans Are Back!
The Sontarans – those war-like, unbudging, unblinking little kick-ass clones – have been spotted on location, so they’re a shoo-in for 13’s thirteenth. We first met the Sontarans in 1974 when Jon Pertwee’s dashing, debonair Third Doctor caught a crash-landed specimen of the species, Linx, abducting scientists from present-day Earth (using timey-wimey-ness) and putting them to work fixing his kaput spacecraft back in Medieval England. Later, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor encountered them on a barren Earth in the future, again abducting human beings, but this time to study them like lab-rats in a bid to probe mankind’s weaknesses and thus their ripeness for conquest. Sontarans showed up again later in his tenure to invade Gallifrey in perhaps one of Doctor Who‘s most overblown yet underwhelming of stories, ‘The Invasion of Time‘ (an episode that features the world’s longest chase sequence involving the same swimming pool and gym corridor in monotonous rotation). Each time the Sontarans appeared in Classic Who they lost a little of their mystery and lustre, to the point where their appearance in the much-maligned sixth-and-second-Doctor team-up, ‘The Two Doctors’, was largely superfluous.
The Sontarans used to look like malevolent jacket potatoes. They sported weird, ventriloquist-dummy mouths and bristly little beards. Their weapon of choice was a noisy torch that triggered fatal bouts of over-acting in its victims. When Russell T Davies brought the Sontarans back to battle with David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor in 2006, they were upgraded to match the show’s new-found popularity and bigger budget. They had sleek and shiny new metallic-blue body armour, almost perfectly spherical heads, and a voracious appetite for conflict and killing that was finally able to be properly conveyed on screen. Blustering and almost comically pompous they may have been, but, boy, did those doppelgangers give UNIT a run for its money in the massacre stakes. Showrunner Steven Moffat leaned into the comically pompous aspect of the Sontarans for their return in seasons six through eight, in the shape of Dan Starkey’s Strax, a played-for-laughs associate of the Doctor, who was perhaps one of Sontar’s most pacifistic sons – although he did enjoy sojourns to Glasgow to fist-fight with the natives.
So what mode of Sontarans will we encounter in season 13? Apparently they’re going to be back in the black-and-grey combat gear of their 1970s heyday. But will they be brutal and militaristic – Doctor Who‘s very own Klingons – or will they be more Strax-like – Doctor Who‘s very own Ferengis – perhaps with an invasion story that’s equal parts Keystone Cops to Charlie Chaplin? Or will we see a story wherein a breakaway faction of the clones wants an end to war and the right to individual autonomy – Doctor Who‘s very own Borg?
One tantalising possibility presents itself, one that could bring back yet another of the show’s long-unseen menaces…
Could The Rutans Join Them?
Chris Chibnall said in this Radio Times interview that he would only consider bringing back old favourites if they’d already appeared in the post-2005 iteration of the show. That means no Sea Devils, no Axons, no Drashigs, no cybernetic pirates with killer robot parrots perched upon their shoulders. But might he make an exception to allow an old foe from the classic series to ride into the modern era on the coat-tails of a qualifying species like the Sontarans?
The Rutans look like the result of a union betwixt a floating brain and a jellyfish. The Fourth Doctor found one in Victorian England imitating, manipulating and murdering the occupants of a lighthouse. These are the creatures with whom the Sontarans have been locked in an aeons-long battle that has raged across the galaxy, claiming in its wake countless millions in collateral damage. Might we see the Sontarans face off against their sentient-snot rivals using Earth as a battlefield, with only the Doctor standing between humanity and oblivion? I think we’d all enjoy seeing the Rutans updated for the 21st century, rendered so they resemble what they’re supposed to be, and not a plastic bag filled with Vaseline that someone has stuck a torch in.
Return of the Weeping Angels
The Weeping Angels have also been seen on set, so expect to enjoy some counter-chronological tomfoolery in season 13.
The Weeping Angels were, of course, the brainchild of Steven Moffat, who set them against the Tenth Doctor and Martha (Freema Agyeman) in ‘Blink’, one of the series’ most warmly-regarded episodes to date, classic or contemporary. While ‘Blink’ had its share of timey-wimey-ness, it was at root a simple story, simply told; a satisfying blend of heart and horror, pathos and peril. Each subsequent appearance of the Angels has diluted their impact, although Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor two-parter ‘The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone’ did a commendable job of maintaining much of their menace whilst also doing something a little bit different with them.
The question now is: where have these angels left to tread? We’ve had their spooky debut, their far-future follow-up and a companion swan-song that also saw the city of New York petrified (both figuratively and literally). Many potential scenarios suggest themselves: an Alien-esque race against time on-board a spaceship with an escaped Angel wreaking havoc?; the Doctor entering their quantum realm to communicate with them directly?; the Doctor hurtled back through time by an Angel and having to contravene, or at least bend, their rules on occupying the same point in time and space twice, perhaps by secretly piggy-backing a ride in his/her own Tardis?
I’m secretly hoping we’ll never see a true origin story or get a glimpse of their home planet. Some things are better left mysterious (though many would level that same comment at the events of ‘The Timeless Children‘).
Given that the Angels have been snapped on a sleepy suburban street somewhere in contemporary Europe we can assume that the action is going to be a little more Earth-bound. But might the re-appearance of the Angels (barring their very small prison-based cameo in ‘Revolution of the Daleks’) coincide with the introduction of John Bishop’s Dan, and, if so, what heart-ache might the unforgiving gargoyles have in store for him?
Is The Judoon‘s Story Finished?
The Thirteenth Doctor put herself in the Judoon’s crosshairs when she interfered with their pursuit of a hitherto unknown version of the Doctor, played by Jo Martin. Her solidarity saw her snagged by the Judoon at the climax of ‘The Timeless Children‘, and dragged off to a prison complex that bore more than a passing resemblance to the infamous Time Lord facility ‘Shada’ (glimpsed in all its glory for the first time in the animated reconstruction of the incomplete Tom Baker serial of the same name). The Doctor escaped, with Captain Jack’s help. Does this mean they’re both to be considered fugitives of the Judoon? It all depends who hired the Judoon. If they were employed by the Time Lords to track down Jo Martin’s Doctor and punish her for absconding from The Division (one distinct possibility) then surely the Time Lords would have to re-enlist the Judoon to recapture the Doctor, the one reasonably huge snag there being that all of the Time Lords are dead.
Still. It’s never stopped them before.
When Will We See the Master Again?
Sacha Dhawan‘s Master doesn’t just chew the scenery: he chews the galaxy. His hysterical, histrionic, genocidal iteration was one of the true highlights of series 12. It’s debatable whether this Master comes post-Missy (after all, few things in the Who-niverse can truly fell a Time Lord, least of all a script) or pre-John Simm (more likely); what isn’t debatable is that we’d love to see him return. He’s almost certain to. Though perhaps not in series 13’s reduced run of eight episodes.
Who Else Could Return?
There may not be room for it this series, but might Chris Chibnall or some yet-to-be-specified future show-runner consider redeeming the Slitheen? Season one’s ‘Boom Town’ showed that there was plenty of pathos lurking behind the raucous farting of this on-the-run criminal family. Could we see their home world? Meet more of their species? Capitalise a little more on their imposing physical presence and terrifying strength? Make them a credibly scary and engaging villain?
And perhaps the Reavers could return to mop up whatever mess the Master has made of Gallifrey’s timeline.
Which monsters do you think deserve another crack of the whip? Let us know who you’d like to see making a return…