Doctor Cthulhu: The Doctor And The Cthulhu Mythos

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Christopher Morley continues his journey through the pages of the Necronomicon, and looks at the Old One who lends his name to the Cthulhu Mythos.


Let us now heed The Call Of Cthulhu! As you might expect, that story is considered by many scholars to be the building block of the Mythos- all of which is available in the Necronomicon anthology of HP Lovecraft's best Weird Tales.


The first chapter of the story- The Horror In Clay- reveals the exact physical appearance of the god-like figure from R'lyeh
"My somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon and a human caricature.... A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings."
And the second, The Tale Of Inspector Legrasse, tells of the titular policeman's first encounter with a cult of his Earthly worshippers!
"They worshipped, so they said, the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men...and...formed a cult which had never died...hidden in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R'lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him."
What is the meaning of their strange chant "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" ? Translated into English it reads "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming". The cult is revealed to have its roots in Arabia, site of The Nameless City - which the Doctor has visited in a roundabout manner when one of the cultists quotes Abdul Alhazred. "That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die".




Enter the Seventh Doctor in White Darkness!


There's voodoo afoot in Haiti as Gilles Lemaitre seeks to reawaken Cthulhu, having learned of the Old Ones from his tribe's chief. Seeking to use their power to gain revenge on those who had enslaved his people, he performed a ritual known as Wete Lo Man Dlo to allow Cthulhu to rise again. In return for this Gilles is granted an extended life- here he's 170 but only looks about 60! In return for reuniting the body & mind of his master he's given the knowledge to create & control an army of zombies........

The character of Howard Phillips is named in honour of Lovecraft himself, & has a copy of the original Eocene Necronomicon.
"They're Earth-liens. Once known as the Silurian race, or, some would argue, Eocenes, or Homo Reptilia."
Luckily the Doctor is able to rig explosives to both kill Lemaitre & stop Cthulhu being reunited with his body! A body which when depicted in the form of a statue resembled:
"A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind."
And R'yleh itself:
"…was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults."
The term Mythos was never used by Lovecraft himself- his friend & fellow author August Derleth coined it, & it stuck.
"As Lovecraft conceived the deities or forces of his mythos, there were, initially, the Elder Gods... These Elder Gods were benign deities, representing the forces of good, and existed peacefully...very rarely stirring forth to intervene in the unceasing struggle between the powers of evil and the races of Earth. These powers of evil were variously known as the Great Old Ones or the Ancient Ones..."
Essayist Robert M Price wrote in "H. P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos'' that the term could have its origins in At The Mountains Of Madness ...

"Was Derleth's use of the rubric 'Elder Gods' so alien to Lovecraft's in At the Mountains of Madness? Perhaps not. In fact, this very story, along with some hints from 'The Shadow over Innsmouth', provides the key to the origin of the 'Derleth Mythos'. For in At the Mountains of Madness we find the history of a conflict between two interstellar races (among others): the Elder Ones and the Cthulhu-spawn."
Both The Dunwich Horror & The Whisperer In Darkness also make reference to Cthulhu. See if you can guess which quote comes from which story!
"I learned whence Cthulhu first came, and why half the great temporary stars of history had flared forth.........."
"I found myself faced by names and terms that I had heard elsewhere in the most hideous of connections- Yuggoth, Great Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Yog-Sothoth, Rl'yeh, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Hastur...........''
Of course the Doctor has past experience of similarly tentacled Old Ones, going by his encounter with the Animus on The Web Planet!


Physically it resembles a spider/octopus merged with a plant, though Philip Sandifer is critical of the idea of amalgamating it into the Mythos- writing that:
"Later writers engaged in a kind of ham-handed retcon that proclaimed the Animus, along with some other classic villains, to in fact be explicitly part of the Cthulhu Mythos ( the Animus is apparently Lloigor a 1932 creation of August Derleth). Although this retcon was, all told, a pretty dumb idea that does some real injustice to Bill Strutton's creation of the Animus, the observation that there's something Lovecraftian about this monster is pretty on target."
''Parasite? A power, absorbing territory, riches, energy. culture! You come to me...."
Whether or not the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, has had a look at the Necronomicon in light of the Old One revelations surrounding the Animus is unknown, though he is a fan of The Web Planet!
“I was five when the show started. I don’t remember Doctor Who not being part of my life, and it became a part of growing up, along with The Beatles, National Health spectacles, and fog. And it runs deep. It’s in my DNA. People look at them now and, understandably, mock the bargain-basement monsters, and the accidents and collisions that came from having virtually no time in the studio to shoot fantastically ambitious stories.

But those old shows were only made to be watched once, on a flickering monochrome telly that smelled of valves and furniture polish. In that context, they succeeded immeasurably. They were triumphs of imagination. It may surprise you now, but something like The Web Planet [a story from 1965] lived powerfully and expansively in my head for decades… until the DVDs came along and spoiled the party. But I’m glad to say that the Menoptra eventually flitted back into my dreams, where they belong.”
Surely a dip into Lovecraftian waters for a New-Who Doctor- at least in novel form- is long overdue?
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