Tony Fyler continues his look at villains from Classic Who that could work well in New Who. This is the second part of our examination of villains from the Fourth Doctor’s era (Part 1 is here, with stories featuring the Mandragora Helix, Krynoids, Wirrn and Morbius).
The Price of Life and The Gift of Death
Sutekh the Destroyer has of course recently been revived in a great four-hour box set from Big Finish, battling against the Seventh Doctor and Professor Bernie Summerfield. I wrote this idea for his two-part return to fight the Twelfth Doctor before having listened to it, and there’s a pleasing – not to say smug-making – symmetry in some shared ideas.
In the year 11,923, the Earth is the base for a great network of planets – not an empire or a federation, merely a kinship of humanity that stretches across the stars. It is, once again, a world of beauty, art, and unified ambition. Religion has long since died out in the absence of anything without at least a rational pathway to explanation.
On a quiet afternoon, the Jenkins family is out for a picnic in a reformed, post-climate change, post-solar flare, post-continental drift South East England. There are four of them – Alan and Sheila, their daughter Sarah, and their young son, Max. Max hears something over the brow of a small hill, and goes to investigate. There, smoldering in a crater, is a dying man with a strange head, who begs for help. Max reaches out a hand to the man, and dies. The smoldering body dissolves to dust, but Max opens his eyes. Bright green eyes. He walks slowly back to his family, and the angelic young boy, in the voice of Gabriel Woolf, brings Sutekh’s gift of death to all his family, chuckling quietly as they die.
The Doctor and Clara go to the 112th century so the Doctor can show off Clara’s future. New New New New New London, just called London. They are voluntarily stung by InfoBees (which update them on all the latest news), and learn of a new cult, The Crown of Sorrows, centred around a young boy. In a world where everything imaginable is accessible to them, misery has become less tolerated in human society. The Crown of Sorrows, based in a floating crystal pyramid in central London (and with strange mummy-figures dotted around on every floor as sculptures) promises the indulgence of weeping, the experience of pain and – it is at least rumoured – even the experiences of death and grief. The boy at the heart of the cult is never seen by the outside world, and Clara can’t see the issue – there are always freaky cults, she argues, look at Scientology. But not here, the Doctor insists. Not now. The Earth has moved past its need to invest in the supernatural.
They go undercover in the cult, which it turns out is both recruiting unwilling sacrifices to celebrate the triumph of the God of Death (and feed energy into his constantly decaying human body) and forcing eminent geneticists to work to build something they’ve never contemplated before – the closest thing Sutekh can get to an Osiran body to hold his essence. Once the Osiran body is ready, Sutekh the Destroyer will bestride the world again, and bring his gift of death to all humanity throughout the Earth’s great interplanetary kinship.
The Doctor confronts Sutekh and the god recognizes him instantly. They debate the price of life, the Doctor enumerating things that make it worth living, Sutekh contending that he is a god of mercy, because all life is pain. Life is pain, love is pain, betrayal is pain, grief is pain. Only in death, in the death of everything, can the price of life finally be worth paying. It’s the first time the Doctor realizes that Sutekh has a mission, and that it’s rooted in his own experience of life. In a moment of weakness, the Doctor lets down his guard, and Sutekh possesses him. He will use the Time Lord’s body as a replacement for the decaying human form of Max, and his knowledge to complete the Osiran body. With mummies flanking him, and his eyes bright green, the Doctor reaches out to some of the Crown of Sorrows followers, claiming that he is the servant of Sutekh. He needs no other.
In The Gift of Death, Clara faces a race against time. She manages to rescue one scientist and one acolyte – Dr Jeffries and Ash Carter – from the gift of death, and hatches a desperate plan. Dr Jeffries needs to introduce a genetic instability into the Osiran body-template before Sutekh can inhabit it. But to do that, she and Ash need to cause a distraction large enough to stop the Doctor-Sutekh from going directly to the body, or to drag him away from it. Meanwhile the Doctor fights Sutekh for control of his body. We see the battle played out in a mindscape, blowing the budget on a backdrop of Phaester Osiris and the Gallifrey of the Doctor’s youth. The Doctor makes Sutekh feel again the insecurity of his youth, the rejection of love, the pain of life – and Sutekh fights back, showing the Doctor the life he left behind, the family, Susan, all the companions who left him behind and all the lives he failed to save.
Clara’s plans to sabotage the mummies make no impact, so she and Ash decide on something more drastic – they will crash the crystal pyramid to the ground. They succeed, and the sudden mental effort it takes Sutekh to keep the pyramid airborne allows Dr Jeffries to introduce the unstable element into the Osiran body, as the Doctor manages to force Sutekh finally from his mind. The god takes refuge in the Osiran body but the instability is already acting. It’s already breaking down, its ability to destroy with thought limited, and fading rapidly. As Clara and Ash restabilise the pyramid, the Doctor takes Sutekh’s new hand without pain, without dying. The last words the Doctor says to him are an echo of his usual line. ‘I bring Sutekh the gift of death. Be at peace, last of the Osirans.’
Clara returns to the Tardis from another day at school just in time to hear a call from Kate Lethbridge-Stewart about several prominent world leaders simply getting up and walking out of crucial meetings – around the world, at the same time. The Doctor and Clara go to the Tower to help Kate, Osgood (possibly!) and UNIT investigate what seem to be cases of somnambulism – sleepwalking, but while awake, the leaders following some pre-set hypnotic signal, as a kind of test for some bigger event. The Doctor checks their medical files, but everyone seems normal. When he checks Kate with his screwdriver, Clara cold-cocks him from behind.
He wakes up in a prison cell on board a cloaked spaceship in Earth orbit. The somnambulists are not sleepwalkers – they’re advanced androids, developed by the Kraals to facilitate a puppet invasion. They will send the right signals to their android replacements for key figures in successive governments, allowing the Kraals to loot the Earth of its mineral wealth over time, while technically the planet is oppressed only by its traditional rulers. The whole Kate and Clara call was a simple two-android ruse to take care of the Doctor before the whole thing began – the Kraals having learned a thing or two since the last time.
Ironically, the thing they haven’t learned is not to keep the Doctor prisoner on board the ship that could, with a little judicious sonic-waving, send signals to all their androids to explode, shut down or do the chicken dance. They have however taken his sonic from him and imprisoned him with someone who may or may not be the real Clara.
Not, as it turns out. The Doctor has to stage a sonic-free prison break while getting around his killer companion, find the real Clara, free the real leaders (including a mightily annoyed Kate Lethbridge-Stewart), find a way onto the bridge, send the right signals to the right androids and, ideally, turn them into the first line of Earth’s defence against the Kraals’ plans. This involves a trip to the Kraals’ android factory floor to make a replica of General Charelka, the particular Kraal in charge of this invasion. Using the fake Clara as ultimately little more than a battering ram, he breaks out of the cell, implements his plan, runs riot on the Kraal warship and saves the world, turning the General over to Kate for interrogation and probably more than a little shouting.
Rumours of Wars
October 26th, 1962
The so-called Cuban Missile Crisis has been going on for 13 days. With Washington on high alert and the crisis reaching boiling point, a London police box materializes on the White House lawn, and a Scottish man demands to see the President, claiming that one of his inner advises is an alien spy. The pretty English girl with him apologises – apparently he always says things like that.
Checking with the UK Government turns up historical reports of an alien in a police box who manages to avert disaster, and he’s taken into the inner Cabinet of John F Kennedy. The Doctor sonically seals the doors the moment he gets inside. One of them, he reveals, is a Rutan spy, pushing the world over the brink of nuclear annihilation to provide a handy nuclear refueling station for Rutan expansion through the Madillon Cluster, allowing them to take their unending war more effectively to the Sontaran lines. From the moment he says that, the story becomes 12 Angry Men meets The West Wing meets And Then There Were None, a White House under siege, with the President of the US definitely locked in a room with a dangerous shape-changing alien spy. As the bodies begin to pile up, how long will it be before the Rutan reveals itself? And whose advice should the President trust to avoid starting World War III? Should he even trust the mysterious stranger known as the Doctor?
Factory Farming and The Genocide Business
The Family of the New Dawn has always been a small commercial enterprise, so how, all of a sudden, are they on the industrial world of Smokestack 93, buying up factory space like it’s going out of fashion and terminating workers with extreme prejudice?
When the Doctor and Clara arrive on the grey world, Clara is mugged by a hapless homeless man, but when they stop him, he apologises and breaks down, weeping that the Family has ruined his life – killed his wife, kidnapped his daughter, turned him out of the company house he rented. The Doctor is fascinated by the Family, Clara by the story. Clara’s all for going undercover again to find a way to help people, but the Doctor’s bored with undercover work and wants to take the Family on head to head. They compromise, and each go to do their own thing. She sneaks in to one of the giant factories they’ve bought, and finds her way to the manufacturing floor, where nothing is happening. He turns up at their head office on Smokestack 93 in a smart suit, claiming to be the union representative, and wanting to talk business. He’s told very politely that none of the Family’s workers have any interest in forming or joining a union. He’s asked to leave, and when he refuses, the Family pull very familiar pink plastic guns on him.
Clara meanwhile is stuck in the factory when the shift begins – but no workers arrive; the factory just starts up of its own accord. And what rolls off the production line are people. Similar but non-identical, uniformed, sidearmed, people. As they come off the production line they stand, and walk to a place in line – row after row after row of them.
Back in the office, the Doctor realises a terrifying thing – after being almost entirely wiped out during the Time War, the Family of the New Dawn is back in the universe in force. And the Family of the New Dawn is just a fancy name for a race of deadly robots: the Movellans are returning.
In The Genocide Business, the Movellans continue their endless troop production on Smokestack 93, and realizing he’s arrived too late to stop their rebirth in the universe, the Doctor does something unthinkable – he calls the Daleks in for help. Clara can’t believe he’d side with his ancient enemies, and bring them to a populated planet. He’s gambling with people’s lives, and with their planet, that the Daleks and the Movellans will be more interested in destroying each other than the innocent bystanders.
But it’s not just shock troops the Movellans have been manufacturing on Smokestack 93. Has the Doctor delivered the Daleks back into the hands of their greatest modern enemies? And as it becomes the heart of The Genocide Business, will anyone get off Smokestack 93 alive?
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk