5for5: Real Life Inspirations for Memorable Villains


Doctor Who is one of the more original programs ever to be transmitted, and we’ve talked before about how it’s originality and popularity has generated a massive amount of influence on other great film and TV projects over the last 50 years.

But like all great works, it didn’t… materialize…entirely without influence. Materialize…get it??



Anyway, when developing the series, DW creators drew from previous Sci-Fi films and books (namely The Quartermass Experiment) and you can trace the origins of those tales from others before them, and so on, until you go so far back in time that Dick Clark is sitting at the beginning of the universe scribbling the first stories while simultaneously figuring out how to sell donuts.

The same applies to the characters of DW; and specifically the villains. And the most memorable of those bad guys had not only fictional influences, but real world inspirations. For instance…


The original Who baddies not only shared a colour scheme with the silver and black Nazi stormtroopers, but other deeper similarities as creator Terry Nation based their mannerisms and motivations on the Third Reich. Their appearance was said to represent the faceless brutality of the Nazis, and their xenophobia reflected the Nazis’ determination to destroy all that deviated from themselves. Add to the fact that in the 60s, the very real fear of a potential invasion from Germany during WWII was still fresh in the memory of many Britons, and it’s evident why the pepper pot evil doers became such a scary and popular villain.

The Nazi basis was examined even more closely in Genesis Of The Daleks, as the Bunker, Davros/Gobbels/Hitler and obedient, jackbooted party members were depicted as the ancestor of the creatures.


Kit Pedler was a medical Doctor who was very worried about the rapidly advancing “spare part” surgery such as heart-lung machines and transplants that was becoming more common in the 1960’s. Basically, his concerns were that the ongoing practice of merging man and mechanics would lead to a Terminator style takeover of the human race.

Correction...a Non Boring Terminator style takeover

Correction…a Non Boring Terminator style takeover

So when Pedler was invited to join DW as a scientific adviser and writer, he used the opportunity to put those fears on the small screen in the form of the Cybermen. Pedler and writing partner Gerry Davis also drew influence by the logic-driven Treens from the Dan Dare comic strip, and in fact Pedler originally envisaged the Cybermen as “space monks” who were half human, half computer beings. Although the final product is much closer to Pedler’s Cyber-menace idea, there are still hints of the Dan Dare comic influence in the Tenth Planet: the Cybermen have names (Krail, Talon and Shav) all of which were similar to names given to the Treen in original comic series.


1967 was almost the last time the Daleks were seen on DW, as creator Terry Nation absconded to America with the pepper pots in the hopes of spinning them off into their own program for U.S. viewers.

The bastard also took my sunglasses!!!!!

The bastard also took my sunglasses!!!!!

The BBC tasked writer Bryan Hales with the job of developing a new recurring baddie, and he immediately set on the idea of linking a villain to the general public’s growing interest in Mars. But it wasn’t until he came across the story of a baby mammoth found on the banks of Yakut river in Siberia that he came up with the final touches. The notion of a long (presumed) dead race surviving in the ice of another planet quickly became the Ice Warriors, who would go on to appear a number of times in classic Who and return in NuWho’s Cold War.



When The Silence were finally shown in The Impossible Astronaut they are depicted as tall humanoids with disfigured heads and mouthless, bony faces, and anyone who has been stuck in a Grade 8 art class probably recognizes the similarity to Edvard Munch’s The Scream

Showrunner and children’s nightmare master Steven Moffat is on record as confirming the inspiration from the painting, noting that like The Silence, the painting is a subtle image that most people are aware of when they see, but tend to forget quickly.

Others have noted that they are also eerily comparable to the mythological figures known as the “Men In Black” that became popular amongst UFO Conspiracy buffs during the ’60s. And also somehow became a catchy, but terrible pop song in the ’90s.

Consider youreself lucky I didn't release the extended version featuring the Carlton Dance.

Consider youreself lucky I didn’t release the extended version featuring the Carlton Dance.


Ok, so this isn’t strictly real world, but The Doctor’s “best enemy” drew heavily from the nemesis Conan Doyle pitted against Sherlock Holmes in the classic book series. Specifically, DW producers wanted an enemy who could out think The Doctor, yet also knew his vulnerabilities.

What do you think of our list? Let us know in the comments!


One thought on “5for5: Real Life Inspirations for Memorable Villains

  1. Reblogged this on EYE OF HARMONY and commented:

    Did a villain win the U.S. election last night? That depends on your perspective…but there’s no debating that many historical figures have served as heavy influences in pop culture’s depiction of villains. DW has their share of real life influcences as well. Read on to learn (among other things) how a Doctor’s fear of surgery led to the creation of one of the Doctor’s most feared enemies!


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