Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Big Bads

I was discussing this last night, so...

Russell T Davies ran Doctor Who for four series. In the first, he brought back the Daleks as the seasonal Big Bad. In the second, the Cybermen. By this point, I had guessed that the next would be either the Master or Davros, probably the Master, and the one after would be the other one. And I was not wrong. These are the big four Big Bads of the classic Whoniverse, the ones people on the street could name even before the show came back. (The Time Lords get an honourable mention for causing as much trouble without generally being villains as a whole, so their role as the Specials Big Bads seems entirely apt.)

So while I encourage new monsters, I always planned to have a Dalek episode in the initial thirteen-week run of the game this blog shares a name with, and you'll notice the second-last shot of the trailer for my PBP game as well. Likewise, I have Cybermen ideas, something to do with the Master... nothing in mind for Davros yet, but he's a subset of Dalek ideas so one never knows.

So if you're running Doctor Who and looking for a storyline featuring the old favourites, what are they particularly good for?



First off, they're immediately scary with their instant kill weapons and their great delight in using them. If the Daleks are around, everybody who knows the show knows that this is trouble. They suffer the Inverse Ninja Rule pretty badly, but even when they show up in armies rather than just one they're still bad news. Nothing says "Run!" quite like the shadow of a one-man tank with a plunger on the end. Players who love the show will probably want their characters to run from Daleks at some point.

They also have surprising smarts, enormous spaceships, blatant fascism allegories, fun-to-imitate voices, and these days (just to keep players on their toes) the occasional tendency to turn good and then heroically die.

Need an all-conquering space invader fleet? Daleks. A monster that immediately makes players go "Run!" as soon as you put on the voice, in an adventure with no prior warning of their presence? Daleks. A lone merciless unstoppable killer who doesn't look human, let alone like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Daleks. Two essentially identical groups fighting it out and claiming racial superiority? Imperial Daleks.

The TARDIS lands in the year 77,012, when humanity, pseudohumanity, Draconia United, the Movellan Directorate, the Andrat and the Stridulum have gathered for one final struggle against the Dalek Ascendancy. It's a horrific, insanely violent war with trench warfare and aerial combat over a dozen worlds. And then suddenly the Daleks withdraw...


"You belong to us. You will be like us."

Cybermen are creepy. Even when they're a bit crap effects-wise or directed to be lumbering and ineffectual, they're still former people who have removed their identities and souls and want to do the same to you. They were even creepy when they invaded Star Trek disguised as the Cenobites. And they can be spectacularly creepy if they really go for it.

So they hit fears of loss of individuality, existential angst, and also technophobia and the like. The Pete's World version controlled people through the latest must-have gadget.

New technology causing trouble, people disappearing and coming back wrong, commentary on the dangers and wonders of emotion, these are all good starts for a Cybermen story.

Arriving in modern London, the travellers are caught up in a protest against another environmental disaster - the third in two months. All apparent accidents but really the results of sabotage. All having a knock-on effect building towards the point where the world will become uninhabitable. And the company last targeted is desperate enough to consider a face-saving move which they don't realise will cause far more damage, suggested by a junior executive who never blinks...

The Master

"I am the Master. You will obey me."

He's as smart and powerful as the Doctor and he's a total git. Pretty simple, really.

As villains go he's fairly Doctor-specific due to his love-hate thang (like the Joker fighting Green Lantern just seems wrong) but he often thinks big enough to make life hell for other groups of Whoniverse heroes. He's a good choice for audacious Xanatos plots, roping other aliens in to do his dirty work, opening the containers for Ancient Evils, and any kind of threat based around time travel.

Moscow, 1961. Yuri Gagarin is about to make history... unless a team of British agents brings the Soviets' ambitions crashing down. And who is their adviser, who seems to know the Russians' plans in advance? He seems almost to be a shadow, the man in black with the sardonic smile...


"People and planets and stars will become dust. And the dust will become atoms and the atoms will become... nothing. And the wavelength will continue, breaking through the rift at the heart of the Medusa Cascade into every dimension, every parallel, every single corner of creation. This is my ultimate victory, Doctor - the destruction of reality itself!"

Davros is your basic Mad Scientist, given to ranting, monologuing, creating superweapons that go out of control and dying mysteriously. Being the daddy of the tinpot Hitlers, there's also a bit of Nazi Mad Scientist to him to make him that bit more unlikeable.

Davros stories are largely Dalek stories with added shouting - he never appeared in a story without "of the Daleks" in the title until 2008 - so the same kinds of adventures with the addition of a stronger verbal confrontation and possibly a more demented superweapon, as well as Mad Scientist adventures that are prone to involving Daleks popping up as well. If Doctor Doom would do it, Davros might well do it too. And laugh as he does.

Colonists on a frontier world discover the wreck of a massive alien spacecraft. What could be buried within? Could anything possibly have survived? A group of hazard investigators and archaeologists arrives, several days earlier than Earth authorities said they would, lead by a darkly handsome scientist named Dr. Vaso, who insists on complete privacy for his nightly update broadcasts to his overseer and "father"...


  1. I hope you'll do a follow-up on the Not-So-Big Bads like the Sontarans, Ice Warriors, Yeti, et al.

  2. Cheers. I'll see waht I can do on those I've actually seen in action (unlike the Yeti).