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Christmas Watch List: 5 Classic Horror Films That Inspired Doctor Who

While some people love a good Christmas movie, I’ve always been a fan of the scarier side of the festive period. Who doesn’t love a spooky story while sitting by a roaring fire? This year, there might not be massive gatherings, but you can enjoy those spooky stories from the comfort of your own television.

I’ve delved back into the horror archive over the last year, thanks to some movie channels showing classics of the genre, and it isn’t hard to see how some Doctor Who episodes have been inspired by these movies.

So here’s our list of Doctor Who stories and the movies that inspired them – or feel suspiciously similar – to enjoy over the Christmas period!

The Seeds of Doom/ The Thing from Another World

It’s not hard to see where The Seeds of Doom took its inspiration, from its alien pods to its Antarctic setting. But writer, Robert Banks Stewart makes sure this isn’t a complete copy of the 1951 movie by moving the main location to the English countryside. The movie is a great template for the entire base-under-siege format with a group of characters stuck in their base of operations and besiege by an alien force and a snowstorm.

One could even argue that the very title of this film sets out the basis for almost all future Doctor Who stories: a thing from another world comes to conquer ours. It’s good that this story was made when it was; in the 1980s John Carpenter created a brand new version of The Thing from Another World, simply entitled The Thing but that might have been a little too gory for the Tom Baker era. Maybe it would have suited the Sixth Doctor’s era, with Sixie and Peri, or Mel, sat in the snow, about to drink something that will kill them both. It’s dark and morbid but totally in keeping with that time.

Even the way that the monster is defeated in both versions of the film is similar to The Seeds of Doom.

I think what makes much of the Hinchcliffe era of Doctor Who so brilliant is that it wears its references on its sleeve, easily recognisable to the parents in the audience while giving the younger members something really fun to watch and hopefully discover inspirations when they are older. And that is certainly what The Seeds of Doom does.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth/ The Day of the Triffids

The first story from Doctor Who where aliens actually come to our world, The Dalek Invasion of Earth sees the titular pepper-pots having finally conquered Earth. Most of the population is either dead or enslaved, and everything looks very bleak – almost like another world.

A year before, in 1963, a movie came out which saw alien plants trying to take over the world. The Day of the Triffids sees a meteor shower across the night sky. In the morning, those who watched it found themselves to be blind and only a few, who either were sleeping, missed it, or in one case was having eye surgery, still have their sight in tact.

What follows is a race against time to stop the Triffids from controlling the planet in a story that literally spans the globe.

Keep an eye out for Susan Foreman herself, Carole Ann Ford, as a blind girl that the leads befriend in the middle of the film. Released in April 1963, this was a few months before she made her appearance in Doctor Who as the Doctor’s granddaughter.

Like The Day of the Triffids, Terry Nation shows us how quickly humanity can fall apart under an alien aggressor. I would be very surprised if Nation didn’t take some inspiration from Triffids for The Dalek Invasion of Earth as a group of freedom fighters slowly come together to finally win the Earth back. And in Triffids, there is a scene where the Triffids shuffle out of some woods which has to be one of the most Doctor Who-ish things I’ve ever seen!

Hide/ The Legend of Hell House

Hide is a story that could be compared to any haunted house story; it references Ghostbusters in the pre-credits sequence and various allusions are made to the Nigel Kneale TV story, The Stone Tape.

But what draws comparisons to this lesser-known film is its 1970s setting and the two guest characters. Jessica Raine’s Emma Grayling and Dougray Scott’s Alec Palmer are very similar to Pamela Franklin’s, Florence Tanner and Clive Revill’s Dr. Barrett in The Legend of Hell House.

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two is that Legend isn’t a love story. Hide is pretty good up until its sappy ending; Legend doesn’t have the lovey ending. Instead, Legend sees things go from bad to worse.

For me, The Legend of Hell House is one of the best haunted house movies out there, and, as a writer, I find it hugely inspiring!

Full Circle/ Creature from the Black Lagoon

I don’t think that the inspiration here is a particularly well-kept secret. The creatures from both look similar, as are their settings. While Creature takes place mostly on a large boat, Full Circle is in a waterside village and then a spaceship that could be a metaphor for the boat in Creature.

There is a larger article to be written about the role of the woman in this movie: it embraces the late 1940s and 1950s idea of the nuclear family and the woman’s role in that, but I don’t see Lalla Ward’s Romana fainting and getting picked up by the Creature. Having said that, she does succumb to a virus that makes her able to communicate with the Marshmen, and even lets them into the Starliner. But she isn’t fainting and screaming all over the shop.

Creature has some impressive underwater shots, obviously filmed in a pool, but I think similar shots would have really made Full Circle stand out a lot more around the other stories in Season 18. But fans of Full Circle will surely enjoy Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The Sarah Jane Adventures – Eye of the Gorgon/ The Gorgon

I’ve always though that Eye of the Gorgon was an underrated story from The Sarah Jane Adventures and I have very vivid memories of watching it on its initial airing. It felt like a perfect blend of Hammer Horror (nuns in a secret society!) and ’70s Doctor Who, with mysterious goings-on in a countryside town.

Hammer also did a movie about the mythological Gorgons, and it’s one of their movies that I also think is very underrated. Whereas in the Hammer movies, the Gorgons are very beautiful before they turn, the Gorgon in Eye is grotesque, much more in keeping with their Greek origins.

Even the settings here are similar: all the main action takes place in a large house full of tunnels and alters. The Gorgon is a Hammer film you don’t hear about very often, but one very much worth checking out.

Love a Scary Christmas Tale?

So there you have five movies to watch over the festive period. Christmas movies are all well and good, but for me, you can’t beat a good horror…

Jordan Shortman

Christmas Watch List: 5 Classic Horror Films That Inspired Doctor Who

by Jordan Shortman time to read: 5 min
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