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Missed Opportunities: Why Doctor Who Needs to Bring Back the Rutans

The Doctor Who universe is huge. So many planets, aliens, wars, federations, alliances: you name it, the Doctor Who universe’s got ’em. 

One of the biggest, oldest conflicts is the never-ending campaign involving the Sontarans and the Rutans. A war so ancient, neither side even remembers what started it. The fact that it hasn’t ended even after who knows how many millennia says they’re both equally capable and committed to this dance of death. 

So why, oh why, have the angry little potato heads showed up in Doctor Who so many times, while we only got to see one Rutan? Once.

Mind you, Robert Holmes created a brilliant race for the Season 11 opener, The Time Warrior. A militaristic race that thrills, lives for battle, and to die for the glory of the Sontaran empire! Between Classic and 21st Century Who, we’ve had over a dozen stories where the Sontarans have been featured or at least made a cameo.

The entire representation for the Rutans boils down to one blob on a lighthouse step. 

At first glance, one might think that a slow-moving blob is not a great story generator. But the Rutans are more than this.

First, they’re shape changers. They can be anyone at any time. I’d imagine this skill would come in handy as far as infiltrating Sontarans forces goes, gaining intelligence, and wreaking havoc from within. 

They can also discharge great amounts of electricity, frying their opponents.

I can’t be certain, but I’d guess the Rutans probably almost always get the better of the Sontarans in most battles with these advantages. Perhaps that’s the reason the squat warriors began cloning their troops, to make up the difference in the body counts. Throw more and more and more troop fodder at the enemy. They do love battle after all.

But as far as our favourite show actually utilising these impressive aliens… no joy. 

During Russell T Davies’ era, he brought back the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, the Autons, the Macra, and the Sontarans! Steven Moffat brought back the Zygons, the Mondasian Cybermen, the Ice Warriors, the Silurians, the Great Intelligence, the Movellans, and even Alpha Centauri!

But no love for the Rutans. 

These dangerous, crafty, lightning-throwing, shape-changing globs have a lot of potential. Yet Terrance Dicks — Uncle Terry to you and me — was the only writer to get a Rutan tootin’ story done!

Yes, yes, I’m sure there have probably been some gripping novels or Big Finish audios that have peppered the extended universe with a fleshed out dose of Rutan world-building, but as always, the show is the thing for me. 

No, I certainly don’t trust Chris Chibnall to bring the alien race in and make them sing in an epic story, but at some point in the future, imagine seeing a long standing companion one day being outed as a Rutan operative? Maybe the Rutans have a vested interest in trying to obtain time travel capability, since that’s also one of the Sontaran’s goals?

Possibilities, possibilities…

Sorry about Rutan tootin’.

No, I’m not.

Rick Lundeen

Missed Opportunities: Why Doctor Who Needs to Bring Back the Rutans

by Rick Lundeen time to read: 2 min
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