The Doctor Who Companion

Get your daily fix of news, reviews, and features with the Doctor Who Companion!

A Brief History of the Dark Doctors

Amy’s Choice saw the introduction and, to date, only appearance of the Dream Lord, a strange being who infiltrated the TARDIS and forced the Doctor, Amy, and Rory into a dreamscape to inflict his cruel games on the trio. But as the episode wrapped up, it became much clearer who the Dream Lord really was: a darker side of the Doctor.

This is perhaps the first time in the modern era of the show that something like that had been done so explicitly, but it was far from the first time the idea had ever been attempted. This is a brief history of the “Dark Doctors”.

The First Doctor

I was a little puzzled about where to start with this one, but looking at the First Doctor in the debut story for the series, An Unearthly Child, he is much more different to how he would later be. Much of this is attributed to the influence his companions have on him, gradually teaching him about compassion and humility. As the Hartnell era winds down, you can see how much he develops over the course of his series.

We first meet him in a junkyard where, to Ian and Barbara, he looks like he is kidnapping Susan, locking her away in a disused police box. Of course, Susan explains the TARDIS is their home but then they land in prehistoric times after the Doctor effectively does kidnap Ian and Barbara. After one of the cavemen is savaged by a sabretooth tiger, Ian, Barbara, and Susan insist that they help him. The Doctor, on the other hand, raises a rock and is about to bludgeon him to death.

In fact, over the course of the first three adventures, An Unearthly Child, The Daleks, and The Edge of Destruction, you get the sense that the Doctor would quite cheerfully leave Ian and Barbara behind if it meant he and Susan could get away. Of course, that gradually changes; by the time we get to Marco Polo, the gang feels much more like friends, rather than people forced together. The Doctor in the first three adventures is definitely dark, something even the Daleks themselves recognised, especially as in The Chase, they create an android duplicate of the Doctor to kill the Doctor and his friends.


In the Fourth Doctor adventure, The Face of Evil, the Doctor arrives on a strange alien world and meets both the Sevateem and the Tesh, two seemingly separate tribes that share a connection to one another that they never could have guessed.

The Sevateem live in fear of ‘The Evil One’, while the Tesh worship him. It’s only when the Doctor learns of the identity of The Evil One that he puts two and two together. While it isn’t explained on screen, in the Target novelisation, Terrance Dicks explains that the Mordee Expedition takes place during the regeneration in Robot, with the Fourth Doctor trying to fix a faulty computer.

As the survey team tried this, they inadvertently gave Xoanon the ability to evolve and when the Fourth Doctor, at some point after his regeneration, helped the survey team, this resulted in giving a newly ‘reborn’ Xoanon a split personality.

As a consequence, Xoanon split the survey team into two tribes, as a way of trying to breed super-humans. He believed he would pick the best from each tribe and then, one can theorise, go out into space and conquer other worlds.

Luckily though, the Doctor seems to remember his mistake and was able to fix Xoanon — though the damage had been done to the planet, hopefully the Seveteem and the Tesh could live together in peace, this time, united by the benevolent computer.

The Sixth Doctor

While not outwardly evil, the Sixth Doctor onscreen is notably much darker than the Doctors we’d known and come to love. At the time in the Eighties, this sudden change in the Doctor’s personality wasn’t warmly welcomed by all. And perhaps that’s rightly so: the first thing the Sixth Doctor does is try to strangle Peri. Though this is explained in the adventure, to watch the clip out of context, it does seem like a wrong move on the Doctor’s part.

The Sixth Doctor made it onto this list because that mean streak continues into other stories (though there are theories that the actions taken by the Sixth Doctor is the Valeyard trying to break through). While you can excuse the Doctor destroying the Cyberleader in Attack of the Cybermen — the Fifth Doctor did the same thing in Earthshock — his killing of Shockeye is nevertheless out of character, even if Shockeye had it coming.

But poor Peri always seemed to suffer at the hands and actions of the Doctor. Strangling her was one thing but when the Doctor was believed to be under Crozier’s influence in Mindwarp, he seemed to delight in torturing her trying to get information for Sil and the Mentors. It’s never been made clear whether this was true or not (and if so, we can blame Crozier). Still, it’s no wonder that Peri went away and married Brian Blessed!

The Valeyard

When the Sixth Doctor found himself on trial for his life on Gallifrey, he met his match in the mysterious prosecutor, a Time Lord called the Valeyard.

Across four stories (arguably), the Valeyard rallied for the Doctor’s life to be terminated and to his credit, there was no real indication that the Doctor might be up against himself in court. The Valeyard was apparently created sometime between the Doctor’s twelfth and final regeneration, reportedly by the Time Lord High Council themselves. He was then to be allowed life if he prosecuted the Doctor and the reward for winning would be the gift of the Doctor’s remaining regenerations. If that’s true, what the Time Lords didn’t bet on was the Master knowing all about it, thanks to his accessing the Matrix.

But the Valeyard has always been a part of the Doctor, according to accounts whispering to him in his darkest moments, like the Sixth Doctor shooting the Cyberleader and the Second Doctor becoming an Androgum. The Doctor was so traumatised by his encounter with the Valeyard that it affected his future travels in various spin-off media. He was worried that meeting Mel would result in him coming into existence in Business Unusual, for example, and the Sixth Doctor would later have to face the fact that the violent course of action the Valeyard would take to situations is sometimes the best in Millennium Rites.

The Sixth Doctor faced the Valeyard again, right up to his regeneration in the Big Finish audio story, The Last Adventure. Over a course of three adventures, the Valeyard would hunt the Doctor and his many companions including Constance Clarke, Charlotte Pollard, Henry Jago and Professor George Litefoot, and Flip Jackson, before finally managing to trap the Doctor’s psyche in the Matrix and take over his body. Luckily, though, the Sixth Doctor and Mel managed to remove the Valeyard; however, it resulted in the Sixth Doctor having to regenerate.

We’ve not heard from the Valeyard in many years onscreen, though the Great Intelligence does use the term to describe the Doctor when he talks about his old enemy with Clara, Jenny, Vastra, and Strax in The Name of the Doctor. The Valeyard has had a lasting impact on the Doctor’s lives since their first meeting, something that has been expanded upon in spin-off media, if not on screen.

The Seventh Doctor

When we first met the Seventh Doctor, he was fun, someone who clowned around but wouldn’t hesitate to stop his enemies with something of a ruthless streak. There is a real change in his personality from someone who dangled off a cliff on the end of his umbrella in Dragonfire to the Doctor who destroyed Skaro (though some say it was Skaro’s sun that was destroyed).

From the death of the Daleks in Remembrance of the Daleks, to the destruction of the Cybermen in Silver Nemesis, the Seventh Doctor didn’t hesitate to exterminate his enemies. He also didn’t have a problem with manipulating his companions, using them as pawns against the evil forces he was fighting. With Ace, he told himself he was teaching her to be strong and, had the series continued into the 1990s, make her ready for entry to the Time Lord Academy. However, using her against Fenric in The Curse of Fenric and Light in Ghost Light, and letting her face off against the Cyber-Leader and Lieutenant in Silver Nemesis, aren’t actions that could be easily excused — and one wonders why Ace put up with his actions.

Those actions continued into the Virgin New Adventures range of books, which eventually led to Ace leaving the Doctor; his treatment of her really messed with her head. He treated Bernice similarly to some extent, though she was older than Ace and didn’t take any guff from the Doctor.

Towards the end of his life, with his enemies destroyed, banished to alternate dimensions, exterminated or destroyed in supernovas, the Seventh Doctor certainly deserves to be on the list of darker Doctors.

The War Doctor

Following the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration on Karn, the War Doctor was born. With the Time War raging across the universe, the Sisterhood of Karn allowed the Doctor to choose what qualities he wanted in his next incarnation. He chose to be a warrior and the result was a Doctor the future incarnations chose to not remember.

The War Doctor might have seemed darker, and certainly the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors treated him like he was truly evil, but the war he was born into required him to be a little more ruthless. What the future Doctors seemed to despise him for was using a sentient Time Lord weapon, The Moment, to destroy the Time Lords and the Daleks. However, thanks to the Moment’s intervention, using the interface in the form of Rose Tyler, the Doctors managed to freeze Gallifrey in a pocket universe rather than destroying it. This allowed the War Doctor to finally pick up the mantle of ‘The Doctor’ again, something he had dropped because he felt his actions weren’t worthy of the name.

The Meta-Crisis Doctor

Like the War Doctor, the Meta-Crisis Doctor was born from battle. Facing the Daleks once again, the Tenth Doctor had been exterminated by the only alien invader who can shoot straight and had to regenerate to survive. Luckily, his hand (that had been cut off by the Sycorax leader in The Christmas Invasion) had been brought on board the TARDIS by Captain Jack.

Once he’d healed, he syphoned off the rest of the regenerative energy into the hand. Unbeknown to him, plans had been set in motion — when Donna touched the jar, through which she could hear a heartbeat, she was engulfed by regeneration energy. The jar exploded and this created a brand new Doctor from the hand.

This Doctor was different though: while the Tenth Doctor had his dark moments, the Meta Crisis Doctor managed to destroy the Dalek Crucible and all the ships surrounding it, effectively wiping out a large portion of the Dalek race. The Tenth Doctor accused him of genocide but allowed him to live on the Parallel Earth, with Rose. Rose fell in love with the Tenth Doctor and now, with the Tenth Doctor around, she began her mission to change his outlook on life, much like she had done to the Ninth Doctor when she first met him.

The Time Lord Victorious

The Tenth Doctor is the incarnation that newcomers to the show always gravitate towards. For the most part, he’s fun, funny, and always wins. But towards the end of his incarnation, he decided that death wouldn’t win and, in The Waters of Mars, helped a ground of people fated to die in a fight with the Flood.

The Waters of Mars arguably sees the Tenth Doctor at his darkest, mainly due to his arrogance taking over. He might be the only Time Lord around to bend the rules of time, but like Adelaide Brooke, commander of the doomed Mars mission, says, that doesn’t mean he should do it.

The Time Lord Victorious was further explored in greater detail in 2022 with the release of a multi-platform story, in which the Tenth Doctor went back in time to stop the Kotturuh, creatures that bring the gift of death to any species they deem to need it.

The Dream Lord

In Amy’s Choice, the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, and Rory Williams fall under the influence of Psychic Pollen, which had got stuck in the TARDIS time-rotor. The Psychic Pollen caused the Dream Lord to come to life, made out of the darker recesses of the Doctor’s mind.

In many ways, the Dream Lord is similar to the Valeyard, manipulating the Doctor to get what he wants, calling out the Doctor, Amy, and Rory on their weaknesses and short-comings.

But it was Amy that the Dream Lord seemed to enjoy torturing the most, making her watch as Rory, who in a dreamscape was her husband, died — Rory was killed by aliens and then unborn her baby died when she chose real life, without her imagined child.

While the Doctor does keep his suspicions about the identity of the Dream Lord secret from his friends for most of the story, it’s heavily implied throughout that he is the Doctor. He’s got the ginger hair that the Doctor’s always wanted and the episode ends with the reflection of the Dream Lord laughing and mocking the Doctor. Just imagine what would happen if the Doctor finally decided to break bad!

The Master/Doctor

In The Power of the Doctor, we finally got a chance to see what the Master would get up if he had the chance to be the Doctor. Of course, it goes as terribly as you can imagine, but it does give you a hint of the Master’s failings and how they torture the character. First the Master forces the Doctor to regenerate, using a machine stolen from Gallifrey and if that weren’t enough, the Master makes sure that the Doctor regenerates into him, transferring his consciousness from one body to another.

He then takes Yaz on an adventure, threatening to kill her the whole time and starts a war by causing two planets to launch nuclear missiles. All the time, he is wearing the previous Doctors’ costumes, including the Fourth’s scarf, Thirteenth’s jacket, the Fifth’s celery, the Seventh’s question mark jumper, and more. In many ways, it’s a cosplayer’s dream (certainly because many of these items were by Lovarzi), but from a narrative point of view, it’s a perversion of all the good that the Doctor does and stands for.

It doesn’t last long though as, with the help of Vinder and the Fugitive Doctor, Yaz manages to force the Master to turn back into the Thirteenth Doctor, while he pleads, “Don’t let me go back to being me.” It does raise the question, as it does with all bullies when they are finally called out on their actions, do they think so little of themselves that this is why they inflict so much pain on others? And while the Master-Doctor didn’t feature in the story too much, looking back at it, you have to further ask, should we actually feel sorry for the Master?

Those are a few of the Doctor’s darker incarnations. Which other faces of this Time Lord do you think should make it onto the list and why?

Jordan Shortman

A Brief History of the Dark Doctors

by Jordan Shortman time to read: 10 min
%d bloggers like this: