“The man who abhors violence, never carrying a gun.” So said Davros of the Doctor, highlighting one of those inherent character traits that marks him out from so many other heroes. Except for when it, er, doesn’t. Yes, there are plenty of times when the great pacifist is more than happy to use fists, firearms or whatever else comes to hand to get him out of a tight spot. Roll up your sleeves and join us as we present the Kasterborous guide to moments when the Doctor decided to get a bit tasty!
Boff With His Head
The First Doctor was a notoriously tricky customer. He often looked out for number one as much as he fought injustice, and you had the feeling that his galactic travels were more about satisfying his curiosity than righting wrongs. William Hartnell’s Doctor displayed his ruthless side, famously in his very first story when he covertly picked up a rock, clearly planning to stove in an injured caveman’s head to ensure he could make a quick getaway. His propensity for bashing people on the bonce was also seen in Guests of Madame Guillotine (episode two of The Reign of Terror) when, forced to join a road crew under duress, he uses a dirty great shovel to whack the foreman on the head (so hard it makes one of his workmates shut his eyes and wince). Making no effort to put his victim in the recovery position, the Doctor then coldly places a coin on his eye and wishes him a peaceful sleep (the foreman is snoring away, as people do on television when they’re out cold) before hitting the road again.
Violent Doctor rating: 4 out of 5. Never turn your back on the Doctor…
The Doctor who was most able to look after himself when it came to unarmed combat was of course the Third, expert as he was in the art of Venusian aikido. Surely influenced by the glossy ITC dramas and James Bond films of the 1960s, Doctor Who’s production team decided they needed to shake things up to drag the show into the new decade, and what better way than giving the new incarnation a previously unseen skill which looked extremely cool? Legend has it that Terrance Dicks suggested aikido to mollify Barry Letts’s unease at having an aggressive Doctor on the grounds that it has no attacking moves, but for a trained expert the uses are varied: immobilisation; paralysing an opponent; joint locks, throws and kicks… but be wary of trying it on non-humanoids (Ogrons, Sontarans) as it may well not work.
Violent Doctor rating: 2 out of 5. Self-defence, your honour…
Boycie Takes A Beating
Scorby, played by John Challis of Only Fools and Horses fame, was undoubtedly a thug but by crikey he was made to pay for it. Harrison Chase’s henchman in The Seeds of Doom had to endure more than one duffing up at the hands of the Fourth Doctor. A blow to the guts is swiftly followed by a stool being brought down with some force to his head. As if that weren’t enough, on a separate occasion he receives another well-aimed blow from the Time Lord who proceeds to twist his neck in thoroughly dangerous fashion. Apologists will no doubt argue that it was some kind of Gallifreyan stun manoeuvre (Scorby is seen to get up straight away). Try getting that to stand up in court when you’re on an assault charge, I say. Old Scorby must have regretted ever getting up that morning.
Violent Doctor rating: 5 out of 5. At least he didn’t throttle him with his scarf, I suppose…
Acid Bath Murderer?
Okay, there’s a long-standing myth that the Sixth Doctor kills two guards by shoving them into a huge bath of acid in Vengeance on Varos. This misconception has since been quoted many times to illustrate how misjudged the characterisation of the Doctor was in that era, but in fact Old Sixie has been the victim of an injustice here. As the clip shows, the first guard gets dunked in when his rather jumpy mate is startled by the Doctor and unwittingly pushes him in. The second guard meets his end after a tussle with the Doctor but it’s actually the other guard who pulls him in to the bath. So there you go. The Doctor is not guilty. Admittedly the Doctor doesn’t exactly rush to assist the stricken men and his flippant ‘Forgive me if I don’t join you” as he departs hardly portrays him as full of compassion but he can at least be cleared of the most heinous charges.
Violent Doctor rating: 1 out of 5. Although you can’t help feeling that if any Doctor might have dumped someone into a bath of acid it would have been this one.
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
The Ninth Doctor was, depending on how you look at it, a troubled soul scarred by guilt or a moody Mancunian who you really didn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Witness his spitting venom at his greatest foe in Dalek, or the way he relishes picking up a huge gun (“Lock and load” he says, in full-on 1980s action movie mode) in the same episode. And what about his escape from the cell in Bad Wolf? Locked up with Captain Jack and Lynda-with-a-y, the Doctor decides there’s no time for messing about. Although it’s Jack who handles most of the rough stuff when it comes to overwhelming the guards (what is it with guards being made to suffer in Doctor Who?) the Doctor can clearly be seen shoving one man against the wall so hard he collapses. I hope that chap knew a good lawyer…
Violent Doctor rating: 3 out of 5. The Doctor, believing Rose had just been killed, would surely have pleaded temporary insanity. Good luck with that one, Doc…
We’ve barely scratched the surface here, of course, and there’s no shortage of moments when the Doctor compromises his non-violent principles. Which are your nominations? Let us know!