One of the joys (and occasional nightmares) of classic Doctor Who is how all those hard-working writers, producers, designers, and directors were able to take what most agreed was a pittance of a budget and create a show that's lasted in some form or another for fifty years now. Very few other franchises can claim to have made so much out of so very, very little. There are times, of course, when the lack of budget is impossible to ignore - for every brilliant Dalek design, there's a Myrka waiting around the corner to make you mutter, "Oh, dear." The latter example is a case of the concept being kinda awesome on paper but horrible in its execution (a pantomime horse dressed up as an electricity-producing under-seas beast was always bound to be a let-down). But the show has every bit as many examples of a concept that probably should've been dead in the water and yet worked anyway, bad special effects and all. Hell, sometimes they worked because of the bad special effects. Here, then, is a short though by-no-means exhaustive list of Doctor Who monsters that really shouldn't have worked - But did. Click "Next" to get started.
5. The Primords From Inferno (1970)
The switch from black and white to colour gave the Doctor Who production team a lot of headaches, far too many to list here. One of the ways they went about solving the problem was to come up with one standard-length story of four episodes and complete the season with three extra-long stories, each seven episodes in length. In most cases, these stories work despite the obvious padding needed to get them up to this length, but there is definitely padding, make no mistake about that. Inferno was one of those stories. Apparently, Don Houghton had originally written the story as a four-parter concerned solely with Project Inferno's mission to drill a hole to the centre of the Earth and the Doctor's attempts to stop it. The parallel universe plot which provides the story with so much of its pathos was added on later. But the Primords were there from the start, and god, what a bad idea they sound like - and, for that matter, look like. The idea is that there's a substance beneath the planet's crust that, when it comes into contact with human flesh, somehow de-evolves a human into a kind of pre-historic creature, complete with long hair, fangs, and green skin. They also generate a great deal of heat and thrive on hotter temperatures. Now, as Doctor Who concepts go, this one barely holds up to any sort of analysis: exactly why would such a substance be in the Earth's crust? Why would it have such an effect? If it causes humans to go back to an earlier evolutionary stage, why don't they look more like cavemen and less like werewolves? Why are they so hot? And why, god help us, are they green? In short, nothing about the Primords makes any logical sense whatsoever - and in fact, the script seems to acknowledge this by giving absolutely no explanation for them at all, even the sort of pseudo-scientific one that usually characterizes Pertwee era stories. And yet...good god, do these things give you the heebie-jeebies. There's always something terrifying about the idea of having one's intelligence and personality stripped away by something alien and replaced by something absolutely bestial. It's part of the reason we're so terrified of zombie movies - what's more awful than seeing a loved one turn into a creature that wants to eat us and seeing not a shred of that person left in the monster before us? The Primords tap into that same body horror, and worse - Stahlmann, the creator of Project Inferno on the parallel world, somehow manages to retain enough of his previous personality that he's able to convince his assistant to let him out of the room in which he's trapped, and hearing his voice changing over the intercom as he goes over is blood curdling. It shouldn't be, especially with that goofy makeup, but it is.
Tony Whitt has previously written TV, DVD, and comic reviews for CINESCAPE, NOW PLAYING, and iF MAGAZINE. His weekly COMICSCAPE columns from the early 2000s can still be found archived on Mania.com. He has also written a book of gay-themed short stories titled CRESCENT CITY CONNECTIONS, available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle format. Whitt currently lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.