Did Doctor Who lose its way in the Troughton era?

Yep, a bit of a clickbaity title but I was mulling over the Sensorites and how they are an alien race rather than a monster. If you look at the Hartnell era, there are a number of examples of the series seemingly trying to resist the idea that aliens have to be monstrous.

  • The Sensorites
  • Sandy the Sandbeast
  • The Menoptera
  • The Zarbi (who are only ‘monstrous’ because of the Animus)
  • The Aridians
  • The Rills

More often than not, it’s humans or humanoids who are the ‘monsters’ the Doctor and his companions must face off against - Bennett (who disguises himself as a typical Doctor Who ‘monster’); Mavic Chen; the Drahvins; the Toymaker; the Elders; the Moroks; Forester; the Monk; Kala; Vasor and of course all the historical villains such as Tlotoxl, Nero and El Akir.

Yes - we have the Daleks almost straight away but they are almost the exception to the rule in those first three seasons.

But then, with Troughton’s era we’ve suddenly got Cybermen all over the place; Chameleons stealing our identities; giant crabs; Ice Warriors, robot Yetis, weed creatures; robots - Quark, white and clockwork; and Krotons - and all of these aliens are out to get us. None of them are benevolent.

The ‘human’ villains are still there - Tobias Vaughn, Klieg and Kaftan, the Dominators, Salamander and Zaroff, but they seem secondary to the Monsters that stalk the Doctor and his companions.

Did Doctor Who lose its nuance in the Troughton era when it comes to the alien races the Doctor encounters? Did it ever get it back?


I think it did start to get the nuance somewhat back with the Third Doctor. The earth stories had more of a blend of alien and ‘human’ baddies, but still the aliens outweighed the ‘humans’.

I think part of it is a combination of change in direction for the show. I suspect it was a conscious choice to cater to the ‘behind the sofa’ idea. Combined with an increase in viewers with these elements, and the easiest way to ‘churn’ out shows was to make more alien baddies.

Also, the ways to portray ‘sci-fi action’ is miles apart when you compare early 60s to late 60s.

Sorry if it seems disjointed. Struggling to convey my meaning a bit.


I agree about the Pertwee era - there is nuance in the Silurians and of course the whole ‘Ice Warriors can be good’ stuff from The Curse of Peladon. Colony in Space too depicts benevolent aliens.


This is something I also noticed during the Troughton era, obviously they were increasingly aware that creature features sell, but there seems to be more of a feeling that aliens are downright bad and want to invade and kill us. And the Doctor is willing to fight back, with the peak of this being him gleefully gunning down Ice Warriors in The Seeds of Death. It feels like the Barry Letts era, and the writing of Malcolm Hulke in particular, started to tone this down. One place this can be seen is that Brian Hayles, who wrote the aforementioned Seeds of Death, would redeem the Ice Warriors in The Curse of Peladon just a few years later.


This is a good point!!

1 Like