Doctor Who British Gothic Horror Connections

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SIMON BALL goes back in time to search out horror films with Doctor Who!

Doctor Who Gothic Connections

Now that the dust has settled, I think we can agree that Peter Capaldi has pretty much aced it as the new Doctor Who.

Capaldi has brought a welcome hard-bitten cynicism to the role, which was in my opinion rapidly descending into mawkish sentimentality and slapstick in its ever younger incarnations of the Time Lord.

I also rather like the Paternoster Gang, who for all their sexual politics and martial arts skills are firmly rooted in the Gothic traditions of gaslight London with its Hansom Cabs, bustles and Thameside squalor. All that’s missing is a maniac with a very big knife.

Of course, when Dr Who first invaded Saturday teatime back in 1963 Britain was already well steeped in its own cinematic Gothic revival with Hammer chillers putting bums on seats at local cinemas and along with Carry On movies virtually keeping the British film industry going.

So it’s hardly surprising that traits of Hammer Horror should invade the TV series.

The influence of Hammer is clearly evident in some of the Troughton episodes, especially in the second Yeti series The Web of Fear which opens in a spooky museum before descending into the claustrophobic depths of the London Underground, but it was during the glory years of Tom Baker that the production team really went for it with such splendid stories as The Pyramids of Mars and The Talons of Weng Chiang and The Seeds of Doom, so much so that the BBC Director General had to apologise to clean up TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse and order the producers to tone down the blood and gore.

William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton

Patrick Troughton in The Omen (1976)
Patrick Troughton in The Omen (1976)

Given the popularity of British horror movies during the 1960s and 70s its not really surprising that many of the actors who played the wandering Timelord crossed over, Doctor number one, William Hartnell was an exception, his cinematic career was mainly based upon playing tough soldiers and villains, but Troughton also served as a rat catcher in 1962’s Phantom of the Opera; Dracula’s servant Klove in Scars of Dracula (1970); a body snatcher in Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) and Father Brennan in The Omen (1976).

Jon Pertwee

Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt in The House that Dripped Blood
Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt in The House that Dripped Blood (1971)

Jon Pertwee was already established as a comedic actor when he took on the role of the Doctor in 1970, having played police scientist Dr Fettle in 1967’s Carry on Screaming. During his run as Dr Who he also played Paul Henderson, an arrogant actor who becomes possessed by a vampire cloak in the Amicus portmanteau horror The House that Dripped Blood (1971). Post Who he played the animate scarecrow Worzel Gummidge from 1979 to 1981, followed by Worzel Gummidge Down Under for the New Zealand TV network in 1987.

Tom Baker

Tom Baker in Vault of Horror
Tom Baker in The Vault of Horror (1973)

Tom Baker’s Horror career took of with the role of Rasputin (a role also played by Christopher Lee and Alan Rickman) in the Hollywood blockbuster Nicholas and Alexandra (1971); this was followed by Moore, an artist who’s painting predict terrible events thanks to a voodoo curse in portmanteau shocker The Vault of Horror (1973); a sea captain inn Frankenstein the True Story (1973) the evil magician Koura in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Lynch in Mutations (1974). Post Who he was Hasan in The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb (1980); Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982); deranged priest Father Ferguson in Fay Wheldon’s The Life and Loves of a She Devil (1983); Puddleglum the Marsh Wiggle in The Silver Chair (1990), part of the BBC’s Narnia Chronicles; the elf Halvarth in Dungeons and Dragons (2000) ; regular spook Professor Wyvern in the Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer reboot of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (2000-2001); Father Bernard in the final episode of Strange (2003) and finally the Curator in The Day of the Doctor (2013).

Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy

Neither Peter Davison or Colin Baker have much form in horror although it could be argued that Colin Bakers’s Who was horrible enough. Sylvester McCoy had a bit part the Frank Langella Dracula (1979) and post Who played serial killer Michael Sams in Beyond Fear (1997) for Channel 5 and more recently Radagast the wizard in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy.

Paul McGann

Eighth Doctor Paul McGann’s horror roles include Father Lorenzo in a Hispano-English adaptation of the Matthew Lewis Gothic shocker The Monk (1990); supernatural investigator David Talbot in Anne Rice’s The Queen of the Damned (2002) and the Vicar in the best forgotten Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009).

Christopher Ecclestone

Christopher Ecclestone was Nicole Kidman’s husband in ghostly chiller The Others (2001); the son of God in Russell T Davies The Second Coming (2003) for Channel 4; invisible man Claude in Heroes (2007) and was Malekith ruler of the Dark Elves in Thor:The Dark World (2013)/

David Tennant

David Tennant was offered the role of the 10th Doctor while during production of the BBC 4 live broadcast of The Quatermass Experiment in 2005, hence a minor script change from ‘good to have you back’ to ‘good to have you back Doctor’. During 2005 he also appeared as Barty Crouch Jnr in Harry Potter and the goblet of Fire. Post Who Tennant’s major horror role was as vampire expert Peter Vincent in 2011’s Fright Night remake.

Matt Smith

As yet Matt Smith has only bio-shocker Womb (2010), where he gets run down by a car only to be cloned and birthed by his girlfriend, in his horror back catalogue.

Peter Capaldi

Capaldi is a long term Dr Who fan and had already appeared in an episode with David Tennant (2008’s The fires of Pompeii) and a episode of spin off Torchwood: Children of Earth (2009) where he played civil servant John Frobisher. He also played a time traveller in The All New Alexie Sayle Show episode Drunk in Time (1994). Other pre-Who roles included: Angus Flint in Ken Russell’s Lair of the White Worm (1988); the Angel Islington in BBC2’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (1996) and the almost prophetic WHO Doctor in 2013’s World War Z.


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