Doctor Who Turned The Doctor/Big Bad Face-Offs Into An Art Form

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Doctor Who finds interesting ways to approach those moments when the Doctor and villain have that face-off where “shocking reveals” happen.

If there’s one thing Doctor Who can’t live without as a series, it’s the villains. The villains are the story and hero’s antagonist and main source of conflict. And like all adventure stories, the hero always has a big scene where they and the baddie face off for a verbal fight. They monologue at each other. It’s a tradition from theatrical playwriting that continues to this day, and it’s also a pulp fiction and comic book convention. Who doesn’t like the hero and villain making big speeches at each other?

Doctor Who: The Art of The Doctor's Face-Offs with the Baddies
“Doctor Who”: BBC

At first glance, the Doctor and the villain having a big verbal confrontation is the common trope of the hero confronting the villain to debate their conflicting moral stances: good vs. bad. It’s in every comic book story. Batman vs. The Joker. Superman vs. Lex Luthor. Doctor Who has been around for over sixty years now, so new variations on that trope need to be found all the time. There’s the usual confrontation and war of wills between The Doctor and The Master that’s always about finding a new layer to their relationship, or The Master (Sacha Dawan) revealing the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) is The Timeless Child from which all Time Lords took the ability to regenerate, which granted them the immortality needed to create time travel technology.

Doctor Who: The Art of The Doctor's Face-Offs with the Baddies
“Doctor Who”: BBC

There’s the unplanned decades-long arc that began with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) debating the morality of playing God with Davros (Terry Molloy) that establishes their personal beliefs as well as Davros’ megalomania. This feeds into the scene over twenty years later when the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) is confronted by the (then) last surviving Dalek after he played God and killed all the Daleks and the Time Lords to end the Time War, which turns him into the genocidal killer Davros could only dream of becoming. This, in turn, leads to the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) meeting the dying Davros (Julian Beach) as older, sadder enemies who can commiserate as equals and even share a laugh. That’s three different writers over three different eras and three different Doctors discovering an unplanned thematic arc.

The best face-off illuminates not just their relationship but reveals a new nuance to the the Doctor, something that impacts them and even changes how the viewer might see them. In that way, they are every hero that needs and has an endless well of meaning to draw on as long as writers can find it.

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