Every Dr. Who fan has his or her favorite Doctor. Its just part of loving something: choosing which parts you love best. (If you don’t yet love Dr. Who, start here). I’ve been a Dr. Who fan since I was a tiny nerd kid hanging out with my regular-sized nerd dad. At the time, Tom Baker was the Doctor—be-curled, be-scarved and be-dazzling. It didn’t hurt that my dad kind of looks like Tom Baker, or that I was an obscenely hardcore fan of robot dogs. Tom Baker will always be the original, held in the same esteem with which I hold the original Star Trek in all its rough-and-tumble, good ole’ boy glory. Not to compare Baker’s Doctor to Kirk—that would be like comparing crackers to crisps, or mitts to wits. But it’s the nostalgia—the love of my first guides through space and time mixed with grilled cheese and cozy Sunday T.V.—that’s the same.
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Since the third grade, I’ve been holding tight to my original “I Heart Dr. Who” pin. When the show came back on the air with Christopher Eccleston at the helm, I was a kid in hysterics. Not only was he flamboyant, dark, unpredictable and brash, his companion was the incomparable Rose Tyler: with her dauntless Cockney valor and former Brit popstar good looks, by far the best companion there ever was or ever will be.
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I was aghast when, after absorbing the energy of the time vortex, it became clear that Eccleston’s run would last but a single season. I might have given up there, if not for the return of Rose Tyler, whose luminous smile, quirk, and whimsy kept me on board for Doctor #10.
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Thank you, Rose Tyler. Without you, I’d have never known the cheeky smarts, the technobabble, the complex extroversion masking a 900-year ache, the spectacles (on his face, and in space), the moodiness, the heartbreak, of David Tennant, Doctor #10. Pale but never wan and with a remarkable sense of taste, Tennant’s Doctor demonstrated what a doctor could be: the object of abject love and devotion, universe-wide and beyond the fourth wall.
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It’s not just that Tennant nails the Doctor (which he does, firmly) but he nails my heart (also, um, firmly, ehem). Tennant is 100% dreamboat—tall, gangly, brainy—the perfect foil for John Barrowman’s brawny (and brawnily American) Jack Harkness. Tennant’s acting is also world-class—none of that tentative Matt Smith hipster fop— just confident, rumpled, wack-job Doctor in all his alien sexiness.
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It’s no big thing for me to claim #10 as my favorite Doctor. I’m probably in the majority. He is so good, so natural… I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Who is a real Timelord who decided, on a lark ‘round about 2005, to play himself on T.V.: stage name, David Tennant.
As a sci-fi fanatic, nothing gets me more psyched than a good robot. People have an endless fascination with the human-like machine. It’s so awesome watching them scoot around on their little treads! Of course, not all T.V. robots are cute and cuddly—some are so human they make us question our own humanity, while others strike terror in the hearts of Time Lords. Here are some of my favorite television robots for your reading pleasure.
Rosey the Robot Maid
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Apparently, in the future, we can dispense with that pesky paying-a-fair-wage-for-an-honest-day’s-work thing. No smoke breaks. No lunch. Just a sweet robot named Rosey to take your coat, discipline your children, and give you advice about being a good Spacely Sprockets employee.
Vicki the Small Wonder
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V.I.C.I., or Voice Input Child Identicant, is the robot daughter of Ted Lawson, a robotics engineer who’s attempt at building a domestic servant backfired when his creation turned out to be a super-intelligent, self-improving “real” girl. Along with his family, Ted creepily decides to pretend Vicki is their actual human daughter. Never mind that Vicki was the object of many a real young boy’s affections (or because of it) the writers decided the family would keep Vicki in their 12-year-old son’s bedroom cabinet. Somehow this didn’t bother the censors.
Star Trek’s Lieutenant Commander Data: Technically an Android
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I won’t lie: Data is my favorite mechanical creature on television, hands down. Created by Dr. Noonien Soong on the planet Omichron Theta, Data is a sentient android serving as Chief Operations Officer on the Starship Enterprise. Data is thoroughly loveable as he strives for his own humanity—struggling nobly to understand humor and human emotion, learning to whistle, satisfying a woman, and, in the season 2 episode “Measure of a Man,” proving his autonomy and civil rights under Starfleet law. Emotion chip or no emotion chip, the Data-Geordi bromance never stops.
Gypsy, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot
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Joel Hodgson’s wacky robot friends man-up to do battle with the worst movies ever made in the beloved Mystery Science Theater 3000. No peanut gallery is complete without their shadowy little heads. Gypsy is just in here because I felt bad leaving her out. Cambot, well, we hardly knew ye.
Dr. Who’s Cybermen
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Technically cyborgs, this race of mechanical men use spinning metal torture chairs to transform human beings (and other humanoid aliens, of which there are inexplicably many in the Dr. Who canon) into more of themselves. It’s kind of like the Borg if the Borg were completely incased in metal and had funny little rectangle mouths.
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Battlestar Gallactica (the college years) hit a home run with their totally human-like Cylons (Cybernetic Lifeform Node). Unlike other robotic incarnations on television, the Cylons have emotions, they bleed, they plot… they do all the messed up bologna humans do. You know you’ve come a long way when you don’t even need albino makeup for your robot actors. Also, Battlestar Gallactica seems to understand something fundamental about my people: N.L.L.L. (nerds love Lucy Lawless).
Villains are the driving force behind TV. Without a good villain, there wouldn’t be anything for the good guys to do for 22 minutes. But a bad guy needs to be more than just evil – you can’t have a dude running around with horns and a pitchfork and expect the audience to shiver in terror.
In a time when television audiences have seen just about anything, you really have to create a villain who can be unique in his own special little way, creating a sort of brand of creepiness that viewers can latch onto. Whether you make the bad guy charming and seductive or psychotically insane, you’ve got to give him a certain essence of character that makes him stand out.
Here are 5 villains that succeed at that task.
5. Sylar – Heroes
Sylar is a selfish, ambitious super-powered maniac with the power to absorb the powers of others by getting into their brains. Blech. That whole ick factor helped to make Sylar a particularly memorable villain, but what made Sylar tip the creepometer into dangerously high levels is everything he did while he wasn’t performing amateur lobotomies.
That Special Brand of Creepy: Sylar is a nerd. He spends all of his time alone working on clocks. He’s tall, pale, a bit awkward, and has a somewhat unhealthy focus on his mother. Even his name is weird.
What makes Sylar so creepy is that we all know Sylar. Maybe not Sylar, exactly, but we all remember that one guy from school who was awkward, quiet, and just couldn’t quite fit in. What did that nerdy kid do after the bullies picked on him? He probably entertained revenge fantasies wherein he gained super powers and punched the spinal columns out of the football team. Sylar is a portrayal of what that guy would do if the wrong person really did get super powers. And you know what? He probably has a reason to come to your house and punch out your spinal column because of one mean thing you said to him in 4th grade.
4. Hexadecimal – Reboot
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I know I’m getting pretty obscure with this one, but Hexadecimal deserves a spot on the list. I watched a ton of cartoons when I was young, and each one had a big bad evil guy trying to out plot and out Mwa-ha-ha the last. Hexademical stood out as the creepiest villain in all of cartoon land.
Reboot was a computer animated series that took place inside of a computer. Megabyte and Hexademical were the 2 baddies of the series. Megabyte was big, physically imposing, and constantly scheming. Hexademical, however, was some kind of chaotic force, like insanity incarnate.
What made this personified virus so creepy was that she wore a mask, which changed as quickly as her emotions. Her lips never moved, giving her a sort of inhuman quality.
That Special Brand of Creepy: There’s this concept known as the uncanny valley, which states that nonhuman things become extremely disturbing as they slowly become more and more lifelike. It’s why the soulless gaze of a porcelain doll is disturbing, and why Big Dog’s video has millions of views. The uncanny valley awakens that primal part of our brain and warns us that whatever that is, it’s definitely not human.
That’s what hexadecimal provokes, a subtle chills-down-your-spine sensation. She won’t terrify any adult audiences, granted, but I remember being utterly captivated by her when I was a kid, both fascinated by her bizarre appearance and weirded out by her face.
3. T-Bag – Prison Break
That is precisely what goes through your head every second that T-Bag is on the screen. Just seeing this guy makes you want to grab for your rape whistle and change the channel to Law & Order: SVU.
That Special Brand of Creepy: T-Bag isn’t difficult to imagine. He’s real. There are thousands of people just like T-Bag out there in the world right now. And the worst part? A lot of them aren’t in prison.
2. The Ice Truck Killer – Dexter
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We spent all season following Dexter, a serial killer who does wrong things and knows he shouldn’t. His murderous foil is the Ice Truck Killer, a serial killer who does wrong things and delights in it. The Ice Truck Killer is particularly scary because we’ve seen what Dexter is like. We know how good he is at what he does, and how monstrous he would be if he slipped and embraced his calling.
That Special Brand of Creepy: At times, it can be hard to watch Deb gleefully go on dates with a man who plans to murder her as a coup de grace for his fraternal reunion with Dexter. It makes you look at your significant other and wonder if he isn’t hiding an ice pick with your name on it under his mattress.
1. The Daleks – Doctor Who
The creator of Doctor Who, Sydney Newman, had a problem with traditional alien villains, which were usually just people with some dumb mask. He wanted the show’s villains to be so completely inhuman that it was impossible to relate with them.
And so, the Daleks were born, a race of aliens with a major case of narcissism that could feel no emotions other than hatred and anger.
At first glance, the Daleks look a bit absurd with their odd voices and their R2-D2-inspired appearance, but the Daleks gradually get under your skin as you watch more and more episodes.
That Special Brand of Creepy: What makes the Daleks so memorable is that their designers remove as many human elements as possible to create an entity that is capable of reason but chooses not to. Because Daleks are covered in a metal shell, the automatic assumption is that Daleks forsake all physical contact. With their catchy tag line, “Exterminate!” it’s pretty clear that they aren’t interested in connecting on any social level, either.
They’re less like living entities and more like a force of nature. Daleks are disturbing in the same way that a forest fire that could talk would be disturbing, or an earthquake that could think. Sure, you could try to reason with them, to beg these natural disasters not to wipe you off the face of the earth, but the knowledge that your attempt will utterly fail leaves you with a rather unsettling feeling in your gut.