Skip to content

By Saquib Idrees on

Doctor Who: Heralding the New Era with A Blast from the Past

As Doctor Who celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, Assistant Curator Saquib looks at some of the Who characters in our collection.

The anniversary will be marked by three special episodes featuring the return of old fan favorites, including Catherine Tate and David Tennant reprising their roles as Donna Noble and the Doctor respectively, as well as the return of Russell T. Davies as showrunner.

The specials will also feature Neil Patrick Harris as the Celestial Toymaker, an enemy of the Doctor who first appeared in 1966 facing William Hartnell’s First Doctor.

A Dalek battles Frankenstein’s Monster in a classic episode of Doctor Who.

Which other familiar faces might we see return to greet the Doctor in this new age for the series?

Iconic enemies like the Daleks and Cybermen are likely to return as they remain ever popular. They have appeared in almost every season of the ‘New Who’ era, which began in 2005.

If you’ve ever visited the National Science and Media Museum, you will be familiar with our resident Dalek. And those who visited the Science Fiction exhibition at our sister site, the Science Museum in London, earlier this year will have also encountered the Cyberman on display.

A Dalek on display at the National Science and Media Museum, in the former Experience TV Gallery.
A costume with a robotic metal head and silver body
Cyberman costume which was displayed at the Science Museums temporary exhibition Science Fiction in 2023.

But what about other lesser-known enemies of the Doctor, like the Toymaker? Might we see creatures such as the Zarbi, the Lavae Cannon or even the Menoptra make a comeback too?

A what, or whom, you may be thinking.

These creatures first appeared in the series as foes (Zarbi and Lavae Cannon) and allies (Menoptra) of the First Doctor and his companions in the second series of the show, in the serial ‘The Web Planet’.

Photograph form the Daily Herald depicting two Zarbis and a mini-monster, the Lavae Cannon, from the set of Doctor Who in 1965.

The images shown here come from the Daily Herald, a popular newspaper which ran from 1912 to 1969. These images were published back when Doctor Who was a brand-new show on the BBC, and now we’re celebrating its 60th anniversary!

Photograph from the Daily Herald depicting a butterfly man, the ‘Menoptra’, as he is cornered by a Zarbi and the Lavae Cannon from the set of Doctor Who in 1965.

The Zarbi and Menoptra were spectacular enough to make the news and act as teasers for the second series of Doctor Who. So maybe one day they’ll make their return to our screens.

Alongside old favorites we also have lots of other new things ahead of us. Next year will mark the start of the show’s 40th series, starring Ncuti Gatwa as the 15th Doctor.

In addition to the previously mentioned creatures kept safely in our collection, we also have Stookie Bill, a new foe set to hit our screens in one of 60th anniversary specials.

Stookie Bill is a one of the ventriloquist dummy heads used by TV pioneer John Logie Baird. Stookie was used in place of human test subjects, as the lights Baird used in his experimental apparatus were too hot. The heat from these experiments has caused Stookie to look rather terrifying today. Though he no longer has a career in ventriloquism, his television career carries on.

I for one can’t wait to see what mischief Stookie Bill gets up to in the new episodes of Doctor Who!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *