Why Doctor Who Is Less Graphic Today Than It Was In The '70s

Illustration for article titled Why Doctor Who Is Less Graphic Today Than It Was In The '70s

A flip through the last 50 years of Doctor Who's on-and-off again television reign reveals that the special effects are getting better. But are they also getting less frightening? And, if so, why?


After looking through some of the unused concept art for the next iteration of the Doctor's longstanding enemies, the Cybermen, a discussion began about the villains themselves and why — despite their zombie-esque storyline — the designs themselves remained clean and robotic:

Craig Michael Ranapia

I think audiences outside the UK tend to forget Doctor Who stillscreens in Saturday evening prime time and is largely marketed as a family-friendly show. A while back, I saw a really interesting interview with RTD where he said he wouldn't even try to do something like the crispy fried Master from The Deadly Assassin. There's a really fine (and ill-defined) sweet spot between "hide behind the sofa" pleasurably scary, and piss your pants terrifying that (contrary to what modern day Mary Whitehouses might think) everyone at Doctor Who thinks a lot about.


I think that new-series Davros is about as graphic as one could get on the show, and I think that only works because the audience isn't going to be entirely sure how much of his appearance is due to being an alien and how much is due to the fact that he's basically a rotting pile of flesh.

Craig Michael Ranapia

IIRC, Davies said the icky shot where Davros pops open his tunic was toned down a lot from the initial concept art (because this was Doctor Who not Hellraiser, after all) and lit really carefully. There was also a lot of work on The Flood from Waters of Mars, and I don't want to know what the original design looked like because what went to air freaked me the fuck out quite enough for one lifetime. :)

What do you think? Are the newer Doctor Who villain-designs really more toned down than the classic ones? And, if so, what do you attribute it to? Give us your take in the comments.



I think the shift is due largely to the improvements in make-up and digital fx. They look pretty real now, especially from a kid's POV. The older effects could get away with going more grotesque, because the bigger they went, the fake it looked. Now, anything they want to do can be accomplished with a high degree of reality, so they have to be more reserved.