Doctor Who Season 1 Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson in Legend of Ruby Sunday
(Image Source: BBC)

Doctor Who Season 1 Main Villain Explained

A mysterious figure known only as “One Who Waits” hovered in the background of Doctor Who Season 1. Little was known about this figure, beyond them being powerful enough to terrify the reality-altering Toymaker and Maestro. The penultimate episode of the season, “The Legend of Ruby Sunday,” unveiled the “One Who Waits” as the classic Doctor Who villain, Sutekh, the God of Death. This revelation stunned the normally fearless Fifteenth Doctor for good reason, as Sutekh may be the single most powerful villain in the show’s history.

Sutekh first appearance in Doctor Who

Sutekh in Doctor Who Pyramids of Mars
(Image Source: BBC)

Sutekh was introduced in the story Pyramids of Mars in 1975. He was part of a race of cosmic beings known as the Osirans or Osirons. They were galactic conquerors, whose empire spread across hundreds of worlds, where they were worshipped as gods.

Sutekh was regarded as the mightiest warrior of his race. However, he felt disrespected by his people, who held his brother Osiris in higher esteem for his accomplishments as a ruler. This led Sutekh to murder Osiris and rebel against his own people.

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The combined effort of 740 Osirans entombed Sutekh’s body on Earth. However, his mind remained free to ensnare followers. This led the Fourth Doctor to challenge Sutekh in 1911, after stumbling across a plot to free him.

While unable to keep Sutekh contained, the Doctor was able to slow his passage through the time corridor that facilitated his escape. This effectively aged Sutekh’s physical form to death. As far as the Doctor Who show was concerned, this was the end of Sutekh until The Legend of Ruby Sunday.

Sutekh returns in Doctor Who comics and audio plays

Sutekh in Doctor Who Comics
(Image Source: Titan Comics)

Sutekh was not so easily destroyed, according to various Doctor Who media produced after Pyramids of Mars. It was revealed in the 2016 comic story “Old Girl” that Sutekh’s mind was able to survive by “side-stepping” out of the time corridor. Once again, he was trapped in a limbo state between worlds, limited in how he could interact with the universe. However, Sutekh was able to communicate with other bodiless beings from outside reality.

Sutekh was also able to influence his son Anubis, who had become an ally of the Tenth Doctor. Through a fragment of his mind that he’d implanted in Anubis before his death, Sutekh used his son to give physical form to the Outsiders. With them, he set a trap for The Doctor, whom he hoped would banish the Outsiders back to the void. The energy released by this battle would enable Sutekh to reform his physical body. Thankfully, The Doctor predicted this, and was able to banish Sutekh to the void once and for all. Or so it seemed.

Sutekh’s mind returned again in several Doctor Who audio plays. He regained a physical form and did battle with the Seventh Doctor in the four-part “Triumph of Sutekh” anthology. Later, from Sutekh’s perspective, he faced the Fourth Doctor once again in “Kill the Doctor!” and “The Age of Sutekh.” However, the canonicity of these stories is all debatable, as the BBC only counts the television series as canonical.

How Sutekh unites many classic Doctor Who villains

Stuekh in Doctor Who The Legend of Ruby Sunday
(Image Source: BBC)

While it is unclear just how Sutekh has returned, his status as a major Doctor Who villain has been affirmed. The Legend of Ruby Sunday describes Sutekh as the mother and father and other of a vast pantheon of cosmic gods. Most of these named gods are villains from earlier Doctor Who stories and spinoffs. This includes beings such as the Trickster from The Sarah Jane Adventures, and Mara, a cosmic being from the Fifth Doctor stories Kinda and Snakedance.

Tying these cosmic villains together makes a wicked sense. It also explains why the Toymaker and the Maestro, who have the power to alter reality, feared to confront the “One Who Waits.” While powerful, their abilities are tied to the power of life itself. By contrast, Sutekh is death incarnate, and seeks to destroy all life everywhere. This would logically include his own children, who seem to lack the power to face their parent, alone or together. Again, this is backed by the report of 740 Osirans being needed to bind Sutekh originally.

Doctor Who Season 1 concludes at Midnight GMT on June 22, 2024