I can safely assume that all my fellow Whovians have seen "The Bells of St. John" by now, and most of us are all up in a tizzy over the fact that we still know almost nothing about new companion Clara Oswin Oswald and the fact that Steven Moffat killed twice in the damn episode! That's got to be some kind of new record, even for him. Leaving that aside, let's take a moment to look at what will apparently be a major antagonist over the course of the season, The Great Intelligence.
New Whovians may not be overly familiar with this classic villain, and that's perfectly understandable. The character holds the record for the longest time between an appearance in the classic series and the new with 44 years since it was last seen on television. Furthermore, its two previous appearances (not counting "The Snowmen") both come in serials that are no longer complete, making going back to experience the stories much more difficult. Only one episode of either serial survives.
The Great Intelligence is a nemesis of the Second Doctor, whom Matt Smith draws much of his interpretation from. The Doctor first battled the Intelligence in his timeline in Tibet in the 1930s in the serial "The Abominable Snowmen." The Doctor had gone to return an artifact to a monastery he had borrowed it from. His first visit was so long ago in the past that it had become legend, and he arrived with Jamie and Victoria just as Professor Edward Travers came upon the legendary Yeti as part of a scientific expedition.
Though the serial is incomplete, a cracking good novelization by Terrance Dicks is available for next to nothing, and almost makes up for our not being able to experience the adventure as intended. The Doctor manages to drive the possessing power of the Intelligence out of the ancient body of his friend, the spiritual leader Padmasambhava, which the Intelligence had invaded and kept alive to pursue its plans. Those plans involved a robotic army of artificial Yeti to conquer the Earth.
If you do pick up the novelization, you'll quickly notice many similarities between it and "The Snowmen." The Intelligence contains its presence inside transparent houses, possesses powerful men to act undetected, revives the corpses of those men when killed to directly attack The Doctor and uses an artificially created army to wreak havoc.
Part of this is due to the fact that Steven Moffat likes to reuse lost Second Doctor stories more than he likes killing companions. Having recently read Power of the Daleks, the Second Doctor's first story, I immediately realized that "Victory of the Daleks" was essentially the same story, just set on Earth with Nazis instead of rebels from Vulcan. Even the line "I am your servant" gets recycled.
On the other hand, that's really just the Intelligence's MO. You see, we can get a second opinion on the subject thanks to a connection made in the spin-off novel All-Consuming Fire by Andy Lane. The novel contains a brief speech from the Seventh Doctor (intended to be the Second) that links many of the monsters of the Whoniverse to corresponding deities in the Lovecraft Mythos. In the Intelligence's case, it is identified as Yog-Sothoth.
Brief aside: This means that The Doctor is part of the Wold Newton family, and that is just too awesome for words!
Yog-Sothoth is mentioned in several Lovecraft stories like "Dunwich Horror," in which it impregnates a woman with twins, one normal and one monstrous. It is otherwise invisible, but can manifest itself in glowing orbs and shapes like Dr. Simeon's snowglobe or the pyramids in the Tibetan caves. It's known for its great knowledge, but also for a terrible arrogance, and wields power over several cults that it has seduced through promises of power.
The Doctor later encountered the Intelligence, still stuck on using robo-yetis, in the London Underground ("The Web of Fear"), having given the idea to the Intelligence himself in "The Snowmen." The Intelligence tried to drain the mind of the Time Lord, only to be repelled into space once again. Chronologically, it was the last we heard of the Intelligence until London in 2013, when it attempted a plot using Wi-Fi to harvest and study human minds.
I'm looking forward to the Intelligence as an antagonist. It's so rare that The Doctor has someone that he can match wits and verbal barbs with on a one-on-one basis. The Daleks are played out, the Cybermen remain more of a hive-mind, the Autons have never really taken off in the new series, and the Sontarans and the Silurians have become more allies than opponents.
The Intelligence allows the Doctor to fight words with words as he often did with The Master. Moments like that are so fleeting, such as Anthony Head's underused appearance in "School Reunion" or Toby Jones as the Dream Lord (who I always felt was deliberately patterned after the manipulative and scheming Seventh Doctor). Even more curious, Neil Gaiman intended for House in "The Doctor's Wife" to be the Intelligence. With Gaiman returning this season, will he finally get to use the villain the way he wanted to, as a force behind the Cybermen?
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Amid all the speculation on the new companion, we shouldn't overlook the fact that an old adversary is apparently returning in more than just a cameo. The Intelligence will apparently be what Madam Kavorian and the Silence were for Series Six, a great Lovecraftian menace that I hope we all know a little better now.