What’s a Time Lord to do when he retires from the TARDIS? Apparently, become a comic-book villain.
After Tenth Doctor David Tennant was announced to play Kilgrave, the Purple Man, in Netflix’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones, we realized he’d actually be the second Doctor Who lead to turn bad in a live-action Marvel project. Previously, Christopher Eccleston, the Ninth Doctor from the BBC series, portrayed dark elf Malekith in Thor 2: The Dark World.
So, what is it about traveling across time and space that makes Doctors want to become villains in another franchise after hanging up the sonic screwdriver? You might suggest that it’s simply the fact that Marvel is recruiting well, and these excellent actors want to work. But it is far more fun to briefly ignore these actors' extensive body of work, stir up a trend and think that perhaps the Master has corrupted them, and they now see the appeal of the dark side.
Either way, we pondered what villain recent Doctor Who alum Matt Smith could do well as if he wanted to break bad in the MCU. Take a look at our Top Five suggestions (and a bonus one) below and sound off with your own picks.
Maximus the Mad
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #47 (1966)
Like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Inhumans aren’t the most well-known characters of the Marvel-verse, but we’ll be seeing them on screen as part of MCU’s Phase Three in 2018. And Maximus is almost certainly going to be the main bad guy for that film. A Shakespearean character, Maximus is part of the royal family and brother to Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans (an early race of human genetic anomalies, or mutants, created by Kree aliens). Unlike many Inhumans, Maximus doesn’t outwardly appear mutated but possesses some mind-control abilities, and he's a gifted inventor. He is also pretty constantly trying to usurp his brother and take control -- basically like a Tony Stark meets Loki. Oh, and he’s mildly insane.
Why Smith?: Maximus is like a mad man with a box, but without a box and with more desire to rule. As the Doctor, Smith has displayed a lot of energy under the surface, which he could let out in bursts or keep restrained; he was often slightly crazed, but in control. The Doctor would be a great villain if he weren't on our side, or decided just to make the big decisions for us, and that’s how Maximus can be. Although the character could parallel Loki a bit too much, Smith knows how to tug on an audience’s heartstrings and could imbue Maximus with some emotional complexity. Physically, he’d be a nice contrast to the big dude actor who will play Black Bolt.
First Appearance: Tales to Astonish #62 (1964)
The Leader is a gamma-irradiated baddie with superhuman intelligence, psychokinesis, perfect memory and an ability to predict outcomes and create advanced weaponry. He also has green skin and a big noggin. But before he was all that, this Hulk villain was Samuel Sterns, a worker bee jealous of his physicist brother. He didn’t get his intelligence naturally, but Leader is still one of the smartest guys around -- and is arrogant enough to know it. We saw a pre-Leader version of Stern in The Incredible Hulk (played by Tim Blake Nelson), so the role is still up for grabs.
Why Smith?: The Doctor is used to being the smartest person in the room, and he really enjoys it talking about it. Smith has the ability to rattle off techno-babble fast, and can be quite pleased with himself as he does so. Make him a villain with that same ability and a supersized ego, and Smith would chew scenery talking about his plans to eradicate inferior beings while letting his plastic Humanoid minions do the dirty work. It wasn’t a great episode, but Smith was exceptional as the evil Cyberman version of the Doctor in the episode “Nightmare in Silver.”
First Appearance: Silver Surfer #3 (1968)
He isn’t the biblical Satan, but Mephisto is essentially the devil of the Marvel Universe. The immortal demon resides in hell and excels at being a master manipulator and Faustian dealmaker. His favorite color is red and he likes long walks on beaches of damned souls (at least that’s what his Match.com/hell profile says). Anyhow, Mephisto originated as a Silver Surfer foe -- so 20th Century Fox may have film rights to him -- but the magical being has been a notable adversary for MCU heroes Doctor Strange, Thor, Daredevil and even the Guardians of the Galaxy. He is one of those Big Bads who can tie everything together, and has also connected to Infinity Gems and Thanos.
Why Smith?: First off, because of Smith’s hair. Mephistopheles rocks some crazy locks, and Smith has shown he has the follicles for the job. Additionally, Whovians know the Doctor lies, and Smith was great at it in the role. He could play Mephisto as likable, easy and charming, the kind of clever devil who is able to convince people to continue traveling in his blue box despite the constant danger they’re in. But flip the switch and he is full-on nasty. Watch the sixth-season episode “The God Complex” to see just how effective Smith’s Doctor could be at manipulating people into what to think about him. He’d fit right into a magical Doctor Strange movie, but a Mephisto arc would also be fresh direction for the Thor franchise. (Either way, both a Benedict Cumberbatch/Matt Smith or Tom Hiddleston/Matt Smith team up would break Tumblr).
First Appearance: Captain America #107 (1968)
Faustus is a second-tier villain who has had a hand in some major going-ons in the Marvel universe. While he doesn’t have any powers or own a weaponized suit (he actually needs a cane to walk but is sometimes shown as incredibly strong), the doctor of psychiatry is skilled at manipulation and screwing with people’s minds. The Austrian shrink -- think power-hungry Sigmund Freud -- has allied himself with the Nazis and played Sharon Carter as a pawn to kill off Captain America. He has even nearly driven heroes like Spider-Man insane.
Why Smith?: Faustus is normally shown as a big boy with a beard, but Smith could play this doctor as a slender man, still with a cane, and appear to be an unassuming gentleman (I’m picturing the bearded Smith in the Doctor Who episode “Day of the Moon”). The actor can mold the character to be a brilliant figure posing as an innocuous, slightly befuddled human. And as with Mephisto, he knows how to play manipulative. Faustus likely wouldn’t be a main villain for a Cap movie, but he could be an important string-puller behind the scenes.
Kang The Conqueror
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #19 (1963, as Rama-Tut); Avengers #8 (1964, (as Kang)
Kang is basically like a spoiled rich kid in the future who gets bored and decides to travel back in time and break a lot of crap. An expert in time travel and advanced tech and an accomplished fighter, the 31st-century native from Other Earth first shows up in the past and rules Egypt briefly as Pharoah Rama-Tut -- until the Fantastic Four and Doctor Strange thwart him. He then goes on a time bender, mucking up lots of timelines, conquering 40th-century Other Earth and battling the Avengers and FF fairly frequently. He even manages to get the Avengers to fight Avengers of another time, and gets wrapped up in the Infinity War. His existence becomes nonlinear, and there are so many versions of him running around that a Council of Kangs forms to stop their inferior time-travel counterparts.
Why Smith?: Do you need to ask? Kang is like a Marvel version of the Master: a time traveler who just wants to rule the past, and future, and all variations in between. Smith could sell the timey-wimey stuff, and trade his bow tie and fez for a purple helmet/blue facemask. He’d have to wait a while, though, since Kang probably won’t be showing up in the MCU anytime soon, and probably not until well into Phase Three.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #344 (1991)
This one is a bonus in case the film rights for Spider-Man ever return to Marvel. Even before he merged with the spawn of Venom while being Eddie Brock’s cellmate, Cletus Kasady was already a serial killer. As Carnage, he is essentially an alien symbiotic Joker, a villain who delights in killing and whose only motivation is chaos. Except he is also able to make weapons out of his body and shape-shift, and he's immune to the sonic attacks that stop Papa Venom.
Why Smith?: Whereas playing Maximus would require Smith to have a crazy kind of energy under the surface, that restraint can be fully unhinged for a character prone to homicidal rampages. The actor did play Patrick Bateman in a stage version of American Psycho, so he has the ability to go full-on wacko. You get a glimpse of what that performance could look like in the critically panned Lost River, in which he lets his psycho flag fly. Plus, Smith just looks tall and lanky enough to be Cletus -- though he’d have to dye his hair Karen Gillan red.