Doctor Who Redeems Its Most Complex Villains

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Disney doctor who boom

The recent Doctor Who episode “Boom” really fired on all cylinders, giving us a character-driven tale that happened to bring back some complex villains from the show’s lore. The Anglican Marines in this Doctor Who ep are members of The Church, a group which has often (but not always) been villains towards the Doctor and his allies. However, this episode helps redeem these villains by presenting their rank-and-file soldiers as good people who are manipulated by powerful forces.


doctor who church villains

For our breakdown of this Doctor Who ep to make sense, you’re going to need a quick primer on what The Church is and how they have served as villains in the past. First, according to the Eleventh Doctor, this interstellar group is most likely an evolution of the churches back on Earth. While only a portion of The Church is militarized, it’s clear that they have access to enough Anglican Marines to take care of most enemies.

They’re Not Always Villains, But They’re Mostly Villains

Disney doctor who boom

In various Doctor Who episodes, those enemies included the Doctor, and on the balance, this group plays the villain more than they play the hero. For example, you’ll occasionally have stories where the Marines are helpful (like when fighting a Weeping Angel in “The Time of Angels”).

Otherwise, though, the Church is presented as antagonistic and aggressive, as seen in “The Time of the Doctor” when Eleven spent a whopping 300 years defending Trenzalore from a number of villains, including the Church who rededicated their entire cause at the time to keep the Doctor from speaking his name and freeing the Time Lords.

On paper, that should be the particular Doctor Who bit of lore that makes the Church some of the worst villains. But most of the fandom will remember this group for kidnapping Amy Pond and going to war with the Doctor so they can successfully secure Amy’s child Melody, who is secretly (spoilers, sweetie) River Song, the Doctor’s wife.

Honestly, seeing first a fake Amy turn into goo in front of the Doctor and Rory and then a fake Melody turn to goo in Amy’s arm is enough to make you hate this evil and manipulative group who has an entire army at their disposal.


doctor who church villains

With all that out of the way, how does the recent Doctor Who ep “Boom” redeem the Church, previously portrayed as some of the nastiest baddies in the galaxy? In short, we don’t really see any Church leadership in this episode–instead, the newest Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday encounter a few Anglican Marines.

While the Doctor has some highly critical words effectively mocking the soldiers’ faith (hey, he’s had some bad experiences with churches, okay?), the episode makes it clear that these soldiers are good people who are just in over their heads when it comes to what they are fighting.

A Refreshing Take

doctor who church villains

As far as Doctor Who revelations go, this latest portrayal of The Church’s soldiers may not seem like a seriously redemptive one, but it’s refreshing to see an ep where all the soldiers we see are good instead of, say, just one (like in “A Good Man Goes To War”).

Even the revelation that the Marines have been tricked into fighting an endless war against nothing makes these soldiers more sympathetic because it shows how they sometimes quite literally don’t know what they are fighting. 

Despite the more sympathetic portrayal of these Marines, however, the odds of the Doctor taking one as a Companion remain very low. About as low as the odds of finding the Doctor attending Sunday School (not to be confused with Ruby Sunday School) courtesy of The Church.