'I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself': the metafictional meanings of lycanthropic transformation in Doctor Who

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This chapter was developed from a paper ('I was a teenage Whovian but I'm all right now-eee-ooooooooo-ooo-eeh-yooooooooo: the metafictional meanings of lycanthropic transformation in Doctor Who') delivered at the Open Graves, Open Minds conference at the University of Hertfordshire in 2015.

Depending on the definitional criteria used, werewolves have only featured twice in the BBC television series Doctor Who. In over thirty-five ‘on air’ years of a programme notable for its intertextual tendencies – what Marcus Harmes has called its ‘adaptive suppleness’ (2014:186) – it seems odd to find that the punk werewolf Mags from ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ (1988-9) and the foundling host in ‘Tooth and Claw’ (2006) only have each other for company. Then again, if we approach the genus in an inclusive spirit, they are soon joined by other contenders: the Primords of ‘Inferno’ (1970), for instance, the Anti-Man from ‘The Planet of Evil’ (1975), and Dorf, or the Lukoser, from the ‘Mindwarp’ episodes of The Trial of a Time Lord (1986); even, perhaps, the Cybershades from ‘The Next Doctor’ (2008). These creatures are, if not strictly lycanthropic, at least lycanthrop-ish.

Looking beyond televised stories, it quickly becomes clear that the Whovian werewolf pack is much bigger than it first appeared, with the creatures appearing in, among other places, BBC Books’ Eighth Doctor Adventure Kursaal (1998), Virgin Books’ Past Doctor Adventure Wolfsbane (2003), and the Big Finish audio dramas ‘Loup-Garoux’ (2001) and ‘Legend of the Cybermen’ (2010). Then there are the Werelox, Wardog, and the Windigo, from the pages of Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly.

Apart from collapsing distinctions between human(oid) and beast – eroding the opposition, or perhaps exposing its fundamental falsity – mythologies of the werewolf also, crucially, perform tropes of transformation. In the context of Doctor Who’s fifty-two-year history this might be particularly suggestive. The earliest of the stories listed above dates from 1970, the first season of Jon Pertwee’s era as the Doctor, which was also the first season in which the series was produced and broadcast in colour. James Chapman has noted that this technological shift coincided with a shift in the paradigm of monstrosity, with the robotic giving way to the organic, silver-white giving way to greater variegation (2013:76). At the same time, themes of alien invasion became increasingly complicated by storylines which challenged notions of the unified self. Taking these as its starting point, this paper argues that the werewolves of Doctor Who should be viewed as metafictional creations, embodying not only familiar cultural narratives but also transformations (technological, ontological, mythical) in the format of the series itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIn the company of wolves
Subtitle of host publicationWerewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children
EditorsSam George, Bill Hughes
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781526129055
ISBN (Print)978-1-5261-2903-1, 978-1-5261-7197-9
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2020


  • werewolves
  • Doctor Who
  • lycanthropy
  • science fiction
  • fantasy
  • gothic
  • horror
  • metamorphosis
  • transformation
  • hybridity
  • monstrosity


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