FeaturesGuidesNews & RumorsSpeculative Space

‘Doctor Who’ Villains Guide: Who is Sutekh?

Share this:

Sutekh is back! The iconic classic Doctor Who villain finally made his return to our TV screens in last week’s episode, “The Legend of Ruby Sunday.” Like with the return of the Toymaker, Sutekh’s reappearance is both exciting and a little confusing. After all, Sutekh hasn’t been seen since season 13 of classic Who back in 1975. What’s more, his original voice actor from the 70s, Gabriel Woolf has come back to voice Sutekh for these new episodes.

So just who is The One Who Waits? From canon to the expanded universe, here is a brief review of the character before the Doctor Who season finale, “Empire of Death.”

Sutekh in Doctor Who canon

The God of Death has only appeared once on screen in all of Doctor Who’s 60-year history. Despite this, he has become one of the most iconic and feared villains in all of the classic series, and perhaps all of Doctor Who

Sutekh was the last of the Osirans, a race of powerful super-beings who ruled planets across the universe. He was a megalomaniac who was obsessed with dominating the universe and extinguishing all life. He declared war on the Osiran Court and destroyed their homeworld of Phaester Osiris. After leaving a trail of destruction across the galaxy, he was finally captured by the combined power of 740 Osirans and imprisoned on Earth in Saqqara, Egypt. Sutekh and the other Osirans were worshiped on planets across the universe, including Earth. They became the inspirations for the Egyptian gods, and the pyramids as well.

Sutekh in Doctor Who episode "Pyramids of Mars"
Sutekh in Doctor Who episode “Pyramids of Mars” (1975, BBC)

The 4th Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith encountered Sutekh in the classic series episode “The Pyramids of Mars,” which is essential viewing for any classic Who fans. After his sarcophagus was brought back to England in 1911, Sutekh’s cult of followers tried to free him. The Osirans constructed pyramids on Mars which beamed a signal to Sutekh’s tomb, keeping him imprisoned.

Sutekh destroyed the Eye of Horus on Mars, freeing him. However, the 4th Doctor trapped the jackal-headed god in a time tunnel between Mars and Earth, setting the exit point for thousands of years in the future. Sutekh was then trapped in the time tunnel for the remainder of his lifespan, pleading with the Doctor to release him.

Sutekh in the Doctor Who expanded universe

So how did Sutekh escape? According to the 10th Doctor comic “Old Girl,” Sutekh side stepped out of the time tunnel at the last minute and ended up in the Eternals’ void. In the void, he struck a deal with other entities who were imprisoned to bring them back with him into the universe, along with the help of his son Anubekh.

Once back in the universe, he encountered the 10th Doctor. Ten convinced the other entities he had escaped with to betray Sutekh and battle him, but Sutekh prevailed. At the end of the story, recurring comics’ character Dorothy Bell revealed her identity as the Hand of Sutekh. She merged with the god and used their powers to pull him back into the Eternals’ void, where he would remain trapped.

Sutekh and Anubekh in comic “Old Girl”
Sutekh and Anubekh in Doctor Who comic “Old Girl”

But Sutekh’s consciousness remained in the universe, and he would go on to encounter the 7th Doctor in the Big Finish audio stories “The Pyramid of Sutekh,” and the 4th Doctor again in “The Age of Sutkeh.” 

Expanded universe media reveals additional information about Sutekh. Like in Egyptian mythology, he was the son of Geb and the brother of Nephthys, Isis, Osiris, and Horus. He declared war on and destroyed Phaester Osiris because he was jealous of his brother Osiris’ achievements. He was also married to his sister Nephthys.

Speculation for upcoming Doctor Who episode “Empire of Death”

Like all returning Doctor Who villains, it’s unclear just how much of Sutekh’s expanded universe lore will be incorporated into this new episode. More than likely, Russell T. Davies will only include the on-screen lore about Sutekh in the season finale. It’s therefore unclear how Sutekh escaped the time tunnel and latched onto the TARDIS. Perhaps he used a similar side-stepping technique from the comics and escaped into the Void to lie in wait. But, more than likely, Sutekh’s return has more to do with the Toymaker’s interference in the universe during “The Giggle.”

It would, however, be nice if we get some references to expanded universe media. For instance, a reference to Sutekh’s prior time war on the Osirans or to the Osiran Ship of a Billion Years would be appreciated by hardcore fans. In addition to Sutekh, fans are also speculating that Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, will finally reappear in “Empire of Death” as well.

Time War: Susan's War from Big Finish
Susan Foreman (Carole Anne Ford) in Time War: Susan’s War (Big Finish/BBC)

“The Legend of Ruby Sunday” featured a number of references to Susan. Although it seems these were red herrings to throw the audience off the trail of Sutekh, we’ve had a few too many references to Susan in this season for it to be a coincidence. Many fans online are speculating that RTD is pulling a double bluff, and that Susan will in fact return, if not in “Empire of Death,” then perhaps next season.

Whatever the case, the hype for the season finale is huge, and fans are eagerly anticipating its release. “Empire of Death” will premiere on Disney+ internationally and on the BBC in the UK on Friday, June 21.

What did you think of “The Legend of Ruby Sunday?” Are you excited for Sutekh’s return? Let us know on Discord or on our social media @mycosmiccircus!

Doctor Who Season Premiere (Cosmic Circle Podcast Ep. 55)

Cosmic Circle Doctor Who Podcast Banner

Pride Month: The Best LGBTQ+ Companions from Doctor Who

Doctor Who LGBTQ

Share this:

Sam Pearce

My name is Sam and I recently graduated with two BA's in Journalism and Creative Writing from Western Washington University. More than anything, I love comics, novels, TV shows... just storytelling in general. Some of my favorites include Doctor Who, Star Wars, Godzilla, and all sorts of anime.

Sam Pearce has 25 posts and counting. See all posts by Sam Pearce