Doctor Who Commander: Deep Lore Only True Whovians Would Notice

Learn about the stories that shaped the cards in the Doctor Who Commander decks in our examination of some of the deepest cuts

Published: October 22, 2023 10:00 AM /


An image depicting Doctor Who's car Bessie and Vislor Turlogh, two deep cuts of lore from the Doctor Who Commander Set.

With 60 years of history to draw on, Wizards of the Coast had a lot of choices for what to include in the Doctor Who Commander decks, and not all of them are well known. Just like we did with Lord of the Rings, we’re here to help you learn about some of the deeper cuts included by Doctor Who superfan Gavin Verhey in these decks.

From early adventures with the Doctor, to content that you'll be most familiar with if you're caught up on the Doctor Who webisodes, with this article we're diving deep into Doctor Who Commander lore you may have missed.

Let's start with one of the Doctor's oldest enemies...

The Toymaker's Trap

Doctor Who’s illustrious history begins way back in the 60s with The First Doctor played by William Hartnell. Many of the adventures of both The First and Second Doctor have been lost because the BBC didn’t preserve episodes for long periods at this time.

The Toymaker's Trap on a phyrexian playmat
Just in time for the Ceelstial Toymaker's return for Doctor Who's 60th anniversary

While many have been recovered, the story The Celestial Toymaker has only one of its 4 parts still in existence. The story marks the only (so far) televised appearance of The Toymaker, who would make numerous appearances in other mediums. In this story, he challenges the Doctor and his companions to a series of games that if lost would have them become his playthings for all eternity.

The card doesn’t represent the powerful Toymaker directly, instead aiming to capture the feeling of him catching an opponent in a trap. It forces your opponents to play a game with you, taking pain if they lose, and their torment only ending if they win the game the trap began.

Vrestin, Menoptra Leader

Representing another First Doctor story, Vrestin may be the deepest cut of all in the decks. Appearing in The Web Planet, Vrestin leads his species as they aim to retake their home planet after ant-like aliens forced them off of it, under influence of another alien. Success may not have happened, except for the help of The First Doctor and his companions.

Vrestin, Menoptra Leader on a phyrexian plamat
What if Butterfree and Beedrill had a baby?

Unlike The Toymaker, there isn't much of a history of books or audio dramas revisiting Vrestin or the Menoptra, leaving The Web Planet as an obscure, old serial. The most notable thing about it may be that Doctor Who fans voted it as the least-liked First Doctor story this year in Doctor Who Magazine.

Vrestin’s card shows them leading a bunch of flying alien insects, which fits the story quite well. The Menoptra themselves are an odd alien humanoid mixture of butterfly and bee, which is better captured in this sart than the original serial.

Bessie, The Doctor's Roadster and UNIT in Doctor Who Commander

The Third Doctor came about as the show made its transition to color TV, and they aimed to take Doctor Who in a bit of a different direction for a while. Exiled to Earth by the time lords, The Third Doctor is a bit more James Bond-like and he worked a lot with the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, or UNIT for short.

Bessie, the Doctor's Roadster on a phyrexian playmat
The Third Doctor's cool car

With the TARDIS needing repairs, and Jon Pertwee loving cars, Bessie served as transport for The Third Doctor in a number of stories, before The TARDIS was repaired. Mechanically, we see that as long as someone is at the wheel, Bessie will get someone where they need to be, hitting your opponent.

John Benton and Alistair the Brigadier from Doctor Who Commander
Alistair was in fact such an institution, that the leader of UNIT in the modern series is his daughter, Kate Stewart, who got a card in the Timey Wimey Deck

As one of the Doctor's oldest allies, UNIT got several representatives in the Blast From the Past deck covering the classic era of the show. This is showcased with Alistair, the Brigadier, and Sergeant John Benton. The former was an ally for almost all the classic doctors, while Benton went on several adventures with The Doctor when he was working with UNIT.

Displaced Dinosaurs Representing Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Displaced Dinosaurs on a Phyrexian Playmat
Dinosaurs in London!

Three times in Doctor Who history has the Doctor dealt with dinosaurs on screen as major elements of a story, and all three of them got captured in the decks. Displaced Dinosaurs showcases dinosaurs from the Third Doctor story Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

In this story, dinosaurs have been time-traveled into the future to get the government to evacuate London for a nefarious scheme. As the Doctor and his companion (Sarah Jane Smith) arrive they work with UNIT to figure out what is going on, and disrupt the villains plans to remove all of humanity except for a chosen few, and return the world to a pristine state.

Flaming Tyrannosaurus and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship on a Phyrexian playmat
Three stories have prominently featured dinosaurs and they all got cards, with Gorgeous there in Deep Breath, and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship in an episode of the same name

The misplaced history of the story fits perfectly with Displaced Dinosaurs' powerful ability to turn historic cards into 7/7 dinosaurs, as they are grabbing dinosaurs from the past to invade London. It might make a bit more sense if it was making tokens instead, but it would lead to less unusual and fun plays like attacking with a 7/7 Mishra’s Bauble.

Ensnared by the Mara

Before returning earlier this year for a small bit in a Webisode, The Mara is a classic Doctor Who villain whom many hadn’t heard of. Most prominently, The Mara was an antagonist of the Fifth Doctor, and his companion Tegan.

Ensnared by the Mara on a black background
The Mara is one of several villains the BBC seems to be hinting may return

The Mara is a difficult entity to describe, as it was a being that came into being from the evil within people on a distant planet, before visiting Earth and departing again. While it can exist independantly, to manifest physically, it must have a host who will bear it. The host develops a snake mark on their arm, from which the Mara's snake form can manifest.

In the story Tegan was tortured into accepting the mark by the Mara, and Ensnared by the Mara offers a similarly tortuous choice to your opponents. Instead of being tortured psychologically and trapped in the darkness, Ensnared by the Mara lets you torture your opponent by making them give you a spell from their deck for free, or dealing damage based on the top cards of their library. In both cases, the library represents their thoughts, which the Mara has ensnared.

The Rani

While The Master is the best known of the Doctor’s timelord foes, he was not the only one. Appearing in a pair of classic Doctor Who serials, The Rani battled both The Sixth and Seventh Doctors, as her amoral scientific experiments crossed lines the Doctor could not ignore. She also appeared in a special charity special in 1993, after the cancellation of the series but before the 2000s revival, as well as a number of audio and novel works.

The Rani on a black background
The Rani was a different type of foil for the Doctor

A contemporary of both the Doctor, and the Master, the Rani contrasts the Doctor’s scientific side with her complete lack of morals in her experiments. Exactly how far she would go varied slightly between the two regenerations we have seen, but the same core was there in all of the appearances by the character.

Her card captures this by having her place the Mark of the Rani (which was the name of her first story) on creatures. Like the titular mark in the story, it gives The Rani a measure of control over them represented here by goading the creature. As befits a scientist, when her experiment bears fruit (by dealing damage to a foe), she takes notes from it, represented here as clues.

Vislor Turlough

One of the most unique Companions, Vislor is the only companion who appears in the Masters of Evil deck due to his personality, and why he joined up with The Doctor. An alien stranded on Earth, he is recruited by the villainous Black Guardian who says he will return Turlough home if he kills the Doctor on his behalf.

Vislor Turlough from Doctor Who Commander on a black background
The Black Guardian mentioned here was part of an ongoing arc where it was waging a proxy battle with the White Guardian

Ruthless, self-serving, and somewhat cowardly he may be, but Turlough was also very smart and over several stories formed a close bond with The Fifth Doctor and several other companions. In the end, he chooses not to go through with killing the Doctor and becomes a close companion, even able to help run the TARDIS at times.

Being the only black colored companion fits him quite well, and his deal with the black guardian is represented with his enter-the-battlefield ability. He isn't too much of a saboteur however, as in the end Turlough became a friend, and you can also choose to keep and befriend him, benefiting from his knowledge.

An image of multiple different Doctor Who Commander Doctor cards lined up.

That’s a wrap on some of the lesser known elements represented in the Doctor Who Commander decks. If you want to find out more about them, or have questions you can join us on the Discord server or reach out on social media.

Several Doctor Who Commander products were provided by Wizards of the Coast and used to create this article.

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