Whatever your opinion is of Season 11 of Doctor Who thus far (and I’m going with ‘I’m unquestionably a big fan of the Thirteenth Doctor, but I’m more than ready for an episode where she’s not ‘just’ another character in it’), few Whovians would say that they weren’t extremely taken with the debut of the Pting, the energy-scoffing creature from last weekend’s episode, “The Tsuranga Conundrum”.
To recap, the Pting is a small bipedal creature, a little bit like a reptilian Beanie Baby or an extremely old dinner lady who has been left in the wash. It feeds off pure energy, even going as far as to munch on the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver in the aforementioned episode. It’s immortal too. And it’s completely adorable. Word has it that the BBC has been inundated with requests for Pting toys to be made in time for Christmas (we’ll take two please, thanks).
Much is made of Doctor Who’s ability to leave viewers hiding behind the settee, and with good reason. But the show is no stranger to bringing us creatures more “aww!” than “eww!” And so, we thought now was as good a time as any to see how the following Doctor Who cuties compare to the Pting. It’s going to be a close-run thing…
First appearance: “Partners In Crime“, 2008
Inspired by a stuffed toy that then-showrunner Russell T. Davies owned, this vaguely humanoid creature takes its name from ‘adipose tissue’, the scientific name for body fat. You know them. They look like happy Tic Tacs or andromorphic marshmallow, and the year they debuted, they were the only Christmas gift any Doctor Who fan wanted. The Pillsbury Doughboy was another frame of reference for their creation, although the creatures’ signature central fang didn’t come about until acclaimed post-production team The Mill (they made the groovy title sequence in the RTD era) came to work on the project.
How cute are they compared to the Pting? Probably cuter. But there are loads of them and (that we’ve seen) only one Pting, so it’s not really fair.
First appearance: “The Visitation“, 1982
Despite being war-loving space reptiles – albeit ones who were huge fans of art and beauty, going so far as to consider conflict itself part of that last category – there was always something about the Terileptils that slightly resembled an elongated Cabbage Patch Kid. Of course, the CDT homework nature of many old Doctor Who creatures neutered how scary they were intended to be, to some extent. But never more than in the case of these guys, who despite being a dangerous foe for the Fifth Doctor, really did look like, on some level, they’d stop all this warmongering if they just had a nice hug.
How cute are they compared to the Pting? The Pting wins, despite the Terileptils ruffles. BUT IMAGINE A PTING WITH RUFFLES!
First appearance: “The God Complex“, 2011
On one hand, these gopher-like-humanoids are cute, in the sense they’re, y’know, gopher-like humanoids. On the other, they’re so cowardly – their species desperate to be a conquered and enslaved – that how supremely irritating they are does a lot to negate how much you’d like to spend any significant time with them. Beneath the prosthetics, that’s David Walliams from terrifyingly problematic, early noughties sketch-comedy sensation Little Britain. Although the only reason we draw attention to this is to say, “HE’S A GOPHER!”
How cute are they compared to the Pting? They’re too snivelling to be truly cute. That they made their debut in an episode with a giant Minotaur in it means they perhaps appear more cute comparatively than they would have if they hadn’t.
First appearance: “The Dominators“, 1968
It’s no secret that the Quarks came about as a result of the BBC desperately trying to recapture the popularity of the Daleks, who at the time were due some downtime, as they have been, if we’re being really honest, throughout the entirety of the show’s history. Then-producer Peter Bryant approached writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln and asked if they could create an adversary to the Doctor with a view to replicating the merchandising opportunities that had arisen via the success of Skaro’s most exterminatory upturned dustbins. This is what they came up with.
Okay… You need to watch the Quarks to really see how badly Hausman and Lincoln delivered on their brief, or at least hear them, the surprisingly tiny robots sounding a bit like someone whose boffed helium trying to talk underwater. To be fair, an argument over edits to Haisman’s and Lincoln’s original designs resulted in the pair walking away acrimoniously from Doctor Who (the episode they appear in is written by ‘Norman Ashby’, a pseudonym), so they could have been imagining something different. Let’s hope so.
How cute are they compared to the Pting? It’s close. It’s really, really close. But the sheer fact that we think hugging a Quark would feel a bit like hugging a washing machine means that the Pting wins out.
First appearance: Okay, we’re cheating a little bit. This little guy turns up in the ninth and tenth episodes of Season 1 of Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, in 2008 (RIP Elizabeth Sladen, you are forever missed…).
There comes a point in all creature design, where, no matter what other menacing physical attributes your creature might possess, you’ve made the eyes slightly too big and it ends up looking cute. Try it. Take out a copy of the paper. Find yourself a politician or other rotter doing their best to make the world a meaner place, take out your pen, apply it to the paper, and make their eyes really big, and full, and wide — and you’ve got yourself an adorable monster!
How cute are they compared to the Pting? It’s a clear win for the Pting. Although. We. Can’t. Stop. Looking. Into. Those. Lovely. Eyes. Of. His.