Doctor Who Monsters, Aliens and Villains

The Carrionites
The Carrionites
The Carrionites
 Name: The Carrionites; specific Carrionites faced by The Doctor were known as Lillith, Doomfinger and Bloodtide

 Format: Television show and audio

 Time of Origin: Technically the Howling Void outside of reality, but they attempted to attack Earth in 1597 and the 1980s.

 Appearances: "The Carrionite Curse" and "The Shakespeare Code"

 Doctors: Sixth Doctor and Tenth Doctor

 Companions: Martha Jones

 History: A particularly interesting detail to note about the Carrionites - who naturally resemble ravens, although they can assume a humanoid form through effort - is the fact that they are essentially a race of witches and magic-users, relying on a magic control of words and commands in order to influence the world around them (Possibly a lexical version of the mathematical block transfer computations used by the Logopolitans ("Logopolis")).

The Carrionites
The Carrionites
 Aside from flight and mental manipulation, they can also use items acquired from individuals, such as hair or nails, to manipulate the bodies of others by attaching the acquired items to poppets, The Doctor comparing such a feat to DNA replication modules. However, their magic can be weakened by temporal anomalies - to the extent that a spell that would have killed humans in the present only rendered Martha Jones unconscious due to her being out of sync with the world around her, although certain temporal paradoxes could give them power in the right circumstances. The Carrionates were also bound by certain laws, such as being required to submit to high authority, and powerful words could weaken their influence even without a specific spell being used. The Doctor's mental barriers were so powerful that, in a confrontation with his tenth incarnation, they could not determine his true name to use their magic against him, and even shortly after the traumatic events of his trial ("The Trial of a Time Lord"), the Sixth Doctor only 'slipped' to the extent that he 'gave away' his recent fears of the Valeyard rather than anything more intimate.

 Having been banished to the Deep Darkness by the Eternals ("Enlightenment") when their manipulation of reality threatened the fabric of the universe, the Carrionites were eventually drawn to Earth due to Shakespeare’s grief over the death of his son, the pain of a genius such as Shakespeare creating a minor rift that three of their number - identified as Lillith, Doomfinger and Bloodtide, with Lillith as their leader and human representative - were able to use to escape their prison.

Making contact with architect Peter Streete, the Carrionites were able to dictate the design of the Globe Theatre to him, Streete giving it its distinctive fourteen sides so that it could serve as a ‘collector’ of Carrionite energy when the proper words were spoken, the fourteen sides representing the fourteen planets in their system. To this end, the Carrionites influenced Shakespeare’s attempt to write his latest play, Love’s Labours Won, so that the play’s concluding words would serve as part of a ‘spell’ that would open the door to the Howling Void and allow the rest of their race to escape.

The Carrionites
The Carrionites
 However, the Carrionites’ plans were derailed when the Tenth Doctor and his new companion Martha Jones arrived in London just as they were about to put their plan into action, the TARDIS travellers making contact with Shakespeare after they witnessed him announcing that he would show Love’s Labours Won the following night despite The Doctor’s knowledge that it was Shakespeare’s lost play. Having witnessed Lynley, the Master of the Revels, being killed when Lillith ‘drowned’ him using a Carrionite poppet, The Doctor realised that there was more going on here than the obvious, making mental contact with Streete to learn what had happened to him before a confrontation with a Carrionite filled in the remaining blanks.

 Although The Doctor and Martha asked Shakespeare to stop the play, he was unable to halt the production before the final act, the last words of the play being a ‘spell’ that could open a rift to the realm of the Carrionites and allow the rest of their race to reach Earth;

The light of Shadmoch’s
Hollow moon doth shine
Onto a point in space betwixt
Dravidian Shores Linear 5930167.02
And strikes the fulsome grove
Of rexel 4 co-radiating crystal activate

  Despite the rift being opened, The Doctor and Martha were able to get back to the Globe before it could be completed - the Carrionites’ attempt to kill The Doctor using a poppet having failed as their attempt to ‘stab’ him merely temporarily stopped one heart -, The Doctor subsequently convincing Shakespeare to use his genius to write a second sonnet to seal the Carrionites away;

Close up this din of hateful decay,
Decomposition of your witches' plot!
You thieve my brains, consider me your toy,
My doting doctor tells me I am not!
Foul Carrionite specters, cease your show,
Between the points 761290
Banished like a tinker's cuss,
I say to thee, Expelliarmus!

 (The last being the contribution of Martha Jones, inspired by Harry Potter, when Shakespeare couldn’t think of another suitable word). With this spell, the Carrionites were trapped in a crystal ball that Lillith had been using to generate the portal, The Doctor subsequently keeping the ball in the TARDIS while recommending that Shakespeare dispose of other copies of Love’s Labours Won to prevent the Carrionites coming back through any residual magic that might be in the text.

 Although this marked The Doctor's last confrontation with the Carrionites, he had actually encountered them at an earlier point in his life. While visiting a local village fair in the 1980s, attempting to take his mind of his recent trial ("The Trial of a Time Lord") and confrontation with his dark future self, the Valeyard, the Sixth Doctor witnessed what appeared to be a contemporary witch burning ("The Carrionite Curse"). The Doctor's attempt to interfere with the burning resulted in the three escaping their current captivity, with this action disrupting the authority that had previously kept the 'witches' contained. Determined to find out what was going on in the village, The Doctor joined forces with local reverend Douglas Bell, his daughter Katie, and Eileen Nelthorpe, the head of the village council, and was soon able to determine their enemy's vulnerability to certain spoken words, even if The Doctor had trouble identifying his enemy at first. With the Carrionites weakened after they were thrown into a fire, The Doctor and his allies carried out further research into how the 'witches' came to the village in the first place, after an attempt to 'trap' them by confirming their names in the village's register of deaths failed.

 Learning that the local village hall had been built using the remains of the Globe Theatre after it was burned down - this construction disrupting the 'spell' that the Tenth Doctor and Shakespeare had used to banish them originally - The Doctor finally put together enough clues to identify their enemy as the Carrionites. Unfortunately, by this point they had already essentially taken control of Katie, drawing on the energy created by a distinctive necklace she was wearing and the paradox of her carrying a book she had 'borrowed' from the TARDIS library while helping The Doctor earlier (based on The Doctor's earlier search of the books in the library, it is implied that the book was a copy of Harry Potter), as well as the obvious potential paradox of their opportunity to kill The Doctor before he would defeat the Carrionites in their past and his future. With Eileen dead and The Doctor lost for words that could overpower the Carrionites after his reference to 'hyperlink' accidentally created a greater paradox, Katie used the fact that the Carrionites' power was currently consolidated on her and the book to defeat them by setting the book on fire, although her own connection to it meant that she sacrificed herself in the process.
Video - Season 29 (New Series 3) Box Set
Season 29 (New Series 3)
Box Set
Audio - Empire of the Racnoss
The Carrionite Curse
(Simon Guerrier)
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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at
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