Every once in a while, you find a super-villain, an arch-nemesis, who you love to hate… or do you hate to love?
Sherlock (2010-present): Andrew Scott may not have been everyone’s natural pick for Sherlock Holmes’ arch-nemesis in Steven Moffat’s modern reboot of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic penny dreadful series. However, Moriarty was only meant to have a tiny-winy little scene until Andrew Scott auditioned and blew everybody away with his delivery of, “I will burn the heart out of you.” Winning a BAFTA for the part, Scott’s portrayal of the criminal mastermind flaunts the ability to blend in with the commoners and to express himself in violently crazy lines of dialogue and facial expressions. He is the perfect old-fashion villain counterpart for Cumberbatch’s young, modern Holmes.
The Master and Missy
Doctor Who (2007-2010): John Simm picks up a role that has been played by others before him, including Anthony Ainley and even Derek Jacobi in the contemporary reboot of sci-fi TV show Doctor Who. The Master went insane when he was young, but keeps himself together enough to concoct plans to take over the world, destroying all of humankind. His first act is to become prime minister. Failing his first attempt at global domination, he returns seasons later, broken and more insane than ever, eating everything—and everyone—in sight. But still, there is a brotherly camaraderie between the Doctor and the Master, as they were childhood friends (as often heroes and villains are) and they are the last of their race. Simm’s ability to overact really comes in handy in this role!
Doctor Who (2014-present): In season 8, Michelle Gomez picks up where John Simm left off. For the first time, the Master is played by a woman, and it’s the most enjoyable Master to date. After seeing her as the loopy Sue White in Green Wing, there’s no doubt that she’ll make an excellent super-villain. Missy is just as crazy as the last Master we saw, and just as heartless. Will she escape certain death this time? Always.
Ashes to Ashes (2010): Daniel Mays plays Jim Keats in the psychological fantasy cop drama Ashes to Ashes. You know Keats is bad. You know he’s lying. But his lies can be so sincere and sweet that it messes with your head. Maybe he’s not the bad guy, maybe it’s Gene Hunt, our hero, who is actually the bad guy. It wouldn’t be the first time the writers try to get us to believe that, so maybe it’s true. He’s the embodiment of modern police work: no sexism, by-the-book, orderly, clean, so how could he be bad? After all, Sam Tyler was like that and he was our hero in the show’s sister series, Life on Mars. But in the end, Keats drops the act and becomes a terrifying, snarling, even barking super-villain, plotting to take the gang straight to Hell. Is he the devil? A demon? Frank Morgan? There is some debate about that even between writers of the show.
Supernatural (2005-present): In the American TV paranormal drama Supernatural, Mark Sheppard plays the quick-tongued cross-roads demon who lies and cheats his way onto the throne of hell. In season 8, he proved to be one of the greatest villains of all time, not because he concocted a plan to take over the world or capture loads of people into hell. Instead, he found the one thing that would hurt the protagonists the most: kill all the people they’ve spent the last nine years sacrificing their lives to save. Not only that, but in that season finale, we get to see his human, redemption-seeking side after being injected with purified human blood.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2015): Marc Warren has a knack for playing creepy bad guys, as we can see in his eerie portrayal of the childlike assassin Mr. Teatime in the film adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. Scarier still is his snowy-haired, ghostly demon The Gentleman (or The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair) in the TV movie adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s fantasy Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Invisible to the untrained eye, The Gentleman seduces humans into his ghostly world.