Name: Yartek, leader of the Voord
Format: Television show
Time of Origin: The planet Marinus; precise date and location relative to Earth is unknown
The most significant thing about Yartek is that he was the first true individual villain The Doctor ever confronted, his previous enemies to date in the show’s history being the Daleks (The Doctor’s travels to Earth’s past prior to this had simply pitted him against people who merely objected to his presence rather than him dealing with someone who had any other long-term plan or agenda). A native of the planet Marinus – apparently populated by a long-lived race who bore a physical resemblance to humans, given that reference was made to life spans of several centuries -, Yartek was one of many who lived under the influence of the Conscience of Marinus, a vast computer developed two millennia earlier as a vast justice machine which kept law and order across the entire planet.
For seven hundred years, the Conscience was absolute, radiating its power across the planet Marinus, and eliminating all thought of evil, until Yartek learned how to resist it – most likely due to his own pre-existing insanity given his fanatical mental state – and led his people, the Voord, in an uprising. Arbitan, the Keeper of the Conscience, was able to prevent Yartek from gaining control of the Conscience by sending four of the five keys necessary to power it to four different locations across Marinus, giving him time to work on upgrading the Conscience so that it would affect the Voord, but he was unable to collect the Keys himself until the TARDIS materialised on his island. Explaining the situation to the TARDIS crew, Arbitan locked them out of the TARDIS until they agreed to help him, leaving the First Doctor, Susan, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton with no other choice but to help him.
Although they avoided contact with the Voord themselves in their travels, the four companions faced a wide variety of dangers in their time on Marinus. The city where the first Key was kept was controlled by disembodied brains that kept the population passive via an elaborate telepathic illusion – the TARDIS crew only escaping their influence thanks to Barbara realising the truth when the hypnotic disc required to make her receptive to their influence slipped off her head while she slept, allowing her to destroy the Brains -, a Key located in a jungle was hidden along with a decoy key amid a series of traps and rapidly-growing plants, the third Key was in an arctic wasteland guarded by an insane trapper and powerful Ice Soldiers, and Ian was accused of murder and the theft of the fourth Key from a museum in the city where it was kept. Fortunately, in the last case The Doctor was able to organise an effective legal defence to buy time until the true culprits were exposed, their goal being to steal and sell the Key as a rare item.
Returning to Arbitan’s island, the TARDIS crew were initially seemingly unaware that Yartek had managed to reach the island and take Arbitan’s place – wearing heavy robes to conceal his identity -, willingly providing ‘Arbitan’ with the Keys. However, alerted to the Voord presence after one of the Voord attacked the travellers in a fit of impatience, Ian saw through the deception, giving Yartek the fake key in place of one of the real ones. The use of the fake Key in the Conscience triggered an energy surge that caused the entire machine to explode, destroying Yartek, his Voord and the Conscience. Despite this ‘failure’, The Doctor reflected that The loss of the Conscience was no bad thing, noting that only people can decide true justice rather than machines.
Although he only appeared once in the series, The Doctor has continued to remember Yartek, although it would appear that he regards Yartek as a comparatively minor annoyance compared to some of the enemies he has faced since. During his eighth incarnation, when reflecting about the tales he had heard of the mysterious ‘Enemy’ the Time Lords would face in the Future War, The Doctor commented that, given his luck, the terrifying ‘Enemy’ would probably just turn out to be ‘Yartek, the leader of the alien Voord, armed with a big stick’ (“The Taking of Planet 5”) (The Enemy was later revealed to be Faction Paradox (“The Ancestor Cell”), the Faction being apparently replaced by the Daleks (“Dalek”) after The Doctor destroyed Gallifrey and erased the Faction from existence).