Best known as the mortal enemies of the Sontaran Empire (you’d be disappointed if you’d been battling someone for more than 50,000 years to only be considered a minor irritation), Rutans – or Rutan Hosts – are famous in the Doctor Who universe for having the highest mention-to-appearance ratio*, only appearing once in the long history of televisually documented encounters but being mentioned on numerous occasions. Mostly by Sontarans.
The only recorded encounter the Doctor had with a Rutan took place when his Fourth incarnation visited a delightful holiday spot called Fang Rock, and it was his investigation into the deaths of the lighthouse keeping team there which uncovered the ability and methods of the Rutans. It also uncovered their true appearance – that of a mis-shapen cloudy green jellyfish with a lightbulb underneath. In fact, I could swear I won a marble that looked exactly like that Rutan in a playground game when I was 7…
As their appearance suggests, they are essentially amphibious but can happily function on dry land – and are even able to cling to sheer surfaces – like the side of the Fang Rock lighthouse. Their voice doesn’t quite go with the appearance, sounding a little like small man trapped in a tin box.
Tactically, they are similar to Sontarans in that they have a habit of sending down single scouts ahead of a larger number of soldiers. But these scouts were just as dangerous and more cunning than a Sontaran would be. The Rutan scout discovered in the lighthouse, for example, targeted specific humans, killed them and then impersonated them in an effort to disguise its presence.
Knowing that the Rutans’ home planet, Ruta 3, was an icy world, the Doctor killed the scout by rigging a weapon to overheat him before he could be rescued, and dealt with the mothership by reflecting the light from the top of the lighthouse at it using a diamond. A pretty blingin’ end.
What do we learn after all of this? That jellyfish and potatoes do not play well together. Also, as a species, they may get less love than Sontarans, but they’re much more interesting…
First (and only – and therefore best and worst) appearance: The Horror of Fang Rock (1977)
Sworn Enemy: Sontarans.
Strenths: Victim impersonation, electric tentacles. Great sense of humour.
Weaknesses: Extreme heat, sea shanties, the plays of Bertholt Brecht **
*This statement is based purely on speculation to make a point. Please don’t be mean and picky about it if it’s not quite true.
**Well, if you swallowed the first unsubstantiated bit…