Doctor Who has a reputation for terrifying children and adults alike for decades, and holds a special place in the hearts of many as a show that can dish out a surprisingly diverse array of horrific creatures for a BBC family-orientated TV show. But for all the creepy creatures that have graced our screens since Doctor Who first aired in 1963 there are but a select few that continue to scare me even to this day. And what better time to showcase these frightful fiends than the spookiest day of the year! So let’s get started:
Number 5 – The Weeping Angels
No list of scariest Doctor Who monsters would be complete without Moffat’s Lonely Assassins, who’s debut episode Blink is now considered to be one of the scariest (and also one of the best) episodes of Doctor Who of all time. Had that been their only appearance, the Weeping Angels might have ranked a bit higher on this list, since their frightful abilities and ominous presence made them the perfect standalone villain for a particularly unorthodox episode. Their only drawback is that with frequent reappearances the fear factor of the Angels has been reduced somewhat, particularly due to the fact that their abilities seemed to change from appearance to appearance. Moffaaaat!
Number 4 – The Silents
I promise this will be the last Moffat monster. Maybe. Despite their confusing arc that baffled fans for the majority of Matt Smith’s run, the Silents (Silence? Silents?) have to make this list simply because I have vivid memories of the aftermath of seeing The Impossible Astronaut – The Silents made an impact on me, that much is certain. I was staying at a family friend’s house at the time, and the unfamiliar environment I was in coupled with the Silent’s unique memory-altering traits meant that I was doubting myself for days, and constantly doing double-takes to see if I had actually caught a glimpse of one of the creepy-looking creatures in a mirror or down a dark corridor. So the Silents did exactly what a scary Doctor Who monster should do – they left a lasting impression.
Number 3 – The Mondasian Cybermen
This may be a slightly odd entry given that this is a monster from the 1960s, but I have always found the Mondasian Cybermen creepy as heck. Even though its pretty obvious that the costumes are made of cloth and plastic, there’s just something about the faces of these original Cybermen that makes them scarier than all of the other variants – personally I find the soulless, staring blank eyes and the perpetually expressionless mouth to be sinister enough, but when they talk, they don’t even move their mouths – it just opens. And then there’s the way they actually talk – their monotonous voices are just a little less robotic than later versions of the Cybermen, and yet the way they put emphasis on the wrong words in every sentence really makes it seem as though these creatures are no longer human. They may toe the line between scary and ludicrous, but after some suspension of disbelief they are perfectly chilling.
Number 2 – The Empty Child
I couldn’t do it, I know that’s the third Moffat monster on this list, but what can I say? The man knows how to scare people, and there aren’t many Doctor Who episodes scarier than the 2005 two-parter The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. In fact I often consider these two episodes to be the scariest episodes of Doctor Who of all time – this may seem confusing since the child himself is only second on the list, but I’ll explain later. Undoubtedly the creepiest thing about the Empty Child is the purported innocence with which he goes about on his killing spree – not only does he appear as a desperate child crying out for his mother, he also possesses the ability to manipulate seemingly innocent household objects to broadcast his cries for help, creating a truly chilling scene in which the Doctor is accosted on all sides by the child’s whimpering calls – all whilst the Empty Child’s silhouette lingers at the window. This, coupled with the iconic World War II setting, makes The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances truly spooky.
Honourable Mention: The Clockwork Robots
These guys are creepy, there’s no denying that. Again, another Moffat villain, but the Clockwork Robots, scary though they are, seem to me to be a slight re-invention of a classic Doctor Who monster that, to me, could be the scariest monster of all time, and that is…
Number 1 – The Autons
Well I did say could be the scariest, and I mean that literally – the Autons could well be the scariest monster Doctor Who has produced, it’s just that they’ve never really been used effectively in that way in the handful of episodes in which they have appeared, either in NuWho or Classic Who. And yes, there are a few token scenes in Doctor Who in which the Autons do have some pretty chilling moments – the horrendous plastic doll assassin created by the Master in Terror of the Autons springs immediately to mind, as does a brief scene in Rose. Interestingly enough, this scene in Rose is almost exactly what I would want from an episode that used the Autons properly, since they are doing what they do best – being disguised as plastic shop dummies and doing generally creepy things. For me, nothing is creepier than a mannequin and the Autons are basically just mannequins that are alive, evil, and are very good at staying still when you’re looking. In a way the Autons need to be almost like a cross between the Clockwork Robots and the Weeping Angels – able to blend in to their environment, stand stock-still to avoid detection, and then striking with robotic and merciless efficiency. If an episode of Doctor Who could write the Autons in this way and truly seize their creepy potential, then it could well be one of the creepiest episodes of the show to date.
So there we have it, the spookiest of the spookiest that the pantheon of Doctor Who monsters has to offer – and yes, there are dozens of other scary creatures that didn’t make this list, either because I don’t find them as scary as other people do or because I find other monsters scarier. Indeed, there are many Doctor Who monsters that do not appear that scary on the surface but, if you think about it, are actually quite horrifying. The good news there is that there is no shortage of scary episodes to enjoy on Halloween!