Doctor Who has survived more than five decades and with good reason. The British series combines adventure, drama, and science fiction into something adults and children alike can enjoy. Although it is generally considered to be a family-friendly show, it is very often dark and terrifying (which is why people like me are so addicted to it). The Doctor has tackled horror staples like vampires, werewolves, zombies, and demons but also hundreds of original foes from all over the galaxy.
The following is my list of Doctor Who's most terrifying monsters. I narrowed it down to the ones that personally scared me, not simply my favorites (hello, Daleks). I also aim to focus on the ones who made a major impact in the episode or appeared multiple times. If I were to name every eerie monster on Who, we'd be here all day! Hell, the most recent season alone was riddled with creepy creatures (The Whispermen; Mr. Sweet; Time Zombies; The Cooked Man; Grandfather and The Vigil)! So, without further ado, here are the 13 scariest monsters of Doctor Who!
13. Peg Dolls (Night Terrors)
Dolls are no strangers to horror. I think most people have at least a tiny fear of dolls. Now imagine giant wooden dolls with huge heads that chant nursery rhymes. Beware playtime with these guys - with a single touch they can turn you into one of them, forever trapped inside a soulless wooden body wanting only to "play." Happy nightmares!
12. Toby Zed (The Impossible Planet)
Tobias Zed was an archeologist specializing in ancient languages when he became possessed by a mysterious beast (more on that later). Now with red eyes and ancient symbols all over his body, Toby looks like the lovechild of Satan and Daniel Tosh. This whole storyline reminded me a lot of Event Horizon, and Toby is totally Sam Neill.
11. The Master (The Deadly Assassin)
Like the Doctor's version of Moriarty, the Master is his dark equal and ultimate nemesis. He has appeared in many episodes in numerous forms but this particular visage is his most terrifying. With a decaying face and black hood, he looks like something right out of a horror flick. Admittedly, the mask is a little funny since the big teeth and bulging eyeballs make him look a bit like the Doctor (Tom Baker)!
10. Autons (Spearhead from Space)
When Doctor Who returned to the airwaves in 2005 after its hiatus, these were the very first monsters the 9th Doctor faced. However, the Autons were far scarier back in the day. They have appeared in many forms - from mannequins to centurions - but basically they are inanimate objects controlled by a single alien consciousness. They have guns inside their hands and their blank faces are seriously creepy. It's been 43 years since Spearhead from Space aired and films like The Purge are still relying on Auton-like faces for scares.
9. The Flood (The Waters of Mars)
The Flood (not to be confused with the same-named species from the Halo universe) is a Martian virus that infects a team of researchers. The crew turns into ravenous, zombie-like creatures with black mouths, cracked skin, and pale eyes. But the creepiest part about this FX make-up is how they become constantly wet and dripping once infected. It's... disgusting. This whole episode is scary and dark, and it includes two of the series' most disturbing scenes ever.
8. The Beast (The Satan Pit)
This is the aforementioned beast that possessed Toby Zed. It is assumed to be Satan himself, although this two-part episode toys with the idea that Satan is merely an idea. This devil is portrayed in the classic sense - red and horned - but it is so raw and animalistic! And huge! Forget the pitchfork and mustache, this is how the Prince of Darkness should look! And despite being CGI, this creature looks gorgeous! To date, this is still the scariest physical incarnation of the devil I've ever seen.
7. Eight Legs (Planet of the Spiders)
Do spiders give you the heebie-jeebies? How about 3-foot-long spiders that latch onto your back, turn invisible, and control your mind with telepathy? The Eight Legs are smart arachnids who look down upon us lowly "two legs" as little more than food. If these guys creep you out, be sure to also check out the destiny-altering Time Beetles (Turn Left) for more giant bugs that can totally wreck your day.
6. The Silence (The Impossible Astronaut; Day of the Moon)
Who fans may have mixed feelings about current showrunner/madman Steven Moffat, but one thing is for sure - the man delivers on scary monsters. The Silence is the first of a few Moffat creations on this list. These creatures were born out of American UFO culture of the 50s and 60s, so they're like a combination of Men in Black and the big-headed grey aliens. These sharply-dressed foes have a special trick: once you stop looking at them, you immediately forget them. So you are betrayed by your own instinct to turn and run. You are forced to literally face your fear. This a common theme with Moffat (but more on that later).
5. Classic Cybermen (The Tenth Planet)
The new-age Cybermen have appeared numerous times since the series came back but they have not been scary and are often completely uninteresting. Once upon a time, however, their robotic voices would send a shiver down your spine! They were once human but "upgraded" to the point of being cold, emotionless cyborgs intent on upgrading everyone else, too. The very first Cyberman costume, despite looking like it had an A/C window unit strapped to its ribcage, was unnerving as hell thanks to hollow eyes and creepy lips. By Tomb of the Cybermen, their voices reached maximum creepy (and totally invented auto-tune 40 years early). "You belong to us! You shall be like us!"
4. Jamie (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances)
Here is another Moffat creation that preys upon pre-existing fears and psychological terror. Firstly, it's a little boy in WW2 attire wearing a gas mask. It's creepy. Secondly, this little boy happens to be dead. Thirdly, he follows people around asking, "Are you my Mummy?" If he touches you, you'll grow a gasmask out of your damn face and end up just like him. Add some sci-fi magic that I can't tell you about (spoilers!) and you got one of the series' best episodes and most iconic villains.
3. Vashta Nerada (Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead)
The Vashta Nerada is a mouthful, but one monster you won't soon forget! These microscopic man-eaters are easily mistaken for shadows, so stay out of the dark! And if you notice you have a second shadow, it's already too late! They will strip the meat from your bones and leave only a skeleton in a spacesuit. Moffat, who of course created these little nasties, ups the creep factor when the Vashta Nerada puppeteer dead scientists around, repeating their last words before dying. "Hey, who turned out the lights?"
2. The Weeping Angels (Blink)
Moffat invention #4 has quickly become one of Who's best-known baddies, second only to the Daleks. As I mentioned above, Moffat likes the idea of making you face your fears literally. The weeping angels are statues that come to life, but they are rendered still so long as you are looking at them. If you so much as blink, they got you. But my favorite thing about the angels is how they dispatch you. With a touch, they throw you back in time and steal your potential energy. Simple things like closing your eyes, turning your head, or a light bulb burning out become terrifying when it comes to the weeping angels.
1. The Midnight Entity (Midnight)
This menace appeared in only one episode. Hardly anyone talks about it today. It has no action figure or any other merchandise. It has no name and no physical form. What makes it so damn terrifying is that the ever-omniscient, ever-traveling Doctor has no idea what it is or how to stop it. In a rare occurrence, he is terrified and that terrifies the viewer! The 10th Doctor is vacationing onboard a space bus crossing the beautiful but barren planet Midnight when a passenger becomes possessed. She slowly turns the other passengers against each other through fear and paranoia in this episode that plays out like The Thing meets The Mist. For true horror fans, this is the episode to see.
BONUS: The Watcher (Logopolis)
This one is a bonus because it's not really a monster per say but it was damn creepy! It is a ghostly entity that appears in Logopolis, surrounding the regeneration of the 4th Doctor. Dressed in all white with a plaster-of-Paris-like face, The Watcher is a silent figure that haunts the Doctor in his final hours. To say more would be a major spoiler, but old-school fans of Who remember this guy all too well. "...the moment has been prepared for."