Happy Halloween! It’s time for some of Doctor Who’s scariest episodes! The series has never shied away from scaring kids and this adult behind their sofas. From the much-feared statues to mysterious ghosts under the bed. This is our list of Doctor Who’s Scariest Episodes to get into the spooky season! With Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary on the horizon, will we get more spooky aliens?
1) The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Starting with the two-parter from writer Steven Moffat, you will see him a lot. The Doctor (Christopher Ecclestone) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) face off against a contagious gas mask child looking for his mummy, along with the first appearance of Torchwood’s Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). Amid the London Blitz of World War II, the tense atmosphere adds to the sombre, eerie story.
The monster, a little boy caught in the Blitz and fused to his gas mask, wanders about searching for his Mummy. In a line that has been quoted many times in the series, “Are you my Mummy?” The bleak setting and improbable odds lead to a fantastic conclusion!
2) The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
The Doctor (David Tennant), Rose Tyler, a small crew of humans, a dozen Ood, and one Devil all on a space station under a black hole. Wow! The Doctor’s struggle with a powerful being from before time makes for compelling worldbuilding as we dig deeper into an ancient world. The Beast (Gabriel Woolf) is a psychological terror that could put even the Master to shame.
There is also an element of existential dread as the black hole looms over them. Even the Doctor feels small, just as much in the dark as all the other humans. What truly sells this two-parter is Murray Gold’s score, which can turn from beautiful to terrifying in a moment.
Let’s be honest, many of you knew this episode was coming, and for good reason! Written by Steven Moffat, this episode does not follow the Doctor but instead the one-time character Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan). Sally uncovers the mystery left behind by the Doctor and the emotional consequences of New Who’s most infamous villain, the Weeping Angels. Statues that, in the blink of an eye, jump at you with a face engrained in my 9-year-old self forever. So grab a pillow and keep your eyes open as we watch this fan-favourite episode!
4) Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
If statues weren’t enough, this two-parter will have you counting your shadows! With the introduction of the mysterious River Song (Alex Kingston), the Doctor and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) are trapped in a library of data ghosts and the Walking Dead! A story full of heartbreak and running from the piranha-like Vashta Nerada. One scene that brings shivers is when the newly formed team of survivors experiences their first ghosting.
Contained on a small bus, on a deadly radiated planet, and a possessed passenger, what is scarier than scared humans? Soon-returning writer Russell T Davies puts the Doctor’s talent to talk his way out of trouble, his most powerful tool, to the test. This episode plays human panic perfectly, with the Doctor failing to fight mob mentality.
The cast of characters are all brilliantly flawed! No truly good people, just scared. And the entity haunting and manipulating them, through Sky Silvestry (Lesley Sharp), is so disturbing just by repeating everyone’s words. If other episodes have you behind your seat, this will have you on the edge.
6) Night Terrors
Never has an episode name been so apt, as you’ll have nightmares of creepy dolls and disturbing transformation scenes we haven’t seen since gas mask zombies! What makes this episode stand out is not just the doll house of horror that Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) race around but how real the real world is. Through the eyes of a scared boy, we see his imagination and fear. And that fear poured into one closet, where all the monsters hide! A spooky but wholesome story of a father and son, helped by the Doctor (Matt Smith).
The Doctor and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) hunt for ghosts! Set primarily in an English mansion in the 1970s amidst a paranormal investigation that will span a whole universe. With ghostly screams that give you chills and a brilliantly disturbing monster design. And like a few on this list, the few times the Doctor ever shows or admits he is afraid.
We also see the more humorous side of the Doctor and Clara, still an early addition to the TARDIS. As well as Clara finally seeing time travel for what it is and how scary it can be. A true ghost story through and through!
A highlight of Peter Capaldi’s era and my favourite spooky episode, the Doctor and Clara hunt for ghosts! Again! This time, however, the heroes aren’t solely confined to a space station or haunted mansion with any immediate danger. Instead, we jump around various times and locations as the Doctor attempts to prove a theory. Yet that doesn’t detract from the fear level, far from it! Nowhere is safe, maybe.
They are everywhere, possibly. Over time, though, we see a much more vulnerable and desperate side of the Doctor. The episode explores the dependent Doctor/Companion relationship, with an unexpected nod to the First Doctor’s (William Hartnell) An Unearthly Child. A revealing story of ghosts and bogeymen under the bed!
9) World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls
What are Cybermen? As these classic monsters have evolved, or even upgraded, over the decades, they have become more robot than human. It is easy to forget that underneath the shiny new armour is a “living” person. This two-parter fixes that by going all the way back to the original Mondasian Cybermen first seen in The Tenth Planet.
Now, we see the humans under the machine in a disturbing classic-style body horror. Following, for the most part, companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) as she awaits the Doctor in a different timezone. The stakes have never been higher in the finale of Series 10 and one of the most brutal stories in Doctor Who.
Doctor Who’s Scariest Episodes, Or Not?
Whether to get into the spooky season spirit or looking for a good laugh/cry, Doctor Who’s Scariest Episodes have you covered! With some of the scariest monsters on television, you’ll have plenty to watch on Halloween night!
Doctor Who will return on November 25th 2023, with “The Star Beast“, the first in three special episodes as the show’s 60th Anniversary headliner event. David Tennant returns as the 14th Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Ncuti Gatwa’s first episode as the Fifteenth Doctor will air over the festive period, while his series 14 will debut in 2024 with Millie Gibson. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new seasons of Doctor Who outside of the UK and Ireland.