We’re sharing our top picks for Doctor Who’s scariest villains just in time for Halloween. Our ranking will consist of the top 5 scariest villains from both the new and classic eras – as it would be unfair to try and whittle down decades of terrifying creatures from both eras into just one ranking.
The Modern era of Doctor Who is just as interested in scaring kids ‘behind the sofa’ as its predecessor. The revival series developed lots of its own iconic villains on top of preexisting foes like the Cybermen and Daleks. However, It’s tough to narrow the worst of all these ‘strange, strange, creatures,’ down, as many of these villains are incredibly effective – especially through a child’s eyes.
5. The Flood from ‘The Waters of Mars’
Some of the show’s scariest villains have been created by twisting aspects of everyday life. Therefore ‘The Flood’ were the first villain who turned an essential need for life – water – into something terrifying. These monsters are swift and merciless, quickly infecting the crew of the Bowie Base. They’re also memorable for their zombie-like appearance, with shockingly bright white eyes, gaping mouths, and water constantly spurting from their cracked skin.
The Flood is made even scarier by the reaction they trigger in the Doctor. The process of trying to defeat them and save the crew is what pushes the Doctor to become the Time Lord Victorious. If it wasn’t for Adelaide’s sacrifice, The Doctor might have become scarier than all the monsters they’ve ever faced.
4. The Beast from ‘The Satan Pit/The Impossible Planet’
We couldn’t ignore Doctor Who’s version of the devil. This two-parter still marks one of the few times the show has fully embraced sci-fi horror. And it was pulled off with exceptional style. The Beast’s powers perfectly amp up the tension throughout the story, first possessing the Ood, then Toby, before threatening the whole ship.
However, While the 10th Doctor dismisses the idea of the devil being real, you can still spot cracks in his confident veneer when confronted with this epic abomination. The Beast was also perfectly cast: played by Gabriel Wolf, who previously played the evil Egyptian God Suhtek in ‘the Pyramids of Mars.’
3. The Vashta Nerada from Silence in Library/The Forest of The Dead
Steven Moffat was a master at transforming childhood into Doctor Who monsters. Therefore, The Vashta Nerada – evil entities who hide within and devour anyone who touches the shadows – prey on our natural fears of the dark and the unknown. Like all of the worst Doctor Who villains, they seem knowingly cruel and cunning, dragging out the suffering of their victims, who first lose their sight, then their senses, then their consciousness.
”Almost every species in the universe has an irrational fear of the dark. But they’re wrong, because it’s not irrational. It’s Vashta Nerada.”The Doctor in ‘The Silence in the Library.’
2. The Weeping Angels – Blink, The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, etc.
The Weeping Angels are perhaps the most iconic new Who monster. Many fans admit to being terrified of them as children. In 2020, they were voted the scariest Doctor Who monsters in a radio times poll. Moffat came up with the idea for them by combining the fear of the ‘uncanny valley’ with the underlying creepiness of children’s games like ‘grandmother’s footsteps.’
However, the idea that the angels feed on the energy of your timestream is scary enough. But they press a deeper threat for adult viewers, who fear being sent into a time period where they might be marginalized based on their race, gender, or sexuality.
1. The Midnight Entity from ‘Midnight’
Horror arguably works best when dealing with the unknown. The Midnight entity epitomizes this idea. It’s one of the few villains that truly terrifies the Doctor himself. It’s hard to watch his sheer panic as the entity takes him over and renders such a dynamic character powerless.
What’s even worse is how the entity incites the worst in human nature, using the paranoia and scapegoating of the passengers to its own ends. Fans appreciate the lingering mystery behind the Midnight Entity. Its origins and motivations are never explained. The unanswered questions and manipulative nature make the Midnight Entity new who’s the scariest villain.
Honorable mentions go to The Family of Blood, The Clockwork Droids, The Gas Mask Monsters, and the Veil.
Classic Who’s Scariest Villains
Everyone knows that Classic Who had to work with many limitations on its budget and special effects. So it’s easy for newcomers to assume that the classics can’t hold up as scary anymore. But they’re wrong. What Classic Who villains lack in sleek presentation, they often make up for in terms of eerie concepts and psychological horror. Many parents and grandparents share their stories of being scared by Doctor Who with the next generation. And here are the villains we think they’re most likely to mention.
5. Mr Sin from ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’
The ‘Hinchcliffe and Holmes era was renowned for its gothic sensibilities and storytelling, and this particular episode was a fan favourite for years. Nowadays, however, it’s more likely to be seen as a ‘scary’ example of casual racism. The story plays with archaic tropes from ‘Fu Manchu’ and Orientalism that pop culture’s thankfully left firmly in the past.
This is embodied in the gruesome ‘Mr Sin’ Puppet. He isn’t really one of horror’s many examples of dolls or puppets gone wrong. But he’s a trigger happy cyborg that’s used as the lackey of Magnus Greel. While he’s likely to make modern viewers wince for different reasons, Mr Sin is still an effective reimagining of the ‘creepy doll’ trope.
4. The Chief Clown from ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’
The final years of Classic Doctor Who were full of experimental, boundary-pushing storytelling. The Gods of Ragnarok, also from this episode, are mythic and imposing. However, the simple creepiness of the Chief Clown that most credited for terrorizing their childhood.
Coulrophobia – the fear of clowns – is something that most children’s media has capitalized on from time to time. But the Chief Clown is an almost understated example. He has a desaturated Pierrot outfit, and while he is theatrical, he is less flamboyant than other evil clowns, like Pennywise from It, and Oddbob, the Clown from Sarah Jane Adventures. Even so, he’s sly and manipulative, and his moments of flair only add to his menace.
3. Sutekh the Destroyer from ‘The Pyramids of Mars.’
Sutekh is one of the most atmospheric Doctor Who villains. He is portrayed as a being of immense power who had brought havoc to the galaxy after destroying his home planet, and who has been immortalized as a demonic figure in all civilized worlds.
Sutekh manages to exert extreme control despite being imprisoned for most of the story. He possesses various characters, including robot mummies and the 4th Doctor himself to construct a missile towards Mars. He is so powerful that we’re even shown that he would have turned 1980 Earth into a desolate wasteland if he hadn’t been defeated. With a shroud-like mask and spine-tingling whisper, it’s no wonder Wolf earned a re-appearance in the modern series. But perhaps the scariest thing about Sutekh is his philosophy of evil:
“Where I tread I leave nothing but dust and darkness, I find that good.”Gabriel Wolf as Sutekh in ‘The Pyramids of Mars’.
2. Fenric from ‘The Curse of Fenric’
As with the ‘Gods of Ragnarok’ from the previous season, Fenric is a chilling monster borrowed heavily from Norse myth. However, Fenric is a sentient force of pure evil – later confirmed to be one of the ‘old ones’ from Lovecraftian myth.
Like many classic villains, Fenric’s intelligence is key to what makes him so threatening. Fenric’s method of feeding on faith is scary and sadistic, as is his possession of DR Judson and Captain Sorin. Fenric’s games affect the dynamic between 7 and Ace forever. The Doctor is forced to devastate Ace and break her faith in him to protect her from Fenric’s powers.
1. The Mondassion Cybermen from ‘The Tenth Planet‘
Is this one considered cheating? One of their scariest appearances came from the revival episode ‘World Enough and Time’ in 2017. Aside from that episode, they’re still the creepy classics that started it all. The Cybermen have an advantage in scare factor over the Daleks. While the Daleks are conceptually scary – based on Nazi hatred and genocide – the Cybermen are a perfect marriage of scary concepts and designs. The idea of the cyber conversion process is pure body horror.
Personally, I think the Mondassion’s cloth masks are the most creepy Cybermen design ever. They imply all the pain of the conversion process without any gore. Finally, their electric and emotionless voices give the impression that these villains are as cold as their planet.