Everyone was overjoyed when Doctor Who was brought back. For every sci-fi fan, it’s a dream - but the truth is, this show has something that appeals to everyone. It’s always prided itself on being a universally loved, family show—and usually airs at a normal hour because it’s not meant to be particularly scary or disturbing. Loads of kids love it!
But every now and then, the show will introduce an iconic villain that’s actually pretty scary. Here are some of the shows most famous monsters, ranked from the least terrifying to the most. For a family show, some of these were definitely a risk to write in...
10. The Daleks
The Daleks aren’t the most terrifying monster, so that puts them at the bottom of this list - but they are the ultimate Doctor Who classic monster, so that earns them a place regardless! An alien species, they were responsible for the fall of Gallifrey and have always been considered the Doctor’s main nemesis. We saw them pop up time and time again, always with an ominous feeling when they did. Perhaps the most epic appearance was when they literally moved the Earth’s place in the solar system, bringing together Ten and all of his companions to stop them.
They don’t have the same scare factor as some of the other monsters, but they’ve still given me goosebumps more than once.
9. The Beast
How could Satan not be on this list?
Okay—it’s debatable if the Beast is actually Satan. He is definitely a demon of some sort, but self-identified as Satan in The Impossible Planet and claimed to have existed long before the universe that the Doctor is familiar with.
The only reason Satan himself is so far down on this list is because I actually think they could have done a better job with his appearance. We saw him as a pretty stereotypical version of the Devil, all flames and horns—they really could have been more original with this one. Having said that, Satan is pretty scary anyway!
8. The Gangers
Gangers are a clone race, and I think this is where the scary aspect of them comes from. Sometimes, the reason monsters are scary is because they’re so much like us, and I think the show did a good job of playing on that here. The Gangers definitely creeped me out a fair amount.
They’re mimicked duplicates of humans and are controlled via a telepathy link. They weren’t necessarily always used as enemies—for example, the Doctor once gave Clara Oswald a Ganger at her birthday party—but the concept alone is creepy, and for this, I’m going to classify them as monsters.
7. The Cybermen
The Cybermen make the list because they are terrifying, and honestly, I only started to find them so scary when they were explored in Torchwood - a non-family show that doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to scaring us.
If you know anything, you know what the Cybermen are. They’re one of the most famous enemies in the show, and have appeared time and time again to make the Doctor’s life a misery. They are an emotionless cyborg race, and humans can be turned into them—which has ended up making for some pretty traumatic plot points, and is where the horrific aspect of them comes into play.
6. The Boneless
This is more of a nickname than an official species name, given to them by the Twelfth Doctor. They reduce objects and living things from three dimensional to two dimensional, which is a pretty creepy concept.
They messed with the TARDIS, which is what drew the Doctor’s attention to them in the first place. The Doctor eventually forcibly sent them back to their own dimension after giving them a chance to surrender, and seemed to have no regard about whether they would survive the return journey. Perhaps part of what makes this monster so scary is that they also showed us that ruthless side of the Doctor. It’s always interesting to see his dark side (or her, as the case is now!), but kind of unnerving.
5. The Virus
The Waters Of Mars was a pretty creepy special surrounding the tenth Doctor, where a virus infected the water on Mars and poisoned a whole space station. It was almost like a zombie episode, with the people who were infected turning into zombie-like creatures.
The virus was never fully explained, with the episode wrestling more with the Doctor’s morals and conscience more than anything else; but again, that was the kind of thing that could make a monster really scary. The Doctor was wrestling with whether he had to stand by and let it happen or whether he could save everyone and all the while, this infection was lurking in the background that could potentially get to all of Earth.
4. The Silence
The Silence aren’t really a monster, but they are a religious order. They were intended to be the scariest villains in the show’s history, according to Moffat. I don’t think they compete with the first entity mentioned in this list, or the Vashta Nerada, but they’re definitely up there so - semi-success, I guess? They certainly had a lot of build up before their actual appearance.
The Silence’s main goal was to make the Doctor’s death a fixed point in history, so this is part of why they’re so terrifying—they seem intrinsically linked to the main character’s downfall. A whole series of suspense around them certainly made them pretty ominous.
3. The Weeping Angels
The Weeping Angels are a little more iconic Doctor Who, which is nice, but that doesn’t make them much less terrifying than the first two. The thing about the Weeping Angels is that we saw them time and time again, but the concept is no less creepy than when they were first introduced.
The Angels can only move when they’re not being seen. So, when you blink—it can move closer, until it can get you. The Doctor pulled a clever trick with Amy Pond once, when he instructed her to move through the Angels as if she could see them, so apparently they can’t tell if your eyes are open or closed—which seems to be a bit of a loophole, since they can apparently tell if you blink, but oh well.
Don’t blink. Blink and you’re dead.
2. The Vashta Nerada
The Vashta Nerada were a little similar in that they were more of a one-off monster, but I think that’s why the one-offs are among the most frightening - we don’t even get that much time to learn about them. This name literally translates to “the shadows that melt the flesh” which is creepy enough, but that’s exactly what they do. They take over someone and eat away at them, and can even mimic them so that others might not expect they’re dead.
In the episode where they were featured, the Doctor believed they had no weakness and the only thing to do was run. Um. Yikes. The good news is, they apparently aren’t generally an aggressive species.
1. The Creature From Midnight
This was hands down the most terrifying creature to me because it just didn’t even have a name. We never saw it. We still don’t know what that creature was.
The Doctor was on a trip in a shuttle to see another planet when said shuttle broke down. They heard knocking on the side of the shuttle, following their movements, and realized the cockpit had been ripped away from the shuttle itself, leaving them stranded. After a while, it seemed like one of the passengers had been possessed by an entity. This was some straight up horror movie stuff and because it never got a conclusion… yeah, I still can’t watch Midnight without feeling chilled. Hands down the scariest monster in the show.