With season 9 to start airing on September 19, Whovians are rejoicing at the prospect of a whole new season of their favourite time-traveller. In honour of the new season, I’ve decided to pay homage to my favourite things about Doctor Who – the villains. The creepiest Doctor Who monsters, to be precise. The demons and villains and ghouls that chill our bones and make fully grown adults shudder or take cover behind the sofa. Those that’ll stick with you and make you check under your bed before you go to sleep at night. Let’s hear it for the Doctor’s terrifying counterparts. Here are my top ten, starting with…
10. The Empty Child
This was the first Who monster that made me sit bolt upright and pay attention. The Empty Child is just what it says on the tin: an empty child in a gas mask, roaming the streets and asking for his mother. Those who know him are terrified of him. Those who don’t, and who are compelled to help him, end up just like him – empty. This monster takes that part of our brain that responds to the uncanny and pokes it and pokes it and pokes it. It’s a child but not a child. It’s innocent but deadly. It’s not dead but certainly not alive. It’s also a sad reminder of the horrors of war, the children left homeless or orphaned, and the grim expression of the gas mask – a symbol of the atrocities people commit in the name of politics and war. After seeing this kid, you’ll never look at a gas mask again without a terrifying little voice in your head taunting, “Are you my mummy?”
9. Satan/The Beast
Alright, now it may just be my Catholic upbringing, but although I consider myself a critical thinker and an atheist, the concept of the devil still freaks the living hell out of me. The manifestation of all evil? Uh, no thanks, I’d rather have an ice cream. In Doctor Who, the Beast’s true form was as above: a large, humanoid body, a rotten face, and two ram horns protruding from his head. However, this monster was also able to manifest through electronic devices, could possess individual or hive minds, was telekinetic, and could shoot fire from its mouth. Okay, okay, so it’s all a bit much. But what this monster really represents is this: hopelessness. When all hope is gone, do you succumb to that pit? Or do you carry on fighting?
8. The God Complex Minotaur
The setting: a hotel from the 1980s with long, almost telescopic, corridors that seem to be constantly changing. It’s a setting reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining. You half expect a kid on a tricycle to come wheeling down the carpeted floors at any minute. We learn that the hotel is a labyrinthine prison, designed to hold a minotaur who feeds off people’s faith. In each room, the minotaur places a manifestation of each person’s darkest fear. What’s most terrifying about this monster is that it reflects back on you. Remember that old saying about having nothing to fear but fear itself? Here is a hyper-representation of that very thing. We all have our fears and apprehensions, and to have them projected into the real world so that we have to face them is an unsettling thought to say the least.
7. The Cybermen
One of the best known and oldest of the Who villains, the Cybermen are a race of ‘cybernetically’ augmented humanoids, completely devoid of all humanity. They lack names, individuality and emotions, and anyone caught in their clutches is processed, eventually becoming one of them. Conversion includes painful removal of the brain so it can be deposited into a strong suit of armour, as well as an implant which removes the capacity for emotion. If the process of this implant is disturbed, the person undergoing conversion dies from emotional overload. Again, pretty far-fetched stuff, but I can tell you what the Cybermen represent for me: depression. More than that, they represent the numb, jaded stage of depression, where nothing joyful matters anymore. These monsters exist, but they aren’t truly alive.
6. The Daleks
In theory, the Daleks are very frightening. The Doctor’s oldest enemy, they never seem to bloody die. Their grating battle cry of “EX-TER-MIN-ATE!” is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. They’re machines with one purpose only: to kill. They can hover, they have a laser beam death ray, a creepy eye stalk… they’re like the insects of the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey world. Here’s the thing, though: they look like a saltshaker with a plunger and an egg-whisk attached to it, and they’re so symbolic of the show, that they’ve become a mascot of sorts. I think if I saw a Dalek, I’d want to keep it as a fancy kitchen accessory. Nevertheless, they deserved a mention in this list, and that’s why they’re my number 6.
5. The Silence
Here begin the nightmares. For what is ostensibly a kids’ show, The Silence are a pretty advanced horror concept, bordering on the psychological. Yes, their face looks like it’s melting, and their eyes are just giant caverns of nothing, which is unsettling to say the least. Ah, but there is more. The Silence are a sort of religious order created to kill the Doctor in order to stop a particular prophecy from being fulfilled. These priests use post-hypnotic suggestion to manipulate other beings into doing whatever they wanted them to do. However, as soon as a person looks away from a Silence, they lose all memory of it. Mental manipulation? Scary as hell.
4. The Vashta Nerada
When you’re faced with something whose name means “Flesh-melting shadow”, you get the hell away. These creatures are carnivorous, microscopic things that live in swarms. Individually, they pose no threat; in their swarms, however, they can strip a creature of its flesh in seconds. They live in the darkness and appear as shadows when they are in the light – meaning if there are ever more shadows than there are people in a room, you’re going to want to run.
3. The Master
The Master is one of my favourite things about Doctor Who. Not Missy, mind. I’ve problems with the sexualisation/fetishisation of women in Moffat’s Who, and Missy is the epitome of this problem. She is Irene Adler reloaded, when she could have been every bit as terrifying as the Master in male form, if not more so. But I digress. The Master is a renegade Time Lord, who grew up as the Doctor’s friend on Gallifrey. He became a criminal genius, pure evil – John Simm’s interpretation of him is psychotic and terrifying. He’s also full of sass and a little bit of pathos, which makes you have to love him just a little bit. When I was coming up with this list it took me a little while to recall why the Master was creepy. Yeah, he wants to destroy the world, but what sci-fi villain doesn’t? Then I remembered that the Master ran for Prime Minister… and won (posing as the charismatic Harold Saxon). So this is what’s creepy about the Master: us. We’re the ones forgiving him his evils just because he’s charismatic. Which just goes to show how easily manipulated we all are. Creepy.
2. The entity in ‘Midnight’
The Doctor gets stuck on a space-plane on his way to the planet Midnight. Yes, I know this sounds ridiculous, but stick with me. This is actually the best Doctor Who episode ever made. The space bus(?) they are travelling in develops engine trouble and the passengers do what people always do when faced with minor inconvenience or delay: they get upset, go on about how annoying this is, and it escalates into an ugly, selfish panic when they realise they may actually be in danger. The Monster itself is an obscure entity which even the Doctor’s encyclopaedic knowledge cannot account for. It possesses its host and mimics their words at first. But as it infiltrates their brains, the mimicking turns to pre-empting. What makes the Midnight monster terrifying is that you can never see it: it exists inside the fear and paranoia of the passengers.
1. The Weeping Angels
I mean… Look at it. The Weeping Angels are creatures resembling stone statues that move when nobody’s looking. Meaning once you’re in sight of one, you can’t blink. Whatever you do, you cannot blink. The Doctor describes them as “old as the universe”, and as the “deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent life-form ever produced”. The Weeping Angels don’t even kill you. If you let them out of your sight, they send you to the past – to a point before your own birth, where you may live out the rest of your days uninjured, but where you don’t belong. Ugh. Nope.