Doctor Who continues to engage fans internationally with interactive, brain-provoking science that leaves any viewer instantly captivated. Through the decades, there have been episodes for every kind of viewer, but for horror fans, there are few storylines that dive deep into the nature of primal human fears. We’ve seen our share of PG-13 frights in the show with the 21st century Doctor incarnations. From killer mannequins that jumpstarts Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and the Ninth Doctor’s (Christopher Eccelston) emotional ventures to the feasting Vashta Nerada plucking off River Song’s (Alex Kingston) archeology team, the show experiments with a variety of spooky alien species and offers unique tales that follow them.
Although the Thirteenth Doctor, (Jodie Whittaker), will be exiting her role after Series 13 and some 2022 specials, the show has a multitude of directions to veer in. Since Whittaker took the stage, the Whovian writers’ team has done well scripting themes related to gender equality, racial disparities, and even issues with capitalism! Whittaker shines and has defended her role as the first female Doctor, brilliantly capturing the icon’s issue with senseless deaths of strangers and companions alike. The writing for the series has established the quirks, humor, homage, and individuality for Thirteen. It would be fantastic if new horror-driven episodes could set the platform for the Doctor to more fully conquer her grief that she’s spent centuries running away from.
Here are some of the best episodes that drive the creep factor with some of the scariest creatures that deserve a comeback alongside the Thirteenth Doctor.
7. The Weeping Angels (“Blink”)
In Series 3, Episode 10, we meet Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) and her keen eye for detail. The highly revered Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) tackled the Weeping Angels as they manipulated timelines of friends and acquaintances surrounding Sally. The Angels continue to pop up well into Series 6 terrifying all the people they consume. With their split-second motion, the Weeping Angels play with their victims with no remorse for their time-altering attacks. And the sole defense against them is: “Don’t Blink!” Their greatest fear of being witnessed ends as their ultimate punishment if cleverly tricked: if an Angel sees another Angel they are fated to an eternity of looking at each other, locked in that moment. These beings do not speak and stand still with ominous expressions, slick smiles, or covered eyes. Their silence plays out as their most effective ploy in feeding off the life force of their prey.
For humanity, they appear as statues, and once they isolate people, the Angels force them into a former time period, with the only option of living through a misplaced era while they feed, revisiting their victims in their final moments. Sticking to the abyss, the Angels induce unsettling terror with their agility and relocation that forces anyone to second guess themselves and to dismiss the silly notion that a statue can’t move… Right?
6. The Figure (“Listen”)
Bedsheets are petrifying. Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor presents the wildest theory that transcends all of human history. When the hairs stand straight on the back of your neck and it feels like something just moved out of the corner of your eye, Twelve hypothesizes that our collective fears of darkness and the unknown are in actuality an unidentified creature or alien race feasting on our fears and superstitions. He claims that such an entity has intimidated a variety of species fearing the things hidden in the gloom for millennia and that these beings have the potential to mirror the physical forms of others, down to handwriting. Even Twelve himself worked hard to avoid the darkness and the silence that once consumed the edges of the Universe until he encountered the Figure.
Joined by his companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), Twelve braves an old children’s home, dreading the invisible thing hiding underneath beds and sheets. What’s more frightening than encountering a childhood fear you can’t see? An unidentified entity perched on a child’s bed, with only a sheet to cover it spikes the adrenaline and will have you double-checking you and your kid’s beds tonight.
5. The Minotaur (“The God Complex”)
‘Praise him!’ On second thought, scrap that. If you happen to wake up in an eerie hotel with seemingly infinite rooms and halls, do not ‘Praise him’. The Minotaur of this twisted episode has the agency to manipulate people’s deepest fears and hidden desires and feeds off them instantaneously, killing them. When the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and family companions, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill), take a stand against the Minotaur alongside fellow survivors, the creature draws each member exposing their individual dread.
The Minotaur stands well above seven feet tall, mirroring the classic Greek mythological creature in all other features. His history includes prior worship as a deity, with followers he manipulated, and as punishment for his crimes, he was imprisoned on a ship, the same ship the Eleventh Doctor arrives on. The Minotaur makes it easy to trust the nightmares each person experiences once they enter a designated room containing personalized secrets. When you have a nightmare it’s always hard to break yourself away and ground yourself back in reality. But the Minotaur assures that you stay and die in that nightmare. The faltering balance of faith or lack thereof consumes each person inside and out, transferring all personal beliefs into paralyzing and all-consuming cult worship of the Minotaur, hence: “Praise him”.
4. The Ice Warriors (“The Waters of Mars”)
In the era of SpaceX plotting to colonize Mars, let’s not forget this foreshadowing of trouble. The moment NASA announced the discovery of water on Mars and the possibility for sustainable life, this dazzling episode automatically comes to mind. Referring to the ancient primal fear and fascination of the unknown, Tennant’s Doctor appears at the doorstep of a doomed experimental Mars colony. One by one the crew members are overtaken by the local water sources, contaminating the supplies and virtually erasing the crew’s advancements for humanity.
The Ice Warriors, responsible for this possession, remained in slumber, in Dracula-esque fashion, thirsty for war and dominion over humanity as punishment for disrupting their hibernation and desecrating their planet. Most water-themed movies revolve around massive prehistoric sharks or undiscovered deep-sea monsters taking over an underwater base. But “The Waters of Mars” adheres to the idea that simplicity is key. Water is the ultimate life elixir and ‘The Waters of Mars’ revisits the dangers of water while reconstructing a stoic and heavy-hitting alien race utilizing possession of bodies and unrestricted mayhem.
3. The Cyberium and Ashad (“The Haunting of Villa Diodati”)
Set in the iconic Villa Diodati, this brilliant Victorian Gothic-themed episode calls on the minds of famed Frankenstein author Mary Shelley and the blood-drenched The Vampyre author Lord Byron. Whittaker’s Doctor tackles a haunted house of shifting rooms heightened by the spooky spirits of Shelley and her writer friends on the night that would change literary horror fiction forever. The Doctor and her friends endure this sublime venture in a refreshing 1816 fashion, playing up the antics and ghostly apparitions of the haunted house troupe: celestial figures walking through walls, thunderstorms settling the tone of the eerie night, etc.
It’s revealed that the ghosts and missing Percy Shelley are connected to the Cyberium known as Ashad, a lone Cyberman with the mission to restore the Cyberman- Empire to its former glory using Percy Shelley as its prized vessel. Shrouded in poetic essence, Ashad holds a dynamic psychic link to Percy Shelley degrading his mental state into murky recesses of the human psyche and it shows in Percy’s fickle, tortured mannerisms. The Cybermen have built the reputation in the Whovian Universe as unemotional metal monsters who act in the spirit of war and strict self-preservation, and this episode is evidence of their cold-hearted nature. As a twisted space Gothic, this episode is the one to curl up on the sofa and watch this spooky season.
2. The Morax (“The Witchfinders”)
The old-age lore of zombies and witches meets an interesting crossover with an alien species attacking during the height of the British witch trials. The Morax are an imprisoned alien race. When witch hunter Becka Savage (Siobhan Finneran) cuts down a tree that’s acted as their prison capsule, the Morax use primal paranoia and genuine human fear of the unknown to pioneer witch trials and killings in order to build a crossbreed army: Morax possessing human vessels.
In death, bodies return to their Earthly properties, stripped away of souls with only flesh remaining, and the Morax meticulously overcome the bodies of the dead with a sting and through the mud. The fatal sting ravages every vein inside the body slowly transforming the human body into a Morax hybrid with menacing rock features and hardened dense skin. While these alien warriors devastated the land, the vessels they selected are discarded, thrown into the darkness in their waking world, and set in a spiritual abyss.
1. The Midnight Entity (“Midnight”)
A relaxing all-inclusive train ride through a planet made of diamonds turns to disaster as the Midnight Entity terrorizes Tennant’s Doctor and fellow passengers. Infiltrating the train cart undetected, the creature observes the passengers, learning and adapting to their behaviors and mannerisms in their weakest moments. Viewed as an initial curiosity, one race observing another, the Doctor attempts to subside the anxiety until he realizes the entity’s sinister agenda: learning and observing as a means to consume and control.
It’s petrifying what intelligent life forms get into. When the creature takes over a woman on board and the Doctor, the paranoia entices pure fight or flight responses that fractures all relationships on board, hiking the death toll to four people. “Midnight” showcases the Doctor’s shame of his unspoken legacy of companion deaths and the compounding guilt associated with internalizing that.
By the end of the episode, the creature still isn’t revealed, leaving only the deaths of innocent people induced by accusations and the unknown. The creature is never officially identified leaving room for a hopeful revisitation in Series 13 or beyond.
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“Fred [Armisen] was serious. Do you know how off-putting that is?”
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