The Scariest 'Doctor Who' Moments, Ranked
Doctor Who is many things. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, and it’s even a little kitschy, but it also has the ability to be one of the most terrifying shows on television. Throughout its multi-decade-long run, the series has always featured creepy concepts and frightening moments, but some of the scariest Doctor Who moments appeared in the 2000s and 2010s.
One of the reasons that Doctor Who is so scary is its origins as a children’s science fiction series. The scariest moments on the long-running show come from the writers toying with the things that terrify us at our core, whether they’re the sounds that go bump in the night, or the suspicion that we’ve seen something move just out of eyesight.
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'Blink' Introduced Audiences To The Terrifying Weeping Angels
No discussion of the most unsettling Doctor Who moments can be had without mentioning the Weeping Angels. These extremely old creatures that look like Victorian statues wait until someone turns their back on them or blinks, and then they strike.
With enough time, the Weeping Angles can drain the life from their victims while sending them back into an undetermined era of time seemingly at random. Their first appearance in "Blink" shows just how well Doctor Who works at telling a horror story.
It's hard to decide what's scarier - the idea that you won't even know that you're being zapped to the past or the sharp fangs and furrowed brows of the Weeping Angels. Strangely enough, the writer behind the episode - Steven Moffat - claims that the creatures are based on a real object.
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'The Empty Child' Features A Creepy Little Boy And People's Faces Transforming Into Gas Masks
"Are you my mummy?" Those four words are the soundtrack to one of the most horrifying episodes of Doctor Who's return to form in 2005. "The Empty Child" features the Doctor grappling with a creepy little kid with a gas mask for a face. That visual is freaky enough, but it's what happens to people who come into contact with the boy that's really upsetting.
Anyone who comes in contact with the boy with a gas mask for a face grows a gas mask of their own. The episode shows this transformation in a lengthy take that is downright Cronenbergian (which originally featured a skull-cracking sound effect the BBC ultimately cut for being "too horrible"). It's hard to watch even for the most dyed-in-the-wool horror fan. Parents reportedly flooded the BBC with complaints the episode terrified their children, and to this day the network hosts a parental advisory guide for "The Empty Child" on their website featuring children's "fear ratings."
- 3317 VOTES
An Invisible Threat Chews Through Characters In 'Silence in the Library'
In what is ostensibly a gothic ghost story, the Doctor is drawn to a library in the 51st century where spooky things immediately start happening. The lights in the main library go out one by one in a fairly terrifying scene, and that's after the Doctor and Donna encounter a disembodied head. It's a cute disembodied head, but it's still freaky.
Those scares don't compare to the Vashta Nerada, particle-sized creatures that are extremely carnivorous. This episode could have been a standard Doctor Who episode, but there are astronauts chased down long corridors by unseen creatures and an imminent threat that's only discernible as a double shadow. "Silence in the Library" is an intriguing story that will make you think twice about visiting unknown planets on a whim.
- 4304 VOTES
'Midnight' Is One Of The Darkest 'Doctor Who' Episodes Ever
As one of the smallest Doctor Who stories, “Midnight” squeezes every ounce of terror that it can out of a single setting. Nothing about this episode is fun or lighthearted, making it an outlier in the early run of the series. In the episode, a mysterious creature mentally rips apart a group of people - the Doctor included.
“Midnight” features an unseen creature that takes over the mind of a passenger on a transport ship. Rather than fight off the being, the Doctor nearly loses everything to the creature when it convinces everyone that he’s been possessed.
As always, the Doctor gets out of the situation, but he doesn’t really win anything, and writer Russell T. Davies never explains the backstory of what the audience has just seen. It makes the episode all the more chilling.
- 5272 VOTES
The Creatures From 'Waters of Mars' Spew Water From Their Demonic Mouths
From 2008-2010, Doctor Who aired a series of specials that were essentially short films that allowed the Doctor to explore worlds without tethering himself to a specific storyline. Arriving on the last day of Bowie Base One, he finds the place overrun with water demon/vampire-like entities.
The monsters are fairly lo-fi, with soaking wet faces and disturbingly cracked mouths. As the creatures track down the Doctor, the special ratchets up the tension, and even though the audience knows that the Doctor is getting out of this, it’s not entirely clear how he’ll stop these creatures.
- 6238 VOTES
'The Impossible Planet' Pitted The Doctor Against Possessed Astronauts And The Devil
“The Impossible Planet” and its follow up episode “The Satan Pit” ask the question, “Who would win in a fight between the Doctor and the devil?” After landing on the mysterious planet Krop Tor, the Doctor meets a crew of engineers attempting to drill into the core of the planet to understand how it’s orbiting a black hole.
The closer the crew gets to the center of the planet, the creepier things get. Messages appear in an “impossible old” language and a crew member is possessed by something called “the Beast” that has him slay the rest of his crew members.
In the following episode, the Doctor literally goes face to face with the devil while Rose has to fight off possessed Ood. The Doctor is thrust into confusion about whether or not he’s actually dealing with Satan or just an alien who’s well versed with human history. It’s spooky stuff.