Halloween Feature: The Scariest Episodes of “Doctor Who”
If you have impeccable taste in British television, like some of us here at Snippets, then you are likely a firm believer in the excellence of Doctor Who. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Doctor Who is the story of a brilliant humanoid alien (The Doctor) who travels throughout time and space, swooping in at critical moments to save the world/galaxy/universe/all of space and time. He is typically accompanied by one or more human companions. It’s worth noting that, as a Time Lord, The Doctor has the ability to regenerate into a new body instead of dying, which is why twelve different actors have assumed the role since the program’s conception in 1963.
The Doctor has faced a number of both novel and recurring threats in his some 1,000 alien years of evil whoopin’. The below list hones in on some of the most frightening encounters we’ve seen since Doctor Who‘s 2005 relaunch:
“The Empty Child”/“The Doctor Dances” (1.9/1.10)
In this two-part story set in WWII London, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor investigates a strange illness that plagues a small section of the city. You’ll never look at a gas mask the same way again.
“The Impossible Planet”/“The Satan Pit” (2.8/2.9)
In one of the Tenth Doctor’s (David Tennant) final adventures with companion Rose Tyler, the two find themselves on an expedition base on a small planet revolving around a black hole, joined by a human crew and a troop of docile slave aliens, the Ood. In time, a strange psychic presence begins to overcome the Ood, along with a human crew member on board the station. The Doctor and Rose investigate the matter, only to discover the work of what may be Satan himself.
“Blink” is a bold and brilliant departure from the show’s typical format, and is frequently hailed as the most chilling episodes of all. In it, The Doctor faces a new threat: the Weeping Angels. The Angels are statues that turn to stone when you look at them—but if you blink or look away from them, they move closer. If they happen to touch you…well, I’ll let you find that out yourself. “Blink” is the brainchild of showrunner Steven Moffat, and is best viewed alone in complete darkness. Because they are coming for you. [Note: This episode has only a marginal amount of Tenth Doctor screen time, yet still manages to be one of my favorites. This is definitely saying something.]
The Doctor and companion Donna arrive on an advanced library planet, only to find its civilization has mysteriously disappeared. They quickly learn the library is filled with a fatal force of evil that ruthlessly hunts its prey through shadows. Not everyone comes back out of the dark...
The Doctor went to the tourist planet Midnight and all I got was this lousy recurring nightmare! In “Midnight,” The Doctor boards a tourist shuttle and the engines fail for unknown reasons. Not scared yet? What about when whatever thing stopped the engines starts trying to get in—and that thing isn’t so small? Still not afraid? Let’s sprinkle some possessed passengers into the mix. Also best viewed alone, in the dark.
“The Waters of Mars” (4.16)
This episode calls into question one of The Doctor’s greatest moral dilemmas: When and if it is appropriate to alter a “fixed” event in time. The Doctor arrives aboard a space station in the year 2059 with the knowledge that its crew is doomed to perish in a nuclear explosion. Once aboard, he finds the crew has been infected by an intelligent, water-borne virus, and can’t help but get his hands dirty. A thrilling narrative follows, with shocks up through the last minute.
The terrible Weeping Angels return, and we still can’t see them coming. This time, the action takes place in the heart of a towering catacombs, with thousands of statues serving as camouflage for the imminent threat. Even more unsettling is when companion Amy makes eye contact with an Angel and begins succumbing to a subtle, but deadly, form of psychological manipulation.
Within the first ten minutes of this episode, you will have experienced every raw human emotion you are capable of experiencing. The Silence may be the most chilling Who villain of them all: Tall, violent, merciless, and able to manipulate the memories of those who are unfortunate enough to encounter it. Watching Amy and others fall prey to its manipulation will leave your fingernails in a craggy pulp.
A refreshing take on a classic ghost story. The Doctor and companion Clara join a tandem of 1970s ghost hunters to investigate an apparently paranormal force, the Witch in the Well, in a mansion on the English moors. The episode takes on an interesting dimension when it delves into profound character motivations amidst a backdrop of action and suspense.