Weeping Angle statue in Doctor Who's Blink episode.

The 10 Scariest Doctor Who Episodes for a Wibbly Wobbly, Spooky Wooky Season

It’s almost Halloween! Time to huddle up on your sofa with a pumpkin spice latte, some horror novels, and … Doctor Who? Yep, you read that right. Doctor Who has been horrifying children for decades, and some of its creepy ideas and well-designed monsters can strike terror into the heart of an adult, as well. The Doctor feared all the things presented in these episodes, and when the Doctor’s scared, you should be scared.

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So, let’s rank the most horrifying stories of the show’s modern era, from “frightening” to “get in the TARDIS, travel back in time, and wipe the episode from existence so you don’t have to think about it any more.”

10. “The Unquiet Dead” (2005)

A zombie in Doctor Who's "The Unquiet Dead" (BBC)
(BBC)

Only the third episode of the show’s 2005 revival, and we’ve already got violent zombies and blue glowing ghosts. “The Unquiet Dead” gave us a Dickensian ghost story starring the actual Dickens (played by Simon Callow) and upped the fear factor for all the kids who had excitedly tuned in to the new show. I distinctly remember that at least a few newspapers and child-aimed entertainment websites questioned at the time, “Is Doctor Who now too scary for kids?” Well, they (and we) had no idea what was to come.

9. “The God Complex” (2011)

Amara Karan as Rita in Doctor Who's "The God Complex" (BBC)
(BBC)

I never thought the actual monster of “The God Complex” was all that scary (a big minotaur who is clearly a guy in a suit, as all the best Who monsters are), but the concept? Gah. The Doctor, Amy, Rory, and some other humans are trapped in a liminal, inescapable old-fashioned hotel, and one by one they’re faced with their worst fears and fall victim to their strongest emotions. Sympathetic characters die, and it’s awful. Oh, and there’s even a creepy clown with a red balloon, because of course there is.

8. “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” (2005)

Richard Wilson as Doctor Constantine in Doctor Who, his face being replaced with a gas mask (BBC)
(BBC)

Say what you will about Steven Moffat, but he’s fantastic at horror. He penned the two-parter “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” for the first season of the show’s revival and struck terror into the hearts of children and adults alike. The whole story focuses around World War II and the Blitz, which is obviously horrifying enough in itself, but throw in a creepy child with a gas mask for a face and you’ve got the recipe for what’s still considered one of the best Who stories ever. I’ll never forget the moment when nice old Doctor Constantine’s eyes suddenly bulged and his face warped into a gas mask before my eyes.

7. “The Waters of Mars” (2009)

David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, surrounded by flames (BBC)
(BBC)

More zombies, and this time water zombies! But calling “The Waters of Mars” “a zombie episode” is to undersell it. The monsters are frightening, of course, and watching the characters get killed off one by one is unpleasant, but it’s David Tennant—an absolute master of his craft—who really makes this episode scary. He’s playing a very different Doctor by the end of this episode, a god-like being who’s positioned himself high above the people of Earth. His referring to the folks he’s saved throughout the years as “some little people” sends shivers down my spine.

6. “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit” (2006)

A chained Satan in Doctor Who's The Satan Pit (BBC)
(BBC)

What’s the scariest monster you could put in a Doctor Who episode? Oh, how about the ACTUAL DEVIL?

Yep, the Satan of The Satan Pit is, well, pretty much the genuine article. But before we even get to him, we have to endure the horrors of demonic possession, a deep dark pit, and some outer space murder. Horrible! But this is also the story that introduced the Ood, who are not monsters (unless possessed by the aforementioned Satan) and are lovely most of the time.

5. “Hide” (2013)

The Crooked Man in Doctor Who's "Hide" (BBC)
(BBC)

Ah, a good old traditional haunted house story. In this one, the Eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald stumble upon a pair of ghost hunters trying to make a connection to a mysterious presence in an old mansion, but none of them are prepared for what they find.

To be honest, although this episode is very good, I probably wouldn’t rank it so highly if not for the design of its lead monster, the Crooked Man. Look at him! He was created with practical effects and he scares the life out of me (even if, spoiler alert, he’s actually harmless).

4. “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead” (2008)

Talulah Riley as Miss Evangelista in Doctor Who's "Forest of the Dead" (BBC)
(BBC)

Another Steven Moffat two-part story where he seems to have sat down and thought to himself, “Hmmm, what can I do here to scar children for life?” Part one gives us the upsetting concept of “data ghosting,” where a dead person’s dying thoughts are relayed back through a piece of equipment that holds their consciousness, and part two gives us the jump-scare of Miss Evangelista’s “glitched” face. Both parts feature the flesh-eating Vashta Nerada, which can and do kill characters we’ve grown to like.

This is a very important Who story because it’s the first appearance of River Song, the Doctor’s wife! You might want to find your own River to watch these terrifying episodes with.

3. “Flatline” (2014)

The Boneless in Doctor Who's "Flatline" (BBC)
(BBC)

Oh look, the Doctor and the TARDIS have been shrunk down in size! So this is going to be a cute and funny episode, right? WRONG. “Flatline” is horrible, and it’s all because of “the boneless,” monsters from a two-dimensional universe who seemingly want to make everyone in this universe two-dimensional as well. They look like zombies, they glitch through dimensions as they move about, they kill people in what looks like an agonizing way, and I hate them so, SO much.

2. “Blink” (2007)

The Weeping Angels in Doctor Who's "Blink" (BBC)
(BBC)

This is it … the episode that introduced the infamous Weeping Angels to the world. (And features a pre-fame Carey Mulligan as main character Sally Sparrow!) The Angels look like ordinary if slightly creepy statues, but the minute someone isn’t looking at them, they attack. I still very clearly remember the jump-scare where we see the real, vicious stone face of the Weeping Angel and I let out a slightly bloodcurdling scream. Embarrassing, but true.

The Doctor politely reminds us at the end of the episode that statues are damn near everywhere, so we all need to be constantly on our guard. Don’t blink!

1. “Midnight” (2008)

Colin Morgan as Jethro in Doctor Who's "Midnight" (BBC)
(BBC)

All these episodes have presented us with a monster, but “Midnight” suggests: What if the real monster is ordinary people? Yes, it’s a cliché, but oh man does “Midnight” do it well. In this chilling tale, the Doctor boards a shuttle tour on the planet Midnight, but the shuttle breaks down and strands the passengers with … something … that takes control of one of them. We never learn what the something is, and that’s just one of the things that makes “Midnight” a masterpiece. Watch it with the lights on, though.

(featured image: BBC)


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Author
Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.