Hello there dear reader, and welcome to the Top 5 Scary New-Who Episodes. This list is based purely on opinion and how much these episodes scared me within an inch of regeneration. Beware that if you aren’t caught up with all of New-Who that this list will contain mild spoilers.
For me, there’s something really unnerving and under rated about this episode. Even though theres no ‘monster’ seen, this episode still creeps me out a bit. This episode, from Series 4 and featuring David Tennant as the Doctor is some of Russell T Davies’ most atmospheric work in my opinion. It’s almost like Davies has used the Moffat trick for making something unnerving. Find something that typically kids do, such as play grandmas footsteps, and add a sci-fi twist… let it simmer and voila! You’ve made the Weeping Angels. For me though, there’s something about the relentless copying that the Midnight Entity plays with that is rather unsettling on a psychological level. Add in a very small, isolated place and a stellar cast, and you have a great scary episode.
It’s exceptionally rare that Doctor Who does a story set in real time. It’s even rarer that that story will feature a threat as big as a dilapidated space station hurtling towards the sun. And then there’s mysterious murders picking off the crew one by one. The thing that makes this episode so scary for me though, has to be seeing David Tennant in absolute agony, whilst his companion Martha, seems absolutely helpless and ringing her mum back on Earth to help with a pub quiz security system. The fact that from the second the episode airs, that everyone involved is against the clock with a rather minuscule amount of time is unsettling. And I have to say that Tennant’s performance in this whilst he’s possessed by the Sun Creatures is absolutely terrific. If there’s one thing that unnerves me in Doctor Who, it’s seeing the Doctor powerless and unable to help.
Another episode that is extremely psychological, this episode gave me goosebumps for two reasons. The first is that this is the first time we see the Twelfth Doctor properly unhinged and scared, the second is that it’s true that I’ve had that dream too. As you can probably tell by the other entries in this list, I’m not one that’s easily scared by gore or death or grotesqueness. For me, the horror has to come from something that’s either unseeable (which is not the same as invisible) or seeing something unknown manipulate people beyond their control. The idea that something or someone can take away free will absolutely terrifies me. It’s not just the fact that we never see the monster that’s under Rupert’s bed that makes this episode one of the scary ones, it’s the fact that we, along with the Doctor, actually have to doubt if there actually is a threat.
2) The Waters of Mars
Alright, before you tell me I’m a hypocrite because I just said I’m not scared by grotesqueness, I think you’ll find I said I’m not easily scared by it. Which is why The Waters Of Mars is so high on this list. I remember just before this episode came out, the press were in a frenzy, saying that this was one of the scariest episodes of Doctor Who ever. Something you hear every so often when you’re part of the Whovian fandom, but from what I’d seen of the promotional material, I actually thought they could be right. Don’t get me wrong, The Flood are absolutely incredible, both as a concept and aesthetically; but that wasn’t what scared 13 year old Daniel (wow, this episode is 6 years old), what scared me the most was the Time Lord Victorious. A Doctor who thought he could go against the laws of time and have no consequence. When you grow up watching a show and you become emotionally invested in and look up to a character, when they do something out of character, with no regard for others and is completely selfish, that makes you see them differently. And for me, seeing the Doctor inevitably drive Adelaide to suicide is something that shook me to the core.
1) The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances
Let’s start with a disclaimer; this episode is now over ten years old, when I first saw it I had just turned 9. I used to frequent the BBC Doctor Who site every week on a Wednesday, as that’s when they’d update the site to promote the following Saturday’s episode. The image they used all those years ago still haunts me occasionally and can also be seen here. I didn’t want to sleep tonight anyway. This is Steven Moffat at his absolute best. Not only does he make World War II and gas masks even more terrifying than they previously were, but he placed four words into every child’s subconscious for years to come.
“Are you my Mummy?”
If you’re not slightly spooked by seeing those words, there’s something wrong with you. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what makes this two-parter so bloodcurdlingly so sinister as there’s a lot of contributing factors. First there’s the boy who’s so desperate to find his ‘Mummy’. As a child you realise there’s nothing scarier than being separated from a family member. Never mind if it’s during the Blitz. Then there’s the look of the gas mask zombies. Then there’s Doctor Constantine’s transformation. Then there’s the cliffhanger. Then there’s the week you have stewing over how the hell the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack are going to get out of it. Then there’s another 45 minutes!
I admit that the resolution is very sweet and, for Doctor Who, rather well… nice. There’s no deaths, everyone goes back to normal and the little boy finds his mummy. But still, as anyone who is of my generation will tell you, every time you see a gas mask, you’re haunted with that innocent voice asking you the same question over and over.