Thursday, August 25, 2011

The five scariest Doctor Who baddies (and no, the Daleks aren't included)

Doctor Who returns this Saturday for the second half of its sixth season, and I really couldn't be more excited. One of the reasons I'm so excited is that the fantastic trailer promises the return of two of my favorite Who villains, the Weeping Angels and the recently introduced Silence. So, in honor of the series' return, take a look at this list of the five scariest villains to grace Doctor Who's screens in the rebooted series. And no, this list won't contain any Daleks or Cybermen; I have to agree with Steven Moffat when he says that the Daleks have become "the most reliably defeatable enemies in the universe."

5. The mysterious presence
As seen in: "Midnight"

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"Midnight" is a classic bottle episode of Doctor Who. This follow-up to the large-scale two-parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" has a premise as simple as it is terrifying: the Doctor, along with other assorted vacationers, is taking a trip to see a sapphire waterfall on a diamond planet called Midnight when their vehicle breaks down and a mysterious presence takes over the mind of one of the passengers. They can't leave, because the sunlight on Midnight is so strong it would take them out in seconds and because the planet has no air. The Doctor is left trying to figure out why previously normal passenger Sky is suddenly repeating everything he says as he tries to mediate between the passengers who want to throw her to her death and those who don't. When Sky begins speaking the Doctor's words before he can, the hero suddenly becomes the object of fear. The baddie in "Midnight" doesn't even have a name, which makes the chaos it sows on the ship all the more frightening.

4. The Family
As seen in: "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood"

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I may have mentioned before how much I absolutely love these two episodes of Doctor Who for the way the story delves into the meaning of humanity, the importance of love, and the burdens of being the Doctor. One thing I generally leave out, however, is the villainous Family of Blood who instigate the entire plot by chasing the Doctor until he is forced to disguise himself as human. The Family are a terrifying, bloodthirsty pack of hunters whose menace lies in their cold implacability; the Doctor knows that they will never, ever stop hunting him. The fact that one of the Family, Sister, takes over the body of an innocent girl with a balloon adds to the menace by playing on fears of evil children that can be seen in so many horror movies. The real reason the Family is so frightening, however, is their effect on the Doctor. He disguises himself not because he is afraid they will kill him, but because of the rage and terror that underlies his ultimate punishment of these hunters. Any villain who can turn the peaceful Doctor into a vengeful god is a force to be reckoned with.

3. The Master
As seen in: "Utopia"/"The Sound of Drums"/"Last of the Time Lords" and "The End of Time"

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The Master is one of the few original Doctor Who villains to appear in the rebooted series, and he's the only one who actually stays menacing this time around. Much of the credit goes to John Simm, who plays the Master as a deranged god, an all-powerful Time Lord whose mind has been twisted to the point of insanity. His name says it all; he wants to control the world, the universe, time itself. We find out during "The End of Time" that the Master's madness is the result of the other Time Lords manipulation, but his ultimate redemption doesn't make his unhinged brutality any less unsettling. Just look at the way his wife, Lucy Saxon, cowers blank-eyed before him in "Last of the Time Lords," fresh bruises adorning her face, and try to question the terror the man inspires.

2. The Weeping Angels
As seen in: "Blink" and "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone"

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"Blink," the first Doctor Who episode to feature the Weeping Angels, is a magnificent piece of suspense filmmaking. When I went to the Home Depot several days after watching it and saw some angel-shaped figurines in the garden section, I stared at those things so long without blinking that I thought my eyeballs would dry up and fall out of my head. That's the thing that's so scary about the Angels; the only way to keep them away from you is to ignore all your natural instincts and physiological responses and stare at the thing you fear for as long as you can. The Angels are terrifying precisely because you can't run from them. You have to have a staring contest with your fear, with little chance of winning, and what could be scarier than that?

1. The Silence
As seen in: "The Impossible Astronaut"/"The Day of the Moon"

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There is something scarier than having to stare, unblinking, at what you fear most, and that's being unable to remember what it is that you're so afraid of. The reason the Silence are, to me, the scariest villains in Who history, despite being the newest, is the knowledge that they are everywhere and you will never know, because even if you discover their existence you'll forget within seconds. If I see the Master or a Weeping Angel or the Family, I know to run, or to stay and fight. If I see the Silence, however, I will immediately forget about their existence. The thing that is so absolutely, oppressively frightening about these creatures is the idea that they are controlling every facet of your life and your world, and that there is no way you will ever stop them, because you won't even know what they're doing. And that is the one thing that is scarier than the Weeping Angels.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a new to Who and just finished season 3 AND TOTALLY TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU about the weeping angels [incidentally, "Blink" and "Love and Monsters" are among my favorite episodes even though both don't center on dreamy Tennant]. The family is also freaking terrifying, especially the "son" with his lopsided empty smile. **shudders**