All Hallows Eve is nearly upon us once more and what better way to spend an evening in with the Jack-O’-Lanterns burning and the howl of wolves in the distance than some creepy Who. In no particular order, continue on, if you dare…
Kicking off the list is a creepy one from the 10th Doctor era and one that shows off a great range from Tennant. What starts out as an excursion on the planet Midnight soon turns into a psychological assault on the Doctor and his fellow travellers. What makes this episode so creepy is the invisible nature of the alien. Sometimes it’s what you can’t see that’s scarier than what you can.
If this had an actor in a suit or a CG alien it would likely lose its intended effect. It’s down to the great performances of the actors that provide the real terror. Alongside Tennant doing an amazing job of showing off his acting chops with humour, fear, anger, disappointment etc the other actors start to come into their own, spiralling into paranoia and fear. Lesley Sharp, playing Sky Silvestry, is amazing and cast perfectly.
The other actors also have their own quirks and this comes out as we get deeper into the story. Their inner voice starts to get louder until they start to turn on each other despite the Doctor’s best efforts to keep everything in check.
I’m a big fan of Midnight due to its unseen terror and the story’s underpinning of how fragile humans can be when put under stress. It has a claustrophobic feel to it too as most of it is set within the small excursion shuttle which only adds to the impending horror.
2. The Brain of Morbius
In the classic era of Who there’s the odd story that draws inspiration from the old Hammer Horror series of films and the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era does it so well. Creepy old mansion/lab, thunder and lightning, Frankenstein-esque monster, demented assistant and (sort of) witches throw up all the ingredients for a corker of a spooky story.
These superficial elements would be lost without the performances as always. Alongside the amazing duo of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane, mad scientist Solon, played by Philip Madoc, is a real treat (no trick here). His obsessive drive to find the last suitable “piece” of the body for long thought-dead Time Lord tyrant Mobius is played out beautifully.
The grotesque looking creature that’s been constructed by Solon to house Morbius’s brain is quintessential classic Who and is front and centre as the weird yet frightening star of the show. Yet it’s the unhinged craziness of Solon and the manipulated mind of his claw-handed assistant Condo that provide the horror. After the Doctor’s arrival on Karn (amusingly at the handy work of the Time Lords causing The Doctor to have a bit of a strop) things go south rather quickly as Solon eyes up The Doctor’s head for use on the Morbius body.
Throw in the Sisterhood of Karn along with Sarah Jane going blind for a portion of the story and it adds up to a solid creepy story from arguably one of the most liked periods of classic Who.
3. The Waters of Mars
Another Tennent story, I know. This has one of the scariest looking characters though and one that always has the kids (inexcusable pun incoming) running behind the sofa. Tennant was coming to the end of his era and it was when he had a little bit of the hump, forcefully changing history and adamant on saving everyone, regardless of repercussions. Declaring himself “Time Lord Victorious” and vowing to save everyone shows an intensity that was a theme for The Doctor leading up to this point.
Onto the scary stuff, a human colony on Mars has been working peacefully until The Flood (was Russell playing Halo at the time?) starts to infect people via the water supply. Then it’s your typical base-under-siege thing with The Doctor working alongside the colonists to escape.
The make-up effects of the infected humans are truly disturbing. We’re talking horror film type effects that just look damn creepy. Possessed eyes, cracked skin, water pouring out. Definitely one to be careful of with the very young Who fans.
Along with the onslaught of The Flood and the heroics of The Doctor, this story has a darker undertone as we approach the end of Tennent’s era with the whole Time Lord Victorious thing and the last five minutes is amazing. One to throw on at Halloween but you’ll likely find yourself wanting to go on and finish Tennent’s run too.
4. The Dæmons
We’re off to the charming village of Devil’s End for some truly demonic stuff here as The Master is up to no good. The opening is a belter: a dark and stormy night in the village and one of the locals is heading home with his dog when it runs off into the graveyard and inexplicably it drops down. Creepy vibes from the get-go.
This Third Doctor outing attributes its horror feel to one of the few stories in all of Who where the lines of science and magic are blurred somewhat. Black, dark magic at that (I said that in my Hagrid voice, by the way, makes it sound much better, anyway). Of course, we all really know that Azal, a being that mankind has confused at times with Satan, is in fact an alien that can wield matter-energy conversion technology which, again, people confuse with dark magic.
It’s that black magic overlay onto the alien/science thing that makes this story scary. On the surface, the nice-looking village (my co-host did an awesome location video for Devil’s End at Aldbourne in Wiltshire) is actually masking the cult and dark goings-on. Jon Pertwee shines as always as The Doctor and soon dives into The Master’s plan and while the ending is a little anti-climatic, the serial as a whole is a classic, in many respects.
Also, it serves up one of the Brigg’s best lines as he eyes up Bok the cheeky gargoyle…
Chap with wings, there: five rounds rapid!”The Brigadier in The Dæmons
5. The Empty Child
“Are you my mummy?” We all know the incredibly creepy child wandering the streets of 1940s London during the blitz, terrorising a group of homeless children. When I first watched this story I crapped myself more than once when that child’s voice came through my TV’s speakers.
I reference part one solely as while part two “The Doctor Dances” does have its share of scary moments, it’s part one that feels the creepiest. Apart from Jamie, the “empty” child knocking about, that has the obvious scare factor there’s also the suspenseful moments in between. The homeless children ducking in and out of peoples houses while they’re in the air raid shelters and wondering the deserted London streets, all the while waiting for those words to be uttered.
Let us also not forget the horrific scene as Dr Constantine morphs into one of the gas mask children as The Doctor watches on in amazement. While we’re at it, the parts of the story that take place at the hospital are also creepy and full of suspense. The other children all laying there motionless until disturbed by Dr Constantine is another scary moment.
The story as a whole across the two parts is awesome and another reason why the Ninth Doctor’s first and only series is so good, even today. It’s the first part though that serves up the scares and while it might not have the jump scares from “Blink” or the terror-inducing classic horror feel of “Terror of the Autons” it still has one the creepiest vibes from any modern Who story.
Honourable mention – Hide
This list wouldn’t be complete without a typical haunted house story to watch on Halloween now would it? This Eleventh Doctor story sees The Doctor and Clara investigate the supposedly haunted walls of Caliburn House, set out in a desolate moor. They meet up with ghost-hunter Professor Alec Palmer and his physic apprentice Emma Grayling who are searching for The Witch of the Well, an apparition spotted many times at the house.
This has all the makings of a good old haunted house story and the first half at least plays up to the horror vibe nicely: spooky sounds, creaking in the walls, photographic evidence which gives everyone the creeps and traversing the corridors by candlelight.
It’s the performances from Jenna-Louise Coleman and Matt Smith that heighten the scare level. Clara is convinced there’s no such thing as ghosts and while she believes the Doctor initially, she starts to question that as they investigate further.
As with a lot of Who stories it turns out to be nothing to do with ghosts at all but the build-up and spooky nature of the setting along with the cast doing a decent job of acting scared provide a decent Halloween watch. Perhaps the most horrifying element of the story is Matt Smith pronouncing Metebelis III as “me-tebb-e-liss three” instead of “meta-bee-liss three” but we won’t hold that against him.
So there you go witches and warlocks, some scary Doctor Who to get stuck into on Halloween. There’s a bunch of other creepy stories throughout Who so let us know what else gives you the willies.