Although British sci-fi TV series Doctor Who has been popular in its native country for many years, and it has been sold abroad since the 1960s, in the last few years it has truly become a global phenomenon. The Doctor and his trusty TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space for those who don’t know) can be seen whooshing around the universe in over 50 countries worldwide. Spectacular storylines, great actors and terrifying monsters help to keep Doctor Who fans, or Whovians, if you will, glued to their television sets… Or at least peeking from behind the couch!
Since its premier in 1963 a collection of twelve fine thespians have played the idiosyncratic doctor in the main TV series, with a whole host of other names playing the Gallifreyan Time Lord in other media – such as Star Wars villain and Hammer Films regular Peter Cushing taking up the mantle in two Doctor Who films in the 1960s. The weird and wonderful plots have attracted an astonishing list of celebrity Whovians: Queen Elizabeth II, Tom Hanks, Joss Whedon, Steven Spielberg and even Mike Tyson are fans of the show!
Popular elements of the show include humorous dialogue, intriguing adventures, great sci-fi technology – who wouldn’t want a sonic screwdriver? – and, of course, the eclectic and amazing variety of surly villains the Doctor constantly has to deal with. For the purpose of this list, many opinion polls were scrutinized, compared, and contrasted to compile the Ultimate list of Doctor Who’s greatest enemies, be they individuals or whole alien races. Just missing out on a top spot were the wig-wearing Clockwork Droids from 2006 and the slightly mollusk-esque Ood (who were only enemies when possessed by the malevolent Beast), also from 2006. Whilst the Time Lord Rani (a “Time Lady”) also scored well on the most-hated / greatest list, she just missed out on the top 10.
So who are the greatest Doctor Who enemies of all time? Grab your sonic screwdriver, wrap a ridiculously long scarf around your neck and be prepared to leap from behind the couch as we present to you the definitive top ten most evil, most wonderful monsters and villains determined to exhaust the Doctor’s supply of regenerations.
10. Sontarans: Threatening Doctor Who since 1973
A very hostile race of clones from the planet Sontar, the Sontarans could give the Klingons from the Star Trek universe a run for their money in the race for being the most warlike extraterrestrials. With heads that originally looked suspiciously like large rotten potatoes (in all fairness, special effects in the 1970s involved a lot of rubber and anything silver-colored), the Sontarans have been upgraded for the 21st Century and looked positively intimidating in the 2008 episode “The Sontaran Stratagem.”
9. Autons: Bothering the Doctor since 1970
Autons may not be particularly terrifying – they do have knack of looking like angry mannequins – but there is something distinctly unnerving about them. Because of their humanoid features, it is arguable that they evoke a sort of “Uncanny Valley” reaction, a concept which suggests that humans are repulsed by things that are not human by definition but bear human-like characteristics. However, it would be foolish for the Doctor not to take their threat seriously; they have the ability to kill thanks to hands that turn into weapons.
8. Ice Warriors: Haranguing Time Lords since 1967
Another classic nemesis of the Doctor is the Ice Warrior race from Earth’s neighbor, Mars. These crocodilian offshoots dress up in armor and helmets, which is fortunate, as they are pretty ugly beasts – as proven when the Ice Warrior Grand Marshall Skaldak showed off his gruesome visage in the 2013 episode “Cold War.” They haven’t always been villains – they’ve even helped out the Doctor on occasion – but given the chance they would conquer the Earth without a second’s hesitation.
7. Zygons: Fooling Gallifreyans since 1975
Luckily for Zygons they have the ability to shape-shift, as they are hideous in their natural forms. Covered in what look like tube feet, the Zygons are a malicious bunch of aliens who, naturally, want to conquer the Earth. They tried to do this by enlisting the help of none other than the Loch Ness Monster, but they were foiled by the Fourth Doctor (played by Tom Baker). The Zygons returned to cause trouble in 2013, but were once again defeated by Time Lords, including the mysterious War Doctor portrayed by John Hurt.
6. Silurians: Menacing the Doctor since 1970
The Silurians are a grumpy reptilian bunch who don’t like being woken from hibernation early. They have amphibious relatives in the guise of the Sea Devils (yet another race that like to give the Doctor a hard time). The Silurians are not actually an alien race; Earth is their home planet and they were enjoying life on the marble before humans started evolving and spoiling all the fun. Silurians are a conspiracy theorist’s favorite Doctor Who nemesis, as evidence of a reptilian life-form that secretly governs the world.
5. The Silence: Baffling Doctors since 2011
The Silence are an interesting bunch; they rely on psychological tricks rather than giant spaceships or eviscerating death-rays. Looking like a prop from The X-Files, the Silence are suited beings that have a deliberate look reminiscent of the famous Edvard Munch masterpiece, The Scream. They are an example of the show’s ever-evolving nature, incorporating psychological terror and an inhuman appearance. Once you see them, you’ll never forget them… Unless you’re a character in the show in which case you will instantly forget them, such are their befuddling mind tricks.
4. Cybermen: Forcing Regenerations since 1966
One of the oldest adversaries on this list are the Cybermen, who have often confronted various incarnations of the Doctor. It was these brutal cyborgs that forced the First Doctor (played by William Hartnell) to regenerate after he became exhausted dealing with their shenanigans in the episode “The Tenth Planet” (1966). Cybermen are very hard-wearing, but curiously enough, they are not keen on being shot at with gold arrows. Constantly trying to conquer the Earth, they are even willing on occasion to take on the belligerents that top this list…
3. The Master: Murdering Time Lords since 1971
Like the Cybermen, this evil Time Lord also had a hand in making the poor old Doctor use up one of his regenerations, which occurred in the 1981 episode “Logopolis.” The Master is an archetypical bad guy: often bearing the villainous facial hair, evil laugh, sinister smiles and the kind of wardrobe a mortician would be proud of. Like many of his mischievous peers, the Master is only interested in universal domination, something the Doctor is not too keen on allowing. In many ways, the Master is a superior being to the Doctor, but his penchant for psychopathic plans frequently trips him up in his quest for absolute rule.
2. Weeping Angels: Scaring Everyone since 2007
It would take a formidable enemy to push the Master down into second place, but the Weeping Angels are one of the greatest creations in the show’s decades of existence. Coming in the form of serene stone angel statues, these ancient beings are hungry for energy. As soon as a potential victim moves into position, these monsters will pounce, transforming into hideous creatures with wicked fangs and claws. Covering their eyes with their hands (“weeping”) to prevent being quantum-locked, or frozen into stone form, these merciless predators are number one on many Doctor Who monster/villain lists, but for this Ultimate list, there could only ever be one winner…
1. Daleks: Exterminating Opponents since 1963
Even those of you who don’t know a thing about the Doctor will be familiar with that robotic voice enunciating the sinister word – ‘Ex-ter-min-ate’. The origin of that particular cliche can, in fact, be traced right back to the iconic Daleks.
Created by a former resident of Skaro, Davros the mad scientist, Daleks are a mutant species made up of organic Kaleds and a robot shell that looks suspiciously similar to a salt shaker. Daleks are the ultimate enemy of – well, just about everyone. They come in a variety of colors: red, blue, yellow, orange, white and even a combination of red and gold for the Supreme Dalek. Daleks love to exterminate things, especially gallivanting Time Lords. The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) had to regenerate after dealing with these mechanical maniacs in the 2013 episode, “The Time of the Doctor.” What about those who scoff about escaping from the Daleks by running upstairs? Well, apart from the fact that the Daleks could just use their weapons to “exterminate” the building, they can actually fly.