Whether it’s set in the past, present, or future, if there’s one common trend that applies to all episodes of Doctor Who it’s that they invariably live or die on the quality of their monsters. The revived show has given us some of the very best baddies both old and new, be it the triumphant return of the Daleks and the Cybermen or the wonderfully original Weeping Angels – but it’s also given us a few new foes we’d rather forget. Angry scribble monsters from Fear Her, anyone…?
Fortunately, Series 9 did particularly well in its choice and use of monsters. Even when the plot of the episodes (or, indeed, the actual characterisation of the monster themselves) was a little lacking, they generally all excelled in the design department, making for some memorable new additions to the Doctor Who pantheon of pains. From the sleepy Sandmen in Sleep No More to Leandro the lion man from The Woman Who Lived, the 2015 season had a little bit of something for everyone.
The question is though – which monsters were the most menacing? Who was the baddest of the bad, the best of the worst? It’s time to find out, as we count down our top five…!
5. The Fisher King
The antagonist from Toby Whithouse’s Under The Lake/Before The Flood is the very epitome of style over substance, but the Fisher King just looks so darn impressive it was impossible to exclude him. A huge towering hulk of a creature with a spooky skeletal appearance and a deafeningly demonic voice, it’s arguably the finest looking monster that the costume designers put together for Peter Capaldi’s second series. His face-off with The Doctor was a terrifically tense exchange, and the only reason he’s not higher on the list is because his evil scheme was a little bit… bewildering, shall we say? It’s a crying shame that he didn’t get used to his fullest potential and that, in the end, he was quite literally swept away so easily. Fingers crossed he washes up on a faraway beach, ready to return and fight another day…
4. The Quantum Shade
Up next, haunting the dreams of Clara Oswald fans all across the Whoniverse, is the dreaded Raven itself. Funnily enough, The Doctor doesn’t actually have a lot of interaction with the flying death-bringer, and in truth it’s not an inherently evil creature – it’s just helping to uphold the peace on Trap Street by preying on the souls of criminals. The reason it makes the list, though, is because of the sheer inevitability of its preferred hunting method. No matter where you run in all of time and space, it will find you, and it will get you. You can pass on the sentence, but you can’t escape it entirely – a fact that Clara learns the hard way. While it’s by no means the focal point of Face The Raven, the Quantum Shade will go down in history as the monster responsible for (sort of) ending Jenna Coleman’s time in the TARDIS, diving headlong into Clara’s chest and expelling her soul after a terrible error of judgement leaves her at its mythical mercy. Ouch.
The daddy of the Daleks made a surprise reappearance in Series 9’s opening two-parter, and while at first it seemed he would be the one under threat from sinister forces, it soon became clear that Skaro’s most notorious scientist was still up to the same old evil tricks. But while he’s as devious as ever, seemingly luring The Doctor into giving up his own regeneration energy, it’s actually Davros’ deeper characterisation in The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar that propels him into the top three. In the past, Davros has been portrayed as a supreme leader and the closest thing we’ve seen to a Doctor Who supervillain, but here we’re presented with a fragile, vulnerable man struggling on his deathbed. Confined to his sick room, he’s a weak and frail opponent – his plea for forgiveness with tears streaming down his face will have you genuinely thinking that he’s changed his dastardly ways… which only goes to prove just how brilliant a baddie Davros really is. The Fisher King may have size and the Quantum Shade may have force, but only Davros can compete with The Doctor on the intellectual battlefield. Who knows how he’ll escape the sewer-ridden Dalek city, but we can’t wait to see him back to meddle in the Time Lord’s affairs once more.
2. The Zygons
Following their big comeback in The Day of The Doctor, this rag-tag bunch of rubbery shape-shifters decided to take a year off in 2014 – but last year they were back with an even bigger bang, fed up of their new co-existence with the human race and ready to unleash war upon the world. The Zygons may have already been a fan favourite from the classic series, but Peter Harness’ political two-parter cemented them as one of the all-time Doctor Who greats (which isn’t bad, when you consider this is only their third televised story!). Resembling contemporary terrorist organisations, combined with their trademark brand of sinister shape-shifting, the Zygons were undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with – who can you trust and who do you fight when everyone, even your nearest and dearest, could be an alien in disguise? Jenna Coleman’s shock dual performance as Zygon leader Bonnie was one of the absolute highlights from the 2015 series, providing an unseen menace that proved the perfect foil to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. It all culminated in an unforgettable climax that held up the plight of the Zygons as a mirror image to our own world – a clever use of their character that deserves to be applauded.
1. The Veil
Clearly, Davros and the Zygons show that the returning villains were used to great effect in Series 9, but the one monster that sticks out as the scariest of them all is an entirely unique creation. Appearing appropriately enough in the series’ standout story, Heaven Sent, the Veil doesn’t have a lot going for it on paper: it’s incredibly slow, it can’t speak, and it has a serious odour problem. But that’s exactly what makes it work – endlessly hunting down The Doctor in the clockwork castle, it’s a haunting and unpleasant figure that represents the inescapable threat of impending doom, always there and always approaching. Taking the “mystery monster under a blanket” blueprint first seen in Series 8’s Listen and giving it a tangible, physical form, this vision from The Doctor’s nightmares has a simple yet effective design – but one of the main reasons why it takes the number one spot is because, unlike the vast majority of other Doctor Who villains, it actually manages to succeed in defeating the rebel Time Lord. And it doesn’t even just manage it once – it manages it billions upon billions of times, smiting The Doctor down time after time as he pounds away at the hard diamond wall. While it doesn’t have the lasting impact of other new monsters like the Weeping Angels or the Silence (in fact, it’s probably highly unlikely we’ll ever see the Veil again), it was a great one-off baddie that served as a major cog in the machine that made Heaven Sent so special.