Whether it’s set in the past, present, or future, there’s one common trend with Doctor Who episodes: they tend to 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). We’ve seen the triumphant return of the Daleks and the Cybermen, as well as the introduction of new favourites like the 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 10 was no slouch in its choice of monsters. From classic revivals to original concepts, there’s been a healthy mix of old and new on our screens in the past few months. But the question is: which monsters were the most menacing? Who was the baddest of the bad, the best of the worst? It’s time to count down our top five…
5. The Monks
We feel almost obligated to put the Monks on this list, as they play such a big role in Series 10. They’re the villains for not one, not two, but three consecutive episodes! No other baddie in modern Doctor Who has had such a privilege, unless you count The Master in Utopia and the Series 3 finale. It’s a shame then that the Monks only come in at number five. For all their overwhelming presence, they don’t actually make much of a lasting impact.
In Extremis they’re presented as shadowy figures playing a shadowy game. They’ve reconstructed the Earth in digital form to practise conquering it, time and time again. Arguably, this is the best stage of their plan. They return in The Pyramid at the End of the World, but before they do anything they want humanity’s consent. Eventually they’re given it by Bill, in return for restoring The Doctor’s eyesight. Finally, they’re at the height of their powers in The Lie of the Land. History is rewritten in their image and the world is forced to believe their truth. Ultimately though, they’re defeated by the memory of Bill’s mum and they run away scared. We never really know what they want, where they come from, or who they are. All we know is these crusty creatures weren’t quite as scary as first thought.
4. Ice Warriors
These “upright crocodiles” return for their second new Who outing in Empress of Mars, following 2013’s Cold War. Once again penned by Mark Gatiss, this time there’s a whole new twist on the Martian marauders. After a lone soldier dubbed ‘Friday’ lures an army of Victorians into waking up his hive, all hell breaks loose. Whereas we only had one Ice Warrior before, this year we got loads of them, to varying degrees of familiarity.
Chief among them though (literally) was Iraxxa, the newly introduced Ice Queen. This is the first time we’ve ever seen a female Ice Warrior, let alone one in charge, so it’s a momentous occasion. Iraxxa boasts a great new design that retains the iconic look while being wholly original. She’s also able to wage war using a never-before-seen method of killing. Rather than just blast her enemies dead, she prefers to scrunch them up into human-sized bouncy balls. It’s certainly different, we’ll give it that.
We’d have liked to have seen more of the Warriors in action, and there’s clearly still a lot more potential for them in the future. But they more than made their presence felt in Empress of Mars, and the Victorians were lucky to escape with their lives. Well, some of them were, anyway.
Talk about bad language, as well as pleasant surprises! The Emojibots – which aren’t actually called that, but they’re never given a proper name – sparked controversy before even appearing on screen. Emoji, in my Doctor Who?! It did seem a little like the show was trying too hard to be modern and down with the kids. You’ve only got to look at the upcoming The Emoji Movie to understand the concerns. But thankfully, these picture-popping robots aren’t as bad as they seem. In fact, they left us grinning from ear to ear.
Serving as the interface for the Vardy microbots that made up the colony in Smile, they’re the future of human language. Linguistically speaking, it makes sense that simple communication might be told through images and emotions. It’s not even that hard to imagine it becoming a reality, at some point in the not-so-distant future. Plus, it fits nicely in with Bill’s ever-developing character. She’s a young and quirky girl from the 21st Century world. Her first reaction to the alien planet is to take a selfie. Of course she’s going to love emoji too!
But these bots have a defect. They interpret grief as displeasure, and they brutally murder anything they deem to be unhappy. Their pristine design gives them an eerie innocence, so unassuming and yet so dangerous. You’ve got to stay happy, however difficult it is, in order to keep them happy. As for the people they kill, at least their bones get recycled and put to good use. Ew. They’re ultimately beaten by turning them off and on again, but they get a fat paycheque out of it too – so win-win all round, really? That’s definitely something for them to smile about.
2. The Master
Interpret this one how you will. While The Master arguably isn’t a ‘monster’ in the typical sense of the word, he certainly acts like one in this year’s finale. And by all means, the ‘he’ there is open to interpretation too. Are we talking about The Master, Missy, or both? You decide!
Okay, admittedly we’re leaning more towards John Simm’s Saxon Master than Michelle Gomez’s Mistress on this occasion. Not only does he get to play the deliciously deceptive Mr Razor, he’s clearly the brute of the bunch. He’s the one who lures Bill to her untimely fate in the conversion chamber. He’s the one who’s kick-started the genesis of the Cybermen. And he’s the one who’s determined not to stand with The Doctor. “This is the face that didn’t listen to a single word you just said”. Ouch.
That’s not to say Missy’s without her moments too, though. She happily gives The Doctor a good whack round the head with her sonic umbrella, and even goes as far as to stab her former self in the back. But it’s clear her time in the Vault has had an influence, and she’s not quite the evil presence she was in Series 8 and 9. But, put together, The Masters are definitely a force you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. They’re both mad and both brilliant in their own masterful ways.
1. Mondasian Cybermen
The Series 10 finale saw the triumphant return of the Cybermen – the originals, you might say!
We’ve seen these metal monsters in a couple of forms since the show returned in 2005. We’ve had the parallel Cybus Cybermen from Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel onwards. We also had a more Iron Man-esque redesign in Neil Gaiman’s Nightmare in Silver. While both of those variations return for the big finish in The Doctor Falls, it’s the mighty Mondasians that take the top spot on our list. They’ve been off our screens for over 50 years, but they’re finally back, better than ever.
What makes the Mondasians stand tall against their modern brethren is the sheer body horror involved in their conversion. At first glance, yes, they look like rubbish DIY cloth-faced robots. And while that’s exactly what they are, that’s also precisely the point – and it’s horrifying. These are not technical marvels, these are haphazard efforts to keep the ailing population of Mondas alive. They must upgrade to survive. One patient screams out “pain… pain… pain…” while another begs for someone to kill them. The entire hospital sequence in World Enough and Time is gruesome, unnerving stuff, and it’s easily one of the best moments from Series 10. And that’s without even mentioning that poor Bill is turned into one of them!
The Mondasian Cybermen also claim the top spot because, of course, they are the ones to sound the death-knell for The Twelfth Doctor. In The Doctor Falls, a single Mondasian shoots Capaldi in the back in the middle of a forest. The Doctor tries to give a final speech, but the Cyberman is having none of it. “Doctors are not required!” it proclaims, blasting the Time Lord some more with its headlamp laser. Savage.