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Doctor Who villains, ranked

Best Doctor Who Villains: the Daleks and Jon Pertwee
(Image credit: BBC)

We've put together our list of the best Doctor Who villains. From malevolent machines to sentient plastic, these are the Doctor's most iconic foes ranked from worst to best.

It has been 58 years since William Hartnell thrummed onto our screens in a blue box, and Doctor Who has since become a world-recognized icon of British culture. 

Since then we've had a staggering 862 episodes of Doctor Who, with 14 different Doctors, a menagerie of assistants, and one big blue box. But today we're not here to talk about the heroes. Every hero needs their villain, and The Doctor has had more than their fair share of them over the years.

Every iteration of the Doctor has fought monsters and villains throughout space and time, so here our rundown of the most memorable, vicious, evil, or just plain scary villains seen throughout the show's run. These are the best Doctor Who villains of all time (and space). It's not an exhaustive list, because the Doctor has so many enemies, but this is out top eleven favorite baddies from across the Whoniverse.

If our rogues gallery of villains isn't your scene, we've also got our guide to the Doctor Who Doctors, ranked (opens in new tab) and Doctor Who companions, ranked (opens in new tab) stashed in the TARDIS somewhere. We've also thrown out some bold suggestions for who should be the next Doctor Who, once Jodi Whittaker finishes her final season next year.


11. The Autons

Best Doctor Who Villains: the Autons

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "Spearhead from Space" (Season 7, Episode 1)
  • First broadcast: Jan 3, 1970

The first villains to be presented in colour, The Autons were created to face John Pertwee in 1970s `Spearheads From Space’.

The Autons are life-size plastic dummies that are controlled by the Nestene Consciousness, and in the 2005 episode “Rose” the titular companion Rose Tyler faced The Autons who were cleverly concealed as shop window dummies. While the concept sounds a little goofy (and Mickey getting eaten by a bin was definitely goofy), the Autons are pretty terrifying when they get going.

They aren’t all bad though. Doctor 11's companion Rory spent 1894 years as an Auton clone of himself, protecting the Pandorica.


10. Ood

Ood

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "The Impossible Planet" (Season 2, Episode 8)
  • First broadcast: June 3 2006

One of the more naturally peaceful villains in this list, the Ood are instantly recognizable for their squid-like features. The Ood are also telepathic and communicate through a hand-held orb that's attached to them through their tentacles.

Despite their naturally peaceful way of living, the Ood are susceptible to being controlled and possessed by a more powerful telepathic being, which can lead to violence.

The Ood are an easily recognizable race in the Doctor Who universe, especially to younger viewers and with multiple appearances since their debut in 2006, are worthy of a spot on this list.


9. The Empty Child  

Best Doctor Who Villains: the Empty Child

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "The Empty Child" (Season 1, Episode 9)
  • First broadcast: May 21, 2005

This chilling villain is hardly a villain at all. The Empty child didn’t try to conquer the world, kill his enemies, or seize power in the universe - he just wanted to find his mommy. The Doctor and Rose land in London during the blitz, and find that it isn’t just the war terrorizing the city. Gas mask zombies fill a local hospital, and a child wanders the streets, turning others into the walking dead - and all the while asking "are you my mummy" in the creepiest voice you've ever heard.

The episode marks our introduction to a few key Doctor Who players, including Captain Jack Harkness, and future showrunner Stephen Moffat.


8. Torchwood 

Best Doctor Who: villains: Torchwood

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "Army of Ghosts" (Season 2, Episode 12)
  • First broadcast: July 1 2006

It's easy to forget that organization that spawned a whole new arm of the Doctor Who Universe started off as one of the Doctor’s greatest threats. Fought by tenth Doctor, David Tennant, and Rose Tyler, the Torchwood organization had been infiltrated by the Cybermen hoping to find their way out of the Void. 

Of course, nobody counted on a Dalek Void-ship, containing the cult of Skaro, crashing the party. Torchwood One in London fell along with the Daleks and Cybermen in the end, but Torchwood Three in Cardiff, Wales, became a firm ally under Captain Jack Harkness. 


7. Slitheen

Slitheen

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "Aliens of London" (Season 1, Episode 4)
  • First broadcast: April 16 2005

Perhaps not the most terrifying Villain in this list but certainly one of the most instantly reconizable to younger fans. These green killer aliens first appeared back in 2005 with the revival of the franchise and have made numerous appearances since.

The Slitheen are criminals on their home planet and trained killers. On Earth they would kill a human and use a compression device to shrink in order to disguise themselves in the bodies of their victims. Although one thing they couldn't disguise is the fact their eyelids blink sideways.

Although widely referred to as Slitheen, Raxacoricofallapatorian is actually the race these aliens belong to, Slitheen is the family name of the Aliens that came to earth.


6.  The Loch Ness Monster 

Best Doctor Who Villains: Loch Nes Monster

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "Terror of the Zygons" (Season 13, Episode 2)
  • First broadcast: August 30 1975

An iconic monster brought about by the shapeshifting aliens, the Zygons, the Loch Ness Monster is in fact an augmented cyborg sea monster! The creature, known as the Skarasen, reached giant proportions, and was meant to take over the Earth for the Zygons after they discovered their home planet had been destroyed. 

The fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), alongside fan favorites Sarah-Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen), and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) fought off the Zygon invasion, and saved the Earth.


5. Sontarans 

Best Doctor Who Villains: Sontarans

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "The Time Warrior" (Season 11, Episode 1)
  • First broadcast: December 15 1973

This race of warrior potatoes are a threat much bigger than their stature suggests. Round, brown, and great with butter, the Sontarans aren’t to be messed with. First appearing in 1973 against Doctor 3, Jon Pertwee, and Sarah-Jane Smith, the Sontarans have gone on to be a constant threat, and even a companion in Strax.  As the Doctor points out, they also have a fantastically thematic weakness, a port on the back of their armor that means they must always face their foes head on.

Fun fact - Linx, the first Sontaran we meet, is played by Kevin Lindsay. Lindsay pronounced the race as son-TAR-an on set, and despite director Alan Bromly correcting him to stress the SON, Lindsay simply said “since I'm from the place, I should know."


4. The Weeping Angels

The Weeping Angels

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "Blink" (Season 3, Episode 10).
  • First broadcast: June 9 2007

One of the most frightening Doctor Who villains on this list, at least for younger viewers, are the Weeping Angels. These menacing looking statue-like humanoids can kill people with a single touch and can only move when they're not being looked at, including when people blink. It's a horrifying play on the concept of quantum physics and observations (think Schrodinger's box, only it kills you, not the cat).

Mercifully, the angels would "kill" their victims by sending them back in time to live out their lives peacefully while being dead in the present day. The terrifying statues would then feed on the energy of their victims to keep themselves alive.

Appearing for the first time back in 2007 and returning a few times since, these frightening statues gave some younger Doctor Who fans a fright that wont soon be forgotten. We suspect the same can be said for a few adults too.


3. The Cybermen 

Best Doctor Who Villains: the Cybermen

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "The Tenth Planet" (Season 4, Serial 2)
  • First broadcast: October 8 1966

First introduced way back in 1966, they were a part of the First Doctor William Hartnell's final serial. Admittedly, they were made of a bit of tumble Dryer tubing stuck on a helmet, but they’ve become a hard hitting adversary over the years. The Cybermen seek to conquer the galaxy and "upgrade" all of its inhabitants, turning them into more soulless Cybermen. 

Trooping through universes, across the void, in and out of time, these classic villains have been steam powered, giants and arthropods, and yet never fully defeated. 


2. The Daleks  

Best Doctor Who Villains: the Daleks and Jon Pertwee

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "The Daleks" (Season 1, Serial 2)
  • First broadcast: December 21 1963

Of course, the Daleks are a perennial threat to our dual-hearted hero, and are the only villain so far to have faced every version of the Doctor. Their iconic screeching voice and plunger of death weapons have stood the test of time and made them into one of the most iconic alien races in sci-fi.

First appearing in 1963, writer Terry Nation portrayed the Daleks as a Nazi-like threat: violent, pitiless, and utterly merciless. Classic Daleks have found themselves stumbling over a simple set of stairs, but now they can levitate, devastate, and exterminate!


1. The Master

Best Doctor Who Villains: the Master

(Image credit: BBC)
  • First appearance: "Terror of the Autons" (Season 8, Serial 1)
  • First broadcast: January 2 1971

An old friend, and an old foe, The Master has faced the Doctor throughout several lifecycles. They have been reborn after seemingly dying for good (more than once) and changed far beyond the mustachioed origins of Roger Delgado, to the enigmatic psychopathy of Michelle Gomez. He (or she, depending on the regeneration) is very much the Moriarty to the Doctor's Sherlock Holmes. For all the horrific aliens and monsters that he faces, the Doctor's greatest foe will always be his twisted Time Lord counterpart.

Legendary actor Derek Jacobi even portrayed Professor Yana, The Master’s humanized personality, and the performance was as electric as the exposed cables with which he murdered Chantho. 


So those are our top picks for the best Doctor Who villains of all time, and all of them were defeated by nothing more than a sonic screwdriver, a sharp wit, and a plucky human sidekick. 

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Bobby is a Freelance Copywriter who has worked with Space.com, and its sister site, Top Ten Reviews. He’s been writing since his teens, and has worked for a number of media outlets, turning his talents to education, travel, fitness, retail, and more. Bobby loves to write fiction (Fantasy, Horror, and Cosmic Fiction), woodwork, and walk his Romanian rescue dog Garnet. You can often find him and Garnet walking across the Scottish wilds, or through the New Forest in the South of England.