Make Me Fear Extermination!
January 8, 2009 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me find some episodes of Doctor Who that 1) involve daleks and 2) are scary?

I'm just starting to get into Doctor Who. I've seen seasons 1 -3 of the new Doctor Who and am making it through season 4. I'm also catching up with older episodes through Netflix Watch Now. It's really good, and I'm really enjoying the show, but there's something I need. I need to find an episode where daleks are scary. (I've seen scary episodes. And I've seen daleks. But, so far, none of the episodes that I've seen have had daleks seem very frightening.)

So can you point me to some terrifying daleks? Or, if you're scratching your head wondering why the episodes I've seen with daleks haven't frightened me, can you at least point me to some more famous episodes featuring daleks in general?
posted by Ms. Saint to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One of the problems is that the daleks are inherently not scary. I mean, one of their weapons is a toilet plunger.

That said, they do play this overarching role as one of the top five Dr. Who bad guys. But that doesn't get you scary. What it does get you is maybe drama? One of my favorite Tom Baker espisodes actually centers around the origin of the daleks. You might say it's the Genesis of the Daleks.
posted by wfrgms at 9:21 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think they are only scary if you are an actor acting in the same room with them, otherwise, like wfrgms said, they are rolling garbage tins with plungers that yell at everybody.
posted by lee at 9:29 PM on January 8, 2009

Response by poster: Okay, if my question is just completely depends on a false premise, here's perhaps a better question: are any of the main Doctor Who bad guys very scary, and, if so, what are some scary episodes starring them?
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:33 PM on January 8, 2009

Here is a list of the villians. The Beast, which i think you have seen already was scary to me.
posted by lee at 9:39 PM on January 8, 2009

The Cybermen can at least walk up stairs. That's pretty scary.
posted by holloway at 9:41 PM on January 8, 2009

Have you seen Davros? He's from the old ones and scary.
posted by lee at 9:41 PM on January 8, 2009

I think Resurrection of the Daleks scared me as a kid, but I haven't seen it since I was 11 or so. Remembrance of the Daleks was good too!
posted by clarahamster at 9:45 PM on January 8, 2009

I believe The Curse of Fenric was scary too, thought Fenric was an one-episode bad guy.
posted by clarahamster at 9:47 PM on January 8, 2009

"Okay, if my question is just completely depends on a false premise, here's perhaps a better question: are any of the main Doctor Who bad guys very scary, and, if so, what are some scary episodes starring them?"
posted by Ms. Saint at 3:33 PM on January 9

The question is a false premise. I mean, unless you're a 10 year old kid or under, Doctor Who isn't so much scary as it is just a great show (Blink notwithstanding).

That said, perhaps the most recent episode that featured a main villian that was quite tense (maybe a bit scary) was the episode Utopia, which featured The Master. The two episodes that came after it, also featuring The Master, were kind of tense too.

So perhaps as a general rule, as you look back through the older episodes, look at episodes featuring the Master for some serious chills. Especially watch the episode The Deadly Assassin.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:49 PM on January 8, 2009

I always thought the Daleks were scary. Then again, I always thought Doctor Who was scary. I mean seriously, here people are in a time machine, whatever it is, when out of nowhere a robot with a plunger sticking out of it's face says "Exterminate!" It was enough for my over active imagination to freak me out. I was a jumpy kid though.

I've also seen a link to (the new?) Doctor Who where every time they blink or the lights go out or something these stone angels move in to kill them. That looked pretty scary.

Seconding Davros also.
posted by robtf3 at 9:55 PM on January 8, 2009


To me the Daleks were just another silly bad guy like leather-clad rhinoceroses. But as they continued to show up in the series, they are always supposed to be SO SCARY, like OH MY GOD ANYTHING BUT DALEKS, and I didn't get it at all.

Maybe if it were the 1970s and we were ten years old, they'd be scary.
Maybe we're supposed to be horrified at their lack of humanity or something; that seems to be a theme.
Maybe they'd be scary if they weren't always showing up again after "the last of the daleks" were defeated a couple of episodes earlier, and if they weren't so handily defeated each time they did show up.

Some things that did significantly creep me out, however, were the evil Ood in 4.3, Vashta Nerada in 4.8, and the Beast in 2.8 and 2.9. The Weeping Angels (3.10) gave me nightmares. I'm looking forward to Stephen Moffat, the writer of that episode, taking over for the next season.
posted by thebazilist at 9:59 PM on January 8, 2009

I don't know if it counts as a "main" bad guy, but holy crap the empty child scared me. And I am not a ten-year-old.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:59 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

thebazilist - Moffat also wrote the vashta nerada. And the empty child. He's absoluely exceptional at giving you that moment when you realize something's been there all along and OH MY GOD-
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:00 PM on January 8, 2009

The angels from "Blink." Holy jeez.
posted by katillathehun at 10:02 PM on January 8, 2009

Oh, and just to clarify, I didn't really find the Daleks scary, just their voices. That staccato still gives me the willies to this day.
posted by robtf3 at 10:05 PM on January 8, 2009

I've seen very little old-school Doctor Who, but the old Sontarans hit the same freak-out button in my brain that clowns do. That grinning rubber head! In The Sontaran Experiment (I think) one of them dies, and his head caves in on itself like a deflated football, and it's just euurgh.
posted by brookedel at 1:27 AM on January 9, 2009

Yay! A Doctor Who question.
Doctor Who very scary bad guys - well, look into the Steve Moffat episode: The Empty Child, Blink (with the weeping angels), Silence in the library. The crazed Ood in The Satan Pit double episode and in "The Ood planet" are kinda scary too.

I don't think the old series would be a good source of scariness. The show had grown a lot more complex and realistic since then.
posted by ye#ara at 2:03 AM on January 9, 2009

I remember the episode Remembrance of the Daleks being pretty scary.

(Incidentally—and please excuse the self-link—I just recently put together a list of Doctor Who episodes for people who have never seen Doctor Who. It sounds like you're already somewhat familiar with the series, but there are several Dalek episodes on the list.)
posted by paulg at 6:38 AM on January 9, 2009

Blink is kind of the scariest thing I've ever seen on television.

I'd actually recommend watching The Daleks, their first appearance with William Hartnell. I watched it for the first time as an adult, and found them genuinely scary -- yes, they're trashcans with plungers on a cardboard set surrounded by mediocre actors, but something about it was just utterly bloody *terrifying*. YMMV, though, I suppose.
posted by kalimac at 7:58 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

why do people think Blink was scary? everyone says it was such a great episode and that it was soooooooooooo scary. but dude, not scary.

yeah, the little boy in empty child/the doctor dances was creepy as shit. "are you my mummy?" way creepy.

the evil ood were also creepy.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:14 AM on January 9, 2009

Man, I'm really glad to know that I wasn't the only one out there scared by the Weeping Angels. I still have nightmares about those things.
posted by kerning at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2009

why do people think Blink was scary?

Okay, so, remember when you were a little kid, and you had to turn the lights off before you got to bed, which meant you had to cross the room in the dark? And you were just old enough to know better, but still young enough to consider that maybe something *could* grab your ankles and drag you under the bed? So you runrunrun as fast as you can and make a flying leap into bed before That Thing can get you? But then your eyes get used to the dark, and you can make out dull shapes in the shadows, and holy crap, did something just move? So you pull the blanket over your head and squeeze your eyes shut even though it's, like, 80 degrees in your bedroom because you know Something is hovering over you RIGHT NOW and waiting for you to come out? And your muscles ache from pulling yourself into such a tight ball, but that's the way you're going to stay because no Thing-In-The-Dark is going to get you if you have anything to say about it?

Okay, well, that's sort of the feeling that Blink evokes. You know, for some people.
posted by katillathehun at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Late to the party, but: I remember not watching all of the episodes of CLAWS OF AXOS as a kid cause it seemed too creepy.

I have never watched it since then to see what it's all about, though.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:05 PM on January 9, 2009

The classic Doctor Who serials were made for kids, and many peope who talk about how scary they were remember being scared by them as kids. They're not going to be that scary to a modern audience.

You might want to check out the Hartnell serials The Daleks (included in the 'The beginning' DVD boxset) and 'The Dalek invasion of earth'. They may not be scary according to our standards, but in these serials (especially 'Dalek invasion') there are obvious parallels between the Daleks and the Nazis and at the time these serials were made WWII was still fresh in everyone's memory.
posted by rjs at 1:30 AM on January 10, 2009

Hmm, some people seem not to have read your question. You want old school Who only because you've seen all the new ones.

I think the Daleks are generally scary enough. The very second episode with the First Doctor, "The Daleks", is one of Hartnell's highest rated shows. The Fourth Doctor "Genesis of the Daleks" ranks with Baker's best (nothing can surpass "The Talons of Weng Chiang", which itself can be pretty scary) and is rated 10th best overall. About seven Dalek episodes are in the top 50 shows of all time (about the top quarter).

One of the things that has been lost, if I may say that, in the RTD reboot is the group effect that Daleks had. It wasn't so much that any given one of them was smart or heavily armed or .. could fly. It was that there were so many of them and like so many Who villains they were relentless. Heck, in the very first one they actually qvfnffrzoyr n Qnyrx naq chg n pbzcnavba vafvqr. That'll demystify 'em for ya, and if they'd known they had decades of storytelling ahead of them maybe they'd have kept that one in their pocket for later.

Anyway, given the storytelling restrictions the Daleks have, the original intent was obviously to create some aliens who really thought differently from humans. Because the Doctor and the audience know so much about them, it's got to be fiendishly difficult for the new series writers to come up with something worth, uh, plunging. Just keep in mind that if you dial your mind back to the 1960s or whatever and what they could reasonably cook up on their budget, I think overall they are pretty scary, at least psychologically. Compare more with old black-and-white scary movies than modern CGI and fast-cut fests. I think they hold up well if you're willing to accept the limitations.
posted by dhartung at 9:57 AM on January 10, 2009

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