Most writers will tell you that bad guys are the funnest characters to write, but perhaps the hardest to keep fresh. Doctor Who has brought us an assortment of villains, monsters, and assorted baddies (some better than others) to the small screen, and impressively, managed to keep them updated and entertaining for over 50 years. Join us as we take a look at the 10 all-time best Doctor Who villains (and a quick review of the “not-so-much” class).

Best of the Worst

Before we get the best villains and monsters, let’s give a quick shout out to the worst of the bunch. Not every idea is a good idea, and the Abzorbaloff, Headless Monks, Empress of the Racnoss, the Slitheen, and of course the dreaded eye-boogie monsters who debuted in Season 9 are all villains who fall into the “kinda, sorta cool in theory, but horrible in practice” category.

Oh, the Kandyman can ... but we wish he hadn't

And while all of these villains were good and terrible, the worst by far has to be the Kandyman. Debuting in 1988, the Kandy Man was … well, exactly what the name implied: a giant psychopathic android dude made out of all the stale candy from the bottom of your nan’s purse. The licorice all-sorts-headed assassin had a penchant for ending his victims via “Fondant Surprise,” which was exactly what it sounded like: death by frosting.

10. Sontarans

Hey there sexy ...

I would love to have been in the first production meeting where the idea for the Sontarans were pitched.

“OK, folks, Doctor Who needs new villains. Let’s brainstorm.”

“I’ve got something … and hear me out: a entire race of Mr. Potato Heads, but with hi-tech armor and weapons.”

“Militaristic spud monsters, you say? Brilliant, Robert! Absolutely brilliant!”

And while the Doctor’s Victorian-era ally Strax brings great comic relief, the Sontarans of the ‘70s (and occasionally in the reboot) brought the Doctor no small amount of grief.

9. Autons

Impersonating world leaders, roman soldiers, and even the occasional trash bin, the creepy plastic foot-soldiers of the Nestene Consciousness have caused havoc across the Whoverse by taking on all kinds of physical forms. However, it doesn’t get much more terrifying than the original homicidal mannequins with pew-pew gun hands.

8. The Beast

Unleash The Beast

No one has ever accused Steven Moffat of thinking small, and in The Satan Pit, the Doctor literally takes on the devil himself. Or at least, the alien entity making the very modest claim of being the inspiration for every devil-like figure in every religion across time and space.

7. Zygons

First appearing in 1975, the Zygon are a race of shape-shifting humanoids hell-bent on invading Earth. While the show’s 21st century reboot has done a pretty good job of updating existing villains, the way Moffat and Co. have (re)used the Zygons in particular is pretty remarkable. In this season’s two-part Zygon arc, writers were able to use one of the Whoverse’s campier villains to juxtapose real-world political commentary in a weirdly serious and thought-provoking fashion.

6. Vashta Nerada

A swarm of piranha-like nano-carnivores, the Vashta Nerada literal strip the flesh of any poor soul unfortunate enough to step into a shadow. The Vashta Nerada have not appeared as frequently many of the other villains on the list, but there may not be a more spine-chilling Who episode than “Silence in the Library”, where one by one a team of archaeologists are quite literally picked clean, while their space suits retain “ghost” echoes of the recently deceased’s brainwaves.

5. Davros

Still thinking "third-eye monocles" should be a thing

Part Emperor Palpatine, part Penguin from DC Comics, the creator of the Daleks has been battling Doctor Who for the fate of time and space since 1975. Out of all the Doctor Who enemies, Davros easily has the most chilling back-story: Born on a world embroiled in a thousand-year civil war, Davros genetically engineered his own people to become emotionless war machines who spend their entire lives living within Dalek armor.

It’s a cold world, man.

4. Weeping Angels

New villains have been hit and miss for Moffat and Co, but there has been no bigger hit than the Weeping Angels. Blood thirsty statues who can only move when out of direct eye-sight, the Weeping Angels have been a part of some of the best episodes of the series. “Blink” was an absolute masterpiece of an episode, maybe the best single 45 minutes of the Davies/Moffat era.

The best part about the Sleeping Angels is the premise that they can take the form of any statue from a garden cherub to the Statue of Liberty. That scene from “The Angels Take Manhattan” still elicits audible shrieks even though you know what’s coming.

3. Master/Missy

Out of all the villains to appear on the show, the Doctor’s fellow Timelord and former childhood BFF is perhaps the one that can best be described as a “nemesis.” One of the great things about the Master/Missy character is that regeneration ensures a steady rotation of new actors playing the part, which means the character will never get stale.

Roger Delgado, Peter Pratt, Geoffrey Beevers, Anthony Ainley, and Gordon Tipple all played their classic series versions of the Master perfectly for their eras. And while we could have done without Eric Roberts’ Doctor Who TV movie adaptation, Derek Jacobi, and especially John Simm, redeemed the role with their masterful performances in the new series.

Of course, the best of the bunch might be Michelle Gomez’s Missy, whose blend of manic nihilism, Victorian sensibilities, and love of good ol’ fashion anarchy have proven to be the perfect foil for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. While there is no guarantee she’ll return, here’s hoping Season 10 will prominently feature the Doctor’s favorite Gallifreyan sociopath.

2. Cybermen

Debuting 1966, the Cybermen are basically the cockroaches of the Whoverse; as long as time and space exist, there is a good chance the Cybermen will show up. The Cybermen have taken many different forms — and a few different origin stories — over the years, but one thing has remained constant: the desire to convert the human race into a “more perfect” life form.

The genius of the Cyberman is that they remain a valid allusion to the constant paranoia that humans might someday be overtaken by technology. 1966 or 2016, the Cybermen are a constant and relevant reminder that we will always need to fight to retain our humanity in the face of technological innovation or face “deletion.”

1. Daleks

Debuting in the second ever Doctor Who serial way back in 1963, the Daleks have subsequently tried to exterminate every incarnation of the Doctor from 1 to 13 (with the exception of Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor). It’s actually kind of amazing to think about the staying power the Daleks have had over the past 50 years. As over-used as they have been over the past half-century, there isn’t a single Whovian whose arm hair doesn’t stand up every time they hear that shrill “EXTERMINATE!” pretty much regardless of context.

Personally, I still think the Cybermen are the best of all the Doctor Who villains, but it’s hard to argue objectively against maybe the most iconic villain in any TV science-fiction series ever made.

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