47 Days of Doctor Who–Day #36: Best Scary Story

Welcome to Day 36 of my 47-day series about the revival version of Doctor Who (2005-present). I’ve come up with 47 topics / questions to answer, all of them basically positive and upbeat about the program. Each day (or as often as I can actually write these–so far so good!) I’ll pick one of them at random (using this convenient random number generator) and then write up an answer.

Why 47? It’s my favorite number.
Why Doctor Who? It’s my favorite show.
Why the modern day Doctor Who only? Simply because I remember it better.
Why only positive stuff? Because really, I write enough snark.

So, today, we spin the Random Number Generator, and it lands on 26, which means
today’s topic is

“Best Scary Story”

Why “Best Scary Story” and not “Scariest Story”?  Because a lot of Doctor Who is meant to be scary, for children anyway, and that is part of the fun.  Indeed, some of them are particularly driven by the scariness.  But that said, I don’t actually find much of Doctor Who to be actually scary for me, as a jaded adult.  I mean, sometimes there is that sense of dread as you anticipate a character is about to meet their untimely end, but that’s not quite the same as making me feel scared.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the scariness.  And that’s what I’m talking about here, the story that I feel did the best job doing the whole thing of “scariness” as part of its deal.  And it’s funny, because I was just talking about this story a couple of days ago…

Midnight

Yeah, as I said not long ago, Midnight is a great episode but it’s also a scary episode.  We have a claustrophobic atmosphere, a menace that is never explained, and a situation where all the Doctor’s strengths are turned against him.  Often the Doctor succeeds by virtue of nothing more than being incredibly clever, being able to engender trust out of people and inspire them to greatness, and ultimately by being someone that his enemies simply cannot predict.  But this time, all of those things are stripped away.  The Midnight Entity makes the Doctor’s intelligence is a liability; it tempts people to fear and mistrust, bringing out the worst in them; and ultimately it reduces the Doctor to a puppet whose words are not only predictable but powerless.  It’s fitting that this is really one of the few stories where victory really does not come because of anything the Doctor himself does.

Russell T. Davies’ script is outstanding, and the episode comes together well thanks to overall strong production and great performances by David Tennant and Lesley Sharp as the doomed Mrs. Silverstry.

Click here for a master list for this series.

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2 thoughts on “47 Days of Doctor Who–Day #36: Best Scary Story

  1. From personal experience, The Empty Child was the scariest episode for me. I was 10 when The Empty Child was broadcast and it was probably the most frightening thing I’d ever seen. I particularly remember vividly being freaked out (and that’s an understatement) by the gruesome sequence where a gasmask forces its way up Richard Wilson’s throat and consumes his face. That scared me off Doctor Who for years and caused me to contract an irrational phobia of gasmasks, which still make me slightly uneasy to this day… But it’s a brilliant example of Doctor Who doing what it does best: terrifying children!

  2. The Empty Child is fantastic, and that exact moment you are describing is almost certainly going to feature in a slightly different category sometime in the next ten days!

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