If David Yates is able to launch a Doctor Who film franchise, he’ll have one of the most impressive rogues galleries in fiction at his disposal. There will be many villains and evil alien races to choose from, but the first picture will come with some obvious restrictions. Much of the time will be spent introducing the new version of the Doctor, along with the supporting cast. The mythos and tone for the entire series is also established. Considering these priorities, Yates and company would want a villain that could be combined with the story of the Doctor’s first interactions with the humans. I assume that they’re going to keep the idea that he’s an alien time-traveler, as that rather defines the character.
They have plenty of choices for the bad guys. I’ll mention some of the most obvious.
The Daleks are the most recognizable of the evil alien races from Doctor Who, which makes them the most likely antagonists. But these guys are so cool that it might work better to save them for the sequel. Otherwise, they may dominate too much of a film that’s about introducing the Doctor and his companion(s).
You could always have the Daleks appear in multiple films, with a smaller group appearing in the first installment, setting up the appearance of a Dalek empire in later sequels. But then there’s the possibility that they’ll come to define the new Doctor Who film franchise, to the extent that there won’t be any non-Dalek films. A similar thing occurred with the Peter Cushing Doctor Who films in the 1960s, which were all about the Daleks. And a Doctor who was completely human, but that’s another story.
The first episodes of the show were set in the past, so there’s a precedent to having the Doctor’s first adventure as a straight-forward time travel piece. It’s familiar territory for film, so it’s hardly a showcase for why this particular series will be so distinctive. And ratings for the show were a lot better when the Daleks and other alien races got involved.
Using the Doctor’s archenemy in the first film allows the writers to tie the bad guy into the lead’s backstory. This may be why he was the opponent for the aborted 1990s TV movie, an unsuccessful attempt to introduce the Doctor to a new audience.
There could also be an interesting arc for the Doctor, as he has to choose between the human species and an old friend. Perhaps they escaped Galifrey together. That’s a dynamic that’s only allowed by the Year One approach to the film. It’s different after the Doctor’s spent more time with the humans.
It’s telling that it took five seasons for the Silurians to return in the new Who. They are a terrestrial threat, so it would make sense to include them in a film that shows how this series would differ from other science fiction franchises. There aren’t as many blockbusters based on that particular conceit.
They’re the second most-recognizable Doctor Who villains, so there’s still significant commercial appeal. Another advantage with the Cybermen is the myraid ways in which they can serve the story. They can be aliens, as was the case in the classic era. So if the Doctor’s going to be introduced as a captive on an alien spacecraft, these bad guys could work for that type of story.
In the Russell Davies relaunch, the Cybermen were reimagined as homegrown threat. Technically they came from an alternate universe Earth in that one, but that’s hardly a requirement for the film adaptation. If the Cybermen are man-made, the Doctor’s more distinctive as the only alien in the first film, which also helps avoid the coincidence of multiple first contacts in a two hour movie.
The origin of the Cybermen could also tie into the reason for the Doctor’s visit to Earth. Perhaps he came to stop their empire before it started, in a nod to “Genesis of the Daleks.” Or he came to a doomed world to hide from the other timelords, before deciding that mankind is worth saving and history should be changed.
There are some similarities between the Cybermen and the Borg, which could be a problem. The average filmgoer won’t be aware that the Borg came decades later, so they might come out of the theater thinking that this new series is generic and derivative.
They’re not as impressive as the Cybermen or the Daleks, which would be one argument for introducing the Sontarans before filmgoers have gotten spoiled. The warrior culture is hardly unique in science fiction film and television, but there are enough odd details (the cloning, the weakness) to make these guys distinctive and truly alien. A Sontaran Invasion of Earth would give the Doctor an excuse to be on the planet, with a slightly different narrative than a Genesis of the Cybermen type story. He might be there to prevent humans from becoming an evil empire that rivals the Daleks, something which he knows will be the result of a war between the Humans and the Sontarans.
The other villains have been around for generations, but the Weeping Angels were introduced in 2007. It’s still a brilliant concept: alien assassins that look like statues and move when you close your eyes. One of the distinctive elements of the show was how they make ordinary objects seem scary or impressive, so using the Weeping Angels as the antagonists allows Yates to translate that element of the show into the film medium.
Their first appearance was an incredible one-off episode, so they can be dealt with quickly enough, allowing most of the movie to be devoted to the introduction of the Doctor and his companions. And with their time travel abilities, you can also tie the Weeping Angels to Galifrey. In the films, they might be agents of the Timelords.
They’re creepy and memorable, which may be why the Autons and the Nestene Consciousness were used in the first episode of the 2005 relaunch. And they can be remade into the advance team of another species, setting up the appearance of a bigger, badder alien race in a sequel. They’re also unlike other alien species seen in sci-fi, which would distinguish Doctor Who from the other franchises. But the Autons just aren’t as impressive as the other races, which may be why they appear so rarely on the show.
Many film adaptations feature characters who are composites of several real or literary figures. Something like that could be done with Doctor Who, combining the cool features of various “minor” enemies into a rag doll villain that works best with whatever narrative they want to tell. So you could have the conspiratorial elements of the Silence, the holographic disguise from Vampires in Venice and whatever else makes for an interesting hodge-podge.