Sometimes, you need something to just emotionally wreck your day – to kick you in the gut and make you feel way too many things. If you’re on the market for that (and/or being emotionally drawn into caring more about fictional characters than you probably should), than this list (and Doctor Who) is for you!
Doctor Who is a wonderful show my incredible (and stunning, and hilarious, and on and on I could go and never stop so I will here) wife got me into a number of years ago back when we were in the early months of our relationship (month 8, but I digress). It’s a show I had seen while over in England with family, but I hadn’t really followed it so had no idea what was going on. But Jill got me to watch it from the beginning (of the revived series), and wow. It hooks you early and just gets you caught up in its story and characters. But along with that comes the absolute wrecking balls the shows writers throw at you – they know how much their viewers and fans care about these characters, so when something happens – it’s devastating. I hadn’t had that experience with a show before. Now as a heads up, I have only watched the revived series (though I have read about the classic Doctors and characters on the Tardis wiki and some excellent comics), so this list will only feature moments from the revived series. With all that in mind, let’s get to it.
Up front, I want to give honorable mentions: Clara’s and Amy/Rory’s departures. While all three of these were done well, neither were my favourite companions – nor from my times during the show. They were sad, impactful, and well acted – but it didn’t hit me the way the moments featured on the list proper did. But still, wanted to give them a shout out.
Van Gough Visits the Gallery:
Featured in the episode ‘Vincent and the Doctor’, this wonderfully sad scene comes towards the episode’s end. The 11th Doctor and Amy Pond bring Van Gough into modern times where the struggling and depressed artist hears how his work has impacted others, and it moves him to tears (greatly portrayed by Tony Curran). As we leave Van Gough, he is a man reenergized and hopeful – unfortunately, as we find out after, that hope was only temporary.
The 12th Doctor‘s regeneration:
Peter Capaldi deserved better. The dude was a lifelong fan of the show, and his acting on it was always fantastic – it just took them awhile to figure out who the 12th Doctor really was, and how he related to people. They figured it out in the 9th series (his second), but by then the show had lost a bit of it’s larger audience – which Capaldi didn’t deserve. I grew to love his Doctor, his mannerisms, and just how different he was from his previous incarnations. I was really sad to see him go, so his regeneration hits a bit.
It was Trenzalore?:
A little moment that still hit me big time in “The Name of the Doctor”. Here we have the Doctor, albeit briefly, reduced to tears – without death or loss – at hearing now is the time he must go to Trenzalore, presumably to die. We rarely saw the Doctor this emotional without something huge happening. Kudo’s to Matt Smith(the 11th Doctor)’s stellar acting in this scene.
The 10th Doctor begs The Master to regenerate:
On the whole, series 3 is one of my least favourites of the show. Maybe someday I’ll do a ‘series ranking’ post where I can get more into it, but the short version is – Martha/the Martha & the Doctor companionship, the weird Dalek eps, and Martha’s mom who further ruins Martha by association (I actually do like Martha a bit, but more so removed from the Doctor like when we see her later). But in all that, there are some really solid moments – this one being the best. The Master had returned and had been defeated by the 10th Doctor (my favourite and fixture of most of the heartbreak on this list) and Martha. As the Doctor is deciding what to do with the Master – the Master is shot by his (now free from mind control) wife. Watching the Doctor beg the Master to regenerate with the Master refusing is rough. The Doctor never wanted the Master to die, especially as they were ‘the only Time Lords left’. The Doctor spent the last 3 series believing he was the last of his kind, only to discover his arch-nemesis was alive and had escaped the time war. This person had tortured him, tried to kill him time and time again, and here the Doctor was begging him not to die so he wouldn’t be alone. Like, dang son, that kicks ya. And David Tennant (the 10th Doctor) and John Simm (the Master) do a wonderful job.
The 11th Doctors regeneration:
In some ways, Matt Smiths tenure on the show reminds me of (his successor) Peter Capaldi’s. Both were amazing in their very different takes on the character, but both also had some growing/show pains. Smith’s performance made the 11th Doctor a great character, who was as fun and childlike as he was old and stern. But what bogged his character down was the series themselves, with two half series and increasingly complicated (not necessarily in a good way) stories. That being said, Smith was always fantastic, and I did really enjoy his Doctor – especially in his final scene. Unlike his predecessors, his regeneration was a happy one – though I use that term loosely. The character was embracing regenerating. But it was still a one-two gut punch combo – we got some great final words and then surprise cameo from Amy to say goodbye. A great way to go out for the 11th Doctor, but still, super sad.
The 9th Doctor regenerates:
The 9th Doctor (played fantastically by Christopher Eccleston) was wonderful, and all to brief. Only appearing in 1 series (you guessed it, series 1) of the show, his performance and characterization of the Doctor was perfect – it was different from everything before, and what was to come. The 9th Doctor was a very broken man who had just suffered the time war, and was content with travelling alone. But then he literally ran into Rose Tyler, and his character started to change – and by the end of his tenure had warmed up a bit. Even though his time was brief, it sucked to see him go. He went out on a happy note, finally giving himself credit, but it still hit big time.
“I could do so much more!”:
The End of Time part 2 is one of the gut-punchiest episodes of Doctor Who ever, and features many heartbreaking moments, the first of which is this. The Doctor, though flawed, had always been a relatively selfless (for the most part) character, who has time and time again put himself in the path of death to save others. But with 10, we got a different take. Here he is, moments after winning and saving the day – but then a prophecy about his death (“he will knock four times”) is fulfilled. Ultimately, he does the right thing and saves Wilfred (good ol Wilfred) – but not before we get some great lamenting (and sentaments that I have definitely related to in the past). Wonderful gut punch of a scene.
Donna Noble’s mind is wiped:
So with Journey’s End, we get the last episode of a proper series featuring the 10th Doctor (we got 4 special episodes over the following year). It was a wonderful finale – bringing back Davros, serving as a crossover with the Torchwood and Sarah Jane spinoffs, bringing back all the companions of the Doctor till this point, AND reuniting the Doctor with Rose! And then, this happened (it can’t end on a happy note). Basically, Donna Noble (one of my favourite companions) became a human-time lord fusion, which simply can’t work. Donna had grown exponentially as a character in series 4, going from an overly shrill nuisance to the friend the Doctor needed the most – and someone who would make the Doctor grow and get him out of his stubbornness. But to save her, the Doctor had to erase all of Donna’s memories of their time together – undoing all the growth she had gone through and resetting her to who she was before they met – and she knows it. She knows he has to do it, she still begs him not to – but he has to do it. Super rough to watch, and a complete dropkick to the gut.
“I Don’t Want To Go”:
The End of Time, as I talked about above, was like Mike Tyson boxing your emotions and your emotions having no defense. It just kept kicking. We got a happy-sad send off to everyone from this era of the show, but man, it was rough. And then this. The 10th Doctors final words were so heart wrenching. His 11th and 12th incarnations got long happy and sad speaches, but with his 10th – it was “I don’t want to go”. And we didn’t want him to either.
The end of Doomsday:
If The End of Time is Mike Tyson beating your emotions up, the end of Doomsday is a blue whale of emotional devastation being suddenly dropped on you.This episode friggen wrecked me for a week, I kid you not. I watched it on a lunch break, and my day was ruined. There were loose foreshadows that something big was going to happen, but you didn’t know that they were gonna separate the Doctor and Rose Tyler – you didn’t ever want them to. The Doctors (over both 9 and 10s time) relationship with Rose was great to see, and you could see the genuine love and affection grow between the characters. And then she’s sucked into a different dimension which he can’t get to. THAT FRIGGEN WALL SCENE is so sad! And then, we get them reunited to say goodbye – and as they are FINALLY admitting their love for each other, the Doctor’s hologram disappears before he can say it (the star he was burning up runs out)! And the knife got twisted that much deeper.
Alright, so those were mine, but I’m curious, what were your most heartbreaking moments from Doctor Who? Who was your favourite Doctor? Are you excited for Series 11? Let me know in the comments!
Hope you enjoyed today’s post and have a fantastic day! God bless my friends!