Ten Most Emotional ‘Doctor Who’ Moments

This article was written while the Christmas Special is downloading, so you will be safe from spoilers!

For a sci-fi series about a goofy time travelling wag there’s plenty of moments in Doctor Who that tug at the heartstrings. Amid the giant scarfs, flying police boxes, robot dogs and bow ties lie these gems that make the show that extra bit special.

10 – All Thirteen!

12 Doctors

Most of this list is dealing with the sad or bitter-sweet moments, the show creators long having learned that the viewer’s attachment to the characters makes them vulnerable to easy manipulation. This opening entry, conversely, raised a ragged cheer from Whovians around the world! Already an emotionally heavy episode we saw three versions of the Doctor face down the awful reality before them: they have to destroy their own people.

It’s something we’ve known about for a while but it’s been difficult to align what we knew about the Doctor and this oft-referred to genocide. Then the big reveal – working together the Doctors can prevent the massacre. The rulers of Gallifrey express their disdain at three eras of the Doctor arriving at once, but the nightmare gets worse – it’s all twelve of them! For the first time (through some slick editing) every incarnation of the character appear in a scene together. Then one underling piped up…”no sir, thirteen!”

We excepted a lot from the 50th anniversary episode, but a glimpse of the next Doctor was a complete surprise!

#9 – John Smith

Family of Blood

In the beginning it was an interesting notion – what would happen if the Doctor became human? This was addressed in the two part episode made up of Human Nature and The Family of Blood where we are introduced to John Smith. Becoming human to avoid an alien menace, the plan was for the Doctor to hide out long enough for the threat to pass But sometimes humans can be unpredictable.

‘John Smith’, working as a teacher, falls in love with the school matron, giving him reason enough to stay on Earth. But then he learns of his true destiny and who he really is…and he becomes scared. Now the teacher and the matron have to say farewell so he can lose himself and save the world. Thank goodness for the casting of Jessica Stevenson in creating the perfect chemistry.

#8 – The Story of Ace


Ace was the last companion to travel with the Doctor in the classic era of the series, spending her time with the Seventh Doctor. Unlike many companions before her Ace went through quite a bit of character development, with much of the final season dedicated to the Doctor helping her explore her troubled past. We see the story of who the girl behind the tough exterior (tough enough to tackle a Dalek head on armed only with a baseball bat) was before becoming a time-traveller and it’s an emotional journey. The show becomes more worthwhile on the basis of this sub-plot.

#7 – Good-bye Sarah Jane…Again

Sarah Jane Leaving

When Sarah Jane originally left the Doctor is was a bit anti-climactic. She was sick of the Doctor not giving her full consideration and, just to hammer the point home, he ignores her complaint. Sarah insists that she get dropped of home. Unfortunately the Doctor leaves her in the wrong place.

Sarah Jane will go on to be one of the most fondly remembered companions of the original series, and became the first bridge between the classic series and the reboot by appearing in School Reunion along with K9. The banter between Rose and Sarah made this move worthwhile but it ended on a sad moment. Once again Sarah is left standing outside of the TARDIS as it faded away. Even though she has he new life with a family the look on her face echoes how she felt all those decades/Doctors ago. At least she had K9.

#6 – Farewell to Susan


In hindsight this is a little more jarring, and we’ll explain why in a moment. When the Doctor’s adventures had just begun is only travelling companion was his precocious grand-daughter, Susan Foreman. During their brief stay on Earth they pair up with school teachers Ian and Barbara, prompting the beginning of the series. Susan also became the first of the Doctor’s companions to leave his side, having fallen in love with a human during the Dalek invasion of Earth in the 22nd century. Assuming that her grandfather would not understand how she felt Susan was resigned to a farewell, but was shocked to find herself locked out of the TARDIS.

From the intercom within the Doctor bids her farewell, telling her that he expects that she will go forth and do great things. He also promises to return at some point to prove himself right. Not only was this the first time the Doctor lost a companion – the last remaining member of his family no less – but we now know that he never returned for her.

#5 – Rose Goes Home

Rose Tyler Bad Wold

Rose was the centre of a couple of pretty heavy moments, and one might assume that we’d be angling towards the finale of Doomsday here. Instead we’re going with her original departure from the Doctor in The Parting of the Ways. To set the scene, the Doctor is desperately trying to build a delta wave generator to repel an attack from the Daleks while Capt. Jack Harkness tries to fight of the forward wave of their most deadly enemy. Although they know that it’s a suicide mission Rose refuses to leave the Doctor, so he tricks her into the TARDIS and sends her, and his beloved craft, back home.

Of course Rose eventually finds a way to get back and save the day whilst taking full control of the time stream (that old chestnut), but that initial scene where she’s left listening to a recorded message in the control room is damn effective. For many this was one of their first taste of how sad Doctor Who can get, being the finale of the reboots debut season.

#4 – Where’s Peri?


During the time of the Sixth Doctor the famed time traveller was brought to trail by the High Council of Gallifrey to answer for crimes he had no memory of and had not yet committed (part of the peril of the role). It isn’t until part way through the epic story that the thought occurs to the Doctor…where is his companion Peri? The Earth girl had been by his side for quite some time but she was not present during the extended trail.

It is during the demonstrations of evidence by the diabolical Valeyard that the Doctor sees the truth. Peri had run afoul of the sluggish Sil and Lord Kiv. Their plan is to find a host for the brain of near-death Lord Kiv, and Peri becomes their victim. The expectation that the Doctor will put a stop to it in the nick of time is dashed when Peri wakes up with the mind o Lord Kiv and is promptly blasted into nothingness by soldiers from Gallifry. Although it was later revealed to be a bluff it still felt like a kick in the gut.

#3 – The New Chapters

Doctor Who Regeneration

The end of each performers time as the Doctor is a bitter-sweet moment. Regenerations often come about through the death of the Doctor, making this instance the 12th time we’ve seen our favourite character get killed off. On the other hand we get a new take on the character. Much of the longevity of the show lies in the re-invention of the role every couple of years, creating a shift in tone and attitude. The combination of the farewell and new beginning is a powerful one indeed.

Amongst the most powerful regenerations are the Third and Eleventh Doctors. The weakened Pertwee commenting lightly on Sarah-Jane’s single tear before slipping away is solemn, and bringing up the Tennant’s parting words is the perfect way to make fan girls cry themselves.

#2 – Adric Doesn’t Get His Answer


Adric was a bit different in the Doctor Who canon. Rather than being from Earth he’s from the alternative dimension E-Space, and he’s still a youth. After throwing his lot in with the Doctor he was at odds with him as often as he was on his side. Due to his young age and mathematical genius Adric and the Doctor were quick to argue with each other. Although they respected each other Adric elected to return to his home, but on the way they became side-tracked by the Cybermen.

During the confrontation an unmanned spaceship was sent hurtling towards the Earth, carrying the potential to cause an extinction level impact. The only way to shut down the ship would be to solve three logic problems. After solving two Adric must evacuate the ship with everyone else as they’d reached the point of no return. Before the air lock shuts Adric darts back to the bridge and solves the third problem…only he’s to late to stop the impact or escape. The youngest companion goes up in flames with the rest of the ship with his final thought being whether or not he got the solution correct. The Doctor and his other companions, Nyssa and Tegan, were thrown into a spiral or depression following this lose and it became a defining moment for the character.

#1 – Van Gogh’s Legacy

Vincent and the Doctor

Vincent van Gogh was as tragic as he was revolutionary. Having reinvented modern art he wasn’t recognised for his work during his lifetime. He suffered deep depressions and eventually took his own life. The Doctor, upon meeting the painter, has the chance to turn this around but his policy of not interfering in history stands in his way. Even with tragic events, such as the destruction of Pompeii, he stands aside and lets things take their course.

That said, rules are made to be borken. Before their departure the Doctor and Amy take Vincent van Gogh into the future to see how his work is remembered by generations to come. Standing in disbelief in the gallery is one this, but the impassioned speech by the curator (none other than Bill Nighy) and the reaction by van Gogh (perfectly played by Tony Curran) knock this out of the park. Beautiful work by all involved.