11 Worst Moments in the Doctor’s Life
Guest contributor Gustaff counts down the worst moments that the Doctor has had to endure.
Having lived for more or less 1200 years, the Doctor must’ve seen and lived through many wonderful things: Drinking buddy of Henry the 8th, marrying Queen Bess, beginning of the universe – end of the universe! The list goes on and gets even bigger once you cue in the Audios and Books, but one certainty in the Doctor’s life is that he must’ve seen and lived through enormous atrocities that as the 8th Doctor put it: Would freeze your blood. In this article, I am going to zoom in on the most horrific moments that the Doctor’s onscreen existence has ever showed us. Interested to see how the readers rank these moments.
1. Leaving Susan – The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Anybody who has watched any of William’s first stories will know that I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Doctor didn’t just treat Susan as his granddaughter, but almost like his own daughter. Their relationship was magical (for the 60s anyway) and it was obvious that they cared for each other more so than any of the Doctor’s later relationships. In The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the Doctor and the TARDIS gang encounter the Daleks in their latest scheme to conquer the Earth, only this time: They’ve already succeeded. The story is about them stopping the Daleks and saving humanity, but the magic moment is at the end, during one of the Doctor’s most iconic speeches. He locks Susan out of the TARDIS to be with a young man who has captured her heart. I count this moment for the simple reason that this was his flesh and blood. I’m not a parent, but I remember my mother’s look when I left for university. It broke her heart and for the next few days, broke mine as well. To give away your family to a stranger and instead of breaking down, giving a speech and letting no one see you cry, it must be…
2. Giving away his location to the Time Lords – The War Games
Part of the history of Doctor Who is that for some unknown reason, the Doctor stole a Type-40 TARDIS and escaped to explore the universe. Whether he was really bored or using this excuse to mask another reason, we’ll just have to wait and see. In the 60s, the Doctor never spoke about his planet or people. All we knew was that he was on the run and should they ever catch him, there’d be hell to pay. Enter The War Chief and his band of soldiers transported from Earth to conquer the galaxy. The War Games is unique in that it created a situation so dire, so anti-Deus Ex Machina that the Doctor was forced to do the one thing he vowed never to do… call the Time Lords. To have spent two incarnations running all around the universe, saving worlds and fighting monsters: Can you imagine what was going through Pat’s head when he realized that he had no other choice, even less chance of escaping the Time Lords once they arrived? He gave up his own freedom to save a bunch of strangers! He really must’ve thought the Time Lords would kill him instead of inducing a regeneration on him.
3. Being stranded on Earth – Spearhead from Space
Given the 3rd Doctor’s cozy life on Earth: linear, Scientific Advisor, private laboratory and private enemy; the worst thing he had to endure was up there in the 6th and 8th word of the first part of this sentence. Life and Earth. For the Doctor that is a big NO NO. The Time Lords punished the Doctor by having him regenerate, stranding him on Earth and watching his misery from their Gallifreyan posts. We’ve seen how the Eleventh Doctor reacts to linear time. He hates it. He’d go crazy…or clean the house. Maybe that’s why UNIT was always so tidy. Living one day at a time, one hour at a time, waiting for the next adventure instead of travelling towards it, stuck on a primitive planet in a primitive age (from his POV). I can’t imagine how Pertwee’s Doctor stayed sane. It must’ve been 24 hours of constant, agonizing, wrist biting, gut-wrenching, arm breaking, pins and needles torture those few years.
4. Destroy the Daleks – Genesis of the Daleks
Just when the Doctor thought his life couldn’t get much worse, in pop the Time Lords to strong-arm him into helping them start a Time War. His assignment: Prevent the Daleks from existing in the first place. For this, the Doctor travelled to the ever peaceful and tranquil, bomb throwing, acid raining, bullets flying Skaro; otherwise known as the Daleks’ planet of origin. The interesting thing about this story is that the Doctor actually gets the chance to erase the most iconic creatures in Britain from existence, but that means committing a little something called ‘genocide’ which is on the lists of things the Doctor doesn’t do. The Doctor’s never faced a decision like this before: a few hundred thousand Daleks in one hand, the rest of the universe in the other. Which weighs heavier? This is what the Doctor kept asking himself. He didn’t have much time to make this decision. Sarah and Harry were egging him on, the base was under attack. What do you decide in this sort of situation? Is it fair to kill someone who hasn’t committed a crime yet, even though you know they will? Is it moral? What gives us the right to decide who lives and who dies? 750 years of pacifism otherwise out the window in one second.
5. Adric’s Death – Earthshock
Personally, I don’t get Earthshock. I really don’t. Why didn’t the Doctor just materialize on board the freighter and save Adric? He didn’t actually see the boy die and besides, one of the audios established the brat lived, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the death of a child is never a pleasant thing and even more worse to watch happen. The Doctor was Adric’s mentor, his big brother since his previous incarnation. Torn between the Web of Time and lacking the Eleventh’s intelligence, not to mention Moffat’s brilliance, the Doctor was forced to see one of his best friends die at an age too young for anybody. For the first time, the Doctor realized that there were real consequences for his friends and that he might not always be around to save them. This Doctor was haunted by Adric’s death until the end of his life and scolded by Tegan for his pathetic attempt to rationalize not using his time machine to save their friend.
6. Peri’s Death – Mindwarp
I love The Trial of a Time Lord because Colin and Nicola are my team. But not this. Peri is my favorite, so I might be showing favoritism, but her death killed me one thousand miles and twenty three years away. It really did. Having her brain extracted and replaced by an alien monster – a male alien monster in her female body. The Doctor’s face seeing the final sequence tells it all. Never before has a death affected him so close to his hearts than Peri’s. Unable to put his plan into action, yanked out of time at the last minute and forced to watch his best friend’s final moments on a television screen, unable to stop or interfere, I can’t imagine what he thought of himself, or the Time Lords. I keep remembering their deal in Planet of Fire: “3 Months you say? Welcome abroad Peri!” Her death was so powerful and Colin’s sadness is so grieving that I usually skip Mindwarp and go straight into Vervoids.
7. The Doctor’s Death on the operating table – TV Movie
“There once was a man from Gallifrey who ended up throwing his life away.” I love the 7th Doctor. I love his style. I love his cunning mind. I love his schemes. Even though I understand his death and why it was chosen, I have to say, this moment probably killed the 7th Doctor as much psychologically as it did physically. To explain further: The Doctor is transporting the Master’s remains to Earth when the TARDIS crash lands in San Francisco in the middle of a gang war. Now anyone who has seen Sylvester in action, will know there is no beating the 7th Doctor. It just doesn’t work that way. Of all the Doctors, he is the smartest and most cunning of them all. So why not just take ten seconds to check the environment outside like you’ve been doing for the past 953 years? Failing to do this, the Doctor gets shot and the sexy Dr. Grace has to operate, but it’s all a misunderstanding. The Doctor isn’t in any real danger. He’s a Time Lord. He isn’t in danger, except from Grace that is. Now here’s where the worst moment comes into play. Despite his protests, he is put to sleep, knowing that this human doctor will probably kill him if he doesn’t stop her; the Doctor shoots up, but is finally knocked out by the anesthesia once and for all. I recently watched an episode of House where a man was fully aware of everything around him, but couldn’t do anything more than blink his eyes. Imagine how powerless Sylvester must’ve felt knowing that after all the great and powerful deeds he’s done, he can’t even stop this doctor from killing him. That in a few moments, his life might be over and there’s nothing he can do over the anesthesia rodding his brain and weakening his limbs. The most dangerous Doctor of them all was unable to save himself from mere insects cutting him open on a primitive operating table.
8. Losing Tamzin, Lucie and Alex – To the Death
Since the 8th Doctor had such a limited time with us onscreen, I thought I’d choose a moment from the audios. I’d go with the Time War, but we all know that it would top the list easy. So I chose another moment that is actually shown onscreen (sort of) in the form of an audio adventure. For those of you who don’t listen to audios, To the Death featured the Doctor, Susan, Alex (the Doctor’s great-grandson), Lucie and good friend Tamzin Drew going up against the Daleks. I’m not joking when I say this audio didn’t end well. The body count was high. I mean really high. Alex – dead! Tamzin – dead! Lucie – dead! I didn’t recognize the Doctor at the end of this. He tried so hard to save everyone, and all he got in return was three corpses with their blood on his hands. He thought about breaking the Laws of Time, only inviting Susan along to stop him from going over the edge, not caring about her company or life on Earth. This Doctor was tired of living. He was broken, not nearly as broken as he’d be after The Great War, but he was well on his way.
9. You are the Weakest Link – Bad Wolf
Another difficult one, but if I had to choose, Rose’s fake death on the Game Station had a very real effect on the Doctor. After seeing the woman he’d fallen in love with atomized in front of his eyes, so soon after The Great War, he was shattered. He didn’t fight his arrest. What for? Rose was dead. He didn’t have any talkative remarks, no witty one liners to throw at his enemies – nothing! The one thing in his life he thought he could rely on was dead. Chris’ Doctor was fragile. His soul was dark but his psyche was fragile. It was as if he’d lost his only reason to smile, sitting there being restrained, struggling to accept what his eyes had shown him.
10. Four Knocks – The End of Time
Ever had your hopes brought up by a friend or family member just to have it smashed away in a blink of an eye? Remember how angry you were with that person who gave you that false sense of faith? It doesn’t just hurt, it stings! It’s one of the worst pains in existence and one of the hardest things to forgive someone for. The 10th Doctor suffered a moment like this. He beat the Time Lords. He beat the Master. He beat the prophecy of his death! He was free. He was alive and happy to be that way. That was until Wilf ruined it by knocking that rhythm on the glass. It was obvious from David’s face that his Doctor was crushed. All the hope suddenly drained out of him in that one innocent moment before his death. Destiny had won and he had lost.
11. Losing the Ponds – The Angels Take Manhattan
The time displacement death of the Ponds is only part of the moment. The real horror comes from when they were still in the graveyard. The Doctor is trying to keep eye contact with the Angel, River has just turned on him and eggs her mother on to feel the touch of an Angel and Amy is moments away from leaping back in time forever. Can someone please tell me how you talk someone like this down while keeping your wife silent, your best friend calm and fending off a homicidal Angel? The Doctor must’ve felt more hopeless in that one moment than he ever did in his entire life. There he was, unable to reach Amy – unable to convince her to stay. He was useless in that scene. Words – his most powerful tool – were completely inadequate. Amy wasn’t listening, River was undependable. Nothing in that situation was going to help him and the Doctor knew that and it was because of that inability to reach Amy that she succeeded in her plan to join Rory, leaving the Doctor to mourn another big loss in his life. The impact of this moment has been promised to be expanded on in Part 2 of Series 7 and more so in The Christmas Special with the Doctor hiding away in Victorian London, retired from his adventuring.
Other moments I considered were:
- Tegan’s second and final departure.
- The Doctor giving Rose up to the Half-Human Doctor.
- The Doctor parting ways with Donna.