The Whoniverse’s Saddest Stories: Part 1

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David Selby begins his countdown of the saddest stories of the Whoniverse.

Throughout the years, we have been graced with a number of tearjerkers in Doctor Who – thought some have been forgotten, especially when they concern the show’s spin-offs. But what are the saddest stories of the Whoniverse? And which scene earned the ultimate place?

Note: These do not include Classic stories as the new series has the benefit of better music and effects

15. Doctor Who: New Earth

Many of you may disagree here, whilst others may recall my passion for this underrated story. The final moments of this episode brought to a closure Cassandra’s character, revealing that, really, her cruelty and violent tendencies only came about due to her fear of death. The bitter, aged Cassandra was granted by the Doctor, a chance to go back to see herself from the past (accompanied by one of Murray Gold’s best scores yet), and we were introduced to a Cassandra who seemed to care more than those around her. Cradling ‘Chip’ in her arms, reassuring him that everything was going to be alright, Cassandra appeared as a loving character, whilst the poignancy of the scene relied on the fact that she didn’t even know that who she was really holding was herself.

14. Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace

The Girl in the Fireplace relied on the simple yet heartrending idea of the ‘companion’ dying – yet it was done with such poetic beauty that it’s hard not to appreciate it. The letter scene was very poignant, and particularly moving as it showed that Madame De Pompadour had spent her final days waiting for the Doctor to return when he never did (my one bug with The End of Time was that the Doctor didn’t give Reinette that last trip). That said; I do feel that the episode as a whole was heart-breaking; with the underlying theme of Reinette taking the ‘slow path’.

13. The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith

The Sarah Jane Adventures, being solely aimed at children, rarely utilized sorrow to convey a message, yet every year, it did just that with the ‘Trickster’ stories. The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith makes it very easy for you to place yourself in ‘Sarah Jane’s shoes’, because as shown in the episode before, she missed her parents greatly, which is something almost everyone can sympathise with, as we’ve all lost people who matter to us. Being able to go back to see her parents was something which was bound to impact Sarah Jane; yet what we were perhaps not expecting was to be confronted by two extraordinarily brave people, who in the end, gave their life for their daughter. And technically, if you weigh up the odds, without Sarah Jane’s intervention, it was arguable whether they would have died after all – which adds to the despondency of Sarah Jane’s character from then on.

12. Torchwood: Out of Time

Out of Time has always been one of my all-time favourite standalone Torchwood stories. Unlike many of the preceding episodes, it allows all the characters a chance to shine (perhaps with the exclusion of Tosh), which is why it evokes empathy from many different angles. There are a number of very moving scenes (John’s suicide, Diane’s departure), yet the first that springs to mind for me is when John, having to get to grips with his new world, finds his son, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, with the knowledge that he has never had any children. He shows his son photographs from him as a child, his son seemingly uninterested, until he finally replies, “When is Dad coming, Mum?” That showed John the impact of his departure on his son as well as seeing how his son’s life had taken a turn for the worst. That would have been one of the most distressing things a father could have ever gone through.

11. Doctor Who: Journey’s End

I don’t think that many departures can really top Donna’s rueful fate. Companions in Doctor Who always develop as characters and become better off from their adventures with the Doctor, but the tragedy of Donna’s demise was that everything that had happened to her was simply erased. Yet she’d achieved arguably more as a companion than any other before her; and had matured vastly; morally and emotionally. To see all of that potential fade away in seconds among Donna’s desperate cries for help was so distressing, and an absolute tear-jerker. Looking at them in perspective, Donna definitely had the worst fate of all the new series companions.