The first emotion when watching Doctor Who might be to reach for the cushions, but let's remember that the BBC’s sci-fi spectacle isn’t all Daleks and danger.
Since the show rebooted in 2005, there have been tragic arcs for the various incarnations of the Doctor and their companions.
From devastating deaths to chilling cheerios, here are 10 heartbreaking Doctor Who moments.
Goodbye Donna — “Journey’s End”
Even though Catherine Tate was an unusual choice for a Whovian companion, it didn’t stop Donna Noble finding a special place in all our hearts. Just when Donna was settling into the TARDIS, Russell T. Davies decided to tear the comedy double act of Tate and Tennant apart.
Helping save the day and throw her newfound intellectual might around against two Doctors, “DoctorDonna” soon realised why human minds can’t meld with a Time Lord. Left with no other choice, the Doctor erased her memories and Tate bowed out in a tissue-grabbing goodbye.
The Death of Pete Tyler — “Father’s Day”
“Father’s Day” was an early entry to the list of emotional Doctor Who moments as Christopher Eccleston’s short tenure taught everyone that it’s okay to cry. The brilliant Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) had always told Rose (Billie Piper) that her father had died alone after being hit by a car.
Travelling back to 1997, Rose was determined to find out what happened to her dear dad and try to stop it. While Pete Tyler was always destined to die as a sacrifice to save the universe, at least Rose was there to hold his hand this time.
The long-awaited sequel to the Doctor and Rose’s Bad Wolf Bay bye-bye, “Journey’s End” was a brilliant way to continue the story. The episode boasted a who’s who of the Whoniverse and led to a dramatic showdown where the Doctor (two of them) saved the day.
There was the notable return of Rose and it looked like she could rejoin the TARDIS to be more than just a companion. Rose got her happy ending with One-Heart Doctor, but it didn’t make her goodbye with the man she’d fallen in love with any easier.
Bad Wolf Bay — “Doomsday”
Series 2’s “Doomsday” is the subject of many fan videos showing the heart-wrenching moment that the Doctor says goodbye to Rose—well, briefly. Culminating in the foreshadowed trip to Bad Wolf Bay, the Doctor burned up a sun to say goodbye to Rose before sealing her in an alternate reality.
The real clincher came when Rose confessed her love to the Doctor and he didn't get the chance to say it back. So continued a saga for the ages...until next time.
The Life of Donna Noble — “Forest of the Dead”
Donna Noble didn’t have it easy when it came to her love life, but after her wedding day debacle, things could’ve been different when she met her true love. While the already devastating “Forest of the Dead” gave River Song and early goodbye, there was also a fleeting romance for Donna and Lee.
After Donna had been saved, she looked for Lee but didn’t realise it wasn’t his real name. When “Lee” saw her in the library and called out, his stutter got in the way and she couldn’t hear him. Donna ended up living the rest of her life without reliving the husband and kids she should’ve had.
Meet the Eleventh Doctor — “The End of Time”
Everyone was warned that when “he knocks four times” the Doctor will die. A clever red herring tipped John Simms’ the Master as the big bad that would be the undoing of Tennant’s Doctor, but it was actually Wilfred Mott rapping on the door of the TARDIS. The two shared a poignant goodbye for the Tenth Doctor’s final episode.
Unlike the usual tragedy of death, the saddest moment of “The End of Time” came when the Tenth Doctor regenerated into Matt Smith’s No.11. The immortal words of “I don’t wanna go” will be forever etched on the minds of Doctor Who fans.
One Last Night — “The Husbands of River Song”
The timeline of Doctor Who has always been a bit complicated, but that’s nothing compared to the introduction of River Song. While it’s arguable that River’s biggest arc came during the Matt Smith era of the show, Peter Capaldi’s more mature version got his time with the fan-favourite character.
River’s ‘last night’ with the Doctor was a truly beautiful moment to behold. Showing a softer side of Capaldi’s grouchy Doc, he took River to the Singing Towers of Darillium for one last hurrah. The tears flowed as River was told that nights on Darillium last for 24 years.
The Weeping Angels — “The Angels Take Manhattan”
Amy and Rory had too many goodbyes to count, but the one that really stuck came in Series 7’s “The Angels Take Manhattan”. The last episode for Gillan and Arthur Darvill involved the Weeping Angels sending Rory back to the 1930 and a timey-wimey paradox that (briefly) saved him.
The chilling moment where Rory found his own tombstone sent shivers down spines across the nation as the companions sealed their own fates. Even the Doctor couldn’t save his friends from the terrifying might of the Weeping Angels, but was anyone really expecting those stony terrors to claim both Amy AND Rory?
Rory Waited — “The Big Bang”
Aside from the Doctor and Rose, the best “New Who” couple was easily Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Rory was an early and tragic casualty of the show, but that pales in comparison to his everlasting love.
The Auton version of Rory stood guard by the Pandorica and waited 1,894 years for Amy to emerge. It was a clever twist on Amy being the girl who waited (for the Doctor). A loyal Rory literally stood by his woman and became a hero to the ages of Doctor Who.
“Never Trust a Hug” — “Death in Heaven”
The pairing of Capaldi’s Doctor and Clara Oswald was a completely different dynamic to the Matt Smith era, but it didn’t stop the father-daughter relationship earning a legion of fans. As the two had a final embrace, both hid their personal heartaches from each other. Clara lied that Danny Pink had survived his tear-jerking swansong while the Doctor claimed that he’d found Gallifrey.
There was an emotional explanation at why Capaldi’s Doc was colder than the others. Tugging a the heartstrings, the final words of, “Never trust a hug. It’s just a way to hide your face” got everyone thinking.
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