Doctor Who is the longest running science-fiction show in history, and there’s a reason for that: it’s funny, exciting, scary and thought-provoking. One other thing that it does (especially since its return to television in 2005) is it brings tears to the eyes. It’s difficult to explain how a show that is meant to be fun can make its audience so sad from time to time, but that’s what happens when you fall in love with characters and then things don’t always go right for them. Following is a list of fifteen saddest moments, in ascending order, from the last nine years of Doctor Who:
#15 – Madame de Pompadour dies (from The Girl in the Fireplace) – The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) has saved Reinette (Sophia Myles) from clockwork androids and he finds one working door (the fireplace) back to his own time. “Pack your bags and pick a star,” he says to her, hinting that she’s going on a journey with him. He returns a minute later, but the time-window is defective; he arrives years later to discover that Reinette has just died. The Doctor, who fell in love with the amazing woman, sadly returns to his TARDIS and reads her letter to him, discovering that she never gave up hope that she would see him one more time.
#14 – “Something Old… Something New…” (from The Big Bang) – The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) has restored the universe and brought Amy (Karen Gillan) back to her wedding day with Rory (Arthur Darvill) and her parents restored, but he himself has fallen outside the universe. Before leaving, he knows that he can be restored if Amy remembers him and he implants a memory of the TARDIS in her, which will be triggered by a certain phrase. At her wedding, Amy suddenly stands up, shouts, “Raggedy Man, you are late for my wedding!” Then everything starts to tremble and a familiar noise is heard. As the TARDIS starts to appear in front of them, Rory asks, “What is it?” Amy replies with the phrase that triggered her memory, “Something old… something new… something borrowed… something blue.” Aw…
#13 – The Master Dies (from The Last Of The Time Lords) – The Tenth Doctor has won the day against The Master (John Simm), but he refuses everyone’s demand to kill him, deciding that he’ll just keep him on the TARDIS. But Lucy Saxon (Alexandra Moen) shoots her husband. Not wanting to again be the last of the Time Lords, the Doctor begs the Master to regenerate, but the Master chooses to die rather than be locked up in the TARDIS forever. “What do you know,” the Master says, looking at the distraught Doctor’s face, “I win.” He dies and the Doctor screams in grief.
#12 – Jackie and Pete find each other (from Doomsday) – The first of several weepy moments from this episode. Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) comes face to face with her dead husband, Pete (Shawn Dingwall), alive and well from a parallel universe and who has recently lost his wife, a parallel version of Jackie. The two look at each other while Jackie takes it all in. Then Pete says, “Truth is, you’re not my wife, Jacks. It would be just…” and Jackie nods, agreeing it would be a bit weird. But then he says, “Oh, come here,” and the two of them rush into each other’s arms.
#11 – Mickey stays behind (from The Age of Steel) – Mickey (Noel Clarke) wasn’t traveling with Rose and The Doctor long before he started feeling like a third wheel. Upon finding that his beloved grandmother is still alive in the parallel universe that the TARDIS crew has stumbled into, Mickey elects to stay behind. “She needs me,” he says. “But… what if I need you?” Rose asks, tears coming to her eyes. “But, that’s just it, Rose; you don’t.” Rose finally has to acknowledge that, despite falling in love with the Doctor, she has been reluctant to let Mickey go and has been leading him on. She cries, hugs him goodbye and walks to the TARDIS with her head bowed. “Where’s Mickey,” Jackie asks when they return to their own world. “He went home,” the Doctor says.
#10 – “You’re my Daddy” (from Father’s Day) – The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) takes Rose back in time to see the father that she never knew and she impulsively saves his life, creating a fracture in time that threatens to destroy the world. With the Doctor dead and the end coming soon, Pete knows that the only way to set things right is to run out in front of a car and let it kill him. “Who am I?” he asks Rose. “My Daddy,” she says and squeezes her crying eyes tight as she hugs him one last time. Pete runs into the street and is killed, Rose holding his hand as he breathes his last. Nothing in Pete Tyler’s life was a heroic as his leaving of it.
#9 – Sarah Jane’s farewell (from School Reunion) – After meeting Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen), Rose realizes that life with the Doctor can’t last forever. “Should I stay with him?” she asks Sarah Jane. “Yes,” she replies, “Some things are worth getting your heart broken for. Find me… if you need to one day.” Once outside the TARDIS, Sarah Jane begs the Doctor to say goodbye properly (unlike the last time). “Goodbye… my Sarah Jane,” he says, giving her a hug that lifts her off her feet.
#8 – Donna loses her children (from Forests Of The Dead) – Donna (Catherine Tate), realizes that she is trapped inside a computer and has been experiencing a virtual reality, but she rejects the notion that her children are not real, even when her children say so. “Mummy, sometimes when you’re not here, it’s like we’re not here. Even when you close your eyes, we just… stop.” “Well,” Donna says, trying to put a happy face on it, “Mummy promises never to close her eyes again.” She leans down to kiss them goodnight and they disappear. Donna reacts accordingly; she screams in horror.
#7 – The Doctor confronts Grandfather (from The Rings of Akhaten) – To protect Merry Gejelh (Emilia Jones) from Grandfather, a sun-sized creature that feeds on memories and feelings, the Eleventh Doctor offers himself, all his years, lives and memories up for dinner in her place. The speech he gives marks Matt Smith’s finest acting moment in his three years as the Doctor. There isn’t a dry eye in the house as he shouts, “I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a mad man. I’ve watched universes freeze and creations burn. I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe! I have lost things you will never understand! And I know things… secrets that must never be told… knowledge that must never be spoken… knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze! So come on, then! Take it!” Wow.
#6 – Vincent Van Gogh sees the future (from Vincent and The Doctor) – Doctor Who has always had an interesting relationship with historical artists. Both Dickens and Agatha Christie were unsure of their legacies while Shakespeare knew he had nothing to worry about. But the most troubled artist the Doctor ever met was Vincent Van Gogh (Tony Curran). In an unprecedented move, The Eleventh Doctor and Amy take the troubled artist to present-day England and visit an art gallery featuring a Van Gogh exhibition. Vincent sees for the first time his life’s work celebrated. Then the Doctor asks curator Mr. Black (Bill Nighy) his opinion of Van Gogh. Mr. Black waxes poetically and gushes unapologetically about the spirit of Van Gogh’s work until Vincent is overcome with emotion. A throat-lumping moment if ever there was one.
#5 – Amy and Rory die (from The Angels Take Manhattan) – After a bid at double suicide that causes one paradox too many, Amy and Rory save themselves from the Weeping Angels and end up back in the present day with the Doctor and River (Alex Kingston). But an angel has survived and touches Rory, sending him back to 1930s New York. A nearby tombstone bears his name, confirming his fate. The TARDIS can never go back, but Amy knows another way; knowing that she can’t live without Rory she decides to let the angel touch her so that she can be with him. The Doctor is horrified and begs her to return to the TARDIS. Amy turns to him, says “Raggedy Man, Goodbye,” and disappears in front of him. The tombstone now bears both Amy and Rory’s names and the Doctor is inconsolable.
#4 – Wilf offers his pistol (from The End of Time – Part 2) – While stranded on an alien ship, Wilf (Bernard Cribbins) takes a moment to have a quiet talk with the Tenth Doctor. He’s brought his service revolver with him and tries to give it to the Doctor so that he can kill the Master. The Doctor refuses it… several times. Finally, Wilf’s composure breaks. “Please don’t die. You’re the most wonderful man and I don’t want you to die,” he pleads through his tears, but the Doctor still won’t take the gun. It’s a heartbreaking moment, and it is shocking when a minute later, after realizing that the Time Lords are returning, the Doctor takes Wilf’s gun after all.
#3 – Rory says Goodbye to Old Amy (from The Girl Who Waited) – Amy has been trapped for thirty-six years on Appalapachia and has a bone to pick with the Eleventh Doctor. She finally decides to help Rory and her younger self escape on the condition that she is allowed to escape too. The Doctor says that the TARDIS could handle the paradox of two Amys in the TARDIS, but then locks Old Amy out, admitting that he lied. Rory can’t bear to leave her there and starts to unlock the door. “Don’t let me in,” she says, crying, “If you love me, don’t let me in. Tell her, your Amy, that I’m giving her the days… the days I can’t have.” Amy and Rory have spent most of their time in the series convincing each other (and the audience) that they love each other. It was never more convincing than at this moment.
#2 – The Tenth Doctor Regenerates (from The End Of Time – Part 2) – Three years after he left the show, David Tennant is still considered the most popular Doctor of all time. Thus was the case when he announced his decision to hand the role over to someone else, an announcement that was met with a great cry of protest from fans all over the world. As such, Russell T Davies, the writer of Tennant’s last episode, gave him a death scene that hit all the emotional high points that fans were looking for. The Doctor is zapped by radiation in order to save Wilf. Then he holds off his regeneration to go and say Goodbye to all his friends, leaving Rose for last. Then he staggers back to the TARDIS, racked in pain, and takes off one last time. Alone and despondent, he looks into the camera and says, “I don’t want to go.” But go he does, in a violent flash of energy that nearly destroys the TARDIS. A brilliant send-off for a brilliant Doctor.
#1 – The Doctor loses Rose (from Doomsday) Even the most hard-hearted of viewers cry during the last ten minutes of this episode. Despite her determination that she will never leave the Doctor, even if it means never seeing her mother again, Rose falls towards the mouth of the Void and is saved at the last minute by Pete, who takes her into the parallel world before the breach closes. Rose pounds on the wall and weeps to be taken back. The separated lovers each put an ear up to the wall and feel each others’ presence on the other side, despite being separated by dimensions. Later, the Doctor is able to send his image through to say Goodbye to her one last time. “I love you,” she stammers through her tears. The Doctor also has something to say, but he takes a little too long to say it. “Rose Tyler…” he manages to get out before the breach closes for good, leaving Rose crying in her mother’s arms on the beach and the Doctor alone, with a tear rolling down his face, on the TARDIS. It is the saddest moment in the history of this show.