Last year, I published an article on this blog titled “The Fifteen Most Tear-Jerking Moments in Doctor Who.” What with another year of episodes behind us (and suddenly remembering a few moments I forgot for the previous article), I realized it was time to expand our horizons when it comes to the weepier moments in our favorite science fiction program. So here, without further introduction, is the expanded list of twenty saddest moments, in ascending order, from the last ten years of Doctor Who:
WARNING: Here there be Spoilers
#20 – The Eleventh Doctor calls Clara (from Deep Breath) – Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) return from Victorian England having saved the day from the clockwork robots that were harvesting humans for their parts. However, Clara is unsure whether she can accept this older, grumpier Scot as the Doctor. She decides that she won’t travel anymore on the TARDIS… and then her phone rings. She is shocked to hear the labored breathing of The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) placing a “time-call” from Trenzalore before his regeneration. Clara tears up, hearing the voice of her old friend as he tells her that he thinks this new change might “be a whopper” and is worried that she might be scared. He begs her not to abandon the new Doctor because “he is more scared than you are.” “Is that the Doctor?” Number Twelve asks her and Number Eleven asks her the same thing. After the call is over, The Doctor tries to get her to understand. “That was me who called you… you’re looking right at me and you can’t see me.” After giving him a good long look, she thanks him for phoning and gives him the first of many (for him) uncomfortable hugs.
#19 – 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.
#18– “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…
#17 – Clara Turns Off Danny’s Emotions (from Death In Heaven) – Don’t get me wrong; Danny’s death in the previous episode Dark Water and Clara’s subsequent Mexican standoff with the Doctor in the Volcano was emotional and intense to say the least, but here we are confronted with the two young lovers at their worst possible moment. Clara wasn’t present when Danny died and his off-screen death made his fate seem almost absent. Here Danny, now rejuvenated as a cyberman (albeit one with a malfunctioning emotional inhibitor), confronts Clara in a cemetery, removing his cyber face-plate and revealing his pained and decaying face beneath, gone gray and punctured by cyberplugs. He’s begging Clara to use the sonic screwdriver on his inhibitor to stop the pain. “I feel like I’m killing you,” she says, choking up. But Danny has the trump card: “I’m already dead.” The tragic couple profess their love one last time before Clara turns him into a fully-functioning cyberman. True, he does retain enough of his old self in order to save the world, but it’s still a horrific scene.
#16 – 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.
#15 – 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.
#14 – 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.
#13 – “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.
#12 – 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.
#11 – 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.
#10 – 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.
#9 – 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.
#8 – The Eleventh Doctor Regenerates (from The Time Of The Doctor) – The Doctor has withered into old age, guarding both the Timelords and the planet Trenzalore from the hordes of villains out to destroy them. He’s fully expecting to be killed but, egged on by Clara, the Timelords grant the Doctor a new life-cycle. The energy from his regeneration defeats the Daleks fleets in a flash. Clara boards the TARDIS to find the Doctor young again, but he says it’s just the reset and his new face is coming. Talking about how people are always changing, he concludes “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.” A figure approaches from the stairs and the Doctor is confronted with a hallucination of his long-dead friend Amy Pond. “Raggedy Man,” she says, “Goodnight.” Sadly, he removes his iconic bow tie and lets it drop to the floor. “No, no,” Clara pleads, crying, “Please don’t change.” But before anyone can draw another breath, the Doctor’s head snaps back and he is replaced with the aged appearance of his new incarnation. It’s so sudden, we almost forget that we were crying just a moment before.
#7 – Donna Forgets (from Journey’s End) – Although the TARDIS control room was stuffed with the Tenth Doctor’s old friends in their efforts to defeat Davros, once the crisis is over, they leave, one by one, to take up their old lives, leaving The Doctor and Donna (now the super-intelligent “Doctor Donna”) alone. But Donna’s got a problem, her new-found Timelord intelligence is burning up her brain. In order to save her life, the Doctor has no choice but to wipe her memories of him and everything she experienced on the TARDIS. Donna pleads with the Doctor through her tears, but to no avail. The next we see of her, she is the vapid Donna that she once was, gossiping with her friends and unable to remember that she saved the entire universe from extinction. With that version of Donna now dead, the Doctor has no choice but to make his sad and lonely way back to the TARDIS. It doesn’t help to lift the audience’s mood when Wilf (Bernard Cribbins) wishes him goodbye by saying, “Every night, when the stars come out, I’ll look up… on her behalf… I’ll look up in the sky… and think of you.”
#6 – Idris Dies (from The Doctor’s Wife) – In one of the most inventive episodes of the Matt Smith era, a creature called House has ripped the TARDIS’s consciousness out of the blue box and placed it in the body of a woman, Idris (Suranne Jones), taking control of the machine itself and terrorizing Amy and Rory, trapped onboard. The Doctor is stuck with the TARDIS actually talking to him, which he finds absolutely brilliant. Together, they work to build a new consol to reach the hijacked TARDIS and defeat House, but a human body can not contain the life-force of the TARDIS without burning up. Idris and a tearful Doctor share one last conversation where she speaks of a word that she wanted to say to him. The Doctor guesses “Goodbye” but Idris instead says “Hello… It’s so very nice to meet you.” And in case any of us missed it, the last thing she says a her body disintegrates is “I love you.” Wiping away the tears, the Doctor realizes that he has met and lost the love of his life, all in the space of an hour.
#5 – “Have a good life.” (from The Parting Of The Ways) – The Ninth Doctor has tricked Rose into the TARDIS is order to save her from the slaughter that he imagines is going to happen on the Gamestation by the fleet of Daleks descending on it. When she realizes what is happening, a hologram of the Doctor appears in front of her, telling her not to worry about his upcoming death and to just let the TARDIS die on the streets of modern-day Earth. Panicking, Rose rushes around but the hologram, being only a hologram, continues to stare straight at the spot where Rose was standing. Then it says, “If you want to do one thing for me, Rose, just one thing…” and amazingly the hologram Doctor turns his to his left to where Rose is now standing, where he somehow knew she would be. “Have a good life,” he says with a warm smile. “Do that for me.” It’s a shocker of a moment and the saddest moment in all of Eccleston’s era.
#4 – Wilf offers his pistol (from The End of Time – Part 2) – While stranded on an alien ship, Wilf 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 Amy’s 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) – Five 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, wracked 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.