This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who and with our hero making his way through the current series with a new companion and new mysteries, the writers at CultureMass thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of our favorite moments throughout our journey with the Doctor. I wasn’t introduced to the Doctor until around the time the sixth season was wrapping up. A friend of mine suggested it earlier but I was stubborn and wasn’t ready to give it a shot. Never have I been more upset with myself for being so wrong. Doctor Who is one of those fictional rarities that transcend entertainment and bring us all in with emotional connections we can only equate to real life. Of course we are a new generation enjoying only the tail end of the Doctor’s life so far. Yet we’ve already seen so much of what the Doctor is capable of accomplishing. It’s a show we share with our family, with our friends, and with the rest of the Whovian masses! But that’s the point isn’t it? Mankind. Humans. One of the best qualities about the Doctor is his faith in us as a species. And I think that’s one of the underlying tones that keeps so many of us in love with this show.
There are a few spoilers here so tread softly if you are still making your way through the seasons. Otherwise, check out our staff picks and tell us some of yours! ~ Dustin Sanson, writer
Dustin’s Moment: The Death of Nine
One of the most defining moments in the history of the Doctor, for any Whovian, is the first time you say goodbye to an incarnation and hello to the next. For that reason I have to go with the death of 9.
The entire finale was phenomenal in that it showed us how emotional the writing can truly get. What makes this moment stand out to me was the Doctor’s attitude throughout the entire regeneration process. Number 9 was the Doctor with the pain in his eyes and the pain of losing his entire race on his (most recent) shoulders. This is the incarnation that pulled the trigger, that stared down an army of Daleks, and saved the universe while also losing everything he knew. And here he was again, with a tiny group of humans against an entire armada of Daleks. He wins again! That’s what the Doctor does, but what I valued the most in his last moments was how he handled it. Not for himself but for Rose and us as the audience. A new generation of Whovians experiencing the loss of a Doctor for the first time and the passing was more sweet than bitter. It was like 9 was ready to move on, ready to be done with all that he had seen. He acted with biggest heart and in his last words we could see that he had no regrets.
The Doctor: Time Lords have this little trick, it’s sort of a way of cheating death, except it means I’m gonna change. And I’m not gonna see you again, not like this, not with this daft old face. And before I go…
Rose: Don’t say that!
The Doctor: Rose, before I go I just wanna tell you: you were fantastic…absolutely fantastic…and d’you know what?
Rose: *shakes her head*
The Doctor: So was I.
I don’t know if I would have been able to cope as well with 10’s final moments (in which I cried buckets anyway) had it not been for the preparation that Chris Eccleston gave us in his farewell. I’ve always wished we could have had more time with 9, he was a fantastic Doctor… But he went out much like he lived, in a very brief, show-must-go-on kind of moment.
Rachel’s Moment: Are You My Mummy?
The introduction of Captain Jack was, of course, special in this episode but that’s not the reason I love it. Firstly, the episode is set in 1941 London during the Blitzkrieg. WWII is one of my favorite historic periods because of the depth and magnitude of all it encapsulated about the emergence of the modern world. The Doctor, played by Chris Eccleston begins by exploring a back alley nightclub and following a fur bedecked chanteuse’s performance of “It Had To Be You” he asks the audience, “Excuse me…has anything fallen from the sky recently?” After an awkward silence the crowd begins to laugh.
In a way, Eccleston will always be my Doctor. Though I love David Tennant, Eccleston breathed new life into my old show and this episode in particular resonated to me for its contrasts and characters. Rose is shown to be a maternal type as the Doctor’s exploration of London nightlife leaves her alone to the calls of “Mummy!” from a child on the rooftop of a near building. She rushes to his aide. A dangling rope provides the only recourse for her to retrieve the child from the precarious edge of the structure. Unfortunately the rope is attached to a zeppelin.
This is the moment that stands out in my head. Rose, flying above London hanging from a zepellin during a German air raid, the stately Old Bailey in the background, bombs dropping from the sky and the night on fire. Her grip slips and she falls screaming…only to be caught in a beam of light. A man’s voice instructs her to turn of her mobile device and she scoffs, “I’m in the middle of a German air raid with a Union Jack across my chest but, hey! At least my phone’s off!” As the light carries her toward the unknown, she takes one final fall…into the arms of the very handsome and charming, Captain Jack Harkness. Swoon. And he also has a space ship, parked right in front of Big Ben. And champagne! What’s a girl supposed to do with all of that stimulation?! I’m not usually into the romantic thing but this kind of romance is right up my alley. The set up, the effects, the settings, and the creepy little kid in the gas mask makes this episode a must watch for me. And I could watch it over and over. Because the little boy finds his mummy and she saves the world. The Doctor had his day. A day where everybody lives. Everybody. And then they danced.
Caroline’s Moment: Fun With Shakespeare
Asking a Whovian which moment is their favorite Doctor Who moment is like asking a book junkie what their favorite book is, or a music person what their favorite song is. It’s pretty much unfair and impossible. How do I pick just one? There are so many moments that have left such an impression on me.
Do I pick when Rose looked into the heart of the TARDIS? Or how about when I first realized that the weeping angel statues moved? Do I pick when I laughed the hardest? Cried the most? I DON’T KNOW! But what I do know is that I love this show.
I want to give some context before I unveil my moment, because in-spite of all that I do have a favorite. I have always been a geek. I was raised on Star Wars and was totally drawn in by Harry Potter when it was first released (I was in middle school for that one). Really, totally cliche, but never really was a popular kid. I had my niche in high school and college sure, but even then, still the geek. So I make my way to grad school and find tons of people who love the same things I do and then some. It was the first place I’d ever been where being geeky was cool. My mom even made a comment about how there were more people like me in the world. But, that first year I realized something, I wasn’t geeky enough. Everyone there talked about this show – Doctor Who. I had no idea what it was, so I vowed I’d watch it all so that the following summer I wouldn’t feel left out among my own people.
I was already hooked by the time Martha Jones became a companion. No, she’s not my favorite, but many of my favorite episodes were during her season. My favorite Doctor Who moment is when the Doctor gets Shakespeare to quote Harry Potter and thus save the day. I remember laughing so hard because this is where I fit in. I had a place in this crazy world with a madman in a box.
When I went back to school for the next term, that was it. Suddenly, I felt that being quirky and geeky was cool. That feeling has stayed with me as friends outside my program have started watching Doctor Who. Sappy? Maybe. But, there it is: my favorite Doctor Who moment.
K.M.’s Moment: Vincent’s Legacy
While there are many great humorous moments in Doctor Who that I love, like the one previously mentioned, I find myself most drawn to the quiet, reflective moments: those moments wherein the fragility of the human existence is examined, often through the lens of a single individual’s life.
My most favorite moment in all of Doctor Who is the speech the museum curator gives in season 5, episode 10, “Vincent and the Doctor”. Vincent van Gogh, a deeply emotional, struggling artist seeped in tragedy and unaware of his own greatness, overhears and becomes overwhelmed by the love shown for him and his work:
“He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world…no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.”
This speaks volumes about what a deeply lived life entails. It suggests that despite our upbringing, history, deficiencies, failures, or imperfections, our lives are full of beautiful mystery. Each of our lives is valuable. To retain the ability to express that, to understand that the world is still worth being marveled at, is an incredible gift.
Not only is this encouraging to me, as an artistic individual, it reveals the very heart of Doctor Who: the Doctor, a passionate being with many, many tragedies in his long life, still grabs us excitedly and pulls us into the TARDIS to explore the wonders of the universe. I don’t know that there has ever been another show quite like it, and I doubt that there will ever be such another. To me, the curator’s speech encompasses the entirety of what Doctor Who means, which is why I must choose this particular moment as my favorite.
T.J.’s Moment: What Just Happened?
The thing that first struck me about Doctor Who (the modern series, I must point out; I’m woefully ill-versed in the series’ original run, though I’ve made attempts at it) was how rich the show felt, in its worlds and its characters. This didn’t so much come across in the first episode, which was enjoyable but limited in scope by necessity, but in all those that followed. Throughout the first five seasons, I was continually floored by how Who was able to outdo itself: first with the Lonely Child arc and the magnificent “Father’s Day,” then with the arrival of Tennant’s tenth Doctor and all his great adventures. Looking back over it now, I’m surprised by how little I actually took away from Tennant’s first season. Sure, it had its moments, but I find I’m more won over by season 3’s scrappy ambition and 4’s shaky but deeply affecting drama.
At the end of the day, however, I’ll always be a fan of Matt Smith’s Doctor above all the rest. His take on the character was just so refreshing after years of Russell T. Davies’ romantic spin on the character; here was a more unpredictable Doctor, one who could actually come off as alien when he needed to, but was always a blast to watch. From “The Time of the Angels” arc to the stellar season 5 finale (my personal favorite of all of them) to the utter perfection that is “A Christmas Carol,” the Matt Smith era just kept asserting everything I loved about Doctor Who from the very beginning.
The peak of all that, in my opinion, was the climactic reveal of “Day of the Moon,” part two of season 6’s opening arc, where we were first introduced to the menacing and mysterious Silence (can Steven Moffat create great villains or what?). Doctor Who twists, Moffat’s in particular, had always had a way of catching me off guard in the most exhilarating way, but the culmination of the Doctor’s plan in this episode sent me through the roof. I literally had to pause the video so I could just geek out about the amazing thing I had just seen. I won’t spoil it for anyone here, but for those of you who know your history, let’s just say it’s a slight of hand trick that’s as fantastic as anything you’ve ever seen on television.
Angel’s Moment: Back In Action!
I agree that asking a “Whonatic” about their favorite episode is like asking a reader about their favorite book. It would be impossible to name just one. Even as you find a favorite, you will quickly have another favorite brought to mind. Is it “Blink” when we meet Sally Sparrow and run into the Weeping Angels for the first time? Is it when we meet Captain Jack Harkness and for once, nobody dies and everybody lives? Is it when we meet River Song and those two fantastic Library episodes (combining my love of Who and my love of books)?
The episode that always sticks with me, though it, in itself, is not my favorite, is the Christmas Special right after we lose Eccleston, “Christmas Invasion.” Rose is adrift. She doesn’t know what to do. Her quandary mirrors our own. We are left to piece together what our lives, our adventures will be like now that we’ve lost our first Doctor. Because we did love him. Nine was special. He showed us the light. He showed us the TARDIS – for some for the first time and for others, once again – and all of space and time. We watched the world end with him, met the Face of Bo, remembered Daleks, found our mummies. He sustained us in our nerdly fantasies. And in a flash of light and with a kiss, he was gone. Gone. Who could take his place? Who could be like him? It was going to take me forever to like someone as much as I loved The Doctor. Nine was my Doctor!
So, in the episode, we spend the majority of the time with Mickey, Rose, and her mom, Jackie. The Doctor’s regeneration isn’t going quite as planned. He’s “sick” and they are being attacked by the Sycorax. Harriet Jones (yes, we know who you are!) has Torchwood on standby, ready to be the last line of defense if the Doctor is not around. So my favorite part is the speech when Ten is testing himself out. He is awakened from his regeneration woes by the tannens in the tea. He doesn’t know what kind of man he is. He bursts from the TARDIS in dressing clothes and a robe and acts as if he’s visiting.
The Doctor: I wanted to be ginger! I’ve never been ginger. And you, Rose Tyler! Fat lot of good you were. You gave up on me! (taken aback) Oo! That’s rude. Is that the sort of man I am now? Am I rude? Rude and not ginger.
Sycorax Leader: Who are you?!?
The Doctor: Well, that’s the question.
Sycorax Leader: I demand to know who you are!
The Doctor: I don’t know! See that’s the thing. I’m the Doctor. But beyond that I just don’t know. I literally do not know who I am. It’s all untested. Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy? Right old misery? Life and soul? Right-handed, left-handed? A gambler, a fighter, a coward, a traitor, a liar, a nervous wreck? I mean judging by the evidence I’ve certainly got a gob.
The Doctor (noticing the glowing orb.) And how am I going to react when I see this? A great big threatening button. A great big threatening button which must not be pressed under any circumstances, am I right? Let me guess. It’s some sort of control matrix, hm? Hold on, what’s feeding it? And what have we got here? Blood? Yep, definitely blood. Human blood. A positive. With just a dash of iron. But that means… blood control! Blood control! Aw! I haven’t seen blood control for years! You’re controlling all the A positives. Which leaves us with a great big stinking problem. Because I really don’t know who I am. I don’t know when to stop. So if I see a great big threatening button which should never, ever, ever be pressed, I just want to do this—
Alex: You’ve killed them!
The Doctor: What do you think, big fella? Are they dead?
Sycorax Leader: We allow them to live.
The Doctor: Allow? You have no choice. See, that’s all blood control is. Cheap bit of voodoo. Scares the pants off of you but that’s as far as it goes. It’s like hypnosis. You can hypnotize someone to walk like a chicken or sing like Elvis, you can’t hypnotize them to death. Survival instinct’s too strong.
Sycorax Leader: Blood control is just one form of conquest. I can summon the armada and take this world by force.
The Doctor: Well, yeah, you could, yeah. You could do that, of course you could. But why? Look at these people, these human beings. Consider their potential. From the day they arrive on the planet, blinking step into the sun. There is more to be seen than can ever be seen. More to do than… No, hold on. Sorry, that’s the Lion King. But the point still stands. Leave them alone!
Sycorax Leader: You stand as this world’s champion!
The Doctor: Thank you. I’ve no idea who I am but that you’ve just summed me up.
The Doctor and the leader of the Sycorax fight. The leader cuts off The Doctor’s hand.
Sycorax Leader seeing the Doctor’s hand regenerate: Witchcraft!
The Doctor correcting him: Time Lord.
The Doctor about his regenerated hand: Of course I’m still The Doctor then.
Rose: No arguments from me!
The Doctor: Wanna know the best bit? This new hand? It’s a fightin’ hand!
The Doctor defeats the Sycorax leader and expects him to leave, since that was the condition of their fight.
The Doctor: Not bad for a man in his jim jams. Very Arthur Dent. Now, there was a nice man. Although what have I got in here? A satsuma. Ah, that friend of your mother’s. He does like his snacks, doesn’t he? But doesn’t that just sum up Christmas. You go through all those presents and right at the end tucked away in the bottom there’s always one stupid old satsuma. (the Sycorax gets up to attack the Doctor who launches the satsuma at a release mechanism.) No second chances. I’m that sort of a man.
When I heard this final line, I could feel myself breaking down. All of the Doctor love I’d held on to for Christopher Eccleston just melted away. Tennant’s Doctor was goofy, and happy go lucky, and manic… up until the moment when the leader was going to betray the point of their duel and he hits the button. He offers a chance, but no second chances. I could feel the chills of his fierceness and knew that the writing and the actor would meld and become my Doctor. Most of my favorite episodes involve Tennant. Even if this moment is not the one I watch over and over again (there are several of those), it is the moment that stands out for me in the Doctor Who universe.
The staff of CultureMass have picked some great Doctor Who moments. Is there something you’re surprised isn’t on our list? What moments from Doctor Who would make your list?