The thing that is missing from a lot of TV shows is memorability. They lack those key moments that make a show go beyond just being a regular television show. Would we remember Dallas if JR hadn’t been shot? Would the conclusion of The West Wing‘s second season been half as good without President Batlett cursing out God in Latin? Would 24 be as edge of your seat intense without the willingness to kill off favorite characters? Well, for a show that has been around for as long as Doctor Who, you can expect there to be hundreds of great moments, moments that make you get on your knees and thank the heavens that you’re a fan. For our final tribute to the forty-fifth anniversary of Doctor Who we choose the top twenty greatest moments in Doctor Who‘s long history, which I will say is no easy task.
20) The Doctor’s Children of Time From “Journey’s End”
The Doctor has always been forced to do impossible things all on his own. Not anymore. When the Daleks steal the Earth and place it in the heart of The Medusa Cascade, The Doctor is faced with the problem of having to return the Earth back to its original position. This would be impossible for him to do alone. It is fortunate that The Doctor’s surrogate family have come along for the ride. Finally with enough people to pilot the TARDIS properly, the Earth can be towed home. This is a beautiful moment which truly shows the amazing impact The Doctor has had on the lives of all his companions. When you see all of the companions working together at the TARDIS controls, it leaves you reflecting on where each of these characters came from and marvelling at how each of them arrived at this point. On a side note it proves how that little blue box puts every other space ship to shame. Starship Enterprise? Don’t make me laugh.
19) Y.A.N.A. From “Utopia”
One of the most frightening plot twists in Doctor Who‘s long history. When viewers gathered around their televisions to watch the latest episode of Doctor Who, they were only expecting to see the reunion of The Doctor with Captain Jack Harkness. We also were mildly excited to see Derek Jacobi playing a significant role in the episode as the kindly Professor Yana. We were so caught up in the expositions regarding Captain Jack Harkness’ immortality that we weren’t expecting to see the chameleon arch fob watch from “Human Nature” and “Family of Blood” resurface in Professor Yana’s hand! When audiences saw that watch, they were screaming. Audiences who were aware of the classic series knew what this meant and they were afraid of what was coming, while NuWho fans were unsure as to why this is clearly a bad thing. This is one of the truly arresting moments in Who history that had all audiences unanimously on an adrenaline high.
18) Rose Tyler… From “Doomsday”
The Doctor and Rose Tyler were meant to be together forever, or so we thought. Rose Tyler wanted to be there for The Doctor, because she knew that he was alone. Apparently the universe had other plans, because after The Doctor and Rose send the Daleks and the Cybermen into the void we are left with Rose trapped in the paralell Earth. In the final scenes of “Doomsday” there is nary a dry eye in the room as we bid goodbye to Rose in a scene of such emotional power that it’s difficult to watch without getting misty-eyed. The feelings of woe are exacerbated when The Doctor is cut off before he gets a chance to say how he feels. We’re totally exhausted with sadness when the scene is quickly interrupted by the seemingly impossible appearance by a firey bridezilla named Donna.
17) Did You Miss Me? From “The Christmas Invasion”
A brilliant strategy in revealing the Tenth Doctor by keeping him bedridden for the bulk of the episode. As a result, when David Tennant emerges from the TARDIS, he is a geyser of incredible, magnetic enthusiasm. Soon you are totally hanging onto every single second that Tennant is on screen. From the moment Tennant lets loose from the TARDIS doors all the way to the brilliant crane shot at the conclusion of the episode, we knew that we were one the verge of seeing a Doctor for our age with the same appeal that Tom Baker had in the 1970’s.
16) EVERYBODY LIVES! From “The Doctor Dances”
This is one of the most triumphant moments in Doctor Who history, especially for a Doctor as brooding and dead serious as Eccleston’s Doctor. In this moment we see The Ninth Doctor become The Doctor we’ve known and loved from the past… the exuberant, enthusiastic Doctor who absolutely beams when he accomplishes the kind of impossible that winds up preserving and restoring the lives of those that were feared lost. It was one of the first true moments that got audiences all misty-eyed from the sheer joys that this show exuded.
15) Doc-tor…THE DOC-TOR! EXTERMINATE From “Dalek”
The other big reveal of the series’ return was the newly revamped Dalek. The new Dalek is revealed in a scene of powerful suspense and intensity. Eccleston delivers a powerhouse performance in this scene, and he’s doing it to the great space dustbin. This whole scene is extremely potent with dramatic depth because this is the first time we actually get some inside information of what might have happened during the Time War.
14) “Run!” From “Rose”
It was announced in 2004 that Doctor Who would return, and now here we are watching a fantastic introductory montage of Rose Tyler which closes on Rose being bombarded by homicidal shop window dummies. All we knew at this point was that Christopher Eccleston was playing The Doctor, and that he was going to have a crop cut, a north accent, and a leather jacket, many traits which, at first glance, didn’t scream “Doctor.” So we had to see this first scene to determine whether or not Doctor Who really was back, or whether it was just a soulless husk. In a display of striking simplicity, all Eccleston had to do was take Rose’s hand and whisper, “Run.” That alone declared to the world that Doctor Who is back, and it’s here to stay.
13) The Doctor Scores With Chicks From “The TV Movie”
The TV Movie caused a massive uproar amongst the fans, and all he had to do was kiss his companion. Until this point, the concept of The Doctor actually having intimate encounters was totally unimaginable. Fans seemed hell-bent to retcon the memory of The Doctor’s first television kiss. The incident became such a controversy that writer Steven Moffat went on to spoof it in the comedy special The Curse of Fatal Death. Later on, he confronted the subject head-on in “The Doctor Dances” when The Doctor hints that a Time Lord doesn’t live on jelly babies alone.
12) “…Come on, Ace, we’ve got work to do.” From “Survival”
“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea’s asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we’ve got work to do.” That final monologue was an extremely uninvited epitaph for a series that was cut off just before it was finally getting its strength back. Though it was a fantastic monologue at the conclusion of an equally fantastic story, the monologue was designed to be a seemingly empty promise that Doctor Who would come back shortly. I say seemingly because we thought the show would come back a bit sooner than fifteen years later. Oh, well. Now we can’t say that the BBC welshed on their promise.
11) The Daleks Ascend… The Stairs From “Remembrance of the Daleks”
In all the years leading up to this story, the signature menace of Doctor Who has always been heckled for their inability to ascend a simple flight of stairs. After this episode we realized it was a whole new ball game as an Imperial Dalek surprises even The Doctor by menacingly ascending the stairs towards him.
10) The Fifth Doctor’s Sacrifice From “The Caves of Androzani”
We have always known The Fifth Doctor to be kind, level-headed, and most importantly loyal to those he cares about. In “Androzani” we see all of those traits put to the ultimate test when both he and Peri contract Spectrox Toxaemia. The Doctor pushes himself to terrifying lengths in order to find an antidote for Peri. He matches wits with arms dealers, crooked politicians, and mad geniuses. He crashes a spaceship, dodges a series of explosions, and goes spelunking in an airless cave in order to find a vaccine for the toxin. The Doctor tops all of that off by giving Peri the antidote without hesitation. The final moments of The Fifth Doctor encompass everything that put his incarnation among the greats, and this final sacrifice made for the most dramatically resonant finale in Who history.
9) Adric’s Death From “Earthshock”
Adric was never a popular companion, but that didn’t stop us from being positively mortified to witness the young lad’s fate. When “Earthshock” begins, we thought Adric would be taken back to E-Space at the conclusion of this story. We even thought that that was how it was going to end in lieu of the fact that Adric is left stranded on a freighter swarming with Cybermen. All of that comes from the fact that we’re used to the companions making like the Energizer bunny. So when Adric crashes into prehistoric Earth, it is shocking, and it is a tragically sobering reminder that travelling with The Doctor doesn’t make you immortal.
8) The Creator of the Daleks From “Genesis of the Daleks”
It’s hard to imagine that a race devoted to total racial domination could have been the fruits of an individual’s imagination. Once we are introduced to Davros, we realize that The Daleks truly are the brainchild of Davros. What is worse is that they are a product of his philosophy. Only in Davros’ deranged mind could he create a race without pity or understanding. The scene in “Genesis” that truly displays the extent of Davros’ madness is between him and The Doctor, when The Doctor offers him a hypothetical scenario involving a delicate capsule containing a lethal virus. The Doctor asks Davros if he would break the glass. The most chilling moment comes when Davros declares that not only would he break the glass, he would do it in order to set him amongst the gods.
7) The Fourth Doctor From “Robot”
The Third Doctor had raised the bar extremely high for any other actor to portray The Doctor afterward. When a relative unknown named Tom Baker made his debut in the episode “Robot” we wound up getting sucker-punched by the sheer bravado he displayed. Our excitement was on a constant high as The Fourth Doctor darted around the UNIT laboratory examining his new face, changing his wardrobe multiple times, and jumping rope with Harry Sullivan, all of which happens in the first episode. No one was prepared for Tom Baker, and no one would have expected at this point that he would become the quintessential Doctor.
6) “I am usually referred to as The Master” from “Terror of the Autons”
The Third Doctor’s exile on Earth meant that he was going to have a surrogate family by his side. He had UNIT, The Brigadier, Sergeant Benton, Mike Yates, and his new assistant Jo Grant, but what this setup needed was a continuing antagonist. So in the beginning of The Third Doctor’s second series we are introduced to The Doctor’s most dangerous nemesis, The Master. As that first story progresses we begin to realize that The Master is more than a match for The Doctor. He is The Doctor’s equal and, worst of all, the opposite. At the conclusion of this story we also find out that another thing The Master does just as well as The Doctor is narrowly dodge death.
5) Meet The Time Lords from “The War Games”
We have always known that The Doctor was a wanderer, but we were always fuzzy as to the real reason. In Patrick Troughton’s final episode we find out that it wasn’t so much as “what” that led The Doctor down his path, but more like “who.” The “who” in question is the Time Lords. At the end of the epic ten part saga, The Doctor is forced to face the music by standing before The Time Lords. When we see The Doctor’s persistence to try and escape his own people, we realize that there was much more to The Doctor’s self-imposed exile from Gallifrey. When The Doctor is forced to stand trial before a Time Lord tribunal we finally understand that The Time Lords are as powerful as they are bureaucratic. They are strictly observers who refuse to interfere. So it’s a big thing that they allowed The Doctor to continue his pursuits, even if they did exile him to Earth with a new face.
4) The Doctor Regenerates from “The Tenth Planet”
William Hartnell loved the character of The Doctor. He loved the impact he had on audiences of all ages. So it saddened him that his health forbade him to do another series. The final episode of “The Tenth Planet” seemed like another win for The Doctor, but when The Doctor entered the TARDIS and collapsed on the floor, audiences were terrified that their hero was dying. Ironically, The Doctor’s death wasn’t even half as terrifying as the image of the familiar visage of William Hartnell disappearing under a veil of white light. Then when the light subsides there is another man where their Doctor should be. Audiences were not prepared for this sort of change. Many were not willing to accept it, but there was a new Doctor in the house, and so audiences had to become accustomed to this new ability that would go on to become an important tradition in the show’s long history.
3) Susan’s Departure from “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”
When The Doctor’s granddaughter fell in love with a resistance fighter in the 22nd century, one of the first Doctor Who traditions was born: the departure of a companion. Another thing that has helped Doctor Who remain spontaneous after all these years is the fact that the main cast is constantly changing, and because of the way the characters evolve, the companion’s departure always seems natural. So when Susan opted to stay behind, this became another essential ingredient of Doctor Who‘s legacy. It makes you wonder if the producers knew how long the show would last and how to sustain it.
2) The Daleks from “The Dead Planet”
Doctor Who was not intended to be a sci-fi series with any real aliens, but then the producer decided that the sophomore episode should be a total opposite from Doctor Who‘s Stone Age debut. So the next story was set on a planet flooded with radiation, and on the edge of a petrified forest there was a metallic city. In that city dwelled the most dangerous species in the universe: The Daleks. The Daleks took Britain by storm, and audiences’ immediate love of the Daleks was soon matched by their love of all things Who.
1) The First Trip from “An Unearthly Child”
The very first episode of Doctor Who was shown through the eyes of two curious schoolteachers who demanded to learn more about their preternaturally intelligent student, Susan Foreman. They follow her to a junkyard where she disappears, and the only person present is a stubborn old man who decides to roundabout all of Ian and Barbara’s demands. Soon Ian and Barbara barge into a police box only to discover a massive control room! In that instant, audience’s eyes were opened, and they began to see that this was going to be a show that has some tricks hidden. The Doctor sets the TARDIS in motion and lands all of them onto a barren landscape with a menacing shadow looming towards it. Those who were there began to realize that they couldn’t walk away from this show that should have been a children’s show.
…Instead it became a legend.
Final Tribute Video by Stuart “BabelColour” Humphryes