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I Just Wanted to Say "Hello" | The Most Heartbreaking Doctor Who Moments

By Courtney Enlow | Seriously Random Lists | September 27, 2012 | Comments ()


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This weekend, we bid a fond farewell to the Ponds. I know some of you heartless fools weren't wild about Amy and Rory (AHEM), but I, never one to be swayed by anyone else's opinion of the companions, loved them dearly and will miss them, and will most likely be a mascara streaked mess Saturday night. With that, I thought we should all mentally prepare by re-experiencing all the other moments that left us in fetal position, clutching our K-9 dolls. Measured on a scale of one to five crying John Smiths. Obviously.

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Forget hiding behind the sofa. These are the moments that had us sobbing into the cushions.

(Please note: I chose to limit this to "New Who" as it's a bit more universal, and because I am sadly not as complete in my Whovian viewership as some of you, and to limit to "New Who plus Doctors 4, 5 and 7" seemed awkward.)

10. Sally Sparrow misses her chance.
Every other scene on this list involves at least one character we've loved or at least come to know well over the course of a season or two. But, in this scene, we have Sally Sparrow and Billy Shipton, two characters we've known mere minutes. And it still has the power to leave viewers in a puddle of tears, snot and broken hopes. "I have until the rain stops." THE RAIN ON MY FACE MAY NEVER STOP, OLD BILLY.

Sadness score: 3/5 Crying John Smiths
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9. The death of River Song.
At the time, of course, this was sad enough. But, now, having spent the past few years getting to know River along with the Doctor, to go back and watch this two-parter again is a gutpunch. Because, not only do we feel the weight of her death, but we can see just how hard it is for her to have finally hit the moment where the Doctor doesn't know her at all.

Sadness score: 3/5 Crying John Smiths
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8. Reinette is left behind.

WHY DOES HE EVER SAY HE'LL BE RIGHT BACK EVER? It's like horror movie rules times watching paint dry.

(just GIFs because YouTube is letting me down today)
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My dear Doctor: the path has never seemed more slow, and yet I fear I am nearing its end. Reason tells me that you and I are unlikely to meet again, but I think I shall not listen to reason. I have seen the world inside your head and know that all things are possible. Hurry though, my love; my days grow shorter now, and I am so very weak. Godspeed, my lonely angel.

Sadness score: 3/5 Crying John Smiths
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7. "Have a fantastic life."
This may be some kind of blasphemy, but I wasn't a huge fan of Eccleston's Doctor. It was always just slightly off. A bit too goofy, while still a bit detached. It just didn't work for me. That said, the whole first series following the show's return to television didn't work for me, and I think this is the only DVD set that I haven't watched in its entirety, only watching most of the episodes in their initial run. But "The Parting of the Ways" was one of the few non-Moffat bright spots. And this moment, far more than the regeneration itself, did me in.

(start at 5:47)

Sadness score: 3/5 Crying John Smiths
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6. John Smith has to die.
This is apparently where RTD learned that David Tennant was such a contagious cryer, he chose to just turn the guy into a human face fountain for the duration. But this, when John Smith finds out what he really is, is pure weepy excellence.

Sadness score: 4/5 Crying John Smiths
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5. Donna loses everything.
I can't imagine that I was alone in my apprehension when I heard Catherine Tate would be the new companion for the fourth series. The Christmas specials had been fairly hit or miss in my opinion, and "The Runaway Bride" featured her at her very shrillest. So I wasn't particularly stoked about a Donna-ful season. But I was gleefully wrong. I came to truly adore Donna Noble, and for her to lose her entire memory of all of the time she spent with the Doctor, all of her time being special when all she ever wanted was to matter, was tragic (and not tragic in the way that I viewed the rest of that episode, but I'll get to that later). Forget Rose and her one-hearted consolation prize; all I wanted was for Donna Noble to be saved.

Sadness score: 4/5 Crying John Smiths
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4. Rory dies, is erased from history.
Can you tell I am an unabashed lover of Rory Williams Pond? Someone who began as a mildly cuckolded wimp has over time become one of the most powerful, most selfless characters in the show's history--at times, even more so than the Doctor. And this, the moment where he's not only killed (however temporarily) but erased from Amy's memory, is just brilliantly sob-inducing.

(Just...god dammit today, YouTube. You are ruining EVERYTHING.)

Sadness score: 5/5 Crying John Smiths
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3. The TARDIS says "hello."
There's no video, just maudlin shipper vids, because sometimes the internet is bullshit, so here's gifs instead--just watch the whole episode again. You'll never convince me otherwise--the TARDIS is the only "woman" the Doctor ever truly loved.

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Idris: I've been looking for a word. A big, complicated word but so sad. I've found it now.
The Doctor: What word?
Idris: "Alive." I'm alive.
The Doctor: Alive isn't sad.
Idris: It's sad when it's over. I'll always be here. But this is when we talked. And now, even that has come to an end. There's something I didn't get to say to you.
The Doctor: Goodbye.
Idris: No. I just wanted to say... hello. Hello, Doctor. It's so very, very nice to meet you.

Sadness score: 5/5 Crying John Smiths
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2. David Tennant says goodbye.
As the seasons wore on, the Tenth Doctor grew increasingly wimpified. And that's not David's fault of course; it's the fault of Russell T. Davies. I generally feel the same way about RTD as I do Ryan Murphy--a great idea man with an excellent sense for casting. But, for the most part, for the love of god, keep him away from the writer's room. So, as bothered as I was by the Doctor--the most selfless man in the universe, basically Jesus--crying the whole episode at the idea that he might die, then throwing a tantrum that he had to save the life of an old man, it was still damn near impossible to watch David Tennant leave.

Sadness score: 5/5 Crying John Smiths
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1. Rose is sent to a parallel universe.
This moment was completely destroyed by the end of Series 4. Also, I watch this in the mindset that he was going to say, "Rose Tyler, I love you. TOTALLY AS A FRIEND, GUUUUURRRLL." But, if you pretend that whole clone doctor mess didn't happen, which is what I do always, this is still absolutely devastating. There was a lot RTD did wrong. But when he got it right, he nailed it.

Sadness score: Jesus god.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • BWeaves

    Being an old Who fan, I was slayed by the real deaths of the actors who played Sarah Jane Smith and The Brig. When the Doctor calls up the Brig, only to be told he's too late and the Brig died, and realizing that he can't go back in time and pick the Brig back up again, made me sad.

  • Morgan_LaFai

    I would have put River Song's ending much higher on the list. Her departure is all the more tragic given what we now know about her, but it doesn't negate the poignancy I felt when I watched the episode cold. Being left in the library just seemed like one of the cruelest thing to do to a companion. Even though the Doctor didn't know her yet, based on her journal alone, we know that she had travelled round the verse and had many amazing adventures. And now she is forced to spend all the rest of time (or until the library gets destroyed) in a library. Reading is fun and all, but it doesn't work as a replacement for life.

    I also just plain liked the story. One, someone met out of time was fascinating, and I have enjoyed getting to know more and more about River, though the whole her being the Pond's daughter thing still gives me the creeps. Two, the vashta nerada freaked me the hell out. They are practically invisible and if they have a weakness, the Doctor doesn't know about it. Anything the Doctor can't reason with and/or kill, when his only advice is to run, is something truly creapifying. The fact that the Doctor was finally able to negotiate with them in no way negated the creep factor. Finally, as already mentioned, Donna missing her perfect man was really sad.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Don't even get me started on Rosie And The Clone-a-Saurus.

  • Breezy

    Oh god that last gif. I remember seeing old Davey Tennant on the tv and thought "Hey, Doctor Who's good. I bet this show could be good too."
    Then I watched it. The scene that gifs from, when he's in the bathroom and breaks down completely....waterfalls.

  • Dudu

    You missed season 3 final: The Doctor begs the Master to regenerate to be not the last of the Time Lords anymore. And of course Time Lord Victorious. The whole episode is just heartbreaking.
    Besides I don't think Doomsday is the most heartbreaking episode, maybe because I never really got into loving Rose. Sadest moment will be forever the death of John Smith.

  • Ben

    The end for Donna makes me cry like a simpering little bitch every fucking time. So fuck you I'm not clicking on that youtube play button, I'm not putting myself through that again.

  • callum

    Note how much the show has gone down hill since Moffat took over as head writer/producer by the fact that 8 out of 10 of these were during the Russell T Davis era. Blink was written by Moffat so maybe give him that one but out of the two on this list from his time in chare one was entirely written by Neil Gamon (the living tardis) and the Rory thing isnt really a sad 'moment' as it was built up over several episodes by different writers and no-one really cared anyway because Amy is such a self absorbed character who had already abandonded Rory the night before thier wedding so forgetting him kinda seemed like something she would do anyway. All in all Moffat cant right emotionally compeling characters that we care about while previous writers could really make us care and burst into tears. Personally when Amy and Rory die next week i'll be celebrating!

  • Bidger

    Agree with all of these but would add the end of Forest of the Dead where Lee's stammer prevents Donna noticing him before he teleports away forever. Donna hard done by again.

  • Abbey Road

    Yes! This! I forgot but I can't believe I forgot. This one SLAYED me.

  • Samantha

    I'm all for turning back time and removing the one hearted Doctor clone.

  • Dammit, Courtney. You just broke both my hearts.

    I for one do ship Ten and Rose, but even I think the Clone Doctor was bullshit.

  • anon

    I am not a huge Amy Pond fan but the Girl Who Waited episode wrecked me.

  • I would have included that one as well. Rory believed he was going to save both Amys and when he found put the Doctor lied it was heart breaking. Old Amy just gutted me. I must be heartless because only 2 in this list actually made me sad. I don't agree with retroactively making Silence In The Library sad either.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    You forgot the last Christmas special. The whole thing was a mess, but the last scene where Amy tells the Doctor that they always lay out a place for him at their table, and the Doctor's reaction, killed me.

  • Milly

    Bringing up the death of the Doctor Donna and making me cry. You'll pay for this.

    But you nailed the reason for the sadness; to have that greatness, to have meant so much to so many and to achieve what few could ever hope to do, and then *nothing*.

    Heartbreaking.

  • Samantha

    Yep, that's it for me too. Donna's end always makes me want to cry.

  • foolsage

    That final scene with Idris gets me every time. Sniff.

  • Lipton

    That goodbye scene in 'Doomsday' broke me in all kinds of ways. I'd just marathoned seasons one and two with a friend (over one weekend when we also watched Blackpool and Tennant's Cassanova, we were TV watching gods) and I literally could not stop crying.

    And then Donna Noble happened and they did THAT to her and made me so angry that I'm still pissed off about it. I can't let it go. I haven't been able to watch Doctor Who since then. Yes, I hear it's great and no, you don't have to be the hundredth person to tell me that I should. I just can't bring myself to get back into. Once you've been punched in the face you're not always too keen to go back for a second helping (see also: Joss Whedon and Serenity). But I guess that's what I get for loving the Companions more than the Doctor.

    And this is why bitter fans are the worst: they just can't shut up. Such an obnoxious buzzkill.

  • damnitjanet

    fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.....................

  • FrayedMachine

    Man, I am so confused by this list. There's so many sad moments that are missing from this. How about The Father's Day episode? when Rose's dad realizes he's got to off himself? Or even the whole first half of Last of the Time Lords (which, seriously, was kind of a serious mind fuck episode for me.)? Eccleston's departure was also WAY more saddening than Tennant's (and before people freak out, I was a hardcore fan of 10 for so long before that episode. It was SO drawn out, SO over-dramatic, just... UGH). 9 went out so perfectly. And that whole scene leading up to it after she's taken in the heart of the TARDIS is just so intense. And, of course, like so many have mentioned, Vincent's episode should have totally been on that list, too.

    Also, for kicks, there should totally have been an honorable mention for The Empty Child. The ending wasn't heart breaking, no. But it was just so sweet, and so happy, and so nice to know that JUST for once... everybody lives.

  • Later this year, I've got a "most heartwarming" list in me and Vincent and "everybody lives" will be represented.

    As for Pete Tyler, I still call bullshit. The Doctor wouldn't have taken Rose to that moment. It ruined it for me.

  • madderrose74

    The TARDIS (who says as much herself) doesn't always take the Doctor where he wants to go. It takes him where he needs to go. Perhaps, knowing what Rose would become, it was part of the TARDIS's role in creating the Bad Wolf. In the Baker years, she almost never landed where and when he intended to. Hence leaving Sarah Jane in Aberdeen.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I think it can make sense if you consider they essentially made Eccleston's Doctor the PTSD Doctor. It would seem the Eight Doctor died putting the Daleks and Time Lords in their timelock and then you get Nine, who hasn't really worked through that whole deal yet. He hasn't and sort of can't really grieve his loss, and he's just come off discovering he seems to have failed to wipe out the Daleks. I could see him being sympathetic to Rose wanting to see the event itself, because of how he can't ever see what he's done to Gallifrey. He's giving her what he can't give himself.

    ETA: I do seriously dislike the episode, though that's because it's just the Langoliers without the paper tearing creepy camp awesome.

  • FrayedMachine

    There's a lot of things that Moffat and Davis have had the Doctor do that are seemingly out of character (like giving so much of a shit about Amy and Rory's broken marriage. I still don't get why that's his responsibility or why he should care so much) but it doesn't take away the fact that some of those moments are still heart breaking. Whether in character or out of character, that Father's Day episode was just sad sad sad.

  • madderrose74

    Peter Alan Tyler, the most wonderful man in the world. Died the 7th of November, 1987.

  • fracas

    That's the one that I thought of too. So good.

  • madderrose74

    In my world, there is an alternate alternate universe where Joyce Summers is married to Pete Tyler, and they, with their dog Seymour, spend their retirement travelling across the country in a Winnebago and solving mysteries.

  • Rachel Haynes

    Good lord. I am crying at my desk now and didn't even watch the damn videos!

    Though I have to agree on Vincent. That WHOLE episode just ripped me apart but nothing more than the "pile of good things".

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • DarthCorleone

    Great list.

    And I want a K-9 doll.

  • Tinkerville

    WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?! Just seeing the header picture makes me tear up, dammit!

  • bleujayone

    I must concur. There are so many sad moments in In Doctor Who's history beyond NuWho. And not just companions leaving, although there are plenty of those moments too...

  • muertemaria

    I still think the most heartbreaking scene is with Vincent and the Doctor at the end where he gets to hear from Bill Nighy how amazing he is and transformed the world. That episode makes me cry every time.

  • Kiddo

    Oh God, yes. The tears.

  • Oh that's my favorite moment of all. But it deemed it more heartwarming than heartbreaking.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    It always breaks me that it doesn't really matter. He's still Van Gogh, and he's still going to kill himself no matter how brilliant someone tells him he is. It's both this unspeakably amazing gift and kind of terrible.

  • Rachel Haynes

    That's why I love that "pile of good things" speech so much. Because when someone is in that kind of pain just being them, day in, day out, giving them some measure of happiness for some time does make a difference, regardless of the outcome.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    It's true I probably focus in too much on the inevitability of it all, but that's how it just edges things into heartbreak for me. All the good things and even if it matters-- and you're right, it totally matters because Angel's epiphany--, it can't quite matter enough to make a difference.

    Ooh. Maybe the thing that makes it worse for me isn't so much that it *doesn't* make a difference as that the Doctor must absolutely know, before he even does it, that it *cannot* make a difference or he'd never do it in the first place. It's this wonderful thing that's sort of unfortunately founded on this, "I know you're dead no matter what I do," kind of thing that's really sad.

    Or, no, that's not quite it, either. Eh, nevermind, I don't think I'm quite phrasing it right. Or maybe it's just that's it's fully equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking and that's what makes it so awesome.

  • fracas

    Best Doctor 11 episode.

  • Tinkerville

    Yes, definitely agree on that one. That whole episode was just beautiful but that scene always makes me cry.

  • Samantha Klein

    Can't you qualify this some? "Most heartbreaking Doctor Who moments, Doctors 10 and 11" or whoever these are? Because even though I knew better, I clicked on this link thinking MAYBE you'd include Adric's death. There's a whole lot more to Doctor Who than these "cute" new guys you're all so crazy about, you know. Now get off my lawn.

  • Abbey Road

    There is, actually, like, an entire paragraph of qualifying. Just fyi. Might help you understand the impending downvotes.

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