For the most part, Doctor Who is a fun-filled family series that has the power to thrill and chill its viewing audience. But as can be evidenced from the scenes we have picked out below, the show can also pluck on our heartstrings!
In this article, we have ranked 10 of the saddest moments from Doctor Who’s 60-year run. Have any of these scenes made you cry? Have we failed to mention a scene that has made you reach for the nearest hanky? Let us know in the comments below.
#10: Goodbye Susan
During the events of The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, is torn between staying with her grandfather or leaving the Tardis behind to stay on Earth with a freedom fighter she has fallen in love with.
In the end, the Doctor makes the decision for her. Wanting Susan to have the opportunity to live another kind of life, he steps into his Tardis and locks the doors so she can’t get back in. He then makes this emotional speech from inside the time machine to the distraught Susan:
“During all the years I’ve been taking care of you, you in return have been taking care of me. You are still my grandchild and always will be. But now, you’re a woman too. I want you to belong somewhere, to have roots of your own. With David, you will be able to find those roots and live normally like any woman should do.
Believe me, my dear, your future lies with David and not with a silly old buffer like me. One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye, Susan. Goodbye, my dear.”
It wasn’t goodbye forever. Susan did make another appearance in the programme during Jon Pertwee’s time on the show. But at the time of this episode’s release, we imagine viewers were very upset at this moving scene that featured the very first farewell to a beloved companion.
#9: A Tear, Sarah-Jane?
The third Doctor’s final outing was in Planet Of The Spiders, which ended with him falling out of the Tardis after being consumed by radiation.
“Please, don’t die,” Sarah says to the Doctor as she watches his life fade out of him.
“A tear, Sarah Jane?” he asks as she looks down on her dear friend. He then tells her not to cry and says “While there’s life, there’s…”.
We never get to hear what he says next as he seemingly has no life left in him. Of course, he isn’t dead. Moments later, he begins to regenerate, much to the surprise of Sarah who hadn’t seen this transformation before. The Brigadier knows what is coming, however.
“Well, here we go again,” he says, adding a moment of levity to this otherwise emotional scene.
#8: The Death Of John Smith
The Doctor gets the opportunity to live a human life in the two-part adventure The Family Of Blood/Human Nature in which he takes on the persona of John Smith in an effort to hide his Time Lord presence from a hungry alien family that is hunting him.
This storyline isn’t the first time we hear the Doctor referring to himself as John Smith. He has done it throughout his timeline, but this time, he has made himself forget his life as a Time Lord and believes himself to be a school teacher of human origins. He even falls in love with a school nurse named Joan who in turn falls in love with him.
The Doctor isn’t destined to live as John Smith forever as Martha intervenes and reminds him of his real identity. The tearful John doesn’t want to go as he doesn’t want to leave his life with Joan behind. His final goodbye to his beloved is devastating for both him and the viewers who are forced to take solace with a jelly baby while tearfully watching at home.
#7: Donna’s Mind-Wipe
Donna Noble didn’t think she was special. She was just a woman from Chiswick destined to live a life of boring domesticity. But then the Doctor came along, took her on amazing adventures through time and space, and showed her how special she was to both him and the entire universe. The fact that she had learned so much about herself made her final scenes with the Doctor so emotional.
To survive the side effects of her Doctor-Donna transformation, which the Doctor calls a “human Time Lord meta crisis,” she has to have her memories wiped.
The last thing Donna wants is to forget her adventures with the Doctor and go back to her boring old life. It’s something anybody who has had amazing adventures, only to return to a mundane life, can surely relate to.
Their final goodbye is heartbreaking and so too is the moment when the Doctor returns the memory-wiped Donna to Earth and says this to her mom:
“I just want you to know, there are worlds out there, safe in the sky because of her. That there are people living in the light, and singing songs of Donna Noble, a thousand, million light years away. They will never forget her, while she can never remember. And for one moment… one shining moment… she was the most important woman in the whole wide universe.”
#6: Adric’s Death
The Doctor’s companions don’t die, right? When they leave the Doctor, they usually head off on adventures anew, with renewed confidence thanks to their time spent exploring the galaxy.
This wasn’t how things turned out for Adric, however. This fifth Doctor companion was one of the youngest the show had ever had, and he was also the first companion that came to a tragic end.
When the Cybermen try to crash a space freighter into Earth, Adric sacrifices his life for the sake of his fellow travellers by staying on the ship. When it eventually crashes and kills him, the Doctor, Tegan, and Nyssa, who are safely back on the Tardis, are left in a state of stunned silence.
This sad moment in Doctor Who’s history marked another first: The end credits rolled in complete silence without the comforting tones of the theme tune.
#5: Rose Needs A Doctor
Towards the end of Eccleston’s tenure as the Doctor, he encountered the Daleks again, along with Rose who ultimately saved the day due to the immense power she had received after looking into the time vortex.
Knowing that the end is nigh for Rose due to the immense energy coursing through her, the Doctor draws her close and makes the ultimate sacrifice. “I think you need a Doctor,” he says, before drawing the power of the vortex into himself and causing the onset of another regeneration.
The fact that the Doctor did this for Rose is enough to make any of us cry. But this isn’t the only reason why this scene is so moving. When he explains to Rose that he is about to “cheat death” and regenerate, we realise that the “fantastic” first Doctor of New Who that we had all fallen in love with is about to go.
Thankfully, the next Doctor was the brilliant David Tennant. But at the time both we and Rose Tyler were incredibly sad that Eccleston’s time in the Tardis had come to an end.
#4: Sarah-Jane Leaves The Tardis
There was no emotional music when Sarah-Jane left the Tardis. Tom Baker’s Doctor didn’t even seem that distraught, although we all knew he was hiding his true feelings.
After being summoned by the Time Lords to return to Gallifrey alone, the Doctor returns Sarah to Earth. “Don’t forget me” she says as she prepares to leave. “Don’t you forget me” he says in reply.
We then watch Sarah depart with a final “Till we meet again Sarah” from the Doctor. It’s a quiet moment and an achingly sad one, as their adventures together were seemingly at an end.
Of course, Sarah Jane did meet the Doctor again and when she did, she was rather cross with the Doc, as she thought he had forgotten her. He hadn’t of course, and neither had we!
#3: Amy And Rory’s Angelic End
Married couple Amy and Rory had a wonderfully thrilling time with the Raggedy Doctor. But all good things have to come to an end. And in the case of Amy and Rory, the end was devastating. After Rory is sent back in time after an encounter with a Weeping Angel, Amy learns the Doctor won’t be able to save him. So, what does she do? She returns to her man, of course, by allowing herself to be touched by an Angel so that she can get zapped back in time to be with him.
The Doctor’s two hearts are broken at this loss but he later draws some comfort from the fact that the two lived a happy life together, which he discovers after reading the afterword of a 1930 pulp fiction novel that has been penned by Pond.
#2: Farewell To Rose
After a thrilling encounter with both the Daleks and the Cybermen, Rose becomes trapped in a parallel world. Surely the Doctor will save her, right? Erm… no. He isn’t able to get to her but he does have the opportunity to send her a farewell message that can cross dimensions.
Unfortunately, this final goodbye is made even more devastating when the Doctor isn’t able to say all that he wants to say to Rose. After a few emotional moments together when they tearfully say farewell, we get their final interaction.
Rose Tyler: [crying] I… I love you.
The Doctor: [with a weak smile] Quite right too. And I suppose… if it’s my last chance to say it… Rose Tyler…
The Doctor fades away before he can finish his sentence.
What was he going to say? I love you? Would you like a jelly baby? A tear, Rose Tyler? We don’t know! This was a terrible way for their time together to end but at least Rose had Mickey, Jackie and Pete with her to keep her company on this parallel earth. But the rest of us? Well, hopefully, we had somebody to help us fight back the tears after this brilliantly sad story concluded.
#1: The Tenth Doctor Doesn’t Want To Go
When it was finally time for the tenth Doctor to say goodbye, Russell T. Davies made sure he had a banger of an ending.
After realizing his days were numbered after sacrificing his life to save Wilf, the Doctor made the most of his final few hours on Earth by taking a trip through time to catch up with his beloved companions.
But the Doctor couldn’t hold off the inevitable forever and he was fully aware of this. “I don’t want to go,” he said, with the knowledge that he was effectively going to die. And as we looked into his sorrowful brown eyes, we didn’t want him to go either.
The final moment before the regeneration was a real punch-in-the-gut moment as Doctor Who fans around the world cursed Wilf for bringing about the demise of their favourite Doctor.
Which Doctor Who moments have made you shed a tear? Let us know in the comments below.