10 Doctor Who Moments That Weren’t Quite Right

When a programme has been around as long as Doctor Who there are bound to be moments that jar, that feel at odds with the ethos of the show, that somehow just don’t feel right… Whether it’s the Doctor boffing someone over the head, a companion becoming subject to cruel and unusual treatment or a plot point that leaves you asking what in the name of Gallifrey you’ve just seen, join us as we present the Kasterborous guide to Doctor Who Moments That Weren’t Quite Right!

Rock On, Doctor

An Unearthly Child 5

Perhaps it’s unfair to start with something so early in the life of the programme when the character was still being formed but, certainly from a modern standpoint, the moment in the very first story when the First Doctor picks up a rock, slyly hatching a plan to cave in a caveman’s head on the grounds that he’s injured and slowing down the group’s escape is shocking stuff. Never again would the Doctor be presented as so ruthlessly calculating.

Never cruel or cowardly? Don’t you believe it.

The Doctor Offs An Ogron

dw-sn9-dotd-ogrons-hp3

For all his self-professed pacifism and antipathy for weapons, there have been a number of occasions when the Doctor has been more than happy to ‘lock and load’. A long-discussed moment came in part two of Day of the Daleks when Jon Pertwee’s Doctor terminates an Ogron with extreme prejudice. In fairness said Ogron, whilst not posing an immediate threat, was most definitely up to no good, what with all the paradox-causing shenanigans during that mysterious affair at Styles peace conference…

Not A Patch On You

dw-s13-androidinvasion7

Terry Nation was responsible for some bonkers plotting, God love him, and he outdid himself in The Android Invasion, a non-Dalek story for Tom Baker’s Doctor. Astronaut Guy Crayford’s realisation that the Kraals have hoodwinked him into believing they saved his life on the grounds that the eyepatch he’s been wearing for… oh, it must have been at least a few weeks, presumably, covers up a perfectly healthy eye is often quoted as one of Doctor Who’s most hilariously nonsensical explanations.

Ah well, it made a change from Terry’s regular favourites of countdowns, radiation poisoning and incarcerations.

Stop Myrka-ing About

dw-s21-myrka

I swore to myself I wasn’t going to resort to that hoary old cliché of criticising Doctor Who’s special effects when I started writing this but there’s no denying that Warriors of the Deep’s heart-sappingly dreadful Myrka fits this article’s theme… and then some. Even allowing for every excuse you want to make regarding budgets, time restrictions and all the rest of, there is something just so wrong about this frightful-for-all-the-wrong-reasons creation that you can only pity the poor actors who had to appear on screen with it before discreetly moving on.

Peri in Peril

Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor

It may have been a bold decision of the production team to make their new Doctor not just unlikeable but out-and-out murderously psychotic when Colin Baker made his debut in The Twin Dilemma, but it’s hard not to view it as a mistake now. The Sixth Doctor may have softened over time and his appearances in Big Finish audios have led many to view him as a true favourite incarnation, but he never got a fair crack of the whip on screen and it all started here with that alarming attack on his companion in his very first episode.

Decency of the Daleks

There are many moments in the TV Movie that could have been chosen for this piece: a half-human Doctor; a camp as Christmas Master; the programme’s continuity generally being stuffed in a washing machine and put on an extended spin cycle… But my nomination comes very early on in the piece, when we’re told that the Daleks agreed to the Master’s last request for the Doctor to collect his old foe’s remains. This reimagines the Daleks as being an altogether more decent, honourable bunch than we’d previously been led to believe.


DOCTOR WHO

 

I like to imagine the Doctor and the Daleks gathering for a rather stilted wake, sipping tepid sherry and wondering just how soon it would be polite to make excuses and get away. The Doctor: ‘So, see much of Davros these days…?’

Wheelie Good Fun

Burping Bin

I remember meeting a friend in the pub that night back in 2005 when, after an eternity of waiting, we’d finally got to see the new series with the much-trumpeted transmission of Rose. I was thrilled to have the programme back, of course, but something didn’t sit right with me. Struggling to articulate why, I asked John (who likes the show but is by no means a fan) what he’d made of it.

Nicely encapsulating my misgivings far more succinctly than I had managed to, he responded: ‘Not sure about the wheelie bin…’

I Don’t Care If You Don’t Want To Go, You’re Going

It’s no wonder the Tenth Doctor regenerated at the conclusion of The End of Time. If it hadn’t been the radiation that did for him he would surely have died of old age, so long did he spend on that emotional tour of the galaxy to catch up with old friends one last time.

eot-regeneration

 

That aside, his parting wail of ‘I don’t want to go’ struck a wrong note with me and I couldn’t help feeling that it was a shame that this most popular of modern day Doctors had to bow out not bravely facing up to his unknown future, but as a bit of a self-pitying wuss.

Get Out Of Jail Free


dw-s5-bigbang-pond-pandorica

What a fantastic set up for the season finale we were given in The Pandorica Opens. An impregnable prison built to hold the galaxy’s most brilliant mind, constructed by a fearsome alliance of every enemy from across time and space. Was I alone in finding the explanation for the Doctor’s escape less than satisfying? He got out… because he got out (that was basically it, right?).

Eh? That, together with those larky goings on with a fez and a mop, left me struggling to care by the time we got to that nonsense about rebooting the universe. Yeah, whatever…

Life After Death

Bringing us up to date, there are many things we could pick from for this list from Series 8’s closing episodes Dark Water and Death In Heaven. The Brigadier resurrected as a Cyberman and those unsettling ‘don’t cremate me’ pleas have been much discussed but my moment that didn’t feel right was the Doctor agreeing to help Clara find out what happens after death in the first place.

Dark Water

Why did he do this, when soon after he’s rubbishing the idea of an afterlife and dismissing the whole 3W presentation as a con? If the Doctor always knew that death really was the end why did he hold out the hope of rescuing Danny?

That’s our view; what about you? Which moments in Doctor Who didn’t feel right? What made you splutter out your fish fingers and custard? Let us know!

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  1. Caleb Goldberg says:

    Completely agree about the Pandorica one. Not enough people mention how annoying that one is.

    • Semi-Evil Semi-Genius says:

      I think for me, it is the worst season arc in Doctor Who. A great build-up with a terrible end. No, Doctor, a perfect prison is just as hard to get into as it is to get out of. Also, it is too handy a plot device. It can heal the universe because it doesn’t allow it’s prisoner to escape even by death? What? The plot is just the ramblings of the crew of the Mystery Machine trying shrooms for the first time.

      • Dr Moo says:

        I have to respectfully disagree. I felt that his escape was very clever, letting himself out in his future so that he could later travel back in time and let himself out later is one of those moments of pure timey-wimey genius that no other show can get away with. Also, I loved the Pandorica arc a lot more than that of River Song which was just so overly convoluted (out of sync timelines?!!!?).

        On the plus side, the those two arcs gave us this:

  2. bar says:

    The re-edited and SFXed Day of the Daleks tries to make it appear that the Ogron fired first and the Doctor was only shooting in self-defense, but there were other moments in 3rd’s era that were not quite as squeaky clean as venusian akido.
    The mistake of taking too long to make the 6th Doctor likeable emphasises how confident they were trying a similar take with the 12th. After the warmly likeable,heroically self-sacrificing 5th Doctor the contrast was too great. After two young boy/friendly Doctors 12 could have been as much of a shock, but the risk seems to be paying off.
    Can I risk a bid for the fourth wall 4th Doctor moment: ‘even the sonic screwdriver won’t get me out of this one.’ Breaking the fourth wall is ok if serious, but if it’s making fun of the story then no.

    • Calli Arcale says:

      If you want to list the audience aside in “Invasion of Time”, the one in the now-missing “Feast of Steven” episode of “The Dalek Master Plan” is often included by fans who were lucky enough to have seen it. It was the closest they ever came to a Christmas Special in the classic series. The title references the Doctor’s companion Steven, but obviously also references the carol “Good King Wenceslas”, and at the end of the episode, the Doctor turns directly to the camera and wishes a happy Christmas to everyone at home. The whole episode is apparently a series of goofy, campy shenanigans in the middle of a deadly serious 12-part epic about a massive Dalek plot, so I suspect it’s one that we should be glad has not resurfaced…..

      • bar says:

        I was trying not to mention that infamous one – especially given the Dalek Masterplan is another on my list of wanted missing stories (first appearence of Nick Courtney, more returning baddies and interesting guest characters, death of an official companion, plus it was a great influence on Doug Adams).
        In this company I’m not sure I dare admit I’ve never seen The Invisible Enemy, and only know it as a misjudged remake of Incredible Jouirney, whereas Into the Dalek got that right.

        • Ranger says:

          Oh you should see the Invisible Enemy Bar, it’s not the greatest, but it’s a long way from being the worst. Given the technology of the time and the budget restraints, the inside of the Doctor’s head is not that badly done. I enjoy it.

      • Janice Thorn says:

        oh god, I now have visions LOL DI LOL LOL of the new show creating an episode called THE BEAST OF STEVEN, with Clara trussed like a turkey with an apple in her mouth while the Doctor chases his now evil Flesh Duplicate turned Morbius wannabe around the table with an olive fork, while the Dupe has a baster and waves it like a flag. can’t… un… see…… why???? make it stoppppp (NOT SEXUAL IN ANY WAY PLEASE DON’t GO THERE)

  3. Dr Moo says:

    Pleased to see Tennant’s parting words getting ridiculed but it’s his refusal to regenerate in Journey’s End that annoyed me even more. Waters Of Mars aside, would have been much of a loss if he’d just become Matt Smith there and then and led into The Eleventh Hour instead?

    • Edward Delingford says:

      Not having Tennant leave during Journey’s End is probably the biggest mis-step in all of new Who to date. Although that was a bloated and self-indulgent episode, typical of the entire RTD Tennant era, it would have left Doctor 10 on a fairly positive note rather than the sour taste which has given his time in the Tardis such a bad name. We would also have been spared the appalling specials year and particularly The End of Time. How refreshing if the wondrous Matt had stepped in during the first part of Journey’s End and begun his story there. Oh well, at least we know that when the time comes for Peter Capaldi to regenerate, it will be the same quiet dignity which Matt Smith’s doctor and Chris Eccelston’s doctor both gave it.

      • Good lord no. Waters of Mars for me remains still one of the best Doctor Who stories I’ve seen. I think End of Time is a good exit too. Planet of the Dead is dull as dishwater, and Next Doctor, for me, isn’t far behind, but I’d rather suffer those two for Waters of Mars.
        And while Matt’s had quiet dignity within the world, it was as indulgent, if not more so than End of Time. He has a long, massive speech in that TARDIS, even a past ghost of a character to wish him to sleep.
        I love Time of the Doctor (more now than I did when I saw it), and I love End of Time, but I personally feel there was more dignity and honesty to End of Time. Time is very fairy tale (which is a style Moffat likes), but End of Time is very visceral; it tries to make you feel the horror of knowing you’re going to die, and how 90% of the audience would, as Tennant, find that hard to reconcile, and with such power most would look to fight the moment.
        While End of Time is far from perfect (but then neither is Time of the Doctor), it’s moments make up for its rather shoddy structure. End of Time “tests” its character; looks at him as a whole and presents a story that challenges what Tennant’s Doctor was, very ably. Self indulgent misses the point of the whole story, anymore than saying Smith’s exit was self indulgent. They’re both written for the audience, in that way their exits are both very indulgent, but I’d say both are reflective of the Doctor’s the writers (re)generated.

        • Dr Moo says:

          I agree with your opinion of The Time Of The Doctor and The Waters Of Mars but I disagree with you about The End Of Time. If he’d regenerated immediately after absorbing the radiation and if the story wasn’t such a mess then I’d be okay with it, but it’s the overly long drawn out tour of his companions that really gets to me with the infamous line “I don’t want to go” acting as the final nail in the coffin.
          Still it’s interesting to hear the opinion of someone who did like Ten’s final bow, it’s always good to broaden your horizons and to hear how people think different to me on some issues is always appreciated.
          I may have to try re-watching The End Of Time now from your perspective. I doubt whether my opinion of it will change but it always does have one saving grace for me: The cast. Bernerd Cribbens and Timothy Dalton are both really good and of course so are David Tennant and Matt Smith.

          • I think that’s very neatly put. As I always say, no one WANTS to dislike a moment in their show, we can’t help it if it jars. If the conversation helps you find something to enjoy in that moment – anything – that’s a win for you and no one else!
            For me, its the essence of the character – he feels he has so much more to do, and values his personality as much as we probably value our own – he fights to put it off for as long as he can, to see all those who mean something to him, a defiant, if childishly defiant, fight against death as he showed in Waters of Mars. I always see the burst of energy in his regeneration as related to that holding back his regeneration out of willpower.
            For me, before nuWho, I always saw the death of a Doctor as being a death; a moment where one hero died and another rises. It gives it that tragic, dark British honesty that serves the show. He may waltz around the universe, defying the odds, but eventually, he as a person dies, and awakens anew. I felt End of Time established that to audiences more than Eccleston’s, Eccleston’s hinted at it, but was really trying to avoid the pain/fear/sadness in front of Rose. I would think Tennant would have been braver in front of a companion, but I can imagine such a moment suffered on your own, is probably quite intimidating, even for a Time Lord.
            End of Time does have failings, as RTD admits himself. I think the moments make up for the issues in the whole. Simm is excellent; I can see the old Master in his head, even if his personality and aesthetic is so different. Dalton gives presence to a small role and I agree, Cribbins makes it. His salute to the Doctor is stunningly powerful, incredible performance.

          • Dr Moo says:

            That salute got me this time around. I agree it’s extremely powerful, the only NuWho moment more powerful than that for me was a certain other salute from a brig-turned-cyberman in Death In Heaven prompting Twelve to salute back at him. That’s slightly off topic but I’m prepared to admit it’s the only TV moment to ever make me shed a tear. But the brig is my favourite companion of them all so maybe that’s part of it…?

      • InspectorSpacetime says:

        I’ve found myself very critical of Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, and I think this is part of the reason. I hold to the philosophy that regeneration stories are either rushed by necessity (For example, an actor being fired or choosing to leave the show) making them a mixed bag, or an incoherent and often indulgent mess (Which is totally cool, provided you are invested in that particular Doctor they deserve a big sloppy wet kiss goodbye). Of course the notable exception here is Caves of Androzani, which stands as a good story by itself and just happens to have a death running through it.

        Journey’s end is an indulgent mess that throws in the cast of 3 series, all former companions, and the Daleks with an insanely ridiculous and convoluted plan. You have Davros, a big Red Dalek, and the last of the Cult of Skaro in the mix. Then you add in a quasi-regeneration scene and a second magic clone Doctor.

        This messiness would be forgivable in a regeneration story, where it would provide closure to fans and catharsis with the death of Ten. But instead we get a regeneration story without the regeneration and its just…it’s all over the place.

  4. TimeChaser says:

    Ten was treading too far down an almost Whedon-esque path of emo, and those final words were the last straw. Come on, take it like a man! Your previous life did! I do love Tennant’s Doctor, but by then I was ready for the change and eager to see where a new Doctor would take us.

    And to be fair to the TV Movie, yes the dialogue makes it seem like the Daleks just let the Doctor swan in to collect the Master’s remains and waltz back out again unmolested. However, one should read the novelization for the full story: the Doctor has a tough time escaping from the Daleks with the Master’s casket.

    • Dr Moo says:

      Does the novelisation explain away the half-human “incident” or do we have to continue pretending that bit never happened?

      • TimeChaser says:

        I think the only difference is that rather than saying “The Doctor is half human. No wonder…”, the Master instead says “The Doctor once described himself as more than just a Time Lord. Perhaps he should have said less than a Time Lord.” It’s been a very long time since I read it so I don’t remember if they explain it any further but I’m pretty sure they don’t.

        • James S McLean says:

          I have to disagree with the rationale of Ten being emo, nor that nine took it better. If you watch Parting of the Ways, you can see Nine’s concern on his phase before he adopts the goofy look because he has company, furthermore, Nine’s role isn’t a Doctor who has looked to embrace life, more redeem his worth for it, Rose brings out a side of him who wants to live, that could be argued to induce a Ten-like Doctor who wants to live. If you want a stoic end, perhaps Logopolis is a good one, though Baker does look scared hanging from the rigging, so maybe not. Davison’s is pretty damn brave!
          Either way, I thought it was a very poignant and honest bit of character writing. Ten’s character was a very human character, which meant we got great scenes of anger and defiance (Water of Mars). What RTD was very smart with on characters (as was Whedon) was consistency of character: you create an emotional, human character, who is very expressive, defiant and open, then you’ll have a character who probably won’t just accept his fate easily. Tennant’s Doctor was an astute vision of that sort of personality. He does accept his death with dignity (no words for all his companions he visits), he accepts it on his own terms (he commits the act that kills him) but he’s a sensitive character, and like any person faced with their death (as End of Time clarifies succinctly, this is death of personality, quite a horrid way to go), who does want to die? I always liked RTD for that. Doesn’t mean you have to LIKE his characters, but they were always very consistent and well thought out! Emo is a common phrase attached to Ten and it really lacks a true appreciation of a man struggling to deal with fear, genocide and loneliness.

          • Dr Moo says:

            The character of the Tenth Doctor was different to that of his predecessor because of the influence of Rose Tyler but I would argue that his newfound sense of purpose and willingness to go on led to a much more vain and arrogant incarnation than anything he was before. This Doctor was still struggling to live with what he thought he’d done in the Time War (the man who regrets, according to The Moment) and the result was a man who would do what he could to prove himself a hero with the end result of a Doctor that’s no more than just a self-righteous egotistical hypocrite. By the time he finally meets his end he has already escaped from regenerating once before and should be more prepared to accept his fate than he was. I’ll confess I can sympathise with his plight in this respect but seriously, man up! As an incarnation who himself claimed that the 5th Doctor was his favourite past life (he literally names him as “My Doctor” in Time Crash) he should have been a lot braver when he died; compare the reactions of the Doctor to his impending death in The Caves Of Androzani with The End Of Time. While I believe David Tennant is one of the finest actors around at the moment and that RTD is an excellent writer I’m still not sure that I like what they did with Doctor number ten. It was an interesting idea to create a more human Doctor but I’m not so sure it worked for me.

          • Different strokes and all! I don’t disagree in essence, I love Caves, I think that story epitomises the courage of the hero. The beauty of Tennant for me is that he is very human, but the Doctor is very human; more human than human – he will act and respond to humanity in a way that we humans should aspire to. In such a regard, that will mean the character will carry baggage. How easily do you cope with the death of personality? As Tennant’s Doctor says, he’s used to living, despite everything, he wants to live, he wants to be. At first he’s not sure whether he will simply die, and that childish tantrum in front of Wilf was very powerful for me as it tested that heroic model. So often heroes take the positives that comes with determination and passion, but rarely the negatives: he doesn’t want to die – he knows what he does is special, he knows, as we all feel about ourselves, we are special. There are so many smart layers to the Tennant ending. It is dramatically indulgent, but I do feel its true to the character.
            Question is whether it chimes with different people’s preference as audiences. That is something no one can argue with. I wouldn’t contest your dislike for the character and your reasons, I can only say I think the character is consistent and deftly handled!

          • Dr Moo says:

            Well argued sir! I still stand by what I’ve said on the matter previously but your viewpoint is no more or less valid than mine, just a different one. As one observation I’d like to add how having re-watched both 5’s and 10’s departures today I noticed a similarity I hadn’t seen before: Both times they’d already dealt with the threat and their death came later as a selfless sacrifice for the sakes of Perpugilliam Brown and Wilfred Mott respectively. While my opinion of the events between saving Wilf and actually changing are my source of displeasure it did slightly improve my opinion of the Tenth Doctor overall, although he is still my least favourite it’s not by as much of a margin after I noticed that.

  5. Jason Z says:

    Great article, and it begins with a very appropriately quizzical picture of Tennant, too. Two suggestions: (1) the Fourth Doctor talking into Erato’s appendage in Creature from the Pit (I seem to recall that the appendage is said to have been removed promptly afterwards); and the sanctioned Silence slaughter at the end of Day of the Moon (where the Doctor and River seem to be really enjoying killing off the Silence, if I recall it right).

    • TheLazyWomble says:

      Well, River is enjoying shooting everything in sight. The Doctor is basically waving a screwdriver about the place, until River suggests he pop into the TARDIS and put up some shelves.

  6. Janice Thorn says:

    a Wake? Did they get The Endless drunk? (esp Dream)

  7. Ranger says:

    Sorry, but I love Tennant’s last words – the first sign of what a regeneration really means, as he says to Wilf, a new person walks away, so it really is like a death – and I think he is entitled to a few heart-felt words!

    I would put forward as a candidate, Smith’s acting as he taken over by the cyber-consciousness in Gaiman’s last disaster. Nightmare in Silver? Something like that – I’ve not rewatched any of Smith’s episodes, so can’t remember many of the story names. That was truly cringe-making.

    • captaincook42 says:

      Clearly not a fan of whimsy, are we?

      • Ranger says:

        If it’s an excuse for bad acting – no!

        • Dr Moo says:

          Giving him that story was an insult to him. Matt Smith is a good actor but he plays the hero not the villain, and that episode shows why. Of course, getting the Doctor actor to play the villain can work, as Patrick Troughton proved in “The Enemy Of The World”, but only if they can play both which it seems Matt Smith could not pull off on that occasion. Now I think about it I hope they give Peter Capaldi the chance to play both the hero and the villain at some point: Just imagine it, it would be sheer PERFECTION!

          • Ranger says:

            Couldn’t agree with you more, Moo: Capaldi as a baddie against himself as the hero? Could be spine-tingling!

            I’ve not seen Enemy of the World yet – it’s on my list of ones to buy, but there are so many that I want more, and I only get them for my birthday and Christmas, that it is taking some time to get to it. But the more I hear people talk about it, the higher up the list it is going.

          • Dr Moo says:

            You absolutely MUST see it, Troughton’s finest in my humble opinion.

  8. Cynical Classicist says:

    The JE reg, the Doctor criticising his clone for destroying the Daleks and leaving him with Rose, Earth being dragged back, quite stupid.

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