5 Moments The Pacifist Doctor Indulges In The Rough Stuff

“The man who abhors violence, never carrying a gun.” So said Davros of the Doctor, highlighting one of those inherent character traits that marks him out from so many other heroes. Except for when it, er, doesn’t. Yes, there are plenty of times when the great pacifist is more than happy to use fists, firearms or whatever else comes to hand to get him out of a tight spot. Roll up your sleeves and join us as we present the Kasterborous guide to moments when the Doctor decided to get a bit tasty!

Boff With His Head



The First Doctor was a notoriously tricky customer. He often looked out for number one as much as he fought injustice, and you had the feeling that his galactic travels were more about satisfying his curiosity than righting wrongs. William Hartnell’s Doctor displayed his ruthless side, famously in his very first story when he covertly picked up a rock, clearly planning to stove in an injured caveman’s head to ensure he could make a quick getaway. His propensity for bashing people on the bonce was also seen in Guests of Madame Guillotine (episode two of The Reign of Terror) when, forced to join a road crew under duress, he uses a dirty great shovel to whack the foreman on the head (so hard it makes one of his workmates shut his eyes and wince). Making no effort to put his victim in the recovery position, the Doctor then coldly places a coin on his eye and wishes him a peaceful sleep (the foreman is snoring away, as people do on television when they’re out cold) before hitting the road again.

Violent Doctor rating: 4 out of 5. Never turn your back on the Doctor…



The Doctor who was most able to look after himself when it came to unarmed combat was of course the Third, expert as he was in the art of Venusian aikido. Surely influenced by the glossy ITC dramas and James Bond films of the 1960s, Doctor Who’s production team decided they needed to shake things up to drag the show into the new decade, and what better way than giving the new incarnation a previously unseen skill which looked extremely cool? Legend has it that Terrance Dicks suggested aikido to mollify Barry Letts’s unease at having an aggressive Doctor on the grounds that it has no attacking moves, but for a trained expert the uses are varied: immobilisation; paralysing an opponent; joint locks, throws and kicks… but be wary of trying it on non-humanoids (Ogrons, Sontarans) as it may well not work.

Violent Doctor rating: 2 out of 5. Self-defence, your honour…

Boycie Takes A Beating



Scorby, played by John Challis of Only Fools and Horses fame, was undoubtedly a thug but by crikey he was made to pay for it. Harrison Chase’s henchman in The Seeds of Doom had to endure more than one duffing up at the hands of the Fourth Doctor. A blow to the guts is swiftly followed by a stool being brought down with some force to his head. As if that weren’t enough, on a separate occasion he receives another well-aimed blow from the Time Lord who proceeds to twist his neck in thoroughly dangerous fashion. Apologists will no doubt argue that it was some kind of Gallifreyan stun manoeuvre (Scorby is seen to get up straight away). Try getting that to stand up in court when you’re on an assault charge, I say. Old Scorby must have regretted ever getting up that morning.

Violent Doctor rating: 5 out of 5. At least he didn’t throttle him with his scarf, I suppose…

Acid Bath Murderer?


Okay, there’s a long-standing myth that the Sixth Doctor kills two guards by shoving them into a huge bath of acid in Vengeance on Varos. This misconception has since been quoted many times to illustrate how misjudged the characterisation of the Doctor was in that era, but in fact Old Sixie has been the victim of an injustice here. As the clip shows, the first guard gets dunked in when his rather jumpy mate is startled by the Doctor and unwittingly pushes him in. The second guard meets his end after a tussle with the Doctor but it’s actually the other guard who pulls him in to the bath. So there you go. The Doctor is not guilty. Admittedly the Doctor doesn’t exactly rush to assist the stricken men and his flippant ‘Forgive me if I don’t join you” as he departs hardly portrays him as full of compassion but he can at least be cleared of the most heinous charges.

Violent Doctor rating: 1 out of 5. Although you can’t help feeling that if any Doctor might have dumped someone into a bath of acid it would have been this one.

Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting



The Ninth Doctor was, depending on how you look at it, a troubled soul scarred by guilt or a moody Mancunian who you really didn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Witness his spitting venom at his greatest foe in Dalek, or the way he relishes picking up a huge gun (“Lock and load” he says, in full-on 1980s action movie mode) in the same episode. And what about his escape from the cell in Bad Wolf? Locked up with Captain Jack and Lynda-with-a-y, the Doctor decides there’s no time for messing about. Although it’s Jack who handles most of the rough stuff when it comes to overwhelming the guards (what is it with guards being made to suffer in Doctor Who?) the Doctor can clearly be seen shoving one man against the wall so hard he collapses. I hope that chap knew a good lawyer…

Violent Doctor rating: 3 out of 5. The Doctor, believing Rose had just been killed, would surely have pleaded temporary insanity. Good luck with that one, Doc…


We’ve barely scratched the surface here, of course, and there’s no shortage of moments when the Doctor compromises his non-violent principles. Which are your nominations? Let us know!

You may also like...

No Responses

  1. Rick714 says:

    With Hartnell, he also battled an assassin in the Romans, with a bit of judo and smashed a vase on his head. Self defense.

    The 4th Doctor employed a judo throw at the beginning of Masque of Mandragora while trying to rescue Sarah and really got down and dirty with Goth in Deadly Assassin. Another socko moment in Seeds of Doom was when the Doctor leaps down off the tower and delivers a decisive punch to take out Chase’s murderous driver. It really goes to underline the instances when the Doctor simply must take matters into his own hands and do some fighting. I was far less impressed during the Graham Williams era, when Baker went out of his way to do more comedic fighting which just looked silly.

    Davison also employed some judo in the Visitation when he and his companions were set upon by the villagers.

    And while the fighting was unseen, Colin’s Doctor took out the phony policeman underground.

    Again, all very necessary bits of violence. Not too far but necessary under the circumstances. Something missing from nuWho sadly. The only exception being when number 11 decked the kindly scientist in Victory of the Daleks and that was both unprovoked and somewhat nonsensical.

  2. Dr Moo says:

    The Tenth Doctor in “The Christmas Invasion” in a sword fight before throwing a piece of fruit at a button so as to drop the Sycorax leader to his death. Or in “The Runaway Bride” with his treatment of the Racnoss Queen and then bumping off her children by drowning them.

    The Third Doctor and the Ogron in “Day of the Daleks” is infamous.

    The War Doctor, just in general and by definition although he is clearly Hurt (Pun Intended!) by it. Notably the moment in “The Day of the Doctor” when he smashes several Daleks to pieces with his TARDIS.

    The Seventh Doctor in “Remembrance of the Daleks” makes the necessary tricks and deceptions in order to have Skaro blown up.

    The Eleventh Doctor’s treatment of Solomon in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” by having him blown up by missiles and dragging Kahler-Jex to be killed by the Gunslinger in “A Town Called Mercy”.

    The Sixth Doctor strangling Peri in “The Twin Dilemma” is one I’m surprised the article left out. His decision to electrocute the Immortal in “The Mysterious Planet” is also quite unpleasant, if understandable, and often goes unmentioned.

    The Twelfth Doctor in his debut full-appearance “Deep Breath” pushed the Half-Faced Man to his death and leaves the man’s body impaled atop Big Ben.

    • TimeChaser says:

      Ah, but we’re left with the question of whether the Doctor really pushed the Half-Faced Man or convinced him to commit suicide. Still though, either way he was responsible.

      • Dr Moo says:

        Exactly. But I fully believed when I saw it the first time (and on all subsequent repeated viewings) that he was pushed. The fact that we weren’t shown explicitly seems to me like an artistic comment by the Moff about how we didn’t yet know what sort of person the then-new darker Doctor was going to be, with the “push or jump” question reflecting the perceived ambiguity of the situation.

        • TimeChaser says:

          I’ll grant you that. Personally since the question has been reasonably resolved, I’d like to think he didn’t push the guy. 😉

    • Rick714 says:

      Well, you’re right about the sword fight between 10 and the Sycirax leader. Totally forgot about that one, but I was mostly thinking of the physical confrontations like that, not the Doctors’ machinations like the Racnoss. Although that sort of more passive-aggressive (?) behavior is a lot more common in nuWho, you’re right.

      The engineered genocide of the Silence, Solomons’ fate, or Tennants’ cold blooded dispatching of the Family of Blood is pretty chilling. But yeah, it may have started when McCoy blew up Skaro. The older he gets, the more conservative it seems and dangerous!

      • TimeChaser says:

        Well, 10 did put it best when he said, “I’m so old now. I used to have so much mercy.”

        • Rick714 says:

          It’s said most people may start off liberal and idealistic in their youth–understandably so–but as they get older, more invested in the world, gain family, etc. they have more to lose, become far more conservative. Also understandable.

          One could argue that the Time War made this change in how the Doctor operates, how he thinks. It made him more ruthless. But interestingly, I think this change started before, as witnessed with McCoy and Skaro. *That*, I find interesting, especially since the mindset survived the wilderness years and was adopted by the nuWho producers. The Time War just added an excuse.

          Because of this thread, I re watched Seeds of Doom again last night. As always, a marvelous, cracking adventure but yeah, it seemed like The Fourth Doctor was at his crankiest EVER throughout the adventure, snapping at everyone whether they deserved it or not, including Sarah at times. I have to wonder if that was when Baker first learned that Liz Sladen had decided to leave the show?

          She only stayed for two more adventures after SOD, so the news may have gotten out and I know poor Tom was not happy to seeLiz go.

          • Dr Moo says:

            One might argue that the destruction of Skaro was effectively the Doctor firing the first shot of what eventually escalated into the Time War.

          • Rick714 says:

            That is a good point. From the Daleks’ POV, hate filled bullies that they are, despite their countless attempts to destroy everyone else, and even though they *were* originally going to use the Hand of Omega to destroy some other world…… The Doctor turning the tables against them in that way could very well have been the catalyst.

            I also like how chronologically, the Time War is so scattered. In Day of the Doctor, it’s mentioned that the destruction of the Zygon home world was at the beginning of the Time War and in Terror of the Zygons, the lead Zygon baddie mentions the reason they cane to take over earth was because their world had been destroyed, thus, having the fourth Doctor indirectly connected to it early on. I love those little tidbits. 🙂

          • Dr Moo says:

            You can connect the Fourth Doctor to an even earlier point: ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. He temporarily destroyed their whole species, admittedly unwillingly. The Time Lords sent him to do it so their hatred of the Time Lords goes right back to their beginning!
            Though I suppose this particular connection is a tenuous one but still…

          • Rick714 says:

            Maybe it’s tenuous –maybe it wasn’t even a factor, considering all he did was delay their inevitable emergence for a while. Not even sure how much of a delay there was in the first place. But the mere fact of the Doctor listing off all the Daleks’ defeats to Davros–that may have been the first time the Time Lords at least got on the Daleks’ radar.

            Someone listed the chronological history of which Doctors faced the Daleks and in what order through time but that was years ago. It’d be interesting to see a revised timeline now.

          • Dr Moo says:

            It’s the first three Doctors who confuse things. For 4-7 you’ve got a loose arc through Genesis, Destiny, Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance.
            Then in NuWho you can trace their story with War and Nine from (chronologically) “Day of the Doctor” to “Parting of Ways”, then Ten gets the Cult of Skaro in “Army of Ghosts” to “Manhattan / Evolution” and then “Journey’s End” which leads into Eleven’s “Victory” and that to “Asylum” and followed up with “Time of the Doctor”. It looks like things are about to get more confusing again though because of “Into the Dalek” which failed to reference previous adventures.

          • Rick714 says:

            I don’t think “Into the Dalek” would really confuse anything—I would classify it as a singular, unconnected Dalek adventure, much like many of the adventures during the time of the first three Doctors. I welcome such an adventure sometimes. You’re spot on with the chronological time frames for the other groups of Doctors but there were times when I was confused as to which Dalek was which in nuWho (which you nicely clarified, thank you).

            As to 4-7, I really disliked how they’d dig up Davros each time. I would have been more than fine with them going from Genesis, right to Remembrance with Davros. As it is, Moffat and RTD seem to have ignored a lot of the 1980’s stuff with Davros.

          • Dr Moo says:

            Davis got overused a bit in the 1980s. He’s only been in NuWho once to date and I like it that way. Although “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End” was super self-indulgent, it was still a good story and I’m pleased his only modern appearance was a good one but I’m not demanding more from him. We’re done with his story now, let’s focus on doing justice by the Daleks again. “Into the Dalek” was a move in the right direction for me by stepping back from the continuing storylines and just focusing on making the Daleks actually the slightest bit scary again, something they hadn’t really been since (if I’m being extremely generous) 2006.

          • Rick714 says:

            Definitely give Davros a loooooong rest. As long as I get a rest from the Daleks in general (let’s let them sit out series 9), I’m good. The villains I’ve really gotten sick of are the Cybermen. I really do think they’ve been less threatening with every subsequent appearance since Tenth Planet. I was very disappointed with Nightmare in Silver and really wished the redesign would have been closer to the original from the Hartnell era. I always thought those human hands, the exposed flesh and the bandaged faces were extremely creepy.

            I did think the series 8 ender was a step up for them, mostly because of the reveal of them in the dark water. A shame the Been had to go promoting their appearance so much earlier. It round have been far more powerful if the first time we had a clue was when those doors closed….

          • Dr Moo says:

            I think the Daleks have to appear at least once a year due to contractual reasons, hence ‘The Waters of Mars’ and ‘The Wedding of River Song’. Series nine can use something like that and not make them a main focus of an episode.

            Cybermen had been letdown since arguably the later JNT years, going from the wonderful ‘Earthshock’ to the average ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ and then the abysmal ‘Silver Nemesis’. In the modern series they continued to disappoint on all but their debut, although ‘Dark Water/Death in Heaven’ was a step in the right direction they still have some way to go to return to the standards of ‘Earthshock’ and its predecessors.

            In ‘Earthshock’ their inclusion was a surprise that the BBC refused to announce until after part one had aired, even declining a Radio Times feature so as to hide their reappearance. It’s that level of secrecy that NuWho so badly needs to bring in. We almost got there with Tennant’s abandoned regeneration in 2008 and the identity of Missy throughout 2014. I think, where possible, the BBC shouldn’t tell us things about the show so that we can enjoy it more when surprises do happen.

  3. Ivriniel says:

    What about the time the Doctor emptied a service revolver trying to kill a Khaled mutant outside of its case in Revelation of the Daleks?

    Or all the times Four used K9 as a weapon. He may not carry a weapon on his person but he had no qualms about ordering K9 to shoot things for him.

    The Doctor is not a pacifist. Never has been.

  4. Henry Eggleton says:

    The Seventh Doctor in Silver Nemesis programs the Nemesis Device to destroy the entire Cyber Fleet

  5. TimeChaser says:

    On a related note, this kind of article reminds me of when all we had to go on for Matt’s Doctor before Season 5 was the trailer, and when some fans saw him holding a gun they went apes**t. “The Doctor never uses guns raaaaaaawrgh!!”, which isn’t true as he’s used guns a nukber of times, but usually just as a distraction or for a more MacGyver-y use. Of course the more reasonable of us knew it would obviously be a scene where the context was he needed a gun for something, but not necessarily to shoot somebody. But boy did that cause an uproar on the internet for a long time.

  6. TimeChaser says:

    Surprised no one has yet mentioned 11 subliminally conditioning the human race to kill the Silence. That’s a biggie, I would think.

  7. Dr Moo says:

    Do we count moments that were rough on the ears? If so then it doesn’t get much worse than this monstrosity. Sorry Colin, I loved your Doctor but please, just stick to acting!

  8. Caleb Goldberg says:

    I personally would add the Doctor’s shooting of the Kaled mutant for no real reason in “Resurrection of the Daleks.”

  9. Rick714 says:

    I read a lot of these comments and am reminded of so many instances when the Doctor indeed used others to do his dirty work for him or did some damage to people one on one. I think the big difference is the scale. As pointed out here, as of McCoys’ era, he engineered the destruction of the Cyber fleet, but even more telling, destroyed Skaro itself. And he’s gotten more ruthless with age since then.

    So….”pacifist” may not be the most accurate term for him. Maybe “pragmatist”……

    • Cryer says:

      To be fair, in most of those instances he was choosing the lesser evil. The Doctor dislikes violence but it has been shown many times that he is willing to turn to it when there is no other way. He is pacifistic in so far that he avoids using violence unless he has to, bar a few occasions (….that poor Ogron in Day of the Daleks).

  10. Namnoot says:

    Another vote for the Doctor strangling Peri which, while a very brave narrative decision, is in my opinion the reason why the Sixth Doctor was rejected by audiences.

    This is going to sound odd – and I have to stress that this is not my personal view – but there are many in 2010s who feel that simply shouting at someone is violence. That being the case, there may very well be viewers who place the Twelfth Doctor’s “Then you’ll never travel with me again! TARDIS now, do as you are told!” moment in Listen in this category, especially as it’s enough to bring Clara briefly to tears. (Keep in mind that there are those who dislike Clara because of her violence, with said violence consisting of the fact she slaps the Doctor in Into the Dalek and threatens to slap him in Kill the Moon, not because she toted a gun in Nightmare in Silver or anything like that!)

  11. Jason Z says:

    I’m a bit surprised that no one has mentioned the Sixth Doctor’s murder of Shockeye in The Two Doctors. I read somewhere (probably in DWM) that there had been a plan to make the Androgums more monstrous, and that this would have made this killing jar much less.

    Also, on the subject of domestic violence, I found the scene of the Doctor smashing up the TARDIS console at the end of Death in Heaven quite unpleasant, since the TARDIS apparently has feelings too.

    • Dr Moo says:

      Moments of unnecessary violence and bloodshed (both seen and talked about) in ‘The Two Doctors’ is a whole other article in itself!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *