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Dr Who

The 48 best-ever Dr Who moments

A stampede for Shirley Wiliams' autograph!
Happy Dr Who day, pals. Here are our favourite 48 moments from the series so far…

48) “DON’T TURN AROUND!” (‘THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET’, 2006)
It’s an oldie, but a goldie. Off-camera sinister voice addresses clearly-done-for Joe Ordinary, prompting everyone at home to shout: “Turn around!” That’s until said voice, sounding suspiciously like Tom Baker foe Sutekh (actor Gabriel Woolf), clarifies the situation: “If you look at me, you will die”. Ulp!

47) “NOOOOOOOOOO!” (‘THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD’, 1986)
The Doctor is dragged down into the depths of a shingle quicksand by a battery of demented waving arms. As his mighty girth is submerged, it’s camera up Colin Baker’s nostrils time to nail home this iconic cliffhanger.

46) “FOR FANS OF DOCTOR WHO THERE WILL BE A RUN OF OLD DOCTOR WHO STORIES ON BBC2 CALLED THE FIVE FACES OF DOCTOR WHO” (‘LOGOPOLIS’, 1981)
The moment has indeed been prepared for, as revealed over the end credits of Tom Baker’s swan-song – a repeat season! Turn over after Willo The Wisp to enjoy cavemen, Krotons and a Carnival of Monsters. A new generation of fans send off their SAEs to the Doctor Who Appreciation Society.

45) “SOMETIMES I FEEL I’VE GOT TO – NER NER – RUN AWAY” (‘THE END OF THE WORLD’, 2005)
Gay disco agenda ahoy! The Platform One monster parade ends with Lady Cassandra’s “iPod” (ha-ha, it’s a Wurlitzer!) blasting out “classical music” (ha-ha, it’s Soft Cell – Russell, you’re too much!). At which point Christopher Eccleston reveals his Doctor’s defining characteristic – dad-dancing.

44) “GETTING-A-BIT-HAIRY-IS-IT?” (‘ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN’, 1985)
Does not compute! Brian Glover trash-talks the Cybermen in a mocking robotic voice. And gets the old crushing-fists-to-the-temple treatment in return.
43) “SOMEWHERE ELSE THE TEA’S GETTING COLD” (‘SURVIVAL’, 1989)
Doctor Who
signs off our TV screens for 16 years (bar that Paul McGann film, obviously) via a hastily tacked-on voiceover intoned by Sylvester McCoy. “C’mon Ace,” says the Doc, “we’ve got work to do”. Unofficial spin-off videos, mainly.

42) “YOU CAN COVER THE WHOLE LOT IN BUTTER-CREAM!” (‘ALIENS OF LONDON’, 2005)
A space pig crash-lands in the Thames and the Doctor needs information. He turns to News 24, but is battling for the telly with one of Rose’s pesky relatives. Result: the channel changes to a Blue Peter cookery demo featuring Matt Baker and a spaceship cake. Lovely stuff!

41) “AND NOW BACK TO DOCTOR WHO… THE SERIES!” (ROLAND RAT THE SERIES, 1986)
Colin Baker’s Doctor interrupts the dying moments of the rodent’s show, to cue in his own adventures (which follow after).  “Rubbish!” chips in Reggie the rat, narrowly missing a laser zap from the Time Lord. Critics, eh?

40) “ANOTHER SOFT CENTRE!” (DR WHO AND THE DALEKS, 1965)
They may be the true bastards of Earth as far as fans are concerned, but the two films made by horror merchants Amicus – which happen to concern the antics of a medical man named Who – have their moments. In this one, Roy Castle sets up an elaborate running gag involving petrified aliens, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and good old ‘falling over’.

39) “THE CREAM OF SCOTLAND YARD” (‘GHOSTLIGHT’, 1989)
Foppish Victorian rotter Josiah Smith unleashes the show’s cruellest pun at the revelation effete baddy Light has reduced an innocent copper to primordial soup.

38) “YOUR BILE WOULD BE BETTER DIRECTED AGAINST THE ENEMY, DOCTOR!” (‘RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS, 1984’)
Doctor Who
essays Alien-style down ‘n’ dirty action-adventure licks, with a cast comprised of Chloe Ashcroft, Rodney Bewes, Dirty Den and Rula Lenska… together at last!

37) “MERRY CHRISTMAS, VT!” (BBC CHRISTMAS TAPE, 1978)

John Cleese and Tom Baker team-up for an in-house effort made to amuse BBC VT engineers. “Sign this for my little God son, would you?” says John, “Nice little kid, he’s blind”. “Have you got a pen?” returns Tom. “Oh, never mind, I’ll tell him you signed it”.

36) “IF YOU EVER LOVED ME, CHILD… KILL ME!” (‘REVELATION OF THE DALEKS’, 1985)
The ethics of euthanasia in Doctor Who! Boilerplate 1980s cannon-fodder Natasha finds what’s left of her dad – the improbably named Arthur Stengos – being transformed into a glass Dalek (of all things). Some genuinely gory moments later, she zaps him. Now cut to Alexi Sayle as – chortle! – a comedy hippy…

35) “ARE YOU IN CHARGE HERE?”/”NO, BUT I’M FULL OF IDEAS!” (THE HORROR OF FANG ROCK, 1977)
There’s only one thing worse than being trapped in a spooky lighthouse on a stormy night, and that’s being trapped in a spooky lighthouse on a stormy night with a bunch of Edwardian snobs who’ve got stiff collars and weak knees. Fortunately the Doctor is on top toff-baiting form.

34) THE WORLD MELTS (‘INFERNO’, 1970)
Someone’s been tampering with the Earth’s core – won’t they ever learn? – and the temperature is rising. Struggling to jumpstart a knackered TARDIS and make good his escape, the Doctor opens his garage door… to find a tide of lava heading up the drive. Roll titles! NB. This story includes the line: “What did you expect? Some sort of space rocket with Batman at the controls?”

33) “DON’T FORGET ME”/”OH SARAH – DON’T YOU FORGET ME!” (‘THE HAND OF FEAR’, 1976)
Parting is such sweet sorrow, as the Doctor’s sometime witchfinder-general William Shakespeare put it. Here Sarah Jane – dressed, apropos of nothing, as Andy Pandy – receives a send-off from her Gallifrey guardian, soaked in enough lip-trembling pathos to puncture even the stoutest of hearts. You’ll have to excuse us, we’ve something in our eye.

32) “WHAT DO YOU DO FOR AN ENCORE, DOCTOR?”/”I WIN!” (‘THE SEEDS OF DOOM’, 1976)
Having breezily plucked Sarah Jane – “my best friend” – from the clutches of silk-tongued glove-clad plant fetishist Harrison Chase by leaping through a skylight and essaying a spot of Marvel Comic-esque derring-do, a gun-toting (hooray!) Doctor reminds the leafy loon who’ll have the last laugh.

31) “MY HAND! IT’S STUCK!” (‘THE STONES OF BLOOD’, 1978)
Halfway through this story, the titular fossils go off to refuel. Finding a pair parked outside their tent flaps, Mike Baldwin’s future second wife (Jackie Ingram, played by Shirin Taylor) and, er, some bloke have their veins gratuitously drained. Suddenly that school trip to Avebury isn’t looking so appealing.

30) “FIT AS A FIDDLE, VICKI!” (‘CASTROVALVA’, 1982)
And this is me! Peter Davison displays an impressive talent for mimicry in the first throes of regeneration, channelling Troughton (“When I say run, RUN!”), Hartnell (“What would you do if you were me, boy, hmm?”) and Pertwee (er… well, he’s in there somewhere), all the while unravelling Tom’s scarf.  Ooh! Allegory!

29) A FACTSHEET IS AVAILABLE (‘THE ROBOTS OF DEATH’, 1977)

The Doctor explains the principle of the TARDIS to a baffled Leela, Johnny Ball style, with two handy boxes and a hushed voice. “It’s a trick!”

28) “‘SWEET’?! EFFETE!” (‘THE TWIN DILEMMA’, 1984)
In the throes of his regulation post-regeneration tizzy, the sixth Doctor breaks with protocol by slagging off his pleasant, open-faced fifth incarnation, before storming off to spend the next three years dressed as Charlie Cairoli.

27) “WHO WAS THAT?”/”ME!”/”*ME!*” (‘THE THREE DOCTORS’, 1973)
Blobs of latex are threatening the fabric of the universe, so the Time Lords twiddle a knob and send the Doctor’s previous two incarnations to see how the new boy’s doing. Cue the kind of bickering that will serve Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton well through the next 10 years of conventions.

26) THE OLD AVENGERS (DALEKS: INVASION EARTH 2150 AD, 1966)
Wrong Doctor Peter Cushing and PC Bernard Cribbins, clad in fetching black PVC jumpsuits, escape ‘robotisation’ at the pincers of the Daleks by kung-fu kicking their way out of their copiously laminated underground base to the accompaniment of a swinging jazz soundtrack.

25) EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE WORKSHOP (‘WARRIOR’S GATE’, 1981)
Doctor Who dabbled with a lot of ‘hard’ SF concepts in the early eighties, but nothing confused younger viewers quite as much as this metaphysical romp in E-Space. Trapped inside a decrepit banqueting hall in an abstract CSO’d wilderness, a bunch of sardonic Noel Edmonds lion men (the Tharils), a ‘time mirror’ and a pensionable K9, the Doctor opts out of heroics to sit on his arse munching gherkins.

24) “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” (BBC TRAILER, 1982)
It’s 1981 and a galaxy of BBC stars are here to bid Yuletide greetings to the nation: Kenny Everett (“Have a dynamite Christmas!”), the Tomorrow’s World team, accompanied by an it’s-all-thanks-to-British-knowhow giant Christmas pud, and, best of all, the TARDIS crew. And, hooray! Peter Davison does a neat bit of business with his hat to obscure Adric’s face, thus ensuring a perfect Christmas for the peoples of the universe.

23) “HAVE YOU HAD A FACE LIFT?”/”SEVERAL, SO FAR…” (‘THE DEADLY ASSASSIN’, 1976)
After spending aeons building up a sinister picture of the place in hushed tones, the Doctor finally touches down on Gallifrey – which turns out to be a pantomime cross between the House of Lords, Dad’s Army and the Sellafield visitors’ centre – to bandy insults with Gallifrey’s very own Nicholas Witchell, Runcible the Fatuous.

22) “YOU MY DEAR CAN’T POSSIBLY EXIST – SO GO AWAY!” (‘KINDA’, 1982)
Allegory and metaphor invade Who as Tegan dreams of Lou Beale then gets possessed by a bloke with a snake tattoo. Hundreds of fanboys stroke their beards and come to the only logical conclusion – Kate Bush must’ve written this one!

21) “IT’S THE END…” (‘LOGOPOLIS’, 1981)
Tom Baker falls off Jodrell Bank onto some unrealistic Astroturf, before merging with flaky-pastry-faced bandage bloke, The Watcher, and turning into Peter Davison. “So he was the Doctor all the time!” muses Nyssa, several weeks later, in a phoned-in overdub. And yet, for all that, achingly poignant.

20) “IT’S ABUNDANTLY CLEAR TO ANYONE WHO’S WATCHING I HAVEN’T ANY IDEA WHAT I’M DOING!” (THE PROGRAM, 1995)
“I may be the most brilliant scientist in the world,” reflects Jon Pertwee, “with two hearts and several hundred years of age, but I haven’t the faintest idea of what I’m doing here”. So let’s help – he’s playing the Star Wars-themed Dark Forces for a computer games show. “I press it on what now?” asks Pertwee, hopelessly. “‘Loading mission’. What happens on Loading Mission? Get me the Brigadier at once, he can maybe enlighten me!”.

19) FAN FICTION! (‘HUMAN NATURE’, 2007)
“I have written down some of these dreams in the form of fiction.” The Doctor, in the unwitting guise of human John Smith, dips a toe in the murky waters of fan fic, chronicling his adventures aboard a “blue box” in his Journal of Impossible Things. And to underline his superfan credentials, there’s the obligatory pencil-shaded montage of all the Doctors’ faces. Plus Paul McGann.

18) ATTACK OF THE CIDERMEN (BBC NEWS, 1975)
A local news reporter ferrets for signs of newly employed Tom Baker down Wookey Hole. “Oh, I don’t know, I can’t find Doctor Who anywhere!”. He finally catches up with the man traipsing into the boozer with Cybermen in tow. Perplexed local scratches his head, for top comedic pay-off.

17) “PARLARE THE CARNY?” (‘CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS’, 1973)
Having finally been let out of his bedroom by the Time Lords, following a grounding on Earth for three years, Jon Pertwee’s Doctor ventures back into space… to trade homosexual slang with Mr Partridge off of Hi-De-Hi!  –  who’s wearing a transparent bowler hat.

16) “THE LOCH NESS MONSTER!” (‘SCHOOL REUNION’, 2006)
In a bid to assert their supremacy in the companion stakes, the feuding Sarah Jane and Rose embark on a no-holds-barred game of monster Top Trumps. “Mummies!” “I’ve met ghosts!” “Robots, lots of robots!” “Slitheen! In Downing Street!” Time for Miss Smith to play that killer Weetabix card from ‘Terror of the Zygons’. “Seriously?!”

15) “SIX BUFFALOS A DAY IT ATE, PLUS TWO WHEELBARRLOWLOADS OF COCONUTS” (ANIMAL MAGIC, 1979)
En route between the Acton Hilton and the BBC Club, Tom Baker makes time to pop in on Animal Magic’s 400th edition, waxing lyrical to camera about the Fendahl, Krynoid, and Shrievenzale. In stocks! “The Wirrn – it had a sting so fierce, it could’ve done an elephant in five seconds.”

14) “NO MY DEAR DOCTOR, YOU MUST DIE! DIE DOCTOR! DIE!” (‘THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI’. 1984)

The best regeneration ever as Peter Davison – not quite upstaged by Nicola Bryant’s bosom – takes his bow. How can you go wrong with a psychedelic kaleidoscope of companion cameos (“What was it you always told me, Doctor? Brave heart?”) and some triumphal taunting from that moustache-twirling maverick, The Master. Enter Colin Baker. “You were expecting someone else?” Well, hoping, maybe.

13) AUTONS TAKE EALING BROADWAY (‘SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE’, 1970)
The Doctor is exiled to the seventies (UNIT, cloaks, laboratories, trimphones) in style, with one of the most sinister Who sequences of all time, as a troupe of nattily-attired shop dummies come to life in an Ealing department store window and ruthlessly mow down a bus queue. The stuff of nightmares. Plus, it’s nice to see the old Currys logo.

12) “I AM THE NUCLEUS OF THE SWARM!” (‘THE INVISIBLE ENEMY’, 1977)
Sick Doctor has miniaturised clones of self and Leela injected into his bloodstream to fight virus, romp fetchingly about among polystyrene blood cells and generally rip off that film with Racquel Welch in. Seizing its chance, the virus’s tatty king prawn-ish nucleus gets magnified to giant size, then spends the rest of the episode repeatedly bigging itself up like it was the Fresh Prince or something. We heard you!

11) “ARE YOU MY MUMMY?” (‘THE EMPTY CHILD’, 2005)
“Please let me in.” Brrrr. Ringing telephones, air raids and a scary, scary kid in a gasmask. The nation collectively remembers this programme could be seriously disturbing, while kids get a new playground catchphrase. The moment you knew Who was back for good.

10) “YES I’M RATHER LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING IT M’SELF” (NOEL’S HOUSE PARTY, 1993)

What force for good could unite five incarnations of the Doctor? Noel Edmonds, obviously! To pay tribute, Jon Pertwee materialises on Noel’s House Party where he introduces part one of Children in Need’s Who-meets EastEnders skit, ‘Dimensions in Time’ (“I’m in it y’know!”). “I heard he was thick,” he says of the TV legend in an acid aside to camera. “I thought they were talking about his waist!”

9) “K-9!” (K-9 AND COMPANY, 1981)

First ever Who spin-off, features Elisabeth Sladen as breathless journo Sarah Jane Smith providing the titular ‘Company’ to the Doc’s robot dog. The show’s blessed with a fantastically hopeless title sequence, featuring the metal mutt perched on a dry stone wall chirruping, “K-9!” while The Guardian-reading SJ  –  with trackie-top draped around her neck  –  pounds country lanes. And, ooh, alfresco typing!

Spin-offs!

Click to read about the spin-offs they should have done

8) “THE STAIRS!” (‘REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS’, 1989)

This one got Sylvester McCoy a positive write-up in music inkie Sounds, of all things. Faced with a Dalek in the cellar, the Doctor does the obvious and legs it up the stairs. Phew! Except the metallic bastard follows him up –  albeit very slowly. ‘Mac’, and a fleet of newspaper cartoonists despair.

7) “EN GARDE!” (‘THE SEA DEVILS’, 1972)

You’ve gotta love Jon Pertwee. He was always the Doctor most likely to hold a cracking cheese ‘n’ wine or give a hamper at Christmas. His bon viveur credentials come to the fore during a sword fight with the evil Time Lord beard-wearer, the Master. While flashing blades, the Doc takes a moment out to chomp on a big sandwich. Let’s brunch!

6) “NEXT TIME, I SHALL NOT BE SO LENIENT!” (‘THE ANDROIDS OF TARA’, 1978)

Bested by the Doc, the naughty Count Grendel gets off this ace riposte as he makes good his escape. As if that wasn’t fantastic enough, this story also features the line: “Would you mind not standing on my chest, my hat’s on fire”, plus the series’ worst-ever monster (and that’s a feat) in the form of the Taran Wood Beast  –  somewhere between a troll doll and Bill Bailey.

5) “IS THIS THE PLANET SHEPHERD’S BUSH?” (WOGAN, 1986)

On the evening of Doctor Who’s return to telly following a heinous Michael Grade-enforced 18-month pit stop, no less a figure than Sir Terence of Wogan steps forth from the TARDIS to duel with a monster (“You’re a Mandrel, aren’t you? I’d know you anywhere!”) as a prelude to a ribald chat with Colin Baker. “Is it true, like many actors, you have your shibboleths and superstitions?” ventures Tel. “Is shibboleths a posh word for knickers?” replies Col.

4) “HE MUST BE MADE TO… SUFFER FOR OUR PAST… DEFEATS!” (‘EARTHSHOCK’, 1982)

After an episode’s worth of dicking about in caves, a Mexican stand-off between his-and-her androids and the usual stiff upper-cliché troopers, we finally get the big baddies-pulling-the-strings reveal. And it’s the fucking Cybermen! Back after a seven-year break from our screens! Fists a-clenched, their plans for dominion over something or other will not be denied… But let’s have a quick trawl through old Doctor Who clips on their cyber-scope first.

3) “DON’T BLINK!” (‘BLINK’, 2007)

Not only did it prove current day ‘Doctor lite’ stories needn’t consist of Peter Kay gurning, ‘Blink’ also just happened to be one of the best Who tales of all time, with a beautifully simple concept, and, in Sally Sparrow, the best companion the Time Lord never had. Most importantly, with that superfluous coda (a montage of stone figures mixed in with Tennant’s advice you really shouldn’t shut your peepers) it gave a generation of kids a lifelong fear of statues. Good work!

2) “I BRING SUTEKH’S GIFT OF DEATH TO ALL HUMANS” (‘PYRAMIDS OF MARS’, 1975)

A crusty Egyptian god has been woken up, and understandably he’s not happy. Deciding to take revenge on, ooh, the whole human race, a masked figure in a black cowl is dispatched to deliver the eponymous cheery present to whoever gets in his way. Said gift is duly conveyed… via a pair of smoking hands, a sibilant snarl (actor Gabriel Woolf, see 48) and a spot of strangulation. A nation shudders at the most chilling moment in Who history.

1) “AFTER ALL, THAT’S HOW IT ALL STARTED” (‘THE FIVE DOCTORS’, 1983)

Fin de siecle stuff from the 20th birthday reunion, as the united Doctors brave the slight inclines of Blaenau Ffestiniog to defeat both onscreen Children in Need captions and scheming Time Lord despot Borusa in the Game of Rassilon (suitable for ages 8 to 800. Raston Warrior Robot sold separately). Peter Davison packs off his predecessors into their TARDISes  –  “I’m definitely not the man I was… thank goodness” – and then, clearly impressed, Tony Britton’s ex-wife off of Don’t Wait Up slips her arm through his and anoints the Doctor Gallifrey’s new president. But not for him the rigours of office. Thus the cricketing cavalier turns fugitive once more. “You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people in a rackety old TARDIS?” pouts companion Tegan. “Why not?” grins the wet vet, showing off his acting chops with some fine ‘out of breath’ work. “After all, that’s how it all started.” Already great, the moment becomes genius when followed by a snazzy theme tune mash-up, mixing the original sixties Delia Derbyshire oscillating oddity with Peter Howell’s energetic slab of eighties electronica. Ah, we wish Doctor Who was on a birthday every week…

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