Spoilers, sweetie. Here’s our Doctor Who guide to the show’s most shocking moments. You might want to find something to hang on to…
5) The Day of the Doctor: The arrival of the Curator
Kicking off our latest Doctor Who guide is the appearance of Tom Baker as the mysterious Curator in ‘The Day of the Doctor.’ Now, there have been appearances of other “surprise Doctors” over the years, such as Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor or John Hurt’s War Doctor, and whilst they did indeed make jaws drop, the Curator gets a special mention as he was the only Classic Series actor to appear in the 50th anniversary special. Plus, of course, he’s Tom Baker – seeing him appear in New Who is enough to make anyone regenerate.
Moreover, it’s strongly implied that the Curator is a future incarnation of the eponymous Time Lord who has chosen to re-wear a past face. In addition, there is a suggestion that this may be the Doctor’s final body, as the Curator’s appearance was preceded with the Eleventh Doctor’s statement that he could “retire and become the curator of [the National Gallery.]” But who knows, eh? Who. Nose.
Regardless, the arrival of the Curator deserves its place at number five in our Doctor Who guide for its jaw-dropping (and fan-pleasing) gall. For more on this mysterious character, see here.
4) Earthshock: “Destroy them at once!”
The second entry in our Doctor Who guide dates back to 1982. Now, it’s no secret that Doctor Who‘s then-producer John Nathan-Turner went to great lengths to conceal the return of the legendary Cybermen for Peter Davison’s first season, and for good reason. Even in the pre-internet days, fans were chomping at the bit to find out as much as they could about their favourite show, and in the BBC of the 1980s, it was even possible for members of the public to enter the studio and watch the filming from the gallery. Not good for containing spoilers.
But the return of the Cybermen in 1982’s ‘Earthshock’ was a genuine surprise, and as such deserves its place in our Doctor Who guide. The producer stopped members of the public from attending the filming, and declined an invitation from the Radio Times to have a Cyberman on the magazine’s front cover. Moreover, he had the cast lists printed as just “Leader” and “Lieutenant” – rather than “Cyber Leader” and “Cyber Lieutenant” – lest anyone caught on.
And so, when the metal giants did finally appear in the final scene of ‘Earthshock’ part one, it truly was a shock; the Leader’s fist-clenching instruction to “destroy them at once!” (referring to the Doctor and his friends) lives on in the minds of many a Whovian.
3) The Caves of Androzani: The Doctor gets shot with an uzi
Well, several uzis, in fact. The next entry in our Doctor Who guide is a more obscure one, but truly shocking. It comes at the end of ‘The Caves of Androzani’ part one, and sees the Fifth Doctor and Peri – having been arrested by a (somewhat blinkered) military unit – being lined up before a firing squad. They have their faces covered, and the squad leader orders his soldiers to open fire. And they do. The episode ends with bullets tearing into our two heroes.
And whilst this entry in our Doctor Who guide may raise several burning questions, rest assured that it’s not quite as brutal as it sounds. In something of a game-changing twist, it transpires that the Fifth Doctor and Peri were in fact android replicas, with the real heroes having been smuggled away by the masked villain Sharaz Jek.
And whilst this resolution may seem a bit random, it isn’t; robots play a key part in ‘The Caves of Androzani,’ as the aforementioned Sharaz Jek is something of an android master. This sequence – whilst shocking – really is a testament to the cleverness of its writer Robert Holmes.
2) Death in Heaven: Clara Oswald is the Doctor!
You can’t have a Doctor Who guide like this one without a truly forum-melting twist. (Although, as it turns out, this next moment was more of joke on the part of showrunner Steven Moffat than an actual twist, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) You see, in order to avoid getting deleted by an army of Cybermen, the Doctor’s companion Clara tries to trick them into thinking she is the eponymous Time Lord. “Clara Oswald never existed,” she tells them. She is the Doctor.
And the title sequence agrees. Peter Capaldi’s face is replaced with Jenna Coleman’s, and she gets top billing in the opening credits. The watching fans were left wondering if the whole of Doctor Who canon had just been turned on its head, and questioned whether the casting of Peter Capaldi had been the biggest piece of misdirection in the whole of Whodom.
As we all know, it wasn’t, but this shocking moment deserves second place in our Doctor Who guide for its lore-breaking potential, and sheer gutsiness. Indeed, the whole story was full of surprises, including the return of the Brigadier (albeit in Cyber form) and the shock appearance of Santa Claus at the episode’s conclusion. Plus, of course, there was the reveal of Missy as the first female version of the Master.
1) The Stolen Earth: “I’m regenerating!”
Taking the top spot in our Doctor Who guide is a shocking moment that no one saw coming, and left many scratching their heads. Even the producer Phil Collinson, when he first read the script for ‘The Stolen Earth,’ wondered what the writer Russell T Davies was thinking when the Tenth Doctor – having been fatally wounded by a Dalek – threw his arms open and shouted “I’m regenerating!” before exploding in a burst of glowing energy.
The solution, it turned out, had been sitting under our noses since 2005’s ‘The Christmas Invasion.’ The Doctor had lost his hand in a sword fight, which had been recovered by Captain Jack of Torchwood and stored in a glass jar. Eventually, this jar found its way back to the TARDIS, which was sitting on the floor when the Tenth Doctor regenerated. The Doctor was then able to syphon off this regeneration energy into his “handy spare hand” and stop himself from changing. Clever, eh?
Regardless, this moment is at number one in our Doctor Who guide because of how bombastic and unexpected it was. Fans the world over were wondering who the Doctor was going to change into, with one rumour suggesting that he and the Master (played by John Simm) were going to perform a body swap. This really would have been a shock given that the Master wasn’t even in the story!
But over to you, faithful reader. Which shocking moments would you add to this Doctor Who guide? And which is your favourite from the list above? Let me know in the comments below.
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