Saturday, 28 June 2014

5 Doctor Who Moments Better Than Rose's Goodbye

In a recent poll something very strange happened. When asking the public to name the single greatest scene in all of science fiction, from the very beginning of the genre to this year's films, fans banded together selecting a very unexpected choice. Beating out John Hurt's death in Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey's famed ending, and even the Hulk and Loki scene in the Avengers, fans selected the goodbye between Rose and the 10th Doctor. 

Now, opinions vary on how good this scene was. Some critics the cinematography and abruptness of the moment, while others love it and see it as a proper farewell to the characters. The greatest scene in all science fiction though? No, definitely not. Not even close. There are thousands of better shot, more meaningful and generally better handled scenes and moments from pop culture which stand out far more. Hell, there's even better ones just in Doctor Who more deserving of such a title. Want proof? Here's a short list of examples in no particular order.

1 - "One day, I shall come back"

Seeing a companion leave the show is never an easy thing, both for the fans and the Doctor himself. The first time this ever happened was with the Doctor's own granddaughter, and was one of the few departures given a slight by the Doctor himself. Seeing her desire to remain on Earth following the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth he locked her out of the TARDIS. Speaking with Susan through the monitor screen, he gives a speech encouraging her to set down roots of her own and to have her belong to somewhere. He wished for her to have a life of her own, and not to become completely tied down with "a silly old duffer like me."

The speech that followed credited Susan with looking after him as much as he had her, and spoke of his pride in her. Promising one day to return, he proceeded to encourage her to "go forwards with your beliefs, and prove to me I am not mistaken in mine." It's delivered with fantastic conviction by William Hartnell and there's an especially human moment when his benediction falters at the very end.

The speech has become associated within the franchise when it comes to moving on. Whether it be to a new incarnation or new era, it's been used as a reminder to allow new creators to not be utterly tied down to old ideas, but to never fully abandon them. Many still remember it to this day as the opening to The Five Doctors, the last great reunion of the franchise.

2 - Davros And The Virus

While the Doctor's speech heralding the end of his first life has become an iconic speech of heroism, one similar powerful moment cemented one figure as the ultimate villain for years to come. Summarising his megalomaniac nature and proving he was totally beyond redemption, Davros paused and pondered a question posed by the Doctor: What if you created a virus which would destroy everything?

Intended by the Doctor to serve as some opening, some analogy to help show Davros what the Daleks truly were, it backfired spectacularly. Rather than considering the damage it would bring, the potential for total oblivion or even the loss of life, Davros only saw the power it would bring. He only saw the opportunity to totally secure a future which would, in his own words, set him up above the gods. 

The scene is brilliantly acted both by Tom Baker and Michael Wisher and truly capitalises upon the magnitude of events. The Doctor has been captured, his total knowledge of all Dalek defeats and potential weaknesses taken and recorded, Davros himself is in total control. It's at this point the Doctor truly realises the monster he is facing, and that Davros himself will never cancel the project at the cost of billions of lives. Worse still, he might even welcome the prospect, as it might prove the superiority of his creations. It's one of the best moments of Genesis of the Daleks and displayed the magnificent villainy of the character. It's no small wonder he'd be brought back to face almost every future incarnation from there on.

3 - Farewell Jo Grant

One of the best regarded departures from the series was the exit of longtime companion Jo Grant in The Green Death, leaving the Third Doctor at long last. Having fallen in love with scientist Clifford Jones, the two of them announced their planned marriage not long after the story's villain had been defeated. Visibly upset at this development, the Doctor briefly downs a glass of wine and quietly leaves while the party is in full swing, heading for home in silence.

While your mileage may vary in terms of how good a story The Green Death is, it's no surprise this scene has remained in the minds of audiences. It really epitomizes who the Doctor is for his companions and what his life is like. He enters a person's life, everything is an insane journey of wonders, adventures and life threatening situations, but once it's over he leaves in silence. He understands and accepts others wish to have lives beyond what is seen in the TARDIS and will leave them to it, but that still leaves his own loneliness.  Even in this era, when his species was still alive and he was relatively young, the Doctor was an exile among his own kind and with few who truly understood him. 

For all Russel T Davies and Steven Moffat would play upon his isolation, Jon Pertwee departing in silence and driving away into the night is a more effective methods. Subdued, underplayed, and allowing the actor to really take most of the dramatic weight for the scene, expressing it through his actions rather than words.

4 - Indomitable

Another big Fourth Doctor moment, something which has echoed on over the years was his speech during the Ark in Space. Standing amid the last remnants of human civilisation, frozen in cryogenic chambers and waiting to rebuild on the sun scorched earth, Tom Baker delivered one of the Doctor's greatest speeches. declaring humans to be an "inventive, invincible species" and praising the efforts of the ark's builders to survive the end.

The speech itself was brief, only a half a minute long, but Baker's delivery and the dialogue were what made it stand out. It was a rare moment of the Doctor truly praising humanity, as opposed to often snide or humorous remarks, and commenting upon their ability to survive all. It was brief, succinct and avoided being utterly overblown, and it was a very rare moment for the series. 

Unlike modern Who, which for all its great qualities did repeat this sort of speech far too often, it didn't seem to be milking this element of the Doctor's character nor allowed it to hang over the story. This said, it did also relay some of the best qualities of the episode in brief, foreshadowing what was to come. The entire story was built upon humanity attempting to survive a foe during his weakest hour, and even touched upon how remnants of humanity's best qualities could survive in monstrous forms. To give a bit of context to that last statement, this was classic Doctor Who's take on Alien, and it remains highly regarded by many show-runners to this date. Well, despite the painfully 70s design of the station anyway.

5 - "Just This once, everybody lives!"

Yes, finally an example from the modern series. Included in the final moments of The Doctor Dances, the Doctor manages to find a victory. Despite haywire nanomachines running rampant throughout the population of Britain, converting all in its path into broken copies of a lone child looking for his parent, they manage to win. Better yet, they manage to reverse the effects of the nanomachines and just for once save everyone.

Every serial throughout every era tends to end in a few deaths. Whether they be redshirt side characters, big name cast members or even companions, someone will die. Not here, as for once they manage to escape with everyone alive - A accomplishment which he has rarely achieved in his long life.  It's a truly momentous scene which speaks as much about the show's history as it does the Doctor's point in that life. He has been through the Time War, witnessed two entire races massacre one another in a violent struggle, killed them by his own hands. This was an act which was so traumatic it would take an entire regeneration of his life to fully recover from, so managing to fully avert a massacre here is all the more meaningful.

I'd say more, but honestly, of all the ones on here this is the one to watch as a part of the entire story rather than on its own.


  1. Huh, I wasn't aware of that poll, single greatest moment? I'd say no, I wouldn't even say it's the saddest, not even in Doctor Who, I was more sad with some scenes in The Waters of Mars than I was with that seeing.
    Otherwise I think this is a good list, I haven't seen most of these since I haven't seen too much of the old series (considering how long it is), but I'll check these episodes out.

    1. Yeah, it effectively only won thanks to David Tennant's sheer number of fans. Seriously, the last time they put out a question on who should play the next incarnation of the Doctor, David Tennant came up as the No. 1 result. It's sadly why popular opinion doesn't work.

      Well, The Green Death is easily the one of the most questionable quality (even i'll admit it's extremely daft most of the time) but the rest are all solid hits. The Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks are the two which i'd personally recommend the most.

  2. I will say that Rose's departure was sad, but to say it was the saddest ever is just plain wrong. I found Amy and Rory's departure far more heart wrenching, and Donna's as well. Rose's departure kind of loses steam since she came back in series four and got a somewhat happy ending, there was no happy ending for Donna (well she did win the lottery, but compared to flying in the TARDIS, it pales in comparison) and there certainly was no happy ending for The Ponds.