The 8 Most Shocking Doctor Who Moments

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The best way to prepare for the upcoming 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who is to expect nothing, it’s better that way if you want to truly experience the utter shock one feels from whatever surprises are in store. Doctor Who is always full of twists and turns, especially since Russell T. Davies brought it back in 2005, and we expect nothing less with The Day of the Doctor.

To celebrate the show’s recent milestone, we decided to take a look back and rank some of the most surprising moments of Doctor Who, as there have been quite a few spread throughout its history. Whether it was the death of Adric in Earthshock, the truth about the Valeyard revealed in The Trial of a Time Lord, or the general return of villains and monsters when you least expected it, surprises have been a key ingredient of the show since the beginning.

Having not lived through the Classic Who era, it is difficult to realize what moments surprised the audiences of that time. Moreover, the story-arc heavy nature of the show since its return has given it more room to create such moments. For these reasons, it was decided to focus just on the new series of Doctor Who.

So what exactly was the criteria to rank these moments? Well, these are the shocks that come at you with no warning, and leave you in a state of excitement. The moments that make you sit up straight with widened eyes, screaming “What?” in your head over and over trying to figure out what just happened, while frantically trying to contain and express your feelings simultaneously.

Sometimes these moments simply leave you in a calmed state, and it’s only later that you realize what a real shock it was. All this is assuming of course that you did not get spoiled beforehand through the internet and such, and were able to experience the moment live as it transpired on screen.

So, with all that in mind, we present to you the 8 most surprising moments in Doctor Who. Allons-y!

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Honorable Mentions:

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3. “He will knock four times!”

The Tenth Doctor’s end was foretold by the Ood near the beginning of Series 4, but it didn’t get real until Planet of the Dead, where a prophecy was made that The Doctor’s song was ending and that “he would knock four times.” At the time there were all sorts of theories and speculation regarding who the “he” referred to. Many people wondered whether the song was in some way related to River Song, or whether the knocking referred to the sound of drums that The Master kept hearing inside his head.

No one really knew for sure until The End of Time two-parter, and I don’t think anyone expected it to be Wilfred Mott, grandfather of Donna Noble. It wasn’t the Master or the Daleks or some epic villain, it was much simpler and more intimate than that. After being set up in a big way, it was surprising to see what it came out to be, but also all the more better for it.

2. The Face of Boe

Captain Jack Harkness is one of the coolest companions the Doctor has had to date, and he’s one of the companions that I would be super excited to see come back any day. The bromance between him and the Tenth Doctor rivals that of Jamie and the Second Doctor’s. The Face of Boe is a character we’ve only met a few times, yet the Doctor developed a huge sense of respect towards him very quickly, and there was always the implication that there was some history between them that even The Doctor didn’t know about yet.

I don’t think anyone can really believe that the handsome, egotistical yet lovely Captain Jack might grow old to become a giant face, yet when it was revealed in the Series 3 finale, it made total sense. Of course, nothing is explicitly confirmed about them being one and the same, and this moment is more of a revelation than a proper surprise. Regardless, it was still something that no one saw coming, and it was a nice little twist.

1. Rose Returns

Rose had a nice but sad ending in Doomsday and there was probably no need for her to return in Series 4. Some may argue that her return ended the character’s arc on a worse note than before, and that may all be true. Regardless, when she showed up at the end of Partners in Crime, the Series 4 premiere, it was quite frankly, chilling. While it did not turn the episode on its head or anything, it did leave us wanting to find out more. I, for one, did not expect Rose to return, and I think anyone would agree that her return was a bit of a shock, regardless of whether they liked or disliked the character.

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8. The Doctor Dies

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Within the first 10 minutes of the Series 6 premiere, we were promised that someone would die. Knowing that it would be one of the four (The Doctor, Amy, River and Rory), it wasn’t a total surprise to see it be the Doctor. But the shock came after seeing it happen, as his body was burned and he seemed to be most definitely dead. The rest of the Series saw a younger version of the Doctor adventuring about until he reached this supposed death. Of course, with Doctor Who, nothing is as it seems and it was all resolved by the Series’ end. Regardless of how you felt about the plot, this set up was very well done and gave us a few months of intense speculation.

7. Amy Is A Ganger?

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The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People two-parter would not normally have been a memorable episode had it not been for its ending. After two episodes dedicated to gangers separated from their hosts and trying to live their own lives, it was revealed that Amy herself was also a ganger. The surprise was not in that revelation, but in realizing that she’s been a ganger for pretty much the whole of Series 6 up until that point.

Her actual self was elsewhere on Demon’s Run, and had been there for a while. Furthermore, she was pregnant, and woke up just in time to have the baby, little Melody Pond. We knew something big was coming, but this was completely out of the blue and left many of us shocked.

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6. The Time Lords Return

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Throughout all of Russell T. Davies’ era, we’ve been told that the Time Lords were dead and the Doctor is the last of his kind. We were often given minor hints to the details of the Time War, but never a complete explanation of the event, only serving to the mystery of the Doctor’s character. Point is, at the time the Time Lords were dead and we probably weren’t seeing them again.

But finally, they were back at The End of Time Part One, with Timothy Dalton playing Rassilon, giving him an aura of authority and strength. Not only had we not seen the Time Lords since the 1980s, but their appearance completely changed the direction of the story which was thought to be based simply around The Master and the Tenth Doctor. Moreover, their return meant an epic finale was to be had for David Tennant, and fortunately, that was indeed the case.

5. Clara’s Debut…And Death

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When Jenna Coleman was announced as the new companion, it became common knowledge that she would debut in the Christmas Special, The Snowmen, right after the Ponds’ farewell. So imagine all of our surprise when the first episode of the series, Asylum of the Daleks, featured Jenna Coleman…as a Dalek. No one expected her to be there, but there she was.

And that’s not all, for by the end of the episode, she had even died. I don’t think anyone quite knew what to make of it, and the best part is that the BBC was able to keep it a surprise till the episode’s premiere. Of course, this is only a big moment for those who watched it at the time and knew that she was not meant to appear. But it was excellently done, and set up quite an intriguing mystery for the rest of the series.

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4. Mister Saxon

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Series 3′s Utopia seemed like a normal episode at first, but it became clear pretty soon there was something different about the way it was structured and how the plot progressed. I’m sure there were lots of fans that predicted the return of The Master that series, given the many clues hinting at a “Mr. Saxon” up until that point. Despite the fact that it was a massive revelation, it wasn’t The Master’s return that was the shocking part, it was in its execution.

It was a slow build to the reveal, starting with Professor Yana finally noticing his fob watch, and then slowly learning who he is when opening it. Then there was the realization on the Doctor’s face, seeing that The Face of Boe’s final words had indeed come true (“You are not alone!”). As the credits began to roll, The Master was regenerated into a younger body, had taken control of the TARDIS, and left the rest of the crew stranded in the future. It took an entire week to process all of that, but it was also delightful to see The Master return. All this before the actual two-part finale.

3. The Tenth Doctor Regenerates

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As Series 4 was beginning to wind down, fans knew that David Tennant and Russell T. Davies were leaving, and that a new Doctor and Steven Moffat would take their place. They also knew that 2009 would feature multiple specials before Moffat’s era began. Knowing all this, it wasn’t unreasonable for the fans to think that just maybe Doctor Who pulled off a huge, big twist, when at the end of The Stolen Earth, the Tenth Doctor began to regenerate with no warning.

For a good, long week, excitement for Doctor Who reached to such a level that even the news stations were covering it, wondering whether we’d get a new Doctor earlier than expected. This is also considering the fact that David Tennant was a very beloved Doctor, and the possibility of him leaving unexpectedly meant a whole nation would be on its toes for one entire week. It was a fantastic surprise at the time, and makes you wonder whether it’s possible to do such a thing for real, in this day and age of spoilers and leaks everywhere.

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2. A Welcome Return For A Former Time Lord

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About a little more than a week ago, a prequel was released for the 50th Anniversary, The Night of the Doctor. I was lucky enough to watch it before the internet started to talk about it, and that meant that I had absolutely no idea what was waiting for me. Now sure, it wouldn’t have been a total 100% of a surprise if any of the past Doctors besides David Tennant had returned in the 50th Anniversary. I mean, at this point, we’re all used to Moffat keeping secrets from us any way possible.

But that was the last thing on my mind as I began to watch the prequel. The moment I heard his voice, and saw his face, I went nuts. My mind was suddenly thinking in caps lock. Here he was, Paul McGann back as the Eighth Doctor, after months of denying any involvement in the 50th Special. Technically, he was telling the truth as he probably won’t be in The Day of the Doctor. But this was the next best thing.

With an updated costume, a sonic screwdriver in hand, and better hair than before, this was still the same old Eighth Doctor, albeit older and with more history in those eyes. Moreover, this prequel also served to fill the gap that was the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration, which we had never seen before until now, in it’s 50th Anniversary year. Every hardcore Who fan around the world felt like they were in fanboy heaven. Well played, Moffat, well played indeed.

Take a look at the prequel below if you haven’t seen it yet, or you just want to relive it all over again:

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1. The War Doctor

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And now we come to what I believe, is perhaps the most surprising moment in all of Doctor Who. For three series, Steven Moffat had crafted a long story arc that we still don’t know the full details of. The core of the arc seems to be the answer to the question, Doctor who? The answer seemed to be coming in the appropriately titled, The Name of the Doctor, with promises of The Doctor’s secret to be revealed.

But no, it wasn’t the Doctor’s name that was revealed, it was something far more surprising. Some fans may have been frustrated that it didn’t resolve the story arc like they thought it would, but I think that whatever criticisms they had was overshadowed with the reveal of a brand new Doctor, played by John Hurt.

While I would’ve preferred calling him The Hurt Doctor, he was officially credited as The War Doctor in the prequel. The idea of a secret, hidden Doctor in his past never crossed my mind, and I’m sure most fans would say the same. Given the gap between the Eighth and Ninth Doctor, there was a great opportunity to do something like that, and Moffat took complete advantage of it. On a side note, I love that the title of the episode meant something very different from what we had expected by the time the credits rolled.

It remains to be seen what this means for the future and what John Hurt will be like in The Day of the Doctor, but as of now, it stands as one of the most surprising and brilliant twists in Doctor Who history, and I am fully confident that the 50th anniversary will be worth it.

Take a look at that unforgettable scene below:

What are your favorite Doctor Who surprises, is there anything I missed but shouldn’t have? Let us know in the comments.

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