With fifty years on the clock, it’s safe to say that Doctor Who has enjoyed its fair share of WTF moments. For some, these will be points that momentarily ruined the show, and for others, they’ll encapsulate its ever-evolving style and bohemian spirit. Besides, the guy travels in time and space and changes his face so he pretty much has an excuse for anything! In no particular order then, here are some of Doctor Who‘s most bizarre moments:
Nazi River Song Kills The Doctor (Let’s Kill Hitler)
A robot assassin full of miniature people. River Song dressed in a Nazi outfit. Hitler in a cupboard. Killer machines chanting “You will experience a tingling sensation and then death.” This episode is full of mental stuff and although it’s one of the most hilarious scripts in the show’s history, it does reach a point where you think ‘No, seriously – I have absolutely no idea what’s going on now’. Amy and Rory finding out their best friend is actually their daughter who’s been brainwashed to kill the Doctor is confusing enough but the moment in question is when River Song makes everyone in a restaurant strip off and then the Doctor turns up, posing in front of a Swastika, having somehow found time to change into a top hat and tails despite the fact that he has less than half an hour left to live. Just mad.
Romana’s Regeneration (Destiny of the Daleks)
When Douglas Adams took over as script editor, things took a rather bizarre turn. The stories he worked on are certainly some of the wittiest and suit Tom Baker down to a tee but there are some rather odd moments too. Such as the opening scene of Destiny of the Daleks which was apparently penned by Adams rather than the serial’s writer; Dalek-creator Terry Nation. Whenever the Doctor regenerates it tends to be a bit of an ordeal from which he has to recover. He certainly doesn’t seem to have the choice to try a few bodies on first and then nick one from someone else as Romana does in this scene. The weirdest moment is when she appears in some risqué outfit and the Doctor says “No thank you. Not today.”
UNIT’s Toy Tank (Robot)
UNIT represented the Doctor’s fight against old-fashioned British colonial attitudes, hence its use of old-fashioned weaponry. On a few occasions however, the Brig’s crew seemed to have access to futuristic equipment for no particular reason. Robot has the bizarrest example of this because it’s so brief. They suddenly produce a tiny remote-controlled tank which the Kettlewell robot quickly disintegrates. The Seeds of Doom is no better for having the UNIT boys weald a giant laser, and by The Sound of Drums they appear to have nicked a giant airbase from Captain Scarlet.
The Slitheen Farting (Aliens of London)
What Russell T. Davies did so brilliantly when reviving the show that the 1997 TV movie failed to do, was to actively make it accessible to kids for the first time since the 70s. The only downside of this is that the show does have some rather silly moments and there’s nothing worse than the sudden inclusion of farting aliens. I have to admit, when the Ninth Doc says “Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I’m saving the world?” I may have sniggered a bit. Just a bit, mind.
Killing Time in the TARDIS (The Invasion of Time)
Well, this is less of a ‘moment’ and more of a series of repeated moments. The story has a good plot, with the Doctor apparently acting all evil, becoming president of Gallifrey, then foiling some tin foil aliens (pun intended) before the surprise arrival of the Sontarans. This particular serial was affected by an industrial strike which meant much filming had to be relocated to an old hospital. Doctor Who is often said to be made up of a lot of running around corridors but the last episode largely consists of a lot of slow, aimless wandering around corridors of the TARDIS (which don’t look very TARDIS-y) and we’re treated to amazing filler lines like Andred’s comment to K9: “If I had a dog like you in my unit…I’d make him a sergeant.”
Ironing the Homeless (Planet of the Spiders)
Jon Pertwee loved a good action sequence. From the start when he tried to escape from hospital on a wheelchair in Spearhead from Space it was clear that the Third Doctor was going to be an action Doc, but the extended chase in his last story truly takes the biscuit. It lasts for pretty much all of the second episode and every kind of transport is chucked in – cars, flying cars, boats, motorbikes. There’s a particularly brilliant moment when the doc runs over a tramp with a hovercraft. It’s nuts but it was clearly a request from Pertwee to have one last stab at his signature chase sequences.
Bloody Chessene (The Two Doctors)
It’s difficult to know whether this was included in the ever-macabre Robert Holmes’ original script or was added by script editor Eric “sod it, let’s have a bit more violence and has anyone died in the last thirty seconds?” Saward. We get that Chessene is obsessed with the Time Lords but after the Doctor is stabbed by super-mental food enthusiast Shockeye, she suddenly decides to cover her face in his blood. Colin Baker’s first full season was packed to the rafters with extreme violence (Cyberman crushing hands, acid baths, would-be Davros assassins getting a bit stabby) but this one moment just seems particularly OTT.
“I’m half-human, on my mother’s side” (Doctor Who – The Paul McGann TV Movie)
Really?! You’ve never mentioned that before. Or since. In a few seconds, the Eighth Doctor manages to create a weird continuity nightmare that no-one’s wanted to touch since. It’s always great to add a bit more to the Doctor’s history now and then but there’s absolutely no attempt to explain it later. It almost seems like a mistake. Like the makers of the film didn’t really know much about the show. Oh and he kisses a girl too. But let’s not be prudish. Lots of people kiss girls.
The Doctor Attacks Peri (The Twin Dilemma)
It’s difficult to pick the worst moment in what is probably the series’ worst story, but when the Doctor tries to strangle Peri in the TARDIS it’s the show’s death-knell. Making it all serious and targeted at adults was always a big mistake on John Nathan-Turner’s part, but once the Doctor has actually tried to kill his companion (the girl he fought so valiantly to save on Androzani Minor just just five minutes ago) you stop rooting for him. The companion was always meant to make the world of the Doctor accessible, but from this point onwards you never really trust the Sixth Doctor.
“Doctor Who?” (The Wedding of River Song)
We’ll forgive WOTAN’s “Doctor Who is required” in The War Machines as there’s a much more blatant self-aware moment from recent years. The moment when blue-faced Dorium Maldovar finally reveals ‘The Question’ hidden in plain sight and all of that – “….Doctor Who…?” I don’t think Whovians cheer every time the show’s title is mentioned (although it’s definitely a ‘down it’ moment if you’re playing Drink-Along-to-Doctor-Who) and it’s only in plain sight because it’s in the bloody title sequence and surely none of the characters can have watched that. But you have to admit, whether you’ve been watching it for five years or the full fifty, we’re all still curious to know the answer. And maybe in November we’ll get a little closer to finding out…
A few near misses…
Semi-Naked Tattooed Doctor (Spearhead in Space)
In Spearhead in Space we’re treated to a first glance of the Doctor’s nipples. In an attempt to escape a hospital, the Doctor pretends to be a singing nutter who’s taking a shower. We shouldn’t really be shocked at the idea of a semi-naked Doctor but it does seem odd coming straight after Troughton and the fact we only ever see him topless once more (in the Paul McGann movie, which is considered a bit of an anomaly anyway) makes it even weirder. Also, it’s hilarious that a simple production error allowed Jon Pertwee’s snake tattoo to cause an incredible amount of fan speculation.
Why we let them off: The guy stole a flippin’ TARDIS! He was clearly a rebel when he was younger. I reckon the First Doctor went straight from Gallifrey to LA Ink – much to Susan’s embarrassment.
The Doctor Fixes River’s Arm (The Angels Take Manhattan)
The Doctor does his best to work out a way to unshackle River Song without breaking her wrist, hence stopping all manner of confusing things from happening but River defies him – knowing it’s her only way out. Then, completely out of the blue, the Doctor summons up some of his ‘regenerative energy’ to fix River Song’s hand. ‘Hang on… how long’s he been able to do that?! She’s not even dying! How many poor souls has the Doctor allowed to die when he could have just given up one of his regenerations? He’s never cracked that one out before but he seems perfectly happy to sacrifice his life every few episodes.
Why we let them off: It cements River Song as someone he really, really, really cares about and it’s clear that he’s taking a risk doing it.
Stop Talking to the Audience (The Daleks’ Master Plan)
At the end of a rather silly episode, the Doctor turns to the audience and says “Incidentally, a happy Christmas to all of you at home.” The Doctor has never so blatantly broken the fourth wall before or since and as the episode no longer exists it’s hard the imagine the Doctor talking so directly to the audience. He does this again in The Invasion of Time and The Snowmen but it’s less obvious. Oh and the Valeyard laughs directly at the camera at the end of Trial of a Time Lord but don’t worry about him – no-one’s even sure if he’s really the Doctor. Plus he’s stark-raving-bonkers – he was probably laughing at a door handle or something.
Why we let them off: It was Christmas – all the shows used to do it.
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