47 Days of Doctor Who–Day #11: Best Cliffhanger

Welcome to a 47-day series of articles about the revival version of Doctor Who (2005-present).  I’ve come up with  47 topics / questions to answer, all of them basically positive and upbeat about the program.  Each day (or as often as I can actually write these–so far so good!) I’ll pick one of them at random (using this convenient random number generator) and then write up an answer.

Why 47?  It’s my favorite number.
Why Doctor Who?  It’s my favorite show.
Why the modern day Doctor Who only?  Simply because I remember it better.
Why only positive stuff?  Because really, I write enough snark.

Today is Day #11, and around and around goes the Random Number Generator, revealing that today’s number is 9, which we just had a couple of days ago.  True randomness does not equate automatically to equal distribution. Anyway, we try again and come up with 4, which means the topic of the day is this:

“Best Cliffhanger”

So, fans of classic series know that the cliffhanger was absolutely central to the Doctor Who experience.  Most stories were four or six part serials, in which each episode but the last one ended with a cliffhanger of some sort.  Some were brilliant, some were not.

With the new series and its preponderance of single episode stories, the cliffhanger is less ubiquitous, but it’s still there.  I remember when Aliens of London came out (the fourth episode ever of the new series) and how excited I was that it actually ended in the middle of the story.  Since then, each season usually has a small handful of cliffhangers, with too many of them being built around monsters lumbering slowly toward the Doctor and his companions whilst repeating the same threatening phrase over and over again.

As I was thinking about this I found that there were lots of examples that I can’t really remember, even for episodes that I like.  A few do stand out though:

(For clarity’s sake, we’re just talking about cliffhangers that took place in the middle of two- or three- part stories, not shocking twists at the end of a story).

Bad Wolf – The Doctor sends the Daleks into something of a panic as he promises Rose that even without weapons, reinforcements or a plan, he is coming to rescue her.
Army of Ghosts – The Daleks make a shocking appearance in what we thought was a Cyberman story
Silence in the Library – In addition to the monsters lumbering toward the Doctor while repeating the same threatening phrase, we also have the gruesome image of Donna Noble reduced to a face on a statue
The Stolen Earth – The Doctor is shot by the Daleks, and begins to regenerate!
The Time of Angels – The Doctor gives the Weeping Angels a pretty awesome speech, and then shoots a gun in the air.
The Magician’s Apprentice – The Doctor appears to exterminate a young Davros
Under the Lake – The Doctor’s ghost appears outside the window

And more.  But even though those were all good, none of the were the best.  My pick for this category:

The Pandorica Opens

Rory is revealed as an Auton, and kills Amy.  The Doctor is imprisoned in the Pandorica by a coalition of all of his greatest enemies.  The TARDIS blows up and kills River Song.  Then, the stars fade out, and the universe disappears from existence…

It was intense.  And we had a week to wait, all the while trying to figure out what in the world was going to happen!

Of course, it turned out that Amy wasn’t quite dead, River was save-able, and the Doctor could just return from the future wearing a fez and the day would be saved.  So a little bit of a daft resolution, but still enjoyable.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know.

Click here for a master list for this series.



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