A few years ago, I did a series of 47 daily posts which all looked at different questions related to the revival series of Doctor Who, focusing on stuff I like about the show. I worked out a series of questions in advance and then picked one randomly for each day. I’ve decided to revisit the series to see how my opinions may or may not have changed, and to bring two of my daughters into the discussion, since they are both big fans and have recently finished watching the revival series.
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 are we looking back at this now? Because we’re on a 47 day countdown to November 23, the birthday of the show.
Check out Day #18 here.
When I first did this, it was September 2016, which means we were in between the Christmas episodes The Husbands of River Song and The Return of Dr. Mysterio, and were yet to debut Peter Capaldi’s last season on the show. Jodie Whittaker was even further away. How has the passage of time, evolution of opinions, and three further seasons of the program impacted my opinions?
Today is Day #19, and our theme is…
Doctor Who is full of triumph. Doctor Who is full of thrills. Doctor Who is full of humor.
But Doctor Who is often full of sadness, even in the midst of those other elements. Some of of the most famous sad stories are to do with the loss of a companion. Other times it’s to do with the loss of a certain Doctor. And in yet other cases, it’s to do with neither of these.
Last time I chose End of Time (specifically part 2) with all the extended sadness of David Tennant’s Doctor waving a plaintive farewell to everyone he’d ever met.
This time…I’m really stuck here. There are a few episodes that are rating highly in this category for me, and it’s hard to pick which one.
I could go with my daughter Johanna (16), who has chosen Journey’s End, with Donna Noble being forced to not only leave the Doctor but to forget that she’d ever known him.
Or I could go with my other daughter Laurelle (14), who chose The Angels Take Manhattan with the 11th Doctor being forced to part with Amy and Rory forever, thanks to timey-wimey nonsense.
But though I find both of those situations sad, neither are amongst the main ones I’m considering.
Neither do I feel like choosing any of these possibilities:
• The Girl in the Fireplace (Too late to see Reinette again)
• Doomsday (Farewell to Rose, on a parallel-universe Norwegian beach)
• Human Nature / The Family of Blood (Doomed romance)
• Face the Raven (The final, absolute, irrevocable death of Clara Oswald. Well, sort of.)
• Hell Bent (The Doctor being forced to forget Clara)
Many people would probably list Vincent and the Doctor here quite highly, but that one doesn’t really stand out to me.
One of my runners-up is Forest of the Dead, which features the Doctor saying goodbye to a dying River Song before he’d ever gotten to know her. It also featured Donna coming to believe that her romance with Lee was fictional, with the real Lee being unable to communicate with her because of his stutter.
And another runner-up is Time of the Doctor, which not only includes the farewell story for Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, but also shows him resigned to a battle he knows he will someday lose, without ever losing hope that each day until makes it worth giving his life for. Plus, it has perhaps the saddest companion death ever on the show with the loss of Handles, the Cyber-Head that the Doctor reprograms.
But I think my final pick is one that many might be surprised by…
Nothing terribly sad happens in Heaven Sent, which is the story of the Doctor trying to figure out who is ultimately responsible for Clara’s death, where they have imprisoned him, and how he can escape. This is the sto ry of the Doctor in mourning for Clara–talking to her because he can’t stand to to not talk to her, not just yet. Clara appears mostly from behind, as a face-less, voice-less, lifeless figure who is more like a mannequin than a person. The whole episode has an overwhelmingly funereal atmosphere about it, with a monster that looks like a corpse and a location that sort of resembled a creepy graveyard that the Doctor had to dig in.
Thus, even though it is not an episode in which many sad things take place, it is perhaps the episode of the show that is the most about sadness. And Peter Capaldi just nails it.