A Whovian’s Look at Some Great Doctor Who Cliffhangers!

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Christian examines some of the best classic cliffhangers in the 50 year run of the World’s Longest Running Sci-Fi series!

With over 800 individual episodes, Doctor Who has amazed us for over fifty years. The current series receives a lot of attention in news and articles which is nice; as the revival was a decent come back for the Time Lord. However, sometimes what had come before gets over looked.


imageThe Daleks part 1: The Dead Planet:

In the very second Doctor Who story ever we are introduced to the Daleks. We are also given one of the most defining cliffhangers of the entire 50 years of the series. Barbara is strapped in a corridor of the ancient mysterious alien city on the dead planet of Skaro as something approaches her. We see the tip of Dalek grip coming towards her but this is our first view of a Dalek in any form. This left the viewer wondering what it was that was coming towards Barbara and made her scream.

imageThe Time Meddler part 3: A Battle of Wits:

The Time Meddler is an interesting story as it is a season 2 story which gives us our first glimpse of one of the doctor’s people. The name Time Lord or Gallifrey is never used and the Doctor is asked who the mysterious man is whom he was speaking with in the beginning of part 1 as the doctor just replies “One of my people.” However as it begins to become apparent that the mystery man is not a good man, Vicki and Steven are in the monastery looking for the Monk only to discover a secret door on the side of the church altar. The two step through to their surprise, a bigger room on the inside as Vicki explains; “It’s a TARDIS, the Monk has a TARDIS!”

imageThe Enemy of the World part 6:

Not the first time the Doctor had ever had to deal with someone who resembled him in appearance, this 2nd Doctor story is one of an epic nature. Salamander, the tyrant who looks just like the doctor tries to steal the TARDIS by tricking Jamie and Zoe that he is the Doctor. The real Doctor arrives as he and Salamander fight, Salamander pins the Doctor down as he leans over him “And now I am going to kill you!” as Jamie exclaims a defiant no and jumps on Salamander, tearing him off the Doctor as the TARDIS is out of control. The control room doors open with the forces of the Time Winds sucking Salamander out into the time vortex. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe cling to the control console for their lives as we see Salamander lost and torn apart in the vicious time vortex. Then the credits role as we realize the TARDIS is still out of control with the doors open!

imageThe Invasion part 6:

Tobias Vaughn’s plan has been set into motion. He has incapacitated every living person on the planet as the Cybermen begin their invasion of Earth. We see Cybermen appear from out of the sewer system and the London Underground as Cybermen just appear marching from up the steps of the Royal Albert Hall itself. Even though this story itself is incomplete there is enough of it left to give anyone the creepy sensation of the emotionless Cybermen coming up over the huge top of the public staircase in the middle of London.

imageInferno part 4:

In an alternate Earth the Doctor has tried his best to stop Professor Stahlman from drilling to the center of the Earth. However he is too late as he sneaks into the drill head control room. As the penetration of the Earth’s crust has begun, the Earth screams in agony as the Doctor attempts to stop the computer with Professor Stahlman drawing a bead on the Doctor with a hand gun. As the countdown enters it’s final count of 5…4… 3… cue the credits… and we still hear the countdown amidst the Doctor Who music, 2… 1…

The Pertwee Era is full of fantastic cliffhangers which made anyone who was lucky enough to watch them upon original airing to simple jump in their seat.

imageTerror of the Autons part 2:

A cliffhanger which broke all the rules. The BBC was approached by the police as a whole who had asked that they restrict the production team of Doctor Who from making familiar everyday things scary, like policemen. Doctor Who was known for scaring and frightening kids at the time. There’s a reason why they used a shot of a couch/ sofa for the promotional shots of the show’s revival in 2005 with the slogan “Welcome Back!

At the end of part 2 of Terror of the Autons, the Doctor and Jo Grant are picked up by two police officers and placed in the back of the squad car. They believe they have been sent by the Brigadier to pick them up. Meanwhile back at UNIT HQ, the Brigadier learns that there was no police escort sent. The Doctor sensing something is amiss, reaches up as the officer turns to face him and rips off his false face, revealing a featureless Auton face beneath. It has been stated again and again young children would not go near official uniformed policemen for sometime after that episode.

imageRobot part 2:

Robot is the first story of what would be considered 8 years of classic defining Doctor Who, the first story that introduces Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor to the world. The Doctor goes to Professor Kettlewell’s lab to only find the giant K1 Robot waiting for him. The robot has programmed to destroy the Doctor that he is an enemy of the Human Race. As the doctor fends off the robot, he believes he was able to deactivate it. As his curiosity gets the better of him, the K1 Robot knocks him on the back of the head. The Doctor dazed and sluggish tries to crawl away as the robot looms over him. Making an intense cliffhanger!

imageThe King’s Demons part 1:

During the Davidson Era the Master was behind everything as far as the production team going to great lengths to having his real identity hidden by anagrams and disguises. King John of England pits the Doctor against one of his knight champions, Sir Gilles Estram in a sword fight, whom the Doctor defeats only to discover Sir Gilles is armed with a tissue compression eliminator, a weapon used by the Master. the face of Giles shifts revealing the Master. The Doctor shocked, realizes the Master had indeed escaped from Xeriphas (Time-Flight) as the Master chuckles, “Oh. my dear Doctor you have been naive.” and the doctor is left with the classic Peter Davidson ‘Oh shit’ looking face as we cue credits. Not a great cliffhanger mind you but in consideration to all the Master appearances during the 5th doctor era this is one of the better surprises that are well done.

imageThe Trial of a Time Lord: Terror of the Vervoids part 4:

This was season 23 which was a season long story broken up in multiple stories. this was the doctor on trial by his own peers on Gallifrey. Terror of the Vervoids was the third story which was a look into the future of the Doctor’s adventure in an effort for the Doctor prove that he does improve with age. the Doctor destroyed a genetically engineered race from reaching Earth which would have destroyed the planet in days they reached Earth. However at the end of the story, the cliffhanger is the Valeyard, the doctor’s Prosecutor turning the tables on the time lord by invoking Article 7 of Gallifreyan Law, raising the charge from temporal interference and meddling to straight up genocide which the Doctor rises up in protest as Sagacity allows the ruling to pass… the trippy season 23 theme begins as we are left with a held breath as the stakes of this game have just been risen.

The entire era of the 6th Doctor leaves a lot to be desired. Bot a fan favorite era by far, I didn’t want to leave the old boy out. The Colin Baker Doctor can be appreciated only after one realizes just how much the production team shafted Colin on the set of the show by making him the only actor who was not permitted to bring a little bit of outside influence and say to how his Doctor was written.

imageRemembrance of the Daleks part 1:

In a world of fandom which is now filled with more myopic sense of fandom thanks to the 2005 revival, most fans believe
Daleks didn’t levitate until the new series. They… would be wrong. As the doctor investigates strange radio transmissions in the place where the series all began in 1983, at Coal hill School, the Doctor and Ace find a Dalek transmat in the basement.
When they are discovered, the Doctor sends Ace up the stairs but she is jumped by human Dalek agents and the Doctor is locked in the basement as the doctor pounds on the door he turns around in a shock of horror, the Dalek is levitating up the
staircase as we see the Doctor’s look of horror through the Dalek eye stalk.

Having watched Doctor Who on public access channels growing up, doctor who was only available long after it aired but Channel 12 had this episode airing simulcast for a weekend fundraiser which filled my young heart with dread as it was my first cliffhanger which I had no sense of hope for what would happen in the next episode. For the first time in my youth Doctor Who had frightened me.

imageSurvival part 2:

The final story in the first 27 year run of the original series. The Doctor along with Ace and her friends are trapped on an alien planet without the TARDIS. The planet is an unnamed planet of the Cheetah People, hunters who travel with an uncanny ability to travel between worlds. The Master was present and lured the Doctor and his friends there in hopes the doctor could find a way to escape. Which he had… it would take one of them to become infected with the Cheetah Virus which would turn one of them into a Cheetah Warrior and they could return to their home planet; Earth. The doctor however was unaware of who would become infected as Ace glanced off in the distance, turning her head to reveal she had yellow cat-like eyes. We then cut to the credits as we realize, Ace has become infected.

Some Whovians would probably argue some of these stories I selected. As I said in the beginning I wasn’t looking for commercial or popular stories, I wasn’t looking for those cliffhangers everyone knows. As nice as the Tenth Planet part 4 is, we all the know the 1st doctor regenerates into Patrick Troughton at the end of that cliffhanger.


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