Everything ends, and it’s always sad. Or, at least when it comes to Doctor Who, it’s always explosive.
Finales are an undisputed staple of modern Doctor Who. Ever since the show adopted the 13 (or nowadays 12) episode format, each season has ended in increasingly spectacular fashion. Week by week, the stories may have been different, but hidden somewhere in the background there’s also been an arc pushing the series forward. Believe it or not, we’re now midway through our tenth Doctor Who finale (or eleventh, if you count The End of Time as a finale to the 2009 Specials). But before The Doctor Falls, let’s look back on all the grand finales we’ve enjoyed so far…
Series 1 (2005): Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways
The first ever two-part Doctor Who finale was a bit of an odd one when you look back on it. Following on from the events of The Long Game, The Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack find themselves trapped on Satellite Five. Bizarrely, they’re all stuck inside dangerous versions of popular game shows – The Doctor on Big Brother, Rose on The Weakest Link, and Jack on What Not to Wear. Absolutely hilarious for British viewers (all hail the Anne Droid!), but lord knows what everything else thought of it. But surely everyone could appreciate the reveal that the Daleks were behind it all. We already saw one deadly Dalek in, well, Dalek. Now, we’ve got a whole army of them! Yikes. For the first finale in the modern era, it couldn’t really have been anyone else now, could it?
The Parting of the Ways is a dramatic conclusion as The Doctor desperately tries to save the day. He sends Rose home, intent on sacrificing himself to destroy the Daleks. But when the chips are down (ahem), Rose steps up. She looks into the heart of the TARDIS and becomes the Bad Wolf entity. With a flick of her wrist she disintegrates the Daleks, resurrects Captain Jack (a bit too much), and saves The Doctor. He then saves her from certain death by absorbing the vortex energy with a tender kiss. Wowzer! This is also the first and only series finale to end in a regeneration. Could The Doctor Falls be about to change that on Saturday…?
Series 2 (2006): Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
“This is the story of how I died”. Talk about a bombshell opening! It was no secret that Billie Piper was leaving at the end of Series 2 – but how would Rose Tyler bow out? Not quite as we expected, it transpires. ‘Ghosts’ have started popping up on Earth, assumed to be the deceased paying a visit to their living relatives. Turns out these aren’t ghosts at all, but something trying to force its way through from another universe… those pesky parallel Cybermen! The Tenth Doctor ends up at Torchwood (before it became the Captain Jack spin-off) and also discovers the mysterious Void Ship. He assumes it belongs to the Cybermen, but they don’t know where it came from either. In a cliffhanger ending, it turns out it’s the Daleks! Surprise!
What follows in Doomsday is one part fanboy fantasy (Daleks v Cybermen!) and one part heart-breaking drama across different dimensions. The only way to stop the chaos is to reverse the polarity and send everything back into the Void. The Doctor and Rose have both crossed the boundary so they too risk being sucked in. Rose’s grip isn’t quite tight enough though and she plummets towards nothingness… saved only at the last moment by parallel Pete Tyler. With the Void closed, The Doctor and Rose say a tearful farewell in an iconic scene at Bad Wolf Bay. And then, naturally, Catherine Tate spontaneously shows up in the TARDIS. What, what, what?!
Series 3 (2007): The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords
Arguably we should include Utopia here too, as it effectively kicks off a three-part finale. Let’s recap: Derek Jacobi remembers he’s The Master and regenerates into John Simm. He steals the TARDIS and strands The Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack at the end of the universe. But thanks to some quick thinking and vortex manipulation, the trio trace him back to 21st Century Earth. Looks like there’s just been an election – and the new Prime Minister is even more terrifying than Theresa May. In a brilliant twist, Mister Saxon is actually Master No. Six!
John Simm is suitably bonkers as The Master, gassing his cabinet and watching the Teletubbies. Clearly he’s up to no good when he makes first contact with an alien species, the Toclafane. In reality, these are the future humans from Utopia, come back to slaughter their ancestors. A bit of TARDIS tinkering means this sort of paradox is possible. The Master also ages The Doctor by an alarming rate before he can save the day, so the rest is up to Martha. Thanks to the power of faith (and a telepathic network), she spreads the word of The Doctor to the people of Earth. This somehow saves Ten from looking like Dobby the house elf, and also gives him the power of flight. The Master is then shot down by his wife, Lucy. Refusing to regenerate and be The Doctor’s prisoner, he lets himself die. Or does he…? (Spoiler: no)
Tired of being second best to Rose’s memory, Martha demotes herself to a part-time companion. Yet again, Ten ends a series alone and fires up the TARDIS. And then the Titanic crashes into the side of it. Because of course it does.
Series 4 (2008): The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End
This was RTD’s and Tennant’s last proper finale. And you can tell, because they throw everything at the wall here. The Doctor and Donna discover that the Earth has completely vanished. Uh oh. With no idea what to do, they seek the help of the Shadow Proclamation. All the mentions of planets (and bees) disappearing throughout Series 4 culminate as they learn it’s not just Earth that’s gone AWOL. Those dastardly Daleks are back, turning planets into a reality bomb. That’s gonna be one big kaboom!
Davros makes his new Who debut, saved by Dalek Caan who understandably fled from the horror of Evolution of the Daleks. We’ve also got the return of Martha, Captain Jack, and Sarah Jane – and even Rose, who finally reunites with The Doctor at the end of The Stolen Earth. But, of course, the silly bugger gets himself shot by a Dalek, sparking a regeneration that had the nation on absolute tenterhooks for an entire week. Best cliffhanger ever. Tennant siphons the energy into his handy spare hand. Donna unwittingly touches it and wham, suddenly there’s two – or is it three?! – Doctors taking on the Dalek stronghold. The Doctor-Donna sends them packing and everyone goes home safely. Rose even gets her very own limited edition half-human Metacrisis Doctor.
Oh, but then Donna. To stop her brain from exploding, The Doctor wipes all memory of him from her mind. She goes back to her old, unassuming life. But The Tenth Doctor is left a very sad panda indeed. Kudos to Benjamin Cook for suggesting the dramatic edit to the end of this finale. What could have been a corny Cybermen tease for The Next Doctor became an emotional wallop as Ten stares mournfully over the TARDIS console.
Series 5 (2010): The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
The Pandorica will open. Silence will fall. In Steven Moffat’s first Eleventh Doctor finale, we at least get to see the first half of that prophecy come true. A message from River Song leads The Doctor to Roman Britain, where a Van Gogh painting depicts an exploding TARDIS. Underneath Stonehenge, the TARDIS team find the fabled Pandorica. But what is inside this mythical box of mystery? Nothing, as it happens – at least not yet! The Doctor’s enemies form an unholy Alliance to stop the cracks in time. Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians, and whatever else they could find in the costume department throw Matt Smith in the Pandorica and lock him up. Outside, Rory is a plastic Roman soldier and he shoots Amy dead. Woops.
Everything gets resolved in The Big Bang in typically timey-wimey fashion. Amy is restored by plonking her in the Pandorica instead, guarded by Rory for 2000 years. The TARDIS still explodes, set off by an unknown force (revealed to be a rogue faction of the Silence about 3 years later). Eleven gets a fez and resets the universe by turning it off and on again. They all reunite at Amy and Rory’s wedding and do the drunk giraffe dance. For the first time in new Who history, both The Doctor and his companions survive the series unscathed. The phone rings: there’s a mummy on the Orient Express! That’ll be a good concept to explore in, oh, about 4 years’ time…
Series 6 (2011): The Wedding of River Song
The first one-part finale of new Who, and the climax of a huge season-long story arc. Way back in The Impossible Astronaut, we saw The Doctor shot dead. Six months later, we learn that River Song (who is Amy and Rory’s daughter, keep up!) is the culprit. Except she was forced into it by Madame Kovarian and the Silence. Except in this timeline, she doesn’t shoot The Doctor at all. Time freezes at 5:02pm on 22nd April 2011, and it won’t restart until The Doctor is dead at Lake Silencio.
With all of time happening at once, we get Winston Churchill as a Roman emperor and Charles Dickens on BBC News. As you do. The Doctor ends up in a pyramid-like Area 52, where if he touches River, time reverts to normal. But, being so in love with him, she doesn’t want his death on her conscience. It’s naturally all a trap and the Silence wreak havoc upon the pyramid. Reality will break down if The Doctor’s fixed death doesn’t occur. So he lets River in on a little secret, and they get married on the spot. As the bride and groom kiss, time moves forward – and The Doctor dies. Except, no he doesn’t! He was actually hiding in the Teselecta (remember, that shape-shifting robot thing from Let’s Kill Hitler) all along! Fooled you!
There’s just one problem with The Doctor’s plan. For his fixed point to stay in place, the universe has to believe he’s actually dead. So, off he goes into solitude for a bit, as the blue head of Dorium barks on about the fields of Trenzalore. Silence will fall when the question is asked: Doctor who?!
Series 7 (2013): The Name of the Doctor
Series 7 continued the trend of one-part finales with this 45 minute extravaganza. There’s a lot crammed in to this one. Fittingly for the 50th anniversary year, we open on a wonderfully nostalgic montage. The truth behind Clara, the Impossible Girl, is no longer a mystery – she scatters herself throughout The Doctor’s timeline to save him, time and time again. But why? Well, for that, we need to finally head to Trenzalore. The Doctor has a secret he will take to the grave, and it is discovered. The planet we first heard about 2 years prior is actually The Doctor’s tomb.
The big bad of Series 7 is the not-quite-so-omnipresent Great Intelligence, returning from The Snowmen. Sick of losing to The Doctor, he plans to jump into his timestream and defeat him at every point in his history. He succeeds, and all of The Doctor’s victories go up in smoke. But before he completely perishes, the plucky Clara sacrifices herself to save his life. In she dives, and suddenly Oswin and Victorian Clara make a lot more sense. Luckily for her, The Doctor is able to get the original Clara back out to safety (off-screen, we might add).
There’s a lot of toying around with the idea that we’ll learn The Doctor’s real name in this story. The Great Intelligence needs to know it in order to open the TARDIS, for starters. But, in the end, The Doctor’s darkest secret isn’t his name. It’s something, or rather someone, who didn’t deserve that name. Doctor Who mythology changed forever as John Hurt swivelled around, leaving us on one heck of a cliffhanger for The Day of the Doctor…
Series 8 (2014): Dark Water/Death in Heaven
A two-parter starring The Twelfth Doctor, Missy and the Cybermen. Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay. Where else have we heard that recently…? All joking aside, the first finale of the Capaldi era is pretty dark stuff – “don’t cremate me!” is one of the most controversial moments from new Who to date.
Clara’s boyfriend Danny Pink dies in the most unspectacular way possible, knocked down by a car. Clara feels she is owed better and threatens The Doctor into helping. Their volcanic confrontation is brilliantly tense as the Time Lord and his companion play chicken with the TARDIS keys. They reach an understanding and whizz off to the 3W Institute to bring Danny back from the dead.
They’re greeted by the enigmatic Missy, who viewers have seen populating ‘Heaven’ during Series 8. Her true identity is teased throughout. One minute she says she’s a welcome droid. Then she’s a Time Lord. No wait, a Time Lady! For the cliffhanger, Moffat drops the bombshell: she’s The Mistress. Couldn’t very well keep calling herself The Master now, could she…! Regeneration would never be the same again. Meanwhile, Clara finds herself trapped with a skeleton-turned-Cyberman. Death in Heaven begins on a whopper by suggesting that she is actually The Doctor all along. We even get Jenna Coleman’s face in the opening titles!
Everything ends with a graveyard shift as Missy gifts The Doctor his new undead Cyberman army. Is he a good man? No, but he’s not a bad one either. He’s an idiot with a box, and he lets the power of love save the day. Cyber-Danny sacrifices himself, Missy ‘dies’, and The Doctor and Clara part company for the first of many times. Then… hold up, is that Santa Claus?!
Series 9 (2015): Heaven Sent/Hell Bent
Another possible three-parter here, as everything kicks off at the end of Face the Raven. Clara’s dead on Trap Street and The Doctor is zapped away to a mysterious castle in the middle of nowhere. Someone wants to know about the Hybrid – us included – and they’re going to torture Twelve into confessing. This (almost) single-hander showcases Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi at their finest. The entirety of Heaven Sent is nothing short of art, with Rachel Talalay’s direction only adding to the brilliance. Trapped inside his Confession Dial, The Doctor flees the sinister Veil and chips away at a diamond wall for four and a half billion years. It’s a strong story and quite unlike any other penultimate episode we’ve had so far. Then, finally, The Doctor breaks through… and (assuming you hadn’t already had it spoiled for you by the official synopsis) oh my god Gallfrey is back!
The circumstances weren’t quite what we anticipated though. In The Day of the Doctor, our hero is… well, the hero. He saves his planet from untold destruction. But here, he’s treated as the villain. The regenerated Rassilon (Timothy Dalton was clearly busy) couldn’t give two hoots. He just wants to know what the Hybrid is. The Doctor responds by overthrowing and exiling him. Next, he saves Clara from death using an Extraction Chamber, but there’s a catch. Time isn’t healing, so to keep her safe she must forget him. In a clever reversal of Donna’s exit, it’s actually The Doctor who forgets Clara. Now sort-of immortal, she flies off in her own American diner TARDIS with Maisie Williams. Okay, it’s not quite the Gallifreyan blowout we were promised, but it still has its charm. And the Hybrid is definitely The Doctor and Clara… right?
Series 10 (2017): World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls
We’ve seen how it begins – and thanks to a teaser-tastic pre-titles, we’ve presumably seen how it ends. But what happens in the middle, well, some of that is still a mystery…
Simply put, the conclusion to the Capaldi and Moffat eras started off in spectacular style. The Doctor is training Missy to be good and is putting her progress to the test. Doing it on a spaceship trying to reverse away from a black hole though? Probably not the smartest idea. Missy takes the pee-wee out of The Doctor and his companions before everything goes wrong. Bill is unexpectedly shot dead(ish) by a member of the Blue Man Group, and taken away to a creepy hospital on the other side of the ship. Slight problem: time flows differently at the top than it does at the bottom. What is minutes to The Doctor is years to Bill, as she anxiously waits for him to rescue her.
The Mondasian Cybermen, returning for the first time in over 50 years, are creepy. The slow, gradual transformation from balaclava bonces to metal madmen is expertly uncomfortable viewing. We weren’t sure these Sixties sock puppets would work in the 21st Century, but they’re the best Cybermen we’ve had in ten seasons! And then of course we have John Simm’s Master, in disguise as the devilish Mr Razor for most of the episode. He’s not best pleased about Missy helping out The Doctor – but will he turn her back to the dark side?
As we barrel headfirst towards The Doctor Falls, we have Cyber-Bill, two Masters, Mondasian Cybermen, more Cybermen, and the start of a regeneration to contend with. It’s going to be a busy 60 minutes! Strap yourselves in, folks. We’re pretty certain not everyone is getting out of this one alive…