Top 10 heartbreaking moments in Russell T Davies’ ‘Doctor Who’ era

In a particularly masochistic mood?

Then why don’t you remind yourselves of a few of the most heartbreaking moments in Russell T Davies’ era of Doctor Who


10) “I am your mummy. I will always be your mummy. I’m so sorry. I am so, so sorry.”

Doctor Who The Doctor Dances

In ‘The Doctor Dances’, Nancy reveals to the terrified, zombie child Jamie that she is, in fact, his mummy.

After all this time, Nancy had been terrified to tell her own son that she was there for him, because he had apparently risen from the dead and begun infecting people with a mysterious gas-mask virus. It’s heart-breaking; but there’s also nothing more heart-warming than a family reunion.


9) “I was never there for you… But I can do this for you. I can be a proper dad to you now.”

Doctor who Fathers Day

Pete Tyler shows that the power of a father’s love can do great things when he sacrifices his own life to save his daughter’s future, restoring the previous timeline.


8) “That’s just it. Don’t you see, Donna? Can’t you understand? If I could go back and save them then I would, but I can’t. I can never go back, I can’t. I just can’t, I can’t.”

Doctor Who David Tennant

The Doctor and Donna argue over saving Pompeii. It might be a fixed event in time, but it’s still worth trying to save it, right?

Well, in this rather intense scene the Doctor explains to Donna that the world just isn’t that fair. It’s in this moment that we realise how tormented The Doctor is by the destruction of Gallifrey, and by his own mistakes.


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  • Jo

    9’s regeneration?
    His hologram saying “Have a fantastic life,” to Rose.
    School Reunion. “Goodbye, my Sarah Jane.” All the more heartbreaking after losing Lis.
    Ten’s talk to Martha… “You should have seen it that old planet”.. from Gridlock.

  • Jason Kline

    I put “Rose Tyler, I…” ahead of Donna. If just barely.

  • Cristiana Black

    Doomsday was the saddest moment of the entire NuWho, let alone RTD’s moments.

  • disqus_d9eKpvK4Oj

    1. Donna’s goodbye
    2. I don’t want to go
    and then the others.

  • Olly Durston

    and where the fuck is Reinette’s end, that killed me.

  • Rocío Zamorano Báez

    Hello? Emergency Program One, Reinette’s end?

  • Clara slays you.

    There were too many lol,RTD’s era was amazing.

  • Jess Jess

    Every time I watch Doomsday I ball my eyes out, and even that 4minute video has sent me into an emotional wreck! Absolutely heartbreaking

  • Matthew ‘Raving Rendal’ Ulmen

    what happened to Girl in the Fireplace?

  • Meg Hammil

    No “goodbye my Sarah Jane”.

    • Jamie

      I know you posted this 10 months ago.. but omg yes I sob every time.

  • Rachel Nicki Hervé

    Donna leaving was defenitely the most heartbreaking, miss her so much <3 can't wait for them to come back in the audio play.

  • Tazmon L’vis Sims

    While this is an excellent list…..the ending of “The Girl In The Fireplace”……with the music of Murray Gold and Ten reading the letter as a 42 year old Man….I have wept aloud…..

  • Barrett Cumby

    Rose and Doctor being separated forever and Clara’s death are tied in my book

  • TheGreatestManWhoEverLived

    Doomsday was the saddest, but he technically didn’t say “Rose Tyler, I”, he just said “Rose Tyler”

  • Dr. Moo

    The most heartbreaking part of RTD’s Doctor Who is seeing this show descend into the realms of Twilighty romcom soapiness. Thank goodness it’s all in the past now!

    • MargaretL

      Very true but that’s the past and fortunately we are now in the midst of a truly golden age where the writing isn’t aimed at young girls and designed to create reams of fan fiction. We now have good solidly written and brilliantly acted sci fi drama which not only appeals to intelligent youngsters and their parents but which has left a really solid legacy for the show. I honestly don’t find a single one of these heartbreaking in any way – many are more likely to make me laugh or cry in frustration. What a waste those Tennant/Davies years were, what a waste. That is what is truly heartbreaking, not any of the fluffy Twighlight nonsense perpetrated upon us which ignored the show’s legacy for cheap publicity and grabbing audiences with no thought about the content.

      • Hanaha

        You are right I guess and most of RTD’s big emotional moments tip over into maudlin soppiness but there is probably one genuinely emotional one which is Wilf farewelling the doctor outside his house when Donna returns. That’s great solely due to Bernard Cribbins. Unfortunately David Tennant can’t convey emotional scenes very well, he never is convincing and much better at comedy. So while most people probably blame RTD for the poor writing causing these scenes to fail to hit home, some of the blame must go to David too. You can just imagine how brilliant either Matt or Peter would have been as both have much more range than David and really sell big emotional stuff.

        Hope we see one for Moffat now. Gosh, cried buckets over a lot of Matt Smith episodes. Rory and Karen’s departure was hard but when Matt left in Day of the Doctor probably the saddest thing the show has ever filmed. Now that is how you write and act a farewell scene. No snivelling or whining, but really gut wrenching from the heart acting.

  • Greetl

    The only one I can recall which felt genuine was Wilf saying goodbye to the Italian family in Turn Left. The rest just leave me cold because the writing is so obvious and the acting is very cliched. While I can only think of one for RTD’s time, there must be dozens for Moffat. He really knows how to catch your emotions unawares and Matt Smith is a masterly actor who doesn’t deliver the kind of overwrought crying and shouting that really takes you out of the moment in his big scenes which is how David always played it unfortunately. I much prefer Matt’s and Peter’s really nuanced and heartwrenching takes when they have big scenes and Karen, Arthur and Jenna are always spot on as well. So many but off top of my head, ones which really hit me emotionally were farewell with bow tie dropping in Time, Rory and Amy’s departure in Angels, Clara dying in Raven, Zygon speech, Tom’s cameo in Day, all of Heaven Sent, scene in diner in Hell Bent, River’s ghost in Name, 11 suddenly realising his mortality and crying on the sofa in Name, the final 10 minutes in Husbands, all of Girl who Waited, death of Rita in God Complex. If had more time could think of heaps more. The reason all of Moffat’s series still hold up well and most of RTD’s are now really hard to warch or borderline unwatchable is that Moffat writes fantastically well for his actors and he sets up arcs that allow other writers like Whithouse and Macrae to get the same tone. It also helps that both Matt and Peter are world class actors so the job is already half done for the writers!