‘Doctor Who’ trivia: 10 things you didn’t know about ‘The Night of the Doctor’

Three years ago today, Paul McGann returned as the Eighth Doctor in a surprise prequel episode ahead of Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary special, ‘The Day of the Doctor’.

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of McGann’s debut as the Eighth Doctor in 1996’s ‘TV Movie’, let’s revisit ‘The Night of the Doctor’.

Here are ten facts you might not know…


In the original script, the story was divided into two parts. It was planned that the first part would conclude with the shot of the Doctor in the rubble.


The episode’s final line – John Hurt saying “[Doctor] no more” – recurs in ‘The Day of the Doctor’, most notably when the War Doctor shoots the words into a wall on Gallifrey.


The distorted reflection of the War Doctor’s face seen in the final moments is taken from the BBC’s 1979 adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment.

Crime and Punishment. John Hurt

John Hurt played Rodion Raskolnikov in the series.


Cass (Emma Campbell-Jones) wears the bandolier that is later used by John Hurt’s War Doctor.


The Eighth Doctor’s “it’s bigger on the inside” line was first used in 1973’s ‘The Three Doctors’.


The Doctor asks “Will it hurt?” about his impending regeneration; an in-joke referring to the actor playing his successor; John Hurt.


The Eighth Doctor’s final line, “Physician heal thyself”, is a biblical proverb from Luke 4:23.


The Sisterhood of Karn first appeared in the Fourth Doctor story ‘The Brain of Morbius’ in 1976.

Doctor Who Tom Baker Brain of Morbius


The five companions from Big Finish’s audio adventures name-checked by the Doctor before he regenerates are Edwardian adventuress Charlotte ‘Charley’ Pollard (2001-2007), chameleon-like Eutermasan C’rizz (2004-2007), Blackpool girl Lucie Miller (2006-2011), actress Tamsin Drew (2010-2011) and Irish WW1 nurse Mary ‘Molly’ O’Sullivan (2012-2015).


‘The Night of the Doctor’ was watched by approximately 890,000 viewers on the BBC’s Red Button service after it was released on 16 November 2013.


Buy the 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition box set, featuring ‘The Night of the Doctor’, on Amazon here.

What’s your favourite moment in ‘The Night of the Doctor’? Let us know below…

  • Dr. Moo

    CORRECTION: Ten bits of trivia that you already knew eight of.

  • “The change need not be random” – There’s been some questions over the years as to why The Doctor’s various incarnations are so different from each other, and why he seems to have no control over them. The Time lords clearly have the ability to select faces, as they off him a choice at the end of The War Games. Romana has such control she chose to regenerate on a whim, sorting through a number of bodies before choosing the likeness of Princess Astra. The most logical guess is that The Doctor has only ever regenerated in moments of extreme trauma, near death, and once or twice, after death. It’s possible he might have more control if he were merely regenerating due to old age. He can choose to regenerate, as he told the Cybercontroller in Nightmare in Silver, but he didn’t want to.

    • Dr. Moo

      Not to mention how on that occasion he was bluffing… It is established that the Doctor was barely able to graduate from the Academy on Gallifrey in order to become of the rank “Time Lord” so maybe there’s something going on on that level?

      • Mack59

        Doesn’t Romana mention something along the lines that the Doctor should have paid more attention to regeneration lectures at the Academy ?

        • Dr. Moo

          I think so, something to that effect at least.

    • Luigi Iannelli

      i can’t remeber where i have listened to /read this but i have always thought that the doctor’s inability to control regeneration is due of him ben born in an older generation wich still didn’t master it as the subsequent generations like romana’s

  • Walt Maguire

    Anyone ever ask why Paul McGann wasn’t asked to be in the 50th when Ecclestone bowed out? No stranger than bringing in Hurt and rewiring the show history.

    • Dr. Moo

      I think the idea is that Moffat couldn’t picture 8 being the one to fight in the war. Having listened to all 8’s Big Finish releases to date I have to agree with him.

      • Mack59

        You beat me to that reply 😉

      • Walt Maguire

        Now you mention it…good point. I just hate having to do the new math.

        • Dr. Moo

          New maths? The numbering remains the same. Hurt’s the War Doctor, Eccleston’s still the Ninth, Tennant’s Tenth, Smith’s Eleventh…

          • Brian

            And if we are going by regeneration (with Hartnell considered the 1st, though that’s the first body), it’s only moving it one further. Hurt would be 9th regeneration, Eccleston 10th, Tennant 11th and 12th, and Smith 13th.

          • Dr. Moo

            Yeah, but it’s only the regeneration number that’s different to what we previously knew. The incarnation numbering system (CE=9, DT=10, etc) is the same as ever.

    • Dr_Syn

      Also, I’m sure part of it was ratings.
      Having Hurt as an unknown Doctor likely brings in more casual viewers rather than McGann.

  • Ahh, the memories of minisodes, fine writing, delightful acting and great special effects.