Doctor Who: The Most Memorable Cliffhangers From The Last Decade

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Wil picks his favourite Doctor Who cliffhangers from the last decade.

Are we excited for series 9 of Doctor Who? Of course we are!

Because not only do we have more mad timey-wimey adventures to look forward to, we can also rejoice because Steven Moffat is bringing the cliffhanger back... IN A BIG WAY! So far, from what we know, the first 8 episodes are all two-part stories, meaning that there has to be some cliffhangers amongst them, and Moff the Hoople has gone on record regarding episode 11 of the season:
"I’ve figured out the cliffhanger to the penultimate episode of [series 9]. And it’s a whopper. Ohh, I don’t think you’ll see this coming!"
Oh, Grand Moff Tarkin, you are a tease!

There was a point in time, when Doctor Who thrived on 4 and 6 part stories, that the cliffhanger was an essential ingredient for every story, but since the show returned to our screen in 2005 we've been lucky to get one or two a year.

All the same, there have been some great ones. So in reverse chronological order let's look back at my pick of the most memorable cliffhangers from New-Who...

The Name of the Doctor
To start with an episode that is not Dark Water, I said reverse chronological and I meant it. The Twelfth Doctor has only had the one cliffhanger to date but in all honesty was the "Missy is the Master" reveal really a surprise for anyone? It was a great double episode, for sure, but the cliffhanger left me mainly feeling "well of course she is, d'uh!", unlike the closing episode of series 7. A cliffhanger that was a complete and utter game changer.

We knew John Hurt would be in The Day of the Doctor, but we had no idea he'd show up in the closing minutes of The Name of the Doctor. Even the review copies were missing the last few minutes, but there, in the Doctor's time stream, was the one he never talks about. If you needed an extra reason to watch the 50th Anniversary special, which of course no-one did as it was shaping up to be all kinds of awesome anyway, here was the mother of them all thanks to Steven 'Tin Tin' Moffy.

And then the resolve for this cliffhanger came in the form of the ultimate Brucey Bonus - The Night of the Doctor, with Paul McGann, answered all the questions on the who? what? why? of John Hurt's War Doctor. It was like all my birthday's coming at once.

The Pandorica opens
A cliffhanger after cliffhanger of an ending. I honestly thought the episode was done on about three occasions, but they kept layering more.

We have Auton Rory shooting Amy and her dying on screen, cue music sting..... nope not yet as the Doctor has to be locked up inside the Pandorica by his enemies, as he pleads for release surely it's time to cue musi..... wait. River seemingly causes the end of the universe, as you do! Blackness, silence, and scene.

It's a timey-wimey resolve that isn't as good as the cliffhanger demands, but as Russell T Davies once said "the pay-off shouldn't diminish the brilliance of the set-up". And do you know what episode he was referring to?...

The Stolen Earth
Russell T Davies pulled off an amazing stunt here. Just prior to The Stolen Earth's broadcast we'd learnt that David Morrissey would be guest starring in that year's Christmas special titled The Next Doctor, and then the Tenth said these words...
"I'm regenerating!"
But, but, but you can't David Tennant, say it isn't so? Our time together is not done yet, and, and, and.... I literally couldn't breathe with anticipation for the next episode. And it was only bloody titled Journey's End!

For my money, this is by far and away the best cliffhanger new-Who has delivered. Yes, the payoff was rubbish, but those few seconds were amazing. An absolute jaw-dropper.

And so we come to a very close second...

Another unexpected regeneration, and a cliffhanger that went on for about ten minutes. Utopia pulled on loads of elements from earlier in the season, and although we'd heard rumblings of a return for the Master in season 3s finale, I didn't twig until the last act that Derek Jacobi was one and the same.

Just discovering that alone would've been cliffhanger material enough alone, but it just keeps accumulating. Professor Yana is shot by his assistant and regenerates into John Simm, who inturn hijacks the TARDIS, taunts the Doctor, getting his to say his name, and then leaves David Tennant and co stranded at the end of the universe.

I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole last ten minutes. It's bonkers really, but brilliant bonkers, and puts Utopia in my all time Who top 10 episodes.

Army of Ghosts
Army of Ghosts had a great cliffhanger. It was the kind that made you literally ache to see the next episode! You see, we'd had the Dalek finale the year earlier, and this season it was the turn of the Cybermen - or so we were led to believe.

But that mysterious extra-dimensional void-ship turned out not to be of Cyber-technology. Oh no! As the sphere opened out came some Daleks who had survived the Time War.

And. It. Was. On!

All week long I had palpitations at the thought of Daleks vs Cybermen. Both of Who's heavy hitters in one episode was nearly too much for one nerd to take.

Although the resolve was pretty good, with Daleks and Cybermen taunting each other, and Doomsday itself is a great episode, it couldn't match up to the anticipation this cliffhanger had me feeling. But that's OK, it was just doing it's job. And it did it very, very well.

Bad Wolf
Not the strongest of episodes this one, but boy what a finish. Bad Wolf closed with the Ninth Doctor's finest moment.

One single Time Lord, alone in the Galaxy, goes toe to toe with half a million Daleks, and they have Rose. There's really no hope for him, and then he goes and says
It's not a huge "No", it's not a screaming "No", just a simple but firm "No". And you know he means business.

The confused Daleks look on:
DOCTOR: Because this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to rescue her. I'm going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I'm going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I'm going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!
DALEK: But you have no weapons, no defences, no plan.
DOCTOR: Yeah. And doesn't that scare you to death. Rose?
ROSE: Yes, Doctor?
DOCTOR [on viewscreen]: I'm coming to get you.
It was punch the air territory. It was time to shout "Come on!" and pull your arm back like that little kid in the meme. It was the memorable cliffhanger the Ninth Doctor needed, and it still remains one of the greatest moments in New-Who that we've seen.

Well that's my memorable cliffhangers from the last decade, let's hope that by then end of the year Peter Capaldi will have one or two to add to this list. In the meantime which cliffhangers are the most memorable for you? 

Previous Memorable Cliffhanger Articles

The 1960s
The 1970s
The 1980s

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