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This page covers tropes in Doctor Who.

Tropes A To C | Tropes D to F | Tropes G to M | Tropes N to S | Tropes T to Z

  • Aborted Arc: The New Dalek Paradigm. The rebuilding of the Dalek race was set up to be a major plot point in the Eleventh Doctor's tenure but was scuttled for two reasons: 1) audiences didn't like the new Dalek design, and 2) Moffat thought the Daleks had been overused by this point and wanted to put them on hiatus until he could think up of a good story for them. So, when the Daleks do reappear, they've rebuilt their Empire entirely offscreen and the old Russell T. Davies-era Daleks are back and back for good.
    • The ending to "The Day of The Doctor" sets up an arc surrounding The Doctor searching for Gallifrey. The Doctor comes close in the next Christmas special but the Time Lords sacrifice their chance to return to grant him a new regeneration cycle. After a few mentions and a Fake Out in Series 8, The Doctor just stumbles upon Gallifrey at the end of Series 9 (he reached the planet by passing though a portal in the Confession Dial that was stated to lead "home" but assumed it would lead to the TARDIS). After Series 9, Gallifrey doesn't appear again until The Master destroys it in Series 12 and we never find out the role the Twelfth Doctor plays in saving the planet.
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  • Action Girl: At some point one of the Doctor's female companions will find herself coming to the Doctor's rescue, often with a blaster or other weapon in hand. (Examples include Barbara Wright, Vicki Pallister, Zoe Heriot, Sara Kingdom, Sarah Jane Smith, Leela, Romana, Amy Pond, Clara Oswald, Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, the Mistress, etc.) though two that stand out in the fanbase are Ace and River Song. Even the TARDIS itself was a bad-ass and a human female, at almost the same time.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • First Doctor companion Ian Chesterton was played by William Russell, famous as the lead of the 1950s swashbuckling series The Adventures Of Sir Lancelot. In "The Crusade", he gets knighted and the Doctor jokes that he could always have imagined him as a knight.
    • "Colony in Space" had the Brigadier tell the Doctor he'd nearly arrested the Spanish ambassador, mistaking him for the Master. The actor who played the Master, Roger Delgado, had previously played Mendoza, the Spanish envoy to the court of Elizabeth I in Sir Francis Drake.
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    • Valentine Dyall, who played the Black Guardian during Seasons 16 and 20, had previously been well-known as The BBC's radio Horror Host "The Man in Black".
    • "The Christmas Invasion" included a scene of the Tenth Doctor (played by David Tennant) choosing his new costume in the TARDIS wardrobe. In addition to the Continuity Nod of past Doctors' costumes being present, there was also a vivid red "Regency" shirt resembling one Tennant had worn in Casanova, and a Hogwarts uniform, referencing his role as Barty Crouch Jr. in Goblet of Fire.
    • School Reunion featured Anthony Stewart Head as the villain, Mr. Finch. When confronted by a laser equipped K9, he told his followers to "Forget the Shooty-dog thing."
    • "The Satan Pit": Rose and Mr Jefferson are discussing escape plans, and Jefferson mentions the ducts used by maintenance robots that run under the base. Rose assumes they're ventilation shafts, which gets Jefferson to say "I appreciate the reference". His actor was in the third Alien movie.
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    • The special "Time Crash" as a whole is an especially poignant one. Peter Davison reprises his role as the Fifth Doctor opposite Ten, who tells him how much he loved his time as Five and finally getting to be young and nice. He then breaks the fourth wall entirely with the line "You were my Doctor;" fans typically use "my Doctor" to refer to the actor who they grew up with and love in the role, and Davison was that Doctor for Tennant, so much that he became an actor solely so that he might get to play the role himself one day.
    • In "The Doctor's Daughter", Jenny is played by Georgia Moffett, who actually is the daughter of Fifth Doctor Peter Davison. And her mother is Sandra Dickinson (Trillian from the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). When Jenny appears for the first time, a bit of the theme music from the Hitchhiker Series can be heard.
    • In "The End of Time", The Doctor is told that "the universe will sing you to your rest", which may reference a line from Hamlet, a production which David Tennant had played the title role in.
    • In "The Vampires of Venice" the Doctor proudly talks about being a friend of Casanova. The 2005 BBC series on Casanova had him played by previous Doctor David Tennant, and it was written by previous showrunner Russell T Davies. It's actually how the two met and became friends.
    • In "The Lodger", the Doctor played football. His actor, Matt Smith, was a youth team footballer before becoming an actor.
    • In "The Girl Who Waited", Amy mentioned how Rory pretended to be in a band. Rory's actor, Arthur Darvill, is in a band in real life.
    • In "Deep Breath", the Twelfth Doctor asks a random hobo (thinking he's Clara) if he's seen the Doctor's new face before. The Doctor gets the feeling that he has seen this face at some point. Peter Capaldi played Caecilius in the Tenth Doctor's adventures in "The Fires of Pompeii", where he and Tennant interacted quite a bit with each other. In a semi-related note, Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) appeared in this serial as well, before going on to play Eleven's companion.
    • In "Time Heist", Peter Capaldi tells people to "shutity up!" And in "Dark Water", his psychic paper illusion is said to be pockmarked with enormous amounts of swearing, which the Doctor chalks up to "a lot of internalised anger".
    • For a little while (until the series revival), the canonical Ninth Doctor was Richard E. Grant, who played an Ink-Suit Actor version of himself in the animation Scream of the Shalka. The Eighth Doctor had been played by Paul McGann — basically, he had regenerated into the other half of Withnail & I.
    • Amy Drives Like Crazy. Karen Gillan had legitimately never learned how to drive... until she had her first driving lesson on Top Gear, that is...
    • Series 9 (2015) introduced a new character trait for the Twelfth Doctor — playing the electric guitar, a reference to Peter Capaldi's real-life early career as a rock musician in the early 1980s.
  • Adaptational Explanation: The novelization of the first Doctor Who stories from Classic Who added various details to the episodes and even expanded a little more the details that were unexplained, usually written by the same scriptwriters of the series. This helped in actual years to get a better help to recreate the Missing Episodes with modern technology, as well using the audiobooks of the time.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • Time Lords have names ranging from the ridiculous (Romanadvoratrelundar) to the mundane (Susan). Although, Susan is not her real name — according to the the TARDIS Index File, her Gallifreyan name is Arkytior, which translates as "Rose". Also, it's revealed (much later) that Time Lords pick the names they'll be known by, and those names are quite official. (Lord President Rassilon addressed the Doctor and the Master as "Lord Doctor" and "Lord Master" while being particularly formal.) It makes sense that these names would be derived from all sources — words describing what they do (like the Doctor and the Master), names of people on worlds that had an impact on them (presumably Susan, possibly anyone whose name isn't a dictionary word), or whatever they felt sounded cool at the time (Romana's whole name, and the Doctor's "school" name of Theta Sigma).
    • Some of the Doctor's companions teeter on this trope as well, running the gamut from relatively common (Sarah, Jamie, Mel, etc) all the way to names like Leela and Perpugilliam (Peri for short).
    • This can also be the case for whole planets, such as the home planet of the Slitheen family, which is called Raxicoricofallapitorious, which was revealed in "Love & Monsters" to have a sister planet named... Clom.
    • The Sevateem people from "The Face of Evil" are called Leela, Neeva, Andor, Calib and... Tomas?
    • The episode "The Time of Angels" gives us Bishop Octavian and clerics Angelo, Christian and Bob. All are holy names, suggesting the existence of a Saint Bob or some such between now and then.
    • Kazran Sardick in "A Christmas Carol". It's set on an Earth colony, and he's the only character with a name like that; the other named residents of Sardickstown are Abigail Pettigrew; her family Isabella, Eric and Benjamin; and Kazran's father, Elliot.
    • "Last Christmas" has the elves, Wolf and Ian.
    • "The Zygon Inversion" played with the trope. In it the Big Bad of the story (a would-be alien leader) goes by the rather unimpressive (for a villain) name of Bonnie. Meanwhile, one of the Doctor's friends, who up to this point was only known by her surname, Osgood, reveals her given name to be Petronella.
  • An Aesop:
    • "The Two Doctors" is an allegory about meat-eating, hunting and butchering, ending with the Doctor announcing to Peri that, "from now on it's a healthy vegetarian diet for both of us!" Writer Robert Holmes was a vegetarian.
    • There are some Aesops about inner turmoil in "Vincent and the Doctor". The episode explains that there are differences in how different people deal with depression or anxiety (the Eleventh Doctor is shown to be more resilient than Vincent van Gogh). The Doctor also delivers a particularly touching Aesop at the end, when Amy discovers that their intervention failed to stop Van Gogh from killing himself:
      The Doctor: The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used a lot, actually.
    • Played straight in "The Tenth Planet". Ben even has a map, albeit one drawn by the man who designed the ventilation system.
    • Also played straight in the Third Doctor episode "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" when Sarah Jane is locked in a closet and escapes through an air duct.
    • Used straight in "The Ark in Space" (albeit realistically: Sarah Jane Smith is the only one small enough to fit and even she got stuck).
    • Used by the Fourth Doctor and company in Tom Baker's second Dalek story "Destiny of the Daleks" — notable for the Doctor pausing to mock the Daleks' inability to follow them...
      The Doctor: If you're supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don't you try climbing after us? Bye bye!
    • Deconstructed in "The Satan Pit"; Rose suggests escaping through the maintenance ducts, to which Security Officer Jefferson replies: "I appreciate the referencenote , but there's no ventilation. No air, in fact, at all. They were designed for machines, not life forms." They're able to escape through them anyway, though, by manipulating the air-pressure controls to "flood" certain ducts.
    • The Doctor and companions use one of these to escape from Area 51 in the animated special Dreamland. The Doctor lampshades their captor's Justified Genre Blindness.
      The Doctor: I love 1958, no one's seen Die Hard. Or Alien. Or Die Hard 2, or Aliens, or Die Hard 3...
    • Done to the point of being lampshaded in "Time Heist". All the vents have the warning "No Entry Under Any Circumstances". The Doctor and crew entirely ignore said notices.
    • The Cybermen's Cybermat devices could infiltrate target installations by going through ventilation ducts. Justified, because Cybermats are about the size of a rat.
  • Alan Fridge: Since the revival, a lot of tabloid stories have claimed exclusives on upcoming plots. It's a very scatter-gun result. It helped that the last minute or two of the penultimate episode and the entirety of the finales were withheld from press previews.
  • Alien Invasion: Both types, almost constantly. In some cases, it's not necessarily Earth that the aliens want to invade, nor is the species invaded human at all. In many future-based stories, humans are themselves the invaders. The invaders, especially if they are human, are often not outright malicious, but simply destructive to native species, paralleling historical imperialism and colonization.
  • Aliens Are Bastards:
    • Foremost on the list are the Daleks; super-intelligent, genetically engineered, Always Chaotic Evil space Nazis encased in non-humanoid Powered Armor. They were designed to feel no emotions other than hatred, prejudice, anger and cruelty. They also experience fear but try not to show it. They are utterly fanatical about their own inherent superiority, to the point where civil wars have broken out amongst them if factions start displaying minor differences, and have chosen death when "contaminated" by foreign DNA. Their goal is nothing less than to ex-term-i-nate all life in the universe (and, once, the multiverse). They often tend to find themselves dealing with Earth, which they hate. (But what don't they hate?)
      • Truly exemplified by a two parter episode in Series 3. The Cult of Skaro, consisting of four Daleks who are the only few granted the ability to think, develop and innovate outside of the otherwise widespread 'EXTERMINATE' ideals of their kin, are forced into utilising human DNA to create new Daleks, after attempts at creating new embryos from what little they had failed. Their leader, Dalek Sek, undergoes an initial experiment and is turned into a human dalek hybrid... And is quickly subjugated by his three followers for not being true Dalek. Any reasoning he tries to give to explain to the others why he thinks this is better for them? Rejected, because he's no longer true dalek. The other three might be able to think outside the box, but their natural, furious prejudice against all who aren't Dalek overrides them.
    • The Cybermen were alternate humans, from Earth's twin planet Mondas who, in an example of Cybernetics Eat Your Soul, converted themselves into emotionless cyborgs. They are exclusively concerned with the survival of their race, and the best way to do that is to forcibly convert humanity into them. That they are a direct threat to mankind means that they have also sought to destroy them, or sizeable chunks, in the distant future when we manage to successfully fight back. Other Cybermen originated from a more advanced parallel Earth. Created by a man desperate to transcend the limitations of his crippled body, these Cybermen see their mission as "upgrading" humanity in a perverse attempt to free mankind from physical deterioration and emotional pain. However, the revival's "Cybus Cybermen" have, as of Series 6 and beyond, been said by Steven Moffat to be the original Cybermen despite continuing to look and behave precisely as they always have (though the new design tweak at least removes the big Cybus Industries logo.)
    • The Time Lords were a race of supposed non-interventionists who were (until the Last Great Time War), in the worst interpretation (Depending on the Writer), really a controlling, elitist, and stagnant race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who, as their name suggests, had mastered Time Travel, amongst other technologies. They had decent members, notably the Doctor themself, but they throw up plenty of maniacs like the Master and the Rani, not to mention their insane founders Rassilon and Omega... As the Time War drew to a bloody close they became a race of Omnicidal Maniacs who were ready to put an end to time itself in an effort to avoid ultimate defeat, which means they last showed up as a villain race.
    • The Sontarans are an entire race of Expendable Clone Blood Knights who are engaged in a 50,000 year war with their foes the Rutans. They have no particular hatred of Earth and only want to achieve victory in their war, though they enjoy it when we fight back because War Is Glorious.
    • The Weeping Angels are ruthless in their pursuit of prey. They have completely ruined lives by sending folks back in time... if they didn't just kill them outright.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Trope Namer, thanks to the Cardiff Space-Time Rift (in-universe) and the new series being produced by BBC Wales (out-of-universe).
  • Aliens of London: The Doctor speaks with an accent. Which accent depends on the incarnation. The original series Doctors mostly tended towards Received Pronunciation, Seven sounded Scottish, Eight sounded Liverpudlian, Nine Mancunian, Ten had the accent of Estuary London (as opposed to the actor's native Scottish accent), Eleven had a Northampton accent, Twelve sounds Scottish again and Thirteen sounds like she's from Yorkshire. Lampshaded in the first episode of the revival, in this bit of dialogue:
    Rose Tyler: If you are an alien, how comes you sound like you're from the North?
    The Doctor: Lots of planets have a North!
  • Aliens Speaking English:
    • Justified due to Translator Microbes. Mostly. The TARDIS is said to feature a psychic translation facility (mentioned in "The Masque of Mandragora", "The End of the World", "The Christmas Invasion", "The Fires of Pompeii" and "Cold War"), but it seems to rely on the Doctor's conscious presence to complete the "circuit," as it has been shown not to work when the Doctor is unconscious or out of range.
    • Other examples, such as the Daleks, the Slitheen and Matron Cofelia are explicitly speaking English (whether they've learned English or are using different Translator Microbes is never made certain; the Daleks, however, have been demonstrated speaking different languages when appropriate, such as German in Germany).
    • The Judoon in "Smith and Jones" are shown using alien technology to learn English in moments, after initially speaking their own alien language.
  • All Myths Are True: And they're all aliens. Vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, the yeti, the Loch Ness Monster; even the devil is an alien. Also, pretty much every good wizard is (or at least based off of) the Doctor.
  • The Alleged Car:
    • More like "The Alleged TARDIS" though it's in even worse shape by the 2005 series. He's had it for several centuries, and it was already ancient when he got it, yet it's still immensely powerful and advanced, even by alien standards. In "The Eleventh Hour," however, the TARDIS regenerated along with the Doctor and seems to be in a bit better shape. One person (rather than the designed six) who made a deliberate point to never Read the Freaking Manual piloting it doesn't improve its poor state and Explosive Instrumentation either.
    • Inverted with Bessie, the Doctor's car from their UNIT days. It's an antique roadster that looks like it should be pathetically slow. It's not, and the Doctor has rigged it with enough exotic devices to make James Bond green with envy.
  • All There in the Manual: Has its own page.
  • Alphabet News Network: In the new series (at least during the Ninth and Tenth Doctor eras), if the Doctor is on Earth in the present day facing a potential global threat ("World War Three", "The Poison Sky", "The Power of Three") expect an appearance by American news-reader Trinity Wells with AMNN.
  • Alternate Catchphrase Inflection:
    • Ten often says, "No, don't do that" in an embarrassed tone, usually when his companions try to imitate accents or speak other languages. In "Midnight", Ten says it to Donna in a scared tone after she repeats something he said because they'd recently dealt with a villain who'd possessed him and forced him to repeat everything.
    • All Daleks say, "Exterminate!" when they want to kill someone. Usually this is shouted with a rising inflection and pauses between every syllable ("EX-TER-MIN-ATE!") but when a Dalek begins thinking it's Clara Oswald, it says, "Eggs" due to thinking it's making a souffle, then turns it into an uncertain "Eggs... ter... minate?".
  • Alternate Landmark History: It boasts a wide collection of 'explanations'; enough to warrant its own section on the page as well as providing the page quote. The throwaway lines are examples.
  • Alternate Universe: Oddly enough, not extensively used. There are alternate universes in the Who multiverse—one Classic Series Story Arc took place in one called "E-Space" and the story "Inferno" has a Mirror Universe, and the Russell T Davies era has at least two, a Zeppelins from Another World universe and an alternate timeline world centered on Donna Noble in "Turn Left"—but travel between alternate universes seems to be extremely difficult (compared to travel in time and space, creating and controlling a black star, making dimensionally transcendental ships...) and very dangerous.
    • The Zeppelins from Another World universe is also known as "Pete's World," since it's home to a version of Peter Tyler who is alive and successful. In addition to major advances in technology, Britain has a president, a country called New Germany exists, Mickey's grandmother is still alive and he has a counterpart named Ricky, and industry leader John Lumic created the Cybermen in an attempt to stave off his inevitable death. More information was detailed through a site that used to be hosted by the BBC: other countries in this universe include Czechoslovenia, a South American State that unifies the continent, and the United States of Mexico (which is apparently much larger, as it's said to be home to the grand canyon).
    • Although the Doctor states that it used to be easy to do before the Time War; since then, though, the universe(s) don't seem to like letting the travel occur (probably because the Time Lock effectively sealed the Time War in an alternate universe, the universe hates the Time War, and if the Time Lords were ever brought back from their alternate universe, a new Time War would occur.)
  • Always Save the Girl:
    • The Doctor, particularly Ten, puts their companions (who are usually, if not always, young and female) before anyone else. Also, the new series suggests that their companions represent their humanity in a universe full of mass deathnote , as seen in "The Fires of Pompeii" when Donna convinces him to go back for one family among all those destroyed in Pompeii. It's mentioned sometimes that the Doctor feels responsible for them because it's the Doctor's fault that the companions are in danger, since they brought the companions to wherever it is they are. The Doctor has sacrificed two of their regenerations for a girl now.
    • Then there's Rory:
      The Doctor: All of creation has just been wiped from the sky. D'you know how many lives have now never happened, all the people who never lived? Your girlfriend isn't more important than the whole universe.
      Rory: [punches him] SHE IS TO ME!
    • Amy and River are gender-inverted examples. River will rip the entire universe apart in order for the Doctor not to be killed, and Rory is the only thing that convinces older!Amy to defy all laws of time. It definitely runs in the family.
    • Series 9 has the Doctor go to extreme lengths to save Clara's life on several occasions, but none so much as the finale.
  • Always Someone Better: During "Pyramids of Mars" serial, The Doctor sombrely points out to Sarah-Jane that if Sutekh succeeds in escaping his prison not even the Time Lords will be able to stop him destroying every other living thing in the universe.
  • Ambiguously Human: Many Doctor Who stories set on planets other than Earth contain no indication as to whether completely human-looking guest characters are meant to be Human Aliens or residents of off-Earth human colonies.
  • Amnesia Loop: (Note that due to the nature of this trope, even the name of an episode may be a spoiler).
    • In "The Beast Below", there's a secret at the heart of the kingdom, and Liz X is determined to uncover the truth. Part of the truth she uncovers is that she's uncovered the truth many times before, but always agreed to undergo Laser-Guided Amnesia to allow it to remain secret. When the Doctor and Amy get involved in her latest investigation, Amy finds a way to Take a Third Option, and the loop is broken.
    • The Silence (being creatures that you immediately forget the second you're not looking at them,) induce this in their victims, with the very fact of their existence being the constantly forgotten revelation in their first episode. The problem of forgetting them cannot easily be solved; even pictures of them get forgotten instantly and spoken information about them fades fairly quickly (though not instantly), but people can leave themselves messages and warnings about them, and thus make themselves aware of the Silence's existence even when they can't actually remember them.
    • In "Asylum of the Daleks" one of the warning signs that Amy Pond is losing her mind is that the Doctor tells her that he's already explained what's happening to her several times.
    • In "Heaven Sent", the Doctor is teleported into a mysterious and sinister Mobile Maze. As he explores, he finds evidence that he's not the first person to have been imprisoned there. Eventually he figures out the secret of the maze and realises that all the previous occupants of the maze were also him, and that when each had got as far as he could toward escaping, he used his death to power the teleporter and create a fresh copy of himself from the teleporter's pattern buffer, who would then start exploring all over again. This is followed by a montage showing that in each loop the Doctor gets a bit closer to escaping, until finally he breaks free and the episode ends. We later find out he spent FOUR AND A HALF BILLION YEARS repeating the cycle until he could escape.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name:
    • The Daleks, of course. They're very fond of shouting, violent threats and talk about racial purity and "extermination". They get painted as Nazis IN SPACE. This is not surprising, since the Daleks themselves were one of the few Nazi-esque villains who were explicitly meant to be substantively Nazi-like, as opposed to just generic Nazi symbolism to make sure the dimwitted know when to boo. A more overt Nazi reference comes in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (1965) where the Daleks refer to the destruction of the human race as "the Final Solution" and greet each other by jerking their plungers upwards. It was nicely lampshaded in the 2008 episode "Journey's End" where Martha teleports to Germany to play her part in activating the Osterhagen Key, and Daleks can be heard shouting in German "Exterminieren!"
    • The Kaleds, ancestors of the Daleks, wear black military uniforms very close to the standard Nazi uniform, complete with faux-Iron Crosses at the neck and give Roman salutes with heel clicking.
    • Then there's the new British government that shows up in the For Want of a Nail timeline of "Turn Left". By the time the immigrants are being shipped off to "labour camps", WWII survivor Wilf knows exactly where it's going.
    • The alternate timeline Britain in "Inferno" is even more obviously run by Nazis.
    • The security people who round up anyone who disputes the Monks' version of history in "The Lie Of The Land" have a semi-Nazi vibe, although less ostentatiously because everyone who's not in security is mind-controlled so they don't need to intimidate anyone who toes the line.
    • There's overtones of this in "The Idiot's Lantern", which actually lampshades the similarities between the rounding-up of the faceless and the Nazi crimes Britain had just finished fighting a war to stop.
  • Anachronic Order: The series takes place in chronological order from the perspective of a person who wanders the space-time continuum more or less at random. Thus it is entirely possible that the Xth Doctor will have an adventure someplace the X-1th Doctor visited several hundred years later (from the planet's perspective).
  • Anachronistic Clue: Recurring thing even given the Time Travel.
    • It never gets completely resolved, but in the episode "The Girl in the Fireplace" one clue that things aren't quite right on the spaceship they've landed on is there are multiple portals to 18th century France, first seen by the Doctor as a fireplace.
      Doctor: Well, there's something you don't see in your average spaceship. Eighteenth century. French. Nice mantle. Not a hologram. It's not even a reproduction. This actually is an eighteenth century French fireplace. Double sided.
      Mickey: What's a horse doing on a spaceship?
      Doctor: Mickey, what's Pre-Revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get a little perspective!
    • In "A Town Called Mercy", the Doctor, Rory and Amy find themselves in a town in the Wild West. One of the first clues that something isn't right is the fact that the town has electric lighting, which shouldn't exist for another ten years.
    • Parodied in still another episode, in which Clara and the Master are looking for the Doctor in a medieval fighting pit. The Master says they should be looking out for any small anachronisms. The Doctor promptly enters the arena playing electric guitar atop a WWII tank.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Earth has been visited a lot over its history. At this point, it's hard to think of a religion that the series hasn't had aliens meddling in at some point.
  • Angelic Aliens:
    • In "The Mutants", an alien race's life cycle includes a phase where they become angelic energy beings that glow in a rainbow of colours and are dressed in flowing robes (which somehow appear as part of the metamorphosis from the previous physical form).
    • The Weeping Angels are a subversion. They are stone creatures that look like angel statues, but they are among the most dangerous and evil creatures of the universe.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The Nestene Autons and the Weeping Angels. The Weeping Angels are a strange example; they only move when no one is looking at them (except for that one occasion in "Flesh and Stone"), making it more like short range Offscreen Teleportation.
  • Anyone Can Die: Unless someone happens to be a historical figure (and even then...), there is a good chance they will die before the end of the episode. The Doctor themself is not immune to death, of a sorts. Their companions are not immune to death... sorta. (It depends on your definition of "companion." Many a One-Shot Character fits the role in their one episode, only to die before getting to take up the Doctor on their offer to come fly with them. Also, there's been a character who joined near the end of one story and died early in the next, back in the day. However, for a show with this much Nightmare Fuel, it's actually surprisingly safe to be a member of the main cast; the two exceptions are of course Adric, and now Clara. However, even the latter ends up being a Defied Trope after the events of "Hell Bent": she still has to die, but she can choose the moment and time of her death herself, and she is effectively immortal until she does so.)
  • Apocalypse How: The earth, the galaxy, the universe and the cosmos are always doomed. Notably, Doctor Who has the distinction of having had every single class of apocalypse happen at some point or another, all the way up to Class Z-3 in "The Big Bang", where the Doctor inadvertently destroys and then reboots the universe as if it were no big thing.
  • Arc Symbol: The crack in series five of the revived series, which appears almost Once an Episode. Notably, it is exactly the same shape everywhere it appears.
  • Arc Words: A staple of both the Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat eras.
    • Series 1 has the phrase Bad Wolf. It's Rose Tyler after staring into the heart of the TARDIS.
    • Series 2 has Torchwood.
    • Series 3 has various mentions of a Mr. Saxon, evidently a public office figure running for Prime Minister. Who is later revealed to be the Master.
    • Series 4 is chock full of them, tied together by a theme of things disappearing. First there is talk of vanishing bees, then planets, then moons, and finally Wilfred's "the stars are going out." This all turns out to be due to the Daleks and their planet-stealing operation. Occasionally the phrase "Medusa Cascade" appears as well; the season finale ends up taking place there. Unusually, Series 4 also has arc words specific to each of the two main characters. The Doctor has "she is returning," whereas Donna Noble has the thoroughly unsettling "there's something on your back." In addition to that, The Doctor also refers to The Shadow Proclamation on several occasions before it is properly revealed.
      • The Series 4 specials have "Something is returning" and "He will knock four times" (the latter being tied to the Doctor's regeneration). In "The End of Time", we learn that the "something" is Gallifrey, and the knocking turns out to come from Wilf, who's trapped in a box that's about to be irradiated unless the Doctor gets in the adjoining box and takes the radiation flood himself.
    • Series 5 has "cracks" which is spoken often but also emphasized visually. Near the end of most episodes, after the Doctor has left, the camera lingers on some part of the scenery where a mysterious crack similar to the one that appeared in the first episode of the series has appeared, later revealed to be a result of the TARDIS exploding on June 26, 2010. The cracks play a more prominent role in some episodes than others.
    • Several times in Series 6, a hatch opens in a nearby wall, revealing woman with a black eyepatch, who says a few words and vanishes. It's Madame Kovarian, who has abducted the real Amy and is trying to steal Amy's baby to raise as a Laser-Guided Tyke-Bomb.
    • Eleven's era has its own arc words: "The Pandorica will open" and "Silence will fall." Expanded upon in Series 6 to "Silence will fall when the question is asked."
    • Series six adds "Tick-Tock goes the clock." It's the first verse of a recurring nursery rhyme. The second verse changes each time but always refers to the Doctor's impending death.
    • Perhaps the biggest arc words spanning the whole series are: "Doctor Who?" It is also the question that will be asked, the question that has been hiding in plain sight, where "Silence will fall." And then it gets played with, lampshaded, and ultimately subverted in Series 7. The Doctor's true name is never revealed, and is explicitly stated as unimportant. What matters is the name they have chosen.
    • Series 7 has "Run, you clever boy. And remember." They're the last words of Clara Oswin Oswald, who has died twice in two different lives, each time with the same last words. Trailers aired after the 2012 Christmas special and in March 2013 revealed they are invoked at least twice more in Series 7.
    • Series 8.
      • The Promised Land.
      • There's the recurring command of "Do as you are told", from the Doctor to Clara and vice versa.
      • Not only does the Doctor directly reference the Walt Whitman poem "O Captain! My Captain!" in "Deep Breath", there are quite a few repetitions of "O Clara! My Clara" throughout her run, including the minisode that debuted before "The Name of the Doctor", "Flatline", and "Dark Water".
    • Series 9 has the word "hybrid" come into play. In the literal sense, "The Witch's Familiar" reveals an ancient Gallifreyan prophecy about a hybrid creature created from two warrior races, and stronger than both. Two hybrids were revealed - the half-human, half-Mire Ashildr and the half-human, half-Zygon Osgood. In a more metaphorical theory, Missy posits that everyone is a hybrid; both simultaneously friend and foe. "Heaven Sent" reveals that the Hybrid is either the Doctor or Ashildr/Me, thanks to Ambiguous Syntax. In the end, the identity of the Hybrid is not clearly revealed; the Doctor admits he was making up his statement at the end of "Heaven Sent", but it was later revealed to be the Doctor and Clara.
    • An additional arc word in Series 9 is the phrase "duty of care" which starts out meaning one thing but by the end of the series has taken a heartbreaking change to mean something deeper.
    • For Series 10, it's "In darkness, we are revealed", often accompanied by "without hope, without witness, without reward". This turns out to be from River Song's diary.
  • Armored Villains, Unarmored Heroes: the Doctor and their companions are always wearing normal Earthly clothing, while monsters like the Daleks and the Cybermen are heavily armored.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • In "Kinda", a mad military scolds young Adric, the Doctor's companion, saying he'll teach him "not to lie. Not to commit treason. And to wash behind the ears."
    • In "Remembrance of the Daleks", The Doctor mocks the Dalek Emperor's rant about what the Daleks will achieve when they have the Hand of Omega: "Become all powerful! Crush the lesser races! Conquer the galaxy! Unimaginable power! Unlimited rice pudding! Et cetera! Et cetera!"
    • Inverted in "Ghost Light" (the last story produced, but broadcast third-to-last) - "I can't stand burnt toast. I loathe bus stations: terrible places, full of lost luggage and lost souls. And then there's unrequited love, and tyranny, and cruelty." From the same episode: "My theories appall you, my heresies outrage you, I never answer letters and you don't like my tie."
    • The call to adventure (inserted as a voiceover at the end of Survival, the last story of the original series broadcast): "There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea is asleep and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold."
    • In "Blink", the aged police officer Billy said that he couldn't contact Sally earlier because the Doctor explained to him that it would've caused a rupture in time and space, it would destroy two thirds of the universe, and he was embarrassed to have her see how he'd lost his hair.
    • In "The Big Bang", When the Doctor finds out that he had survived the "Big Bang two" he quickly verifies if he is OK, going through his life priority list, of course. "Legs, yes. Bow tie, cool. *Touches hair* ...I can buy a fez." Although two of the items are silly, we'd already expect the bow tie, so the fez makes pretty much the same effect.
    • In "Time Heist", the Doctor tries to convince Clara out of her date and mentions the places they could go, like the Satanic Nebula, the Lagoon of Lost Stars... or Brighton.
  • Artificial Afterlife: Several have shown up over the years.
    • There's the Gallifreyan Matrix, a device where dead Time Lords can be uploaded to preserve their knowledge and memory.
    • During "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", the minds of people killed by the Vashta Nerada (or any other means within the library) are uploaded into a virtual world to live in while they cannot be saved in the real world. At the end of Forest of the Dead, 4,023 of them are returned to the real world. It becomes the afterlife for River Song after her death.
    • Season 8 of the revived series revolves around Missy, a female reincarnation of The Master, using a version of the Gallifreyan Matrix above that has been adapted to collect human minds and preserve them, albeit only as a first step to later putting those minds into the bodies of Cybermen.
  • Artificial Zombie: In the Series 8's Grand Finale ("Dark Water" and "Death in Heaven"), Missy aka The Master revealed her true self and her plans by using the dead (the recent ones as well using a whole cemetery) by converting the corpses into Cybermen and so she can Take Over the World.
  • Artistic Licence – Biology: The show has many, many, many examples shown over the years. Some of these could be handwaved in one of three ways: 1) The TARDIS doesn't give a literal translation of the Doctor's biobabble, it instead renders something the companions can understand, even if it's wrong. 2) The Alien physiology/technology in question could work differently from our understanding. 3) The Doctor makes it up cause it sounds cool.
    • The classic episode The Invisible Enemy beggars description. The Big Bad is a prawn-shaped space virus which spawns... let your imagination fill in the blanks.
    • "New Earth" has the Doctor discovering an underground lair full of cloned humans infected with, in his words, "EVERY DISEASE IN THE UNIVERSE." They didn't die because all the diseases kept each other in equilibrium, but if they touch you, you'll die quickly and painfully. How does the Doctor cure these poor souls? Why, he douses himself in ten or so intravenous solutions designed to cure the diseases, then transmits the cures by touch. One of these diseases, called "petrifold regression," turns you into stone.
    • In "Daleks in Manhattan", the Daleks are using a giant lightning rod to power their genetic experiments. Okay. The Doctor mixes his own DNA into the results by hugging the lightning rod as it's struck by lightning. Wha? DNA is conducted by electricity now?
    • In "The Lazarus Experiment", the weird scorpion monster that Professor Lazarus transforms into is said to be an evolutionary possibility that humanity rejected long ago but has remained locked in the genes, or something along those lines.
    • "Planet of the Ood" has Mr. Halpen constantly downing hair tonic which turns out to be Ood-secretions that TURN HIM INTO AN OOD. Complete with the external forebrain, which can apparently break through the hard palate to come out his mouth.
    • According to the Doctor in "The Hungry Earth", the Silurians are 'Homo Reptilians', the same genus as mammalian humans, instead of actual reptiles.
    • In "Time Heist", the Teller's ability to reduce its victims brains to soup somehow also caves in their skulls, the bone going from a nice convex dome to a concave section where the forehead and front half of the top should be. It makes the victims actually look like their heads are empty, and is all the more horrifying for it.
  • Ascended Fanon: The meaning of the word "doctor" coming from the Doctor's actions was proposed by Steven Moffat in 1995. This was later promoted to canon by himself.
    • The Peter Davison Doctor's daughter, Georgia Elizabeth Moffet, became the David Tennant Doctor's wife after playing the Doctor's daughter, Jenny, and finally gave the Doctor a daughter, Olive Tennant.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The Christmas specials, often with a side-order of Twisted Christmas.
  • Aside Glance:
    • A Dalek manages to do this in "The Daleks' Master Plan" - Mavic Chen is spiralling into a Villainous Breakdown and a Daleks confronts him about his incompetence. Chen rants impotently at it and then slaps the Dalek in the eyestalk. The Dalek flails around in confusion for a second, briefly fixing the camera with its eyestalk as if to ask 'can you believe he did that?' It's a real testament to the skills of the Dalek operators that they could pull this off.
    • Some unintentional ones are done by the First Doctor. The actor had a bit of a habit of flubbing lines and occasionally, after catching himself completely mangling a sentence, would glance over at the director as if to ask if there'd be a retake.
    • In "Spearhead From Space", when the Brigadier and the other members of UNIT leave the Doctor alone and unguarded in his hospital bed, he gives the camera a short, conspiratorial look.
    • "The Invasion of Time": After the Fourth Doctor fails to operate his sonic screwdriver, he announces "even the sonic screwdriver won't get me out of this one," presumably to himself, and fixes the camera with a brief stare.
    • In "The Creature from the Pit", the Doctor forces a villainess's hand onto Erato's larynx machine and the creature starts speaking through her. As she goes through her Villainous Breakdown, we can see the Doctor lurking at the edge of the shot, looking straight at the camera out of the corner of his eye and smirking.
    • The TV Movie: after the Eighth Doctor acts oddly, Grace gives a baffled glance at the camera.
    • "Journey's End" also has Martha grin out at the camera during the big celebration scene, although the context is that she is looking at one of the Doctors.
    • In "Day of the Moon", Nixon is allowed to boggle briefly at the camera after learning about Delaware's sexuality.
    • Near the end of "Asylum of the Daleks", Oswin casts a brief glance directly into the camera after she says, "and remember", which is seen as a direct message to the viewers since the actress (and the character) would return later in the season.
    • The Eleventh Doctor does this during his pre-regeneration speech in "The Time of the Doctor".
    • The Twelfth Doctor does it at the end of his premiere episode, "Deep Breath".
    • Twelve does it again in "Heaven Sent" commenting "I am nothing without an audience".
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    • "The Runaway Bride" - when an extremely shouty ginger in a wedding dress shows up in the TARDIS while it's in deep space, it takes the Doctor a while to catch up.
      Doctor: What're you dressed like that for?
      Donna: I'm going tenpin bowling. WHY DO YOU THINK, DUMBO? I was halfway up the aisle!
    • "The Shakespeare Code'':
      Martha: [thinking about Back to the Future] You mean the film?
      Tenth Doctor: No, the Novelization.
    • "Amy's Choice":
      Dream Lord: If you die in the dream world, you wake up in reality. [...] Ask me what happens if you die in reality.
      Rory: What happens if you die in reality?
      Dream Lord: You die, stupid, that's why it's called reality.
    • "Let's Kill Hitler":
      Rory: Okay, I'm trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I'm really trying not to see this as a metaphor.
      Amy: How can we be in here? How do we fit?
      Rory: Miniaturization Ray.
      Amy: How would you know that?
      Rory: Well, there was a ray, and we were miniaturized...
    • In "Time Heist", Clara asks Psi why he would choose to forget everyone he ever loved. Psi, obviously, does not remember why he made that choice.
  • Auto-Kitchen: The food dispenser in the TARDIS.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • River Song and the Doctor can get this vibe, since especially in some of the Doctor's earlier meetings with her, he spent a lot of it directing insults at her and feeling out-of-sorts.
    • "Let's Kill Hitler" is loaded with these moments for the Doctor and River, despite the fact that she's technically not even there. Early in the episode, the Doctor keeps making reference to River and from this, a new character immediately picks up on how much he really cares about her. And then, when dying, he gives Melody a message to give River and her response is "I think she knows." Made all the more poignant by the fact that Melody discovers a few moments later that she is, or will become, River.
    • Later versions of River and the Doctor. The two flirt, fight and she even claims she "hates [you]"; he knows better and flirts, fights and tells her that she doesn't, even checking out her ass in "The Angels Take Manhattan".
    • Done in Tear Jerker fashion between Pete and Jackie Tyler in "Father's Day". Despite all the bickering, jealousy, and hostility expressed by Jackie in this episode, she has one Last Kiss with Pete...just before his Heroic Sacrifice.
    • The TARDIS and the Doctor. Many, many, many times! She may be older than old can be, broken, falling to bits and unreliable, but they love her, often affectionately calling her "old girl" and is furious when she has a hole put into her and when she is injured by a gunshot; they may be mad, occasionally heartless, often changeable, never the same (due to their regenerations) and often smacks her with a hammer (in their 9th and 10th incarnations at least!) but when the TARDIS gets a body (that makes sense in context!) she outright states "what makes you think I'd ever give you back?" and that she deliberately felt the Doctor coming and left her doors unlocked, despite being an obsolete museum piece at the time - she wanted to see the stars... and the Doctor was just mad enough to take her. She also states that, though she doesn't take them where they want to go, she does take them to where they need to be. Which explains why they always randomly end up right in the middle of a dire situation that only they can solve.
    • Done in Tear Jerker fashion too; when her body fades and she has to return to her box form, the TARDIS's last words to the Doctor are "I love you." The Doctor even mourns her return to the box.
    • The TARDIS gets another one when, finally, she allows herself to be ripped open and allows Rose to look into her heart to save the Doctor. Being ripped apart could easily destroy the TARDIS, but leaving the Doctor to the Daleks is unacceptable.
    • Amy and Rory: the two may bitch and snark, and even get close to divorce before the Doctor meddles and fixes it, but the two do truly love one another.
    • The Doctor never had a closer, more loyal friend than Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The pompous, self-opinionated idiot.
    • The series made no attempt at hiding the romance between the Eleventh Doctor and Clara, but scaled it back when the Twelfth Doctor arrived, only to reinstate it (in subtle ways) as his time with Clara moved on - but not before several episodes in which their relationship bordered on the antagonistic.
  • Backdoor Pilot
    • The TV Movie was explicitly conceived as a pilot for a potential series, but it was not promoted as such.
    • As of 2014, the Paternoster Gang (Madame Vastra, Jenny, Strax) have appeared in no less than five episodes, each of which can be interpreted as backdoor pilots for a potential spinoff. However, the trope has so far been averted due to the fact the while the fans and the actors want a spin-off, thus far neither Steven Moffat nor the BBC have shown any interest in elevating the trio beyond recurring status.
    • The revived UNIT, under the guidance of Kate Stewart, has had several "backdoor pilot"-type episodes and, indeed, the Big Finish Doctor Who franchise launched an audio drama spin-off series in 2015-16.
    • If Doctor Who were an American series, the finale of "Hell Bent" would have inevitably been the launch of a Clara and Ashildr spin-off series.
  • Back for the Dead:
    • The Master. ''Every. Single. Time.''
      • Also, Davros. note 
    • Technically applies to the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Colin Baker was invited back to film the opening scene of "Time and the Rani" in which the Sixth Doctor "dies" but said no (instead, incoming Doctor Sylvester McCoy donned a wig for the scene); years later, McCoy reprised the role of the Seventh Doctor in the TV movie with the sole purpose of his Doctor being "killed off" and replaced by Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor.
    • As of the 50th Anniversary, McGann reprised his own role in "The Night of the Doctor", only for the character to suffer fatal injuries less than halfway through.
  • Badass Crew: Collectively, the Doctor's companions, as noted by Davros, are The Children of Time.
  • Badass Family: If a companion's family gets decent screentime (as is fairly common in the revival), being around the Doctor more or less forces them to become this.
  • Badass Normal: Quite a lot of the companions fall into this, particularly since the 2005 reboot.
  • Badge Gag: The Doctor and his friends flash psychic paper, which lets the reader see any falsified documents imaginable, as credentials. It doesn't always work as intended though— those that are too smart for it will wonder why they've been handed a blank piece of paper, and if the user lets their mind wonder it might instead read something else entirely. Jack's introduction had him hand Rose a sheet of psychic paper reading "I'm single and I workout" instead of his military credentials.
    • In The Vampires of Venice, the Eleventh Doctor goes to show his psychic paper credentials. Instead he pulls out his library card (which is so out of date it has a picture of first Nth Doctor on it along with his old London address).
  • Bait-and-Switch Time Skip:
    • In the episode "Forest of the Dead", there's a time compression montage in which Donna meets a nice man, falls in love, gets married, and has two children. After she starts suspecting something is wrong with her new life, she discovers that she's in a Lotus-Eater Machine - and has been for less than ten minutes. The entire process of meeting a nice man, falling in love, getting married, and having two children occupied exactly the same amount of time it took the audience to watch the montage.
    • In the episode "The Power of Three", a bored Doctor needs to pass time, so he paints a fence, mows the lawn, and dribbles a football (by his count) over a million times. At the end of the montage, it's still only been an hour.
    • In the episode "The Doctor's Daughter", Cobb told the Doctor and his companions that the war with the Hath had gone on for "many generations". The Doctor and his companions assume that "generations" correspond to multiple years of lifespans. The assumption persists for most of the episode until Donna Noble figures out that the numbers on various plaques she's been noticing are dates and that the war started roughly a week ago. The cloning machines can create hundreds of "generations" of soldiers every day, and apparently, the war was so bloody, the generations went extinct just as quickly.
  • Barefoot Loon: The Eighth Doctor in The TV Movie spends a few scenes barefoot while he's wandering around being amnesiac and weird. It's really just because he hasn't got any shoes after Waking Up at the Morgue, but his barefootedness definitely emphasizes his eccentricity. Grace seems to notice his bare feet as a sign he's a bit of a weirdo, or maybe it's just the toe tag...
    • Also, somewhat inverted in Smith and Jones, where Martha calls the Doctor "mad" after he expels the radiation into his shoe, to which he responds by taking off his other shoe, leaving him "barefoot on the moon".
  • Barefoot Sage: Dojjen
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Twice in Series 5, the freakin' Daleks pull one on the Doctor.
      • First, in "Victory of the Daleks", they let him declare himself as the Doctor and identify his enemies. This was exactly what the Daleks wanted, as their Progenator wouldn't recognize their spoiled DNA. They needed their oldest and most powerful enemy to tell the Progenator who they were, setting off the creation of a new bigger, badder, and Technicolor Dalek race. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero...
      • Then, in "The Pandorica Opens", they let the Doctor fall straight into the Pandorica, supposedly trapping him for good.
    • The Seventh Doctor is a master Chessmaster setting up all the pieces and having his enemies and friends effortlessly go where he wants them to go in order to save the day... at first glance. However, many of the TV stories involving this aspect of his character end up revolving around the sudden realisation that something is happening that he didn't actually plan for (such as two factions of Daleks seeking out the Hand of Omega rather than one), or someone does something that he didn't expect, necessitating a frantic run-around as he desperately tries to improvise some stop-gap solution to get things back on track.
      Doctor: I don't suppose you've completely ignored my instructions and secretly prepared any Nitro-9, have you?
      Ace: What if I had?
      Doctor: And naturally, you wouldn't do anything so insanely dangerous as to carry it around with you, would you?
      Ace: Of course not. I'm a good girl and do what I'm told.
      Doctor: Excellent. Blow up that vehicle.
    • The Tenth Doctor is taken to task by Davros for doing precisely this. Davros points out to the Doctor that he makes a big point of how pacifistic he is, while at the same time manipulatively turning those around him into the kind of people who will blow up their own planet to stop an invasion.
    • The Tenth Doctor is pretty fond of this — feigning ignorance and getting himself captured so he can be brought face to face with the bad guy of the week. Ninth plays around with it too — "I'm really glad that worked. Those would have been terrible last words."
    • The Eleventh also pulls one on several characters in Series 6. One of whom was himself. This makes it either extra clever, or cheating, depending on point of view.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The Doctor does this a lot. Psychic paper helps... unless the viewer happens to be psychic enough to see through the illusion, like everyone working for Torchwood, or intelligent enough, like William Shakespeare. Though lies too big will actually break it, as seen in "A Christmas Carol", when it refuses to say he's "widely acknowledged as a mature and responsible adult".
  • BBC Quarry: Filled in for dozens of planets over the years. Subverted in "The Hand of Fear", in which the TARDIS arrives in what turns out to be an actual quarry.
  • Bear Hug: The Doctor tends to do this a lot to their female companions, sometimes lifting them completely off the ground and/or spinning them around before putting the surprised companion down. Nine has done this to Rose, Ten has done it to Donna, Martha, and Rose, and both Eleven and Twelve have done it to Clara, complete with spinning.
    • Rory to Amy, despite them being about the same height.
    • Ten also managed to do it with Sarah Jane, at the end of "School Reunion".
  • Beast in the Maze:
    • "The Horns of Nimon" features an alien monster that lives in a maze where the walls shift around to prevent anyone escaping. The Nimon looks something like a bull-headed man, and is explicitly compared to the Minotaur.
    • "The God Complex" features an alien monster that lives in a maze where the corridors rearrange themselves. It looks something like a bull-headed man, and is explicitly compared to the Nimon.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Three spends several episodes talking about how much he's looking forward to visiting Metabelis III. When he actually manages to get there, in "The Green Death", the planet promptly tries to kill him. And it actually does kill him when he returns there in "Planet of the Spiders".
    • The villains aren't immune to this either. One relatively recent example would be The Family of Blood. They wanted to live the way Time Lords and Ladies do, seemingly forever, so The Doctor imprisoned each of them in such a way that they would never die, or at the very least, it would take close to forever.
  • Been There, Shaped History: This would take a long time to list, but if it was important, either the Doctor, one of their companions, or aliens may have caused it.
  • Belated Love Epiphany: Played with. When the Doctor first met River Song, she was just another archaeologist to him, but then he learned that she was from his future. After she dies in the library, he spends the next few seasons falling in love with someone he has already lost/is going to lose.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Religion has rarely come off particularly well in Doctor Who and the series contains many examples of people worshipping things like mad computers or empty spacesuits in the mistaken belief that they were gods.
    • Averted, however, in other cases, such as "The God Complex" which treated a character's Muslim faith with respect. And the Doctor has made references to being present around the time of events associated with both Christ's birth ("Voyage of the Damned") and resurrection ("Planet of the Dead").
  • Berserk Button:
    • Piss off the Doctor at your own peril, especially when you threaten their friends.
    • The TARDIS - yes, you did read that right - has one too (she's sentient). Trap the Doctor in a time loop type thing and it will manage to get through, it has flown into missiles and decapitated Daleks; it has even materialised around the Doctor of its own accord. And it can get jealous, as Clara has discovered.
    • Kill Clara Oswald. The Doctor will spend billions of years and threaten time itself in order to undo this.
    • To date there have been two manifestations of "Time Lord Victorious", a term coined in "The Waters of Mars" by the Doctor himself to describe the fact that he, as the (believed at the time) last Time Lord, technically has virtually unlimited power. He successfully saves somebody who should have died in a fixed point in time, although she decides to commit suicide anyway, through survivor's guilt. Although the name isn't used, it occurs again in "Hell Bent" when the Doctor travels to the end of time where he is the only Time Lord left in existence, in a desperate bid to save Clara's life. That time, it does not end well for the Doctor. In both cases "Time Lord Victorious" emerges when the Doctor has been pushed (or has pushed himself) too far.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed:
    • "The Satan Pit" featured a variant that could probably be considered assisted suicide, when a character requests that the air be sucked from the chamber he is in before the enemy gets him.
    • In "Deep Breath", when it looks like the droids are about to slaughter the Doctor's friends, Strax turns his gun on himself, clearly intending to go out on his own terms. Fortunately, Vastra stops him, and a few moments later the Doctor defeats the Half-Face Man, deactivating the other droids.
    • In "Time Heist", the theory behind the Shredders is to die quickly rather than having one's mind devoured by the Teller, before they're revealed to be teleporters.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Ood are an alien race practically made of this trope. In theory they are the natural pacifists of the universe, but virtually every time they appear in an episode some outside force drives them homicidally insane through no fault of their own.
    • Definitely applies to the Doctor, depending on what incarnation is present, most notably the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth ... to heck with it — all of them.
      The Doctor: Hello, I'm the Doctor.
  • Big Bad: The revival series manages a couple.
    • The Daleks have been, and always will be the ultimate enemy of the Doctor, they have been around since the very first series, have been directly or indirectly involved with the plot of almost every season, and have returned endlessly despite the Doctor's continuous attempts to eradicate them. In the words of the Tenth Doctor "They survive, they always survive when I lose everything." However, they fit this role the best fit this role in the Eleventh Doctor's finale where all of the Doctor's enemies had gathered together to put an end to the Doctor, but the Daleks came out on top and were determined to be the one to put an end to the dying Time Lord, and very nearly succeeded in doing so.
    • The second series kicked off with the equally megalomaniac John Lumic and his version of the Cybermen. The season finale featured the return of Cybermen, now led by a generic Cyber-Leader, but they spend half the time competing with Dalek Sec and the Cult of Skaro.
    • The third series did show a two-part re-appearance of the Cult of Skaro, but it's ultimately The Master that takes center-stage by the finale.
    • The fourth season finale had Davros and his resurgent Dalek empire, but Davros is just a representative this time around, while the Supreme Dalek is the one calling the shots.
    • The Tenth Doctor's finale had Rassilon the Lord President (his actual title) of Gallifrey. He revealed the malevolent, psychotic Master was just a pawn and that he and the Time Lords themselves were the true Big Bads, and nearly succeeded in ending time and all of creation itself.
    • The Silence, a religious order primarily made up of creepy make-you-forget-they-exist aliens and Large Ham lackeys, look to be the Big Bad of Eleven's era. They were an unseen man-behind-the-man villain in series 5, causing the cracks in time that almost erased the universe from existence and drove most of that series' villains away from their homes and towards the Doctor. They made their onscreen debut in Series 6 with a convoluted and almost-successful assassination attempt on the Doctor, and returned for Eleventh's final episode.
    • In season 7, the Great Intelligence becomes a recurring villain and is revealed to be the reason the Doctor goes to Trenzalore and must speak his name there. It's also the reason Clara is forced to create copies of herself; to save the Doctor from the Great Intelligence corrupting his personal timeline.
    • In Season 8, The Cybermen and the Master, in the female form of Missy, short for mistress.
    • In the classic series, the Black Guardian was the Big Bad of two separate story arcs: The Key to Time arc and what was later known as the Black Guardian Trilogy.
    • Also in the classic series, the Valeyard was the Big Bad of Season 23 (The Trial of a Time Lord). Depending on how far you want to stretch the definition, the Master might qualify as such from Seasons 8 and 9, as well (making him the show's first Big Bad).
    • In the Seventh Doctor era Fenric may count as the Big Bad, having manipulated events in "Dragonfire" and "Silver Nemesis" before appearing in "The Curse of Fenric".
    • The Daleks were effectively the Big Bad for the first half of the 60s: They are the only recurring villains of the First Doctor's era (bar Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain the Meddling Monk, whose second appearance sees him very much treated as a minor nuisance compared to the Daleks) and were almost always chosen for the big multi-part stories. When permission to use them was withdrawn after the fourth season, the Cybermen took on the role somewhat, topping and tailing the fifth season and appearing in the big mid-season eight-parter of Season 6.
    • The Sontarans became the Big Bad by default in the mid-70s, when a combination of a No Continuity soft reboot and their creator being on the production staff meant they were the most recurring enemy, appearing in three stories across five seasons. The fact that an early American syndication package consisted of the first four Tom Baker seasons created a curious viewing experience: As the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Master only made one appearance each during that period, the Sontarans were the only recurring foes, returning for a Grand Finale where they invaded the Doctor's home planet.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The TARDIS is, if not the Trope Namer, then definitely the Trope Codifier, to the extent that the word "Tardis" can apparently be found in some dictionaries defined as "something which appears to be much larger on the inside than on the outside".
    The Third Doctor: That's because the TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental.
    Jo Grant: What does that mean?
    Doctor: It means that it's bigger inside than out.
    • Leave it to Clara to buck the trend.
      Clara Oswald It's smaller on the outside!
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: The TARDIS.
  • Binary Suns: The Doctor comes from a binary star system.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Any number of critters, not least of which is the Doctor themself—they can do things like regenerate, re-grow hands, and absorb radiation, transform it into a form harmless to humans, and expel it through their foot. Oh, and they have two hearts.
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology:
    • Time Lords have the ability to psychically connect with other advanced, telepathic beings. They can also wipe minds and put images into someone's head by concentrating and touching them. At one point the Doctor downloads his backstory into someone's mind by head butting him. They have a higher brain function than humans and can process way more at a time: understanding the nature of space-time is basically instinctive. Outright stated in one episode that Time Lords were once a much simpler more human-like species (it isn't stated if they always had two hearts though) that evolved over billions of years into their present form by exposure to the Time Vortex via a gap in spacetime called the Untempered Schism that existed on Gallifrey.
    • The Ood are a telepathic race that are linked by a telepathic song translated by a hive brain. They have a secondary brain which they hold in their hands at all times. Manipulating their main brain, cutting off their outer brain, and replacing that brain with a translation orb can give the them the appearance of seemingly being cattle-like, happy servants.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: The Doctor has some kind of "Time Sense" relating to whether or not an event is irrevocably supposed to happen. They have also been shown to be able to slow down their own perception of time. In addition to that, they can taste and smell a host of things that humans can't (such as the blood group in a sample of blood). They can also detect if there are any others of their race nearby, nearby refers to the "Entire planet".
  • Black Dude Dies First:
    • In "The Moonbase", the base is staffed with an international group of scientists, all white except for one black man. He is the first to be killed, getting bumped off in Episode 1 although it is later revealed that he was just kidnapped by the Cybermen and made a partially-converted slave.
    • "Time Heist": The Teller's first onscreen victim. Saibra, the only black member of the heist crew and the first to fall by the wayside, also appears to be an example until it turns out she survived.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: In "Rise of the Cybermen", the Doctor and Rose discuss performing this trope to get into a party at the Alternate Universe version of the Tyler residence, but instead infiltrate as catering staff. Rose wishes they had used the titles Queen Victoria bestowed on them in "Tooth and Claw", though the Doctor maintains that they'll learn more information from the kitchen end of things.
  • Blank White Void
    • The show featured an early example in "The Mind Robber" serial, as the Doctor and his companions find themselves trapped in the land of Fiction. This being Doctor Who, you actually could see the edges of the walls, but the cast never did...
    • "Warrior's Gate" is set almost entirely in one of these, to eerie effect.
    • Apparently, these were a fixture of Terry Nation's early scripts.
    • In "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS", the heart of the TARDIS is one of these.
  • Blatant Lies: From the Villain of the Week to the Doctor themself, you can usually find at least one example of this per an episode. The Doctor's abuse of the psychic paper has become so egregious it sometimes outdoes the sonic screwdriver. Perception filters range from generating an Unusually Uninteresting Sight field to outright sensory illusions.
    • Lampshaded in one episode where the psychic paper doesn't work and the Doctor says that it finally found a lie too big to say (namely, that the Doctor was a responsible baby-sitter).
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • As a Time Lord, the Doctor has a potential lifespan of millennia and can view the flow of time, "everything that is, was, will be, can be and can't be" (paraphrased), the former causing Who Wants to Live Forever? (especially as they're the only Time Lord still around) while the latter means they are both obligated to interfere when the timeline is screwed with and can't stop disasters that are meant to occur.
    • Being a companion of the Doctor. You get to see the universe in one of the most awesome time/space ships ever made! Meet historical people and aliens! And everywhere, you will be hunted, shot at, captured, insulted and tortured by historical people and aliens! No wonder most of them bail after a few seasons. Then you realize that most returning enemies like Daleks, Cybermen, the Master, Silurians, Nestene Consciousness are all still out there - and now you can't do anything. Enjoy your retirement!

      It's been explored in the new series that You Can't Go Home Again often applies to ex-companions, too. Either normal life is a letdown after you've experienced the universe (explicitly stated to be the case with some former companions), or you know what's out there when others don't. However, a lot of companions Took a Level in Badass, so even if they can't travel time and space anymore, if you screw with present-day Earth, you'll have to answer to Rose, Mickey, Jack, Martha, Sarah Jane, and all the allies they've gathered during their absence from the series. Basically, run.
    • In "Time Heist", Saibra's powers can't be shut off, which keeps her from ever touching people without assuming their form. Which means in her case, simple handshakes and sadly, intimacy, are to be avoided.
    • A companion falling in love with the Doctor, or the Doctor falling in love with a companion, never ends well due to the Mayfly–December Romance factor. This is explicitly discussed during the Rose Tyler, Martha Jones and Clara Oswald eras, perhaps never more directly than by the Tenth Doctor in "School Reunion", an episode that confirmed long-held fan theories regarding the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith's relationship while cementing aspects of the Ten's and Rose Tyler's:
    Tenth Doctor: I don't age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone who you ... you can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can't spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on. Alone. That's the curse of the Time Lords.
  • Blind People Wear Sunglasses: The Twelfth Doctor wears "sonic sunglasses" when he's temporarily blinded. Justified since they transmit a limited amount of visual information directly to his brain.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead:
    • The Tenth Doctor's main companions fit this, with Rose (blonde), Martha (brunette), and Donna (redhead).
    • The Third Doctor's companions as well, with Jo (blonde), Sarah Jane (brunette), and Liz (redhead).
    • The Eleventh Doctor's female companions, River (blonde), Clara (brunette), and Amy (redhead). (As there is some debate over whether River was a true companion, one may also strike the word "female" and substitute blond Rory for River.)
    • The Fifth Doctor (blond) travelled for while with Tegan (brunette) and Turlough (redhead).
    • The Sixth Doctor (blonde)'s two companions were Peri (brunette) and Mel (redhead).
  • Bloodless Carnage: Usually. A few stories have gotten pretty gory - "The Brain of Morbius" featured a pretty graphic blood squib when Condo gets shot, and the sheer bloodiness of Season 22 may have contributed to the show's first hiatus. As a family show, the series mostly shies away from graphic violence. Due to the BBC's current attitudes, the show has been far less violent after its return than before its cancellation, though the classic series' violence was often undercut by its endearing phoniness.
    • "Heaven Sent" averts this, where The Doctor's various deaths are rather bloody.
  • Body Horror: The show is one of the progenitors of this trope, but always finds new ways to put an interesting spin on it:
    • In several Cyberman stories, the Cybermen are said to have replaced their organic bodies with plastic and metal; when injured however, they are shown to bleed white foam, vomit when shot in the body, groan and scream and writhe in pain. Distressingly human and not like robots at all. Except the Cybus Cybermen from the New Series and some Mondas ones from Series 6. They're so robotic that the body horror element became very subdued.
    • Anything written by Philip Martin requires the Doctor's female companion to be slowly, grotesquely, apparently irreversibly transformed into something else. And then the stories all tend to be filled with skin-crawling, glorpy creatures, in case the audience is not barfing heavily enough.
    • Regeneration is actually used as this a couple of times - most apparently in the regeneration from the Fifth to the Sixth, where the Sixth Doctor is shown to react relatively realistically to the trauma of having transformed into a completely different person with a much less stable brain that he doesn't feel belongs to him, with this having long-term effects on his behaviour. The novelisation of the regeneration story goes into more detail about this and adds an anecdote about a Time Lord who regenerated into something so horrible all the Time Lords could do was put it out of its misery. The novelisation of the First Doctor's regeneration into the Second has several pages of Ben watching the Doctor's Painful Transformation, with attention paid to bones shifting and reforming and skin moving. And then, in the new series, the Tenth Doctor seems to feel this way about regeneration and finds it completely disturbing, possibly even worse than death. Most recently the Twelfth Doctor in the Series 10 finale is shown several times actively refusing to regenerate, finding the idea of becoming an entirely different person yet again to be horrifying, but what is truly horrifying is watching his regeneration trying to start over and over again, realizing how ridiculously painful fighting it back must be, let alone how much pain he must be in that his body is actively trying to regenerate to heal him of it. At the end of the episode when he runs into the First Doctor shortly before HIS regeneration muttering to himself how ridiculous the whole idea is and how HE refuses to go along with it, it becomes clear that to the Doctor, regeneration has ALWAYS been body horror.
    • "Mission to the Unknown" introduces us to the Varga plants. Used as watchdogs by the Daleks, these are giant ambulatory cacti with at least a basic animal-like intelligence. They hunt animals - any animals, including humans - and then shoot their spines into them. These spines carry a venom with unusual effects: the victim first becomes paranoid and psychotic, obsessed with killing; then, they transform into Varga Plants themselves. Even killing the host body does not arrest the transformation. Brrrrr.
    • Polly about to be surgically transformed into a Cyborg fish creature in "The Underwater Menace".
    • In "The Ark in Space"; it's not the gigantic bugs; those look silly. It's what seems to be a man in a sleeping bag covered in green goo, and before that, the person turning into said bag of slop by melting body parts is worse than the alien creature it turns into. "The Ark in Space" also has one of the show’s most famous cliffhangers, with Noah slowly removing his hand from his pocket to reveal he's being taken over by... green bubblewrap?
    • "Revelation of the Daleks", has one character reduced to a living disembodied head with part of his brain exposed, inside a transparent Dalek and pleading for death, a wish eventually granted by his own daughter. He has done absolutely nothing to deserve this.
    • The creationist vicar in "Ghost Light" slowly turned into an ape. Another example:
    Light: (holds up a bloody, severed arm) "I wanted to see how it works, so I dismantled it."
    • "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" gave us a painful transformation into a mindless zombie with a gas mask, with the air-filter forcing its way up through your throat and out your mouth, and your eyes turning into goggles. Ouch. The effect was originally going to be accompanied by a graphic bone-cracking sound, but the staff decided that was a bit too much. They were probably right.
    • In "The Idiot's Lantern", The Wire pulls people's faces from their bodies. You actually see people walking around with smooth skin where their face used to be. This happens to Rose.
    • The Abzorbaloff's process of absorbing people in "Love & Monsters" is both scary and disgusting. There's also a Harlan Ellison-esque pavement-person. Interestingly, the Abzorbaloff was designed by a 9-year-old who won a contest. Watching that episode makes one wonder if the 9-year-old was allowed to watch it.note 
    • In The Lazarus Experiment, this is how Professor Lazarus discovers his experiment wasn't 100% successful.
    • "Last of the Time Lords":
    • In the Series 4 premiere, "Partners in Crime", the monsters are the Adipose, creatures born from human fat that, in times of emergency, convert all matter in a human's body to achieve birth, effectively killing them. And they're adorable.
    • In the fourth series episode "Planet of the Ood", the bad guy turns into an Ood. The sequence has him peeling off his skin shortly followed by him spewing up a piece of his own brain! Talk about trauma. On top of that it was a Karmic Transformation.
    • In the episode "The Stolen Earth", Davros reveals just how he created his new Dalek empire... by opening his jacket where we get a lovely shot of the inside of his chest and see his still beating heart.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens", Steven Moffat introduces the not-at-all terrifying concept of a zombie Cyberman, whose various disconnected body parts can all move and function in nefarious ways. First, there's the chopped-off arm which can fire its weapon, play dead, and electrocute the Doctor, then there's the severed head, which moves around on the wires protruding from the neck, using them to ensnare Amy — and then, after the desiccated skull falls out, it tries to snatch up Amy's own head as a replacement. Oh, and then the Cyberman reassembles himself.
    • In "The Time of Angels", we learn that the image of a Weeping Angel becomes an Angel itself. You know how your retina forms images in the back of your eye? Absolutely played for horror.
    • In "The Crimson Horror", there's a series of corpses that turn up petrified and bright red. Turns out, it's caused by a poison secreted by an prehistoric parasite, which a crazy old lady has been letting latch onto her chest in a nightmarish symbiotic relationship. This all goes up a notch in the horror department when it turns out that the Doctor underwent the process some time prior and, thanks to his Time Lord biology, ended up alive, red, and half-petrified. When he's discovered, he's only able to gasp horribly and shuffle around like a zombie. And there's also the matter of poor Ada and her incredibly scarred, raw face which was also caused by the venom.
    • "Time Heist": The Teller makes soup out of people's brains. It wouldn't be so nauseating if their brain fluids didn't leak out through their tear ducts afterward, or their heads didn't cave in. (The caving-in part is one of the more unsettling visual effects the show has ever displayed on screen. Especially when it's later revealed that the people continue to live afterwards.) Also, In her first few moments on-screen, Saibra (who can physically imitate others) demonstrates how unpleasant this power can be when she starts to imitate the memory worm she's touching.
  • Bookends:
    • In the revived series, each Doctor's tenure is bookended by them seeing their first companion (either in the flesh, or as a hallucination or a computer image) right before they regenerate: Rose (Nine), Rose again (Ten), Amy (Eleven), Clara (Twelve).
    • Not counting the 2005 Christmas special, Series 2 has its first and last episodes conclude with Rose having to hold onto a lever to stop the Monster of the Week. Unfortunately, she fails in the latter event, which separates her from the Doctor.
    • Series 9's first adventure takes the Twelfth Doctor to the homeworld of the Daleks, while its final episode will take him back to Gallifrey at long last. Thus, the series is Book Ended by the homeworlds of both sides of the Time War.
    • In a somewhat meta example, thanks to the announcement that Series 12 won't show up until 2020: Doctor Who in the 2010s was bookended by New Year's specials; the second part of The End Of Timenote  having its original broadcast on January 1st, 2010, while Series 11 has its special - Resolution - broadcasting on January 1st, 2019.
    • In Season 5 of the Classic series, the first and last stories of the season involves a conflict with the Cybermen.
  • Book Snap: In "The Day of the Doctor", after Clara motorbikes her way into the TARDIS while the Doctor is reading Advanced Quantum Mechanics, he snaps the book shut. "Fancy a week in ancient Mesopotamia followed by future Mars?"
  • Bowdlerize: The Disney XD airings of the Tenth Doctor episodes are predictably censored to some extent. Oddly enough, while the word "Hell" is censored onscreen in "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit", any mention of Satan by that name is actually left uncensored.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Given how long running the series was it was inevitable this trope would crop up. In fact virtually every Doctor and companion underwent this trope or the milder brainwashed trope at some point in the series as well as guest characters in some stories.
  • Brick Joke: One that spans several seasons. In "The Shakespeare Code", when Queen Elizabeth I sees the Doctor, she immediately orders his execution. Martha asks him what he did, and he says that he hasn't done it yet. Fast forward to "The End of Time", in which the Doctor offhandedly mentions that he married Queen Elizabeth (and implies that they consummated it) while putting off his meeting with Ood Sigma. "The Day of the Doctor" revealed the circumstances leading up to their wedding, involving Zygons and a past & future self, while hinting at a possible reason for her anger at him later in life.
    • Another one that spans several seasons is the delivery of a fez (presumably ordered by Eleven) to Thirteen in "Kerblam!".
    • And another one that took three decades to land: in "The Hand of Fear" the Doctor assures Sarah Jane he left her in South Croydon despite the fact she doesn't recognize the street. Fast forward to "School Reunion". Turns out he left her in Aberdeen, 570 miles away.
    • There was also one that took 40 years to pay off. In "Genesis of the Daleks", Harry makes an offhand comment on the war of attrition being fought on Skaro eventually leading to people fighting with bows and arrows. Guess what we see within the first 20 seconds of "The Magician's Apprentice".
  • Bring My Brown Pants:
    • Downplayed in "The Doctor's Wife": Shortly after crashing the TARDIS, the Doctor explains what happened to the hypnotized Ood, saying it was "redistributed".
    Amy: Meaning what?
    The Doctor: You're breathing him. (Rory scrunches up his nose, smelling it)
    Amy (equally disgusted) Oh, come on.
    The Doctor (quietly) : Another Ood I failed to save..

It was a very rickety ride...

  • A variation involving robots in "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship":
Rory (after one robot shoots Brian): I will take you apart cog by cog and melt you down when all this is over!
Robot: Oh, I’m so scared! Actually, I might be. A little bit of oil just came out.
  • Averted in "Last Christmas". A woman has to enter a room holding several alien monsters, and says she has to pee first. The others are monitoring her life signs, however, and know she's just stalling.
  • To the Thirteenth Doctor, in "It Takes You Away". Graham insults Ribbons saying he smells like wee. He responds "That's not my wee.." at which point the Doctor threatens him to shut up!
The Doctor: Let him go, 'cause you do not want those words to be your last ones!
  • Britain is Only London: Considering that the TARDIS can travel anywhere and anywhen in the universe, a disproportionate number of episodes in the Russell T Davies era take place in present-day London. (As well as near-future London, 1953 London, 1969 London, 1987 London, Elizabethan London, London in the Blitz and Victorian London.)
    • Averted in Steven Moffat's first series, series 5, where of the six stories set in the UK, note  only two are London-based. Two of Series 6's seven stories set or partially set in UK also take place in London, and even then, neither are as the central focus. Moffat's production staff have lampshaded that focusing action on London has started to be a cliché.
    • Also averted to a degree in Christopher Eccleston's run as the Doctor; while all of his season was set on (or in orbit around) Earth and most of it in Britain, two episodes, "The Unquiet Dead" and "Boom Town" took place in Cardiff, setting up the Cardiff Rift, and indirectly setting up Torchwood.
  • Broad Strokes: The series abandons and introduces new concepts and twists on old concepts that were never previously mentioned, and often never mentioned again. Big as it is, the series can get away with this easily. And occasionally throwaways are subject to The Bus Came Back — with said bus sometimes coming back decades later.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • "The Ark" is about a slave race, the Monoids, who are mute and subservient to humans. After a plague occurs, the Monoids eventually rise up over the humans and enslave them instead. The (apparent) attempted moral is announced at the end of the episode when the Doctor tells the humans and Monoids that they need to live in equality to survive, but thanks to What Measure Is a Non-Human? writing (in which the Doctor doesn't care about the deaths of tens of Monoids but realises it's an emergency when a human dies) and the fact that the Monoids' defining character traits are being "savages" and making terrible tactical decisions for no reasons other than to allow the humans to win, how the Monoids are returned to an underclass at the end, and how the story was made in 1966, it comes across more like a racist allegory for how extending civil rights will cause the oppressor to become oppressed by a race that can only run civilisation with incompetent savagery unless they are returned to Happiness in Slavery. Elizabeth Sandifer of the TARDIS Eruditorum subscribes to this interpretation and believes the stupidity of the Monoids was intentional, rather than the Special Effect Failure it is generally imagined as.
    • In The Wheel In Space, Zoe confidently asserts that the Silver Carrier must have been deliberately piloted to the space station. The Doctor dismisses her argument with "Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority." As it turns out, the ship was deliberately piloted, and her reasoning was absolutely correct.
    • "The Dominators" has two. The Word of God aim was an allegory about how the hippie movement is bad because they would have got their arses kicked if they'd been in control when the Nazis had invaded. However, the oppressed, pacifistic Dulcians don't work as a hippie allegory, as they're characterised either as elderly politicians or as attractive young people who unthinkingly repeat the elders' lessons by rote until the Doctor and companions turn them against their racist, fascist oppressors, while the old Dulcians get slaughtered through trying to negotiate with Always Chaotic Evil aliens. The result is that it comes off as an allegory about how student activism is the future because the apathetic old politicians are only concerned with keeping superficial comfort and not with fixing big societal problems, and have engineered their own destruction. The second is in the B-plot: The villains have an internal conflict, between Rago, who favours caution and condemns meaningless destruction, and Toba, a Psycho for Hire who just loves destroying things. The problem is that everything Toba says is right - if he just had blown everyone up on sight (including the Doctor and Jamie) the Dominators would have succeeded in their plan. The result of this is that the story is simultaneously both far more left-wing and far more right-wing than intended.
    • In the Script Wank at the end of "Planet of the Daleks", the Doctor delivers a heartfelt speech that the Thals must tell their people War Is Hell, and not to make it sound like their adventure was a 'fun game'. The story involves, amongst other things, them escaping fun, toyetic Always Chaotic Evil nasty pepperpot people by dressing up in purple fur coats and MacGyvering a hot air balloon. The reason for this discrepancy is because the scene was appended to the end by Terrance Dicks at the last minute because the script was underrunning.
    • Some people - including Tom Baker - have expressed discomfort that the moral of the show is about how violence is never as good as love and understanding, and yet most of the stories still end with the Doctor murdering the aliens. This was pointed out in New Who but led to more broken aesops (see below).
    • "The Face of Evil" is based on the premise that the Doctor's egotistical attempts to save a space mission AI (by simply imposing a print of his own brain over it instead of actually fixing the problem) led to the AI becoming an insane God who selectively breeds the settlers into opposing Cargo Cult factions that worship him, and creating a dystopic Egopolis based on the Doctor's image. It all seems like it's set up to criticise the Doctor's big ego and Chronic Hero Syndrome... but it ends with the AI, having realised who it is, asking the Doctor for an explanation as to where he went wrong, absolving the Doctor of all responsibility and even having 'God' ask him for tips on how to be better. Striking because the new series absolutely would never have missed the opportunity to criticise the Doctor's god complex.
    • "The Sun Makers" is supposed to be a right-wing allegory about how taxation is bad, written by an openly Conservative writer. However, ignoring a few throwaway flippant comments made by the Doctor, the story is really about the evil of taxation that targets the poorest in society, and societies that strip away social safety nets so the untaxed rich can rake in massive profits. The reason for this situation is privatisation, where every utility (including sunlight) is run by corporate interests and the government is viewed only as an extension of the Mega-Corp. At the very least, it comes across as left-wing in an Occupy kind of way. If you choose to read into the fact that the Doctor wins by inspiring a populist revolt to execute their leaders while quoting Karl Marx, it becomes actively Communist. Not what you'd expect from something written by a Margaret Thatcher supporter in 1977.
    • The character of Whizzkid in "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" was intended as a Take That! to fans who criticised 80s Doctor Who by saying it wasn't as good as it used to be in a time they couldn't possibly remember. The problem here is that Whizzkid's similar opinions about the titular Psychic Circus are shown to be absolutely correct. Consequently, all Whizzkid does is vindicate the same fans the character was supposed to be chastising.
    • In "Dalek", while the Doctor is certainly being unpleasant in torturing the Lone Dalek, he is treated as wrong for wanting to kill the Dalek and treating it as absolutely evil. However when the Dalek gets free it kills hundreds of people and it is clear it intends to wipe out all humanity. It does gain human feelings but is clearly an exception and Rose's sympathy towards it is largely born from ignorance, while the Doctor knows first-hand how dangerous the Daleks are and is proved right.
    • "The Parting of the Ways" has the Ninth Doctor decline from destroying Earth to destroy the Daleks, claiming that it's the morally better choice to not wipe out humanity with the Daleks. However the Daleks have just attacked Earth with such force they have distorted continents, meaning they have probably wiped out at least nearly all humanity and any survivors will soon be either killed, enslaved or turned into Daleks, which is clearly a Fate Worse than Death, the Dalek Emperor even saying humanity will be harvested. The Doctor even points out that humanity won't be wiped out with Earth as they have spread to other worlds by now, "You're the only Daleks in existence. The whole universe is in danger if I let you live". But the Daleks surviving means they'll attack other worlds, giving humanity even less of a chance. It's only a literal Deus ex Machina that saves possibly the Universe from the Daleks. Overall the Doctor's decision, considering he may well be the only non-Dalek in range of the delta wave and the Daleks are about to exterminate him anyway, looks quite odd. It is suggested that his actions are based on his overwhelming guilt at having to destroy the Time Lords in order to also destroy the Daleks, he's too broken and demoralised to essentially make the same decision once again with Earth, and that he's just looking for any thin shred of hope that will justify him not doing so.
    • This seems to be a general problem with Dalek stories in New Who, as "Daleks in Manhattan" / "Evolution of the Daleks" tries to be a story entirely themed around the evils of racism, while still blatantly depicting humans and Time Lords being good and Daleks being evil as overwhelmingly determined by their genes.
    • "The Idiot's Lantern" has one of the most bizarre examples of a broken aesop in the entire revival. Mark Gatiss devotes the entire B-plot of the episode to the Connolly family, and it's about domestic abuse. It's incredibly uncomfortable to watch, but it's clearly meant to be and the audience trusts that it will lead someplace worthwhile. Sure enough, the entire B plot builds to an aseop about realizing when someone you used to love has become utterly toxic to you and knowing when it's time to just let go, cut ties with them and kick them out of your life - take back control. This is something that's always painful and always hard to do when it comes to abusive relationships in real life - especially when it involves your parents - but considering Mr. Connolly has been characterized for the entire episode as a creepy, controlling, disrespectful and quite frankly disgusting husband and father who treats his loved ones like his property but only dares to do so behind closed doors, it's definitely the right call for Tommy and his mother to make. Up until the last five minutes, when the episode suddenly decides that Tommy should try to keep his bastard dad in his life after all, for literally no reason other than Eddie being his father. Not only does this sabotage the moral of the episode, it's also terrible advice to give to someone who just got out of an abusive relationship. It sort of makes sense that Rose would give it - she got burned twice by her alternate universe parents in the previous story and she's clearly projecting her feelings about Pete onto Tommy here - but it's incredibly baffling coming from the Doctor.
    • How the series handles the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler's codependent relationship. It's very apparent that the Doctor and Rose were just what each other needed in Series 1. The Doctor needed to cope with his depression and survivor's guilt so he could enjoy saving the world again, and Rose needed someone to come along and change her monotone outlook on life. But the problem with the idea of ‘needing someone’ is that that line of thought leads to really codependent places really fast, and that’s what eventually happens with the Doctor and Rose. In Series 2, the Doctor and Rose become increasingly lost in each other and their clever adventures, and increasingly detached from and uninterested in everyone around them, which numerous characters notice and become worried about. By the second half of the season, Rose comes to loathe her old life and builds so much of her new happiness around the Doctor that she can't live without him in her life. She even tries to ditch all of her friends and family in an alternate universe forever so she won't have to say goodbye to him. The denouement of "Army Of Ghosts / Doomsday", in which the Doctor and Rose are forcibly separated and Rose in particular is absolutely devastated, appears to be a cautionary tale about why you shouldn’t make one person the center of your world, because it will only lead to your heart being broken (hints of this were seeded back in "School Reunion", when Rose realized that while the Doctor might be the center of her world, he's lived far longer than her and she will never be the center of his). But if that’s the case, then Rose’s return in Series 4 is positively baffling. In “The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End”, we learn Rose has not even tried to move on, she’s spent the last few years trying to think of ways to get back to the Doctor (remember that time moves faster in Pete’s world, so it’s been a good long while since “Doomsday”), and when the Daleks almost destroy the universe Rose leaps at the chance to jump universes so she can try to find the Doctor. She’s rewarded with a clone Doctor that can grow old for the rest of his life with her, and in a deleted scene she was going to receive a TARDIS so they can go traveling again. So that Rose can receive a happy ending, the lesson of her arc is changed from 'beware unhealthy, codependent relationships' to 'if you cling to someone hard enough, and never ever let go, eventually you’ll get everything you ever wanted and more'.
    • "The Doctor's Daughter" is one of those anti-violence, anti-gun, and anti-murder stories. The problem is, it calls the Doctor "the man who never would". And while refraining from shooting the man who'd killed Jenny is admirable, the "never would" part is only true when applied to firing the gun— violence and cold-blooded murder are things the audience already knows the Doctor is capable of, and will continue to be.
    • "Journey's End" is yet another and even worse example of the series trying to suggest that the Doctor's attitude to the Daleks is Fantastic Racism while still depicting them as Always Chaotic Evil. The Doctor treats his clone as wrong for wiping out the Daleks (they're back next series), saying it shows how violent and brutal he is. Yet the Daleks had just come very close to wiping out entire Universes and are fictions poster creature for Scary Dogmatic Aliens. The Doctor had temporarily incapacitated them but considering how resourceful they are it was unlikely they would have remained like that for long. The moral makes even less sense considering that 10 in the same series had basically done the same thing to a race that wasn't as dangerous as the Daleks and in the process killed 20,000 innocent people, even if this was what history decreed. Meanwhile his clone was only wiping out the Daleks and (possibly) their Omnicidal Maniac Creator Davros, who refused a chance to be saved by the Doctor. Not only that but when the Doctor declined a chance to destroy the last Dalek in their previous appearance, claiming there has been too much death today, that Dalek had escaped and caused the problems of this episode. Not only that but that Dalek had been responsible for most of the deaths, killing the Dalek-Humans that numbered over a thousand because they were not Dalek enough. To be fair, the Doctor may just be using the clone Doctor's supposed 'genocide' of the Daleks as a convenient excuse to put the human Doctor onto Rose and prevent her from damaging the universe through the disk-hopping.
    • On a related note, the times the Doctor questions whether he should kill the villains or not contradicts itself. A Monster of the Week will be slaughtered without a second thought, regardless of motives but when it comes to recurring aliens like the Daleks or the Master, who have proven to be Always Chaotic Evil or unlikely to change no matter what, it is suddenly wrong to kill them.
    • The Doctor talking about how wonderful and resourceful humanity is can be slightly undermined by the fact a lot of their achievements and survival are due to him and many other aliens, the Daemons, the Osirians and the Silence to name a few. It makes you wonder — what about other races that don't have the benefit of the Doctor helping them out?
    • The two-parters story "The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People" is about a rebellion of clones who are sick of being treated as disposable vessels by miners to operate in dangerous circumstances. The Doctor even sides with them saying Clones Are People, Too and try his best to save them. At the end of the day, the Doctor reveals to his companions the reason of their visit to the factory: Amy has been replaced with a clone all along. The Doctor immediately and rather hypocritically kills Amy's clone with his sonic screwdriver as if nothing in the last few hours ever happened. The problem is lessened a bit in that Amy's clone appeared to just be remotely controlled by the real Amy, which the next episode confirms, but it's still a matter of how sure was the Doctor that it hadn't been gaining sentience like the others. He axed Amy's clone awfully quickly when he figured it would help Amy.
    • "The Doctor Falls", the Twelfth Doctor's second-to-last episode, draws a parallel between him and his companion Bill Potts, who are both in situations where they each must deal with and accept an unwanted, fundamental change to their lives. She's been converted into a Cyberman against her will, he's on the cusp of regeneration. Neither wants to live if they can't stay who they are. At the end of this episode, the frustrated Doctor gets a "Ray of Hope" Ending setting up a Christmas Episode in which he accepts regeneration and the Loss of Identity it comes with at last. Too bad that in the meantime Bill gets her original form restored with awesome new powers to boot when a barely foreshadowed Deus Ex Machina steps in to make her Ascend To A Higher Plane of Existence. "Twice Upon a Time" does end with the Doctor deciding that helping the universe is Worth Living For even if it means he has to lose his identity, but never addresses Bill's fate so the Aesop remains broken.
    • "Arachnids in the UK": The Doctor chastises corrupt businessman Jack Robertson for just wanting to shoot the mutated giant spiders, insisting they deserve a humane "natural" death. This argument falls down when the Doctor's "humane" solution turns out to be to lock them all in a small room and leave them to slowly starve to death. Most people were left thinking that the Jerkass Has a Point.
  • Broken Bridge: Any time the Doctor isn't given a compelling emotional reason to respond to a threat, or is faced with a threat that they could easily solve by loading everyone into the TARDIS and flying away, said threat will find a way to separate them from the TARDIS so they can't leave until they deal with it.
  • Buffy Speak: The revival era has had number of examples of this, most notably in "School Reunion" when the big bad refers to the robot dog K9 as the "shooty dog thing" (the fact said big bad was played by the actor who was Giles in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer made this more obvious). More recently, in Series 8 the Twelfth Doctor and Clara begin to consistently refer to their adventures as "a thing" rather than being more specific.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Doctor. A complete list would be too long.
  • The Bus Came Back: has been invoked with occasional companions making return visits and even earlier incarnations of The Doctor. A select few companions (i.e. Sarah Jane, Martha, Rose) even begin Commuting on a Bus during the revival era.
  • Camp: The classic series is retrospectively looked at as this, especially the John Nathan-Turner years. Davies also deliberately added his own camp moments when he was on the show.
  • Can't Default to Murder: After the warrior Leela starts travelling with the Doctor, the Doctor has to keep reminding her that he would prefer her to solve problems by means other than killing whoever is currently the problem.
  • Can't Move While Being Watched: The Weeping Angels. They turn into stone when looked at, but if their victim even so much as blinks they instantly attack. Their names comes from the fact that their unique nature necessitated that they often covered their faces with their hands to prevent trapping each other in petrified form for eternity by looking at one another. This gave the Weeping Angels their distinct "weeping" appearance.
  • Capture and Replicate: A few aliens do this as their modus operandi. Examples that span multiple episodes:
    • The Zygons from episodes "Terror of the Zygons" and "The Day of the Doctor" are shapeshifters, but need to keep the original person they're replacing alive so they can have a psychic link with the victim, in order to have access to the original person's body print.
    • In Series 6 of the Rebooted show, it turns out that this has been done to Amy, so that the Silence can raise her child as a Laser-Guided Tyke-Bomb. That said, the fake Amy is controlled by the real one, who's unaware that it's happened, so it's not the same sort of thing as the Zygons.
  • Cardboard Prison: Stormcage, where River is incarcerated. She escapes so often that they go on high alert whenever someone sees her packing. At one point, she phones them to cancel the alert; she's breaking back in, not out.
  • Cataclysm Backstory: The Time War is this for the revival, informing much of the Doctor's characterisation and the series' overall arc. The Time Lords become a mysterious dead civilization, the Daleks are reduced to scattered fragments of their empire, and the Doctor is full-on Legendary in the Sequel.
    Ninth Doctor: There was a war, and we lost.
  • Cat Folk:
    • Several characters in the episodes set on New New Earth. Referenced and lampshaded in "Partners in Crime":
      Roger Davey: [The cat flap in the door] was here when I bought the house. I never bothered with it, really. I'm not a cat person.
      The Doctor: No, I've met cat people. You're nothing like them.
    • The Cheetah People in "Survival".
  • Caused the Big Bang:
    • In the two-parter, "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Big Bang", the Doctor is forced to restart the entire universe after cracks in reality and timey-wimey paradoxes have made it so that everything never was, using the restoration beam from inside the Pandorica and the energy from the exploding TARDIS.
    • In "Terminus", it is revealed that the Big Bang was triggered by a time-travelling space ship that was forced to dump unstable fuel into the void before going back up the timeline. The fuel exploded, triggering the Big Bang.
  • Character Development:
    • The First Doctor started off as someone who, in a moment of desperation, tried to bash in an injured man's skull to escape the present danger. He was stopped by a human who called him on this, even though he was someone the Doctor had belittled as beneath him until then. This might explain why all of his later companions are mostly human, because they do stop him when he goes too far. Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat's runs seem to embrace this interpretation.
    • Some companions also get their fair share. Notable examples from the revived series include Jack Harkness, Donna Noble and Rory Williams.
    • Even some villains get on it. The Master/Missy is a particularly notable example; Series 10 has her undergoing an apparently genuine Heel–Face Turn, though she seems to die in the finale, supposedly for good. Given the character's legendary Joker Immunity, however, fans are split on whether the Heel–Face Turn will survive her regeneration, but not on whether the character will return. As it turns out, the Heel–Face Turn didn't stick, and the Master is back, as unhinged and villainous as ever, albeit, more broken.
  • Character in the Logo:
    • When the new series aired on Syfy it was promoted in advertising with an original logo that had the Doctor's silhouette in the "O" of "Who".
    • During the Eleventh Doctor era, the logo included a DW in the shape of the TARDIS. In some versions of the title sequence, the DW fully morphed into it.
  • Check and Mate: While the Doctor is frequently bluffing or stalling, when they aren't, you're already doomed. Run!
  • Chekhov's Boomerang:
    • The Doctor's Hand is an extremely persistent one.
      • "The Christmas Invasion" (Dec 2005), it gets chopped off in a swordfight above Earth. It is (at some point) picked up by Captain Jack.
      • Torchwood, Series 1 (2006-07), Jack has a mysterious hand in a container for the entire first series.
      • "End of Days" (Torchwood) /"Utopia" (Jan/June 2007), Jack hears the TARDIS and sees the hand respond (bang), grabs it, and joins the Doctor.
      • "The Sound of Drums" (June 2007), The Master uses the Doctor's DNA (from the hand) in order to age him to reflect how old he actually is (bang).
      • "Last of the Time Lords" (June 2007), The Doctor takes back his hand and leaves it in the TARDIS.
      • "The Doctor's Daughter" (May 2008) the hand detects Time Lord DNA and the TARDIS transports Donna, Martha, and the Doctor to Messaline so he could be cloned creating his "daughter" Jenny and close the Stable Time Loop the hand detecting Jenny before she existed caused.
      • "Journey's End" (July 2008), After being shot by a Dalek, the Doctor sends his regeneration energy into the hand and continues his adventure. Unknown to him, the hand grows into a full clone of the Doctor and imbues Donna with the Doctor's mind, effectively creating three Doctors, two and a half years after the hand was first cut off. (BANG)
      • The hand itself wasn't seen, but the ramifications of its last use were brought up again in "The Time of the Doctor" (December 2013) when it turned out that the creation of the clone Doctor actually used up one of the Doctor's regenerations even though he didn't change his face- therefore, the "Eleventh Doctor" is actually on the 13th and last life of his (at the time, only) regeneration cycle.
    • For the Third Doctor, the blue crystal from Metebelis III played a major role in "The Green Death", then appeared to be Put on a Bus with Jo Grant. She conveniently sends it back to him in time for it to be useful in "Planet of the Spiders".
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Harold Saxon
    • Wilfred Mott, who was introduced as a newspaper seller, rather than as Donna's grandfather.
    • Lucy Saxon
  • Chekhov's Time Travel: Most relevant with the Gallifreyan council: whenever they pop up, they want to use time travel for something. Most pertinent example: The Time War is sort of the big underlying event of the series, and in one episode the council force the Fourth Doctor to go back and destroy the Daleks before they started the War. When he has the chance he chooses not to, and this is what makes the Daleks start it.
  • The Chessmaster:
  • Christmas Episode: "The Feast of Steven", the first (and, until New Who, only) episode to air on Christmas Day, which had no continuity to the main serial "The Daleks' Master Plan". In New Who, an annual series of specials, which between 2005 and 2009 doomed London (usually, but not always present day London) in some way. Aliens also threaten the Earth in 2012's episode, though it's not the primary plot.
  • Chromosome Casting: Two episodes feature no female characters whatsoever: "Mission to the Unknown" (only men (and manly aliens) and Daleks), and "The Deadly Assassin" (with the exception of Spandrell's computer speaking with a female voice).
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: The Doctor is always rushing in to help. He even answers a call on his psychic paper without knowing who sent it.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: A Running Gag example: Geoffrey Palmer has appeared in three Doctor Who stories, and been killed off early on in all three.
  • Cliffhanger: The 1963-1989 show was celebrated for the cliffhanger endings of each episode, usually with the exception of the last of a story. From 1970 on, these were intensified by the famous "sting" at the beginning of the theme tune, which could make even the limpest seem hugely dramatic. During the very early seasons, there were frequently even cliffhangers between stories, something which was also occasionally experimented with during the early eighties. The revived series generally only has cliffhangers in the middle of two-part stories, or occasionally leading from the last self-contained episode into the Season Finale.
  • Clone Army: The Sontarans are an entire race of this. They're all clones of a general who lived 10,000 years ago. (With the conceit of there being different clone batches being added later to explain the use of different actors.)
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Because the TARDIS is blue, that colour is often associated with the Doctor, especially the Tenth, who wore a blue suit as often as his brown one and whose sonic screwdriver had a blue light.
    • The Fourth Doctor's coat would change depending on the "genre" of the particular serial. The yellow-brownish one was more for adventure, red for action, and grey for horror or mystery.
    • In the Fifth Doctor's first season, the boys are in yellow and the girls are in purple.
    • As the Seventh Doctor was growing Darker and Edgier his coat changes from a light whitish colour to dark brown.
    • Since the Ninth Doctor, the time vortex is blue if the TARDIS is going backwards in time, and red if it is going forward.
    • The Eleventh Doctor's coat, much like the Seventh Doctor's, is a much darker colour after the events of "The Angels Take Manhattan".
    • Clara wears predominantly red in episodes in which she dies. If she dies only temporarily, is in a brief coma etc. she wears some red.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Marking 50 years of continuous publication by one publisher or another, the Doctor Who strip is the longest-running comic adaptation of a TV show in history. It began in 1964 in the UK weekly magazine TV Comic, and a separate Daleks strip was also launched at one point for the Gerry Anderson magazine TV Century 21. The two strips then merged as Dr. Who and the Daleks for several years until the creator of the Daleks withdrew the rights. The Who strip later moved on to TV Action, until 1979 when Doctor Who Weekly (now Doctor Who Magazine) was launched, and that has been its home ever since. DWM strips were later reprinted by Marvel Comics as a monthly US comic in the mid-1980s, and from 2007 to 2013 US publisher IDW Publishing produced numerous series based on the franchise. In 2014, Titan Comics took over from IDW. Meanwhile, another UK magazine, Doctor Who Adventures, has published hundreds of instalments of a comic strip aimed at younger readers since 2006.
  • Commuting on a Bus: During the revival era, several companions have made occasional return visits after departing, with three in particular - Sarah Jane, Martha and Rose - almost graduating to recurring status (Sarah Jane throughout the 2006-2010 era, Martha and Rose during Series 4).
  • Conqueror from the Future: The Master, the Daleks, and several others over the years.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu:
    • In "Dalek", a single Dalek manages to wipe out an entire base full of trained elite soldiers (and is only defeated because it decides to destroy itself). More recent episodes have seen entire armies of the supposedly terrifying and insurmountable space-Nazis regularly thwarted by a combination of technobabble and genetic wizardry.
    • In-universe, it's strongly implied that the lone Dalek was moments from being thoroughly blasted by the Doctor, and vast armies of Daleks are treated as the end of the world rather than Mooks. In practice, the trope is fully in effect, though this seems to be more a case of the Doctor being able to beat the Daleks each time they appear regardless of the numbers even though they are a tremendous in-universe threat. Pretty much every time the Doctor isn't present or isn't really invested in their enemy surviving (aka when Daleks fight the Cybermen, both were enemies and if either survived the survivor would take over the world) the result is that the Daleks pretty much curb stomp their opponent [with the only real exception being the Time Lords themselves who were still losing. The Cybermen lose easily, and let's not forget that it took minutes for them to subdue Earth in spite of tremendous preparations specifically for this eventuality.
      Rose: Five million Cybermen, no problem. One Doctor? Now you're scared."
  • Conspicuous in the Crowd: Used in-universe by the Doctor
    • In "Deep Breath", the Doctor first notices the Half-Face Man because he's the only one not gawking at the spectacle of a T. Rex spontaneously combusting.
    • In "The Eleventh Hour", the Doctor speaks to Rory because while everyone else is staring at the dimmed sun, he's using his phone to take a picture of a man and a dog.
  • Constellations as Locations:
    • Throughout the classic series, "constellation" is used as a synonym for "galaxy". The Doctor admits to being from "outside the constellation" several times, and that Gallifrey is (or was) in the constellation of Kasterborous. This happens so often that a later Expanded Material book justifies it by claiming that it's a result of meaning changing due to interacting with other spacefaring species who measure sectors by specific groups of stars rather than the present meaning.
    • The Trial of a Time Lord — the Season 23 story arc — repeatedly refers to Earth's entire constellation being moved by advanced aliens, ravaging Earth in the process.
  • Continuity Cavalcade:
    • A few new series episodes have gone out of the way to reference the previous Doctors. They all appear as sketches in a notebook, projections from an alien data-storage device, a vision through a psychic headbutt and as holograms shown when the Eleventh Doctor explains that Earth is under his protection.
    • A very early example: The end of "The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve". Steven, after a very severe What the Hell, Hero? moment, announces that he's leaving for good. In the TARDIS, the Doctor, now without companions, has a little Thinking Out Loud in which he talks about his first three companions, all of whom had left. Then new companion Dodo shows up, along with Steven, who changes his mind, and the Doctor explains to Steven how much she looks like his granddaughter.
    • Upon first regenerating, the Fourth Doctor starts enthusiastically babbling lines out of context from various Third Doctor stories ("The brontosaurus is large, and placid.") before passing out again.
    • When the Fifth Doctor was dying at the end of "The Caves of Androzani", he hallucinated all his companions (of that incarnation) gathering around encouraging him to regenerate. (And the Master encouraging him to give up and die.)

      And in his first episode, newly regenerated, he ran through the personalities of the First, Second and Third Doctors before settling on his own.note  He even finds Two's recorder.

      When he's being mindscanned in "Resurrection of the Daleks", decreasingly distinct pictures of all his companions (in all his incarnations) appeared on the screen, running in backwards order.
    • In the Tenth Doctor episode "School Reunion", the Doctor and Rose meet former companion Sarah Jane Smith. Rose and Sarah Jane, each trying to prove herself to the other, take turns naming the strangest things they've seen during their travels. The two manage to reference over a dozen storylines in about half a minute.
    • The bar scene in Russell T Davies' last episode as producer, head writer and writer "The End of Time" Part Two, contains eight alien species from the show's history (two of whom are Human Aliens), four of whom have only made one full appearance. And the song playing is the one the Chorus Girls performed in "Daleks in Manhattan".
    • A Ganger duplicate of the Eleventh Doctor goes through impressions of the First, Third, Fourth and Tenth Doctors before catching up in "The Almost People". For bonus points, it's actually Tom Baker's voice asking "would you like a Jelly Baby?"
    • In "A Good Man Goes to War", the Battle of Demons Run had the Doctor assembling an army of one-off characters from previous episodes. In addition to the new characters Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax, his army included the pirates Henry and Toby Avery, a squadron of Dalek-enhanced Spitfire planes, and the black marketeer Dorium Maldovar. For bonus points, Rory went into battle in full costume as "The Last Centurion", and was introduced as such by Amy in the opening.
    • "Asylum of the Daleks" boasts every Dalek model ever built, and recreations of some missing ones, while the later episode A Town Called Mercy has the Doctor naming the last few major villains of the revived series.
    • Series 7's finale, "The Name of the Doctor", has appearances by all eleven Doctors up to that point — the Eleventh obviously still played by Matt Smith, and the other ten using a mixture of body doubles and archive footage. There's even a scene showing the First Doctor and Susan stealing the TARDIS, with Clara's help.
    • The Day of the Doctor manages to top the Series 7 finale with all thirteen Doctors — including a first official appearance by Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor — charging into the fray during the climactic battle (again, via archive footage).
    • In "Time Heist", images are played of the Androvax, a Sensorite, Captain John Hart, Abslom Daak, a Slitheen, a Terileptil, The Gunslinger and the Trickster. In the case of Abslom Daak, this firmly cements him as a Canon Immigrant.
  • Continuity Drift:
    • Even the main character's name has been subject to this: The original treatment, and early scripts and end titles, are not at all clear about the idea that the Doctor's name is not "Doctor Who". This wasn't firmly established until later, though thankfully retconning was kept to a minimum as only one single character - a computer - ever referred to the Doctor on screen by the name "Doctor Who" (WOTAN in "The War Machines" (1966)).
    • The Daleks could almost have their own page for this. In the original encounter, the Daleks had been living in their underground city for only a few hundred years, waiting for the radiation from a nuclear war to fade, only to discover their mutated forms needed radiation to survive. Their self-created "travel machines" could only operate on powered metal surfacesnote , and even in-story stuck to smooth surfaces, ramps, and elevators. They were cold and cruel, but by no means super-intelligent. They were defeated in the Doctor's first encounter, before they had a chance to ever leave their city. By the time the new series got into action, they had become computer-integrated, universe-conquering, flying battle machines. It has to be noted that several of these Dalek Stories take place at different points in their timeline. In the first few episodes, the Doctor was dealing with Daleks native to present days/the 22th century; The later ones are usually encountered in (or come from) the distant future. Technology Marches On for the Daleks, too.
    • The Cybermen didn't achieve their trademark appearance until the Second Doctor serial "The Invasion", their fifth appearance, and only gained a weakness to gold dust in "Revenge of the Cybermen". "Silver Nemesis" as well as the 11th Doctor episode Nightmare in Silver both flanderized this into an extreme weakness to all forms of gold.
  • Continuity Nod: Has its own page.
  • Continuity Porn: "The Day of the Doctor", as the 50th anniversary episode, has lots of continuity because that is what anniversary episodes are there for. Trailers for it have even more.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • The most notorious example of this is the "UNIT dating controversy" (yes, we've heard all the slash fiction jokes). At the time that the early-1970s main run of UNIT stories featuring the Third and Fourth Doctors was made, the intention on the part of most of the creators was that they were set 20 Minutes into the Future, with a more active space programme and slightly higher tech generally, although no attempt was made to alter fashion and vehicles. There were few actual in-canon references - the most explicit one is Sarah's claim in "Pyramids of Mars" to come from 1980. However, the later story "Mawdryn Undead" explicitly states that the Brigadier retired before 1977, suggesting that the earlier stories were set at broadcast date. Fans learnt to shudder when the topic of what exact decade(s) the UNIT stories were set in is raised, before the new series demonstrated how much worse it could get. Precisely when the UNIT stories were set may be unclear, but at least we know which order they took place in.
    • With the new series and spin offs, we don't even know that. Most of this confusion is due to Rose "losing" a year in "Aliens of London", putting most of the first season's contemporary stories in 2006, a year after broadcast. However, despite being consistent with this for the first couple of years, by Series 4, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, they began using the same year as production, even though they were mentioning past events that should have happened next year.
      • When Russell T Davies stepped down as showrunner for Doctor Who one of the last things he did was to undo this "year ahead" scenario by setting the Tenth Doctor's final story in the same year as its broadcast. Later, however, the 2014 episode "In the Forest of the Night" established a two-years-ahead timeframe for modern-day episodes, which was almost immediately ignored by succeeding episodes and spin-off media.
    • There are sound arguments that Revenge of the Slitheen happened after "Smith and Jones", and equally sound arguments it happened first. Evidence that "Revenge of the Slitheen" comes first include a mention in the previous episode (chronologically a week earlier) that it takes place eighteen months after the events of "School Reunion" and the plot of "Revenge" seeming to take place at the beginning of the school year. However, "Turn Left" has the cast of Series 1 of The Sarah Jane Adventures enter the plot of "Smith and Jones" which seems to take place -at the latest- in May due to Doctor Who Series 3 having a plot point revolving around an election (British elections take place in May).
    • The Eighth Doctor's continuity doesn't even try to make sense simultaneously. His only definitively canon stories are his birth in the telemovie and his death in "The Night of the Doctor"; the novels, audio plays and comics made it clear early on that they're not concerned with outright contradicting each other for the sake of telling their own stories. The 40th anniversary audio drama "Zagreus" has the Eighth Doctor see alternate Universes and mention his adventures in other continuities.
    • There's the Cybersnarl created by the incompetent attempts to tie "Attack of the Cybermen" in with "The Tenth Planet", "The Tomb of the Cybermen" and "The Invasion".
    • These are by no means the only fraught areas of Doctor Who continuity. In what order did the original series' Dalek stories happen? (In particular, when does "The Daleks" take place and why are the Daleks in that story so different from all others seen later?) How many Doctors have there been (watch "The Brain of Morbius", although the novelisation clears it up a bit)? What was Atlantis like, and how did it sink? And how many times did it sink (And yes, this question is more complicated than it first appears)? How do Time Lord family relationships - in particular, the Doctor's - work? What are the Laws of Time and for that matter, are they laws in the scientific or legal sense? And most of that list arises just from the TV series.
    • And then, add in the novels and the comics. Normally, as with Star Trek, these are dismissed as non-canon, but is it really non-canon when Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred (7 and Ace, respectively) reprise their roles for the audio dramas? The BBC has no canon policy at all; the only requirement laid down by the Beeb is "No television story has to depend on the off-screen material to make sense."
    • In the immortal words of current producer Steven Moffat: "It is impossible for a show about a dimension-hopping time traveller to have a canon." - there's a reason why one of the best episode guides for the show is titled "The Discontinuity Guide".
    • The UNIT dating controversy is lampshaded by the Doctor in the new series, who mentions not being entirely sure when precisely he worked for them, narrowing it down to roughly some time in the 70's or 80's. In "The Day of the Doctor" has Kate Stewart (the Brig's daughter) mention that UNIT used a few differing dating methods back then, so even they are a little muddled on the issue as well.
    • It was assumed through most of the Moffat era that the aborted "metacrisis" regeneration from the RTD era did not count as a full regeneration towards the thirteen-regeneration limit. In "The Time Of The Doctor" it was revealed that it did, which retroactively screwed up a lot of Moffat stories. For example, when the Doctor is poisoned in "Let's Kill Hitler", he says to himself that he'll just regenerate and the TARDIS informs him that the venom blocks regeneration...but he was already out of regenerations anyway, so regeneration would never have been an option and he has no reason to lie when he's the only one listening. Some inconsistencies can be handwaved as lack of character knowledge, but it makes no sense that, say, the Silence (a religious order dedicated solely to studying and killing the Doctor) didn't know about his regeneration but the Daleks (who previously had all knowledge of the Doctor erased) do.
      • The Daleks do know a lot about Time Lords in general, though, and the 12 regeneration limit is true for all of them. Since the Silence only began their crusade against the Doctor after the destruction of Gallifrey, it is conceivable that, if he kept that information completely secret (which is likely) they wouldn't know.
    • Also, in "Nightmare in Silver", the Doctor said that he could force a regeneration to get the Cyber Planner out of his head - this is the season that ends with the The Name/Day/Time Of The Doctor trilogy, so there's no way Moffat hadn't decided that the "metacrisis" Doctor counted and the War Doctor existed when that was written. It's assumed that the Doctor was just bluffing.
      • It's possible he wasn't bluffing. In "The Twin Dilemma", the Doctor meets another Time Lord called Azmael who is out of regenerations. At the end of the story Azmael kills himself by triggering the regeneration process and is killed by the regeneration energy. Even though he was out of regenerations, The Doctor may have been threatening to genuinely kill himself in Nightmare in Silver to prevent the Cyber Planner taking over his body.
    • The series avoids it more than most decades-long franchises because the show embraces its Narm Charm so much and features Time Travel. It's got no "why do the Klingons look different" situations because Zygons are still red, rubbery, and suction cup-y, and Daleks are still evil pepper shakers of doom - prop quality has advanced but the look hasn't - and no "why did the year 2000 look super futuristic then but now look like the actual year 2000 did" questions because cracks in time ate that Dalek invasion you don't remember - the malleability of reality in this show means it's part of continuity that continuity is flexible. The TARDIS interior goes from the 60s and 70s idea of futuristic in the 60s and 70s to looking organic because it's a Living Ship in the Russell T Davies seasons to The Alleged Car, Spaceship Edition in the Amy and Rory years to The New '10s' idea of futuristic in the Clara years because it's a Living Ship, Genius Loci, and Eldritch Location that can change anything about its inner dimension on a whim. Some things seem more advanced at an earlier point in their own history for simpler reasons - aesthetics change and in the year 5000 when he'll be made, K9 will look modern again.
  • Contrasting Replacement Character: When Doctors and Companions change. Some glaring examples:
    • Whether deliberately or not, Doctors often seem to be opposite to their predecessors in some personality element.
      • Compared to the sometimes intimidating and morally dubious First Doctor, the Second Doctor was more laid back but also more strongly moralistic, with a conscious obligation to fight evil.
      • Compared to the anti-authority Second Doctor, the Third Doctor was much suaver and more comfortable interacting with authority figures on an equal level.
      • Compared to the sociable Third Doctor, the Fourth Doctor was much more self-sufficient and aloof.
      • Compared to the aloof and sometimes inconsiderate Fourth Doctor, the Fifth Doctor was more of a people-pleaser.
      • By contrast again, the Sixth Doctor was extremely abrasive.
      • Compared to the short-tempered Sixth Doctor, who would often lash out at whim when angered, the Seventh Doctor was an ice-cold Manipulative Bastard.
      • Compared to the ruthless Seventh Doctor, the Eight Doctor was almost too sensitive at times.
      • Compared to the gentle Eighth Doctor, the Ninth Doctor was extremely abrasive again.
      • Compared to the self-questioning Ninth Doctor, the Tenth Doctor was extremely convinced of his own righteousness, sometimes to a Well-Intentioned Extremist degree.
      • Compared to the Tenth Doctor, who allowed his companions to become obsessed with him to a degree that was sometimes damaging to them, the Eleventh Doctor was very concerned about encouraging his companions not to get too co-dependent with him.
      • Compared to the "manic pixie dream Doctor" Eleventh Doctor, the Twelfth Doctor was initially very stern and unsympathetic, although he later mellowed.
      • Compared to the Twelfth Doctor, the Thirteenth Doctor is less intimidating and also less willing to interfere massively in the situations she finds, preferring to solve immediate problems and then leave people to solve the bigger issues.
    • Companions:
      • Compared to the highly intelligent and poised Liz Shaw, Jo Grant is cute and ditzy.
      • Leela, a violent, uneducated Jungle Princess, is replaced by Romana, a Time Lord who is Skilled, but Naïve.
      • Mel, a stereotypical screamer, is replaced by Ace, one of the toughest female companions ever.
  • Convenient Replacement Character: When a companion leaves, the Doctor usually picks up another one either in the same story, or the following one. Considering that they frequently meet one-shot characters who have the potential to be companions, it's not entirely unexpected that vacancies in the TARDIS are usually filled quickly.
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction:
    • In "The Web Planet", Barbara and the Menopteras confronts the Animus to save the Doctor and Vicki and kill it, but the Animus overpowers them with its light and blocks their attack. The Animus then gets briefly distracted when Ian and the Vrestins arrives from under the ground and Barbara quickly uses this opportunity to kill the Animus.
    • In "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", a private is ordered to get tea for the Doctor. While the private is out getting the tea, Mike Yates arrives and holds the Doctor, Sgt. Benton and the Brigadier at gunpoint. When the private, unaware of what's going on, returns with the tea, the hostage-taker gets distracted and Benton uses this opportunity to disarm him.
  • Cosmic Flaw: The Time Cracks, which are cracks, in time, that obliterate people and things from the timeline when exposed to them. In "The Pandorica Opens", it's revealed that these cracks were formed from the TARDIS exploding after hitting a burst of time energy and overheating, but what caused the burst in the first place is never directly explained.
  • Cosmic Retcon: The 'Time War' which happened offscreen while the series was on hiatus effectively wiped the Time Lords, the Daleks and Gallifrey from history.
  • Couch Gag: In the first half of Series 7, the main logo is now coloured differently each episode based on the Monster of the Week.
  • Court-Martialed: In the serial "The War Games", the Doctor and his companions land in what appears to be World War I. They are tried by a supposedly fair court-martial and found guilty of espionage.
  • Crack in the Sky: One story arcs involves "cracks in time" that manifest as visible cracks, though usually against a solid surface (like a wall). The cause is the future destruction of the Doctor's own TARDIS, which is gradually erasing all of time and space.
  • Creator Thumbprint:
  • Creepy Changing Painting: The Weeping Angels are the statue version; by biological necessity they only move when you can't see them but then move very very fast.
  • Creepy Children Singing: A recurring motif during the second half of New Series 6, particularly the episodes "Night Terrors", "Closing Time", and "The Wedding of River Song", is creepy children singing a foreboding nursery rhyme with verses that change to suit each episode.
  • Crew of One: Rarely has the Doctor had a companion who could fly the TARDIS, or do much of anything besides simple button-pushing. And on the occasion a companion or foe does pilot it, it's still just the one. However, in "Journey's End", the Doctor points out that a TARDIS is supposed to be piloted by six people at once, and the reason it has so much Explosive Instrumentation going on is because the Doctor isn't quite filling in perfectly for the other five - though the fact that it runs at all is probably proof that they're just that good.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: As mentioned above, "Journey's End" established that the TARDIS is designed to be flown by six Time Lords at once, not by a single Time Lord. This is supposed to be the reason why the TARDIS doesn't always go where (or when) the Doctor wants it to go. Notably, the one time it's run by a full crew of former companions in "Journey's End", it flies noticeably smoother and easier.
  • Cruel Mercy: The Doctor is very, very good at this.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Gallifrey, usually, and several other alien examples. Gallifrey may be a subversion; the crystal spires and togas help hide the stagnation and decay of Time Lord culture: a sufficiently advanced alien society that has rested on its laurels for ten million years.
    Sixth Doctor: The oldest civilisation: decadent, degenerate, and rotten to the core. Power-mad conspirators, Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen - they're still in the nursery compared to us. Ten million years of absolute power. That's what it takes to be really corrupt.
  • Curtain Call: Has had this happen twice.
    • In "Journey's End", all the previous companions from the past four seasons return to help the Doctor save the universe.
    • In "The End of Time, Part 2", which was the final episode of the Tenth Doctor, the Doctor travels around to bid everyone goodbye. In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Death of the Doctor" it is revealed he not only visited his "new series" companions, but offscreen visited his old series companions as well.
  • Cuteness Proximity: The Doctor is this with K9.
  • Cut Short: Three actors (Sixth through Eighth Doctors) have been the Doctor and didn't complete their character arc on TV:
    • Colin Baker, who had part of his tenure eaten up by a 18-month hiatus imposed by then-BBC controller Michael Grade, who had an axe to grind with the show. He later went a step further and made sure Colin was ejected from the role in 1987. Colin had less than three years on Doctor Who because of this. His story arc was halted, but Big Finish filled in the missing greater half of the Sixth Doctor's life.
    • Because of the show's cancellation in 1989, Sylvester McCoy's tenure never played out entirely, including the "Cartmel Masterplan" that would have been a very enlightening story arc for the Seventh Doctor. The Doctor Who New Adventures and the Doctor Who Magazine comics offer conflicting paths for how McCoy reaches the end of his life in The TV Movie.
    • Paul McGann only got to be the Eighth Doctor on screen for one story in 1996 and was graciously invited to film a minisode in 2013 to regenerate his Doctor, but he's become a lot Darker and Edgier. This is because his Doctor's entire life in between the scant screentime has been dictated by Big Finish audios in lieu of his denied medium on TV, and was made canonical as well.
  • Cyanide Pill:
    • In "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", a member of the Black Scorpion Tong, after being captured by the police, commits suicide with a scorpion venom pill to avoid revealing anything under interrogation. Weng-Chiang forces another Tong member to commit suicide after he makes a mistake, laughing maniacally as the man dies in agony.
    • In "The Caves of Androzani", mercenary gunrunner Stotz is confronted by one of his men demanding payment. Stotz forces him to the ground at knifepoint and takes out a pill.
    Stotz: The boss gave me one of these. Ten seconds he said. Let's see if it works. (shoves it in the mook's mouth, who tries to swallow it whole but Stotz jams a fist over his throat) COME ON YOU SLUT! BITE! BITE! BITE! (lets him go) Next time, it'll be for real.
    • In "Time Heist", the Doctor assumes the syringes they find are "atom shredders" meant to painlessly kill anyone caught by the Teller. He calls them an "escape route... of a sort." In fact, they're a more conventional escape route: they teleport the user to a spaceship in orbit.
  • Cyborg:
    • The Cybermen. The extent to which they're cybernetic varies from story to story; in earlier stories, the Cybermen's biological hands are visible, while in the revived series they're simply human brains transplanted into robot bodies.
    • Similarly we have the Daleks, who are usually assumed at first glance to be robots of some kind, but in actuality the Dalek itself is a small, cephalopod-like creature piloting the famous mechanical exterior. It's not quite clear how integrated Daleks are into their "suits", so whether they're true cyborgs or simply machine operators is up for debate.
      • Footage and descriptions by other characters imply that the Daleks are most likely somewhere between Mechas and cyborgs. The creature proper could exist outside the mechanical shell, but is very small and weak and must be augmented by the mechanical components. In their introduction, Ian Chesterton was able to "drive" a Dalek shell after discarding the creature. The expanded universe indicates that the Dalek creatures are so biologically degenerate that they have no functional digestive system, no vocal cords and even have difficulty breathing on their own; being implanted in their casings is vital for them to survive for any great length of time, and their nervous and circulatory systems are tied directly into the casing's systems. The Dalek voice is harsh and grating because it is entirely artificial.
      • The "New Paradigm" Daleks introduced in "Victory of the Daleks" have an organic eye visible at the end of their eyestalks. Apparently this is the eye of the internal creature, with its optic nerve extruded down a metal pipe.
      • The Imperial Daleks in "Remembrance of the Daleks" contained mutants with a mechanical prosthesis grafted into their bodies.
    • Davros. Right from his first appearance it's apparent that his chair is also a life support system and he will die within minutes without it. Since the chair can move without Davros needing to use a joystick or other controls it's safe to say it's tied into his nervous system in some way, and of course Davros also has an artificial eye embedded in his forehead. By "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End", his one functioning hand had been replaced with a mechanical one capable of shooting electricity from its fingertips.
      • Although Davros is clearly a cyborg, why does he have to have a neural interface in his earlier appearances? One of his legs could work just well enough to be operating a foot control.
    • The fish-people in "The Underwater Menace", humans fitted with 'plastic gills' and artificial eyes that allow them to see better underwater.
    • "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" reveals a character who believed he was an android was in fact a cyborg whose memories had been messed around with by the other crewmembers, apparently out of boredom.
    • Psi from "Time Heist". The Doctor describes him as having a mainframe in his head, it lets him wipe his own memory, interface with other systems and upload imprints of close to all the greatest bank criminals in existence making him guilty enough to distract the Teller from Clara.
    • The Master had been turned into one by the Doctor in "Scream of the Shalka".


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