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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 | YMMV


  • Darker and Edgier: There have been Tone Shifts over the years, sometimes between consecutive stories, but the most seriously Darker And Edgier era covers Seasons 21-22 of the original show. This period, generally ascribed to script editor Eric Saward's aspirations to "gritty realism", saw a lot of stories with Black and Grey Morality or Evil vs. Evil plots and Kill 'Em All endings, graphic scenes of gore and torture, a Doctor who started his regeneration by trying to kill his companion in a psychotic episode and developed a Bond One-Liner habit, and a tendency to have the companion Peri suffer explicit sexual threats from villains. Whereas previously protest over the content of the show had been restricted to Moral Guardians, this era saw protests even by fans that it was too dark and horrific.
    • It actually started before the more abrasive Sixth Doctor: Five's final stories were downright bleak, his last ranking high on the list of "episodes without any ray of sunshine." It's telling how his regeneration occurs at the end: poisoned in a way he's not sure he can actually survive this time, he hallucinates companions past, all encouraging him to survive. No go. However, The Master screaming for him to DIE! DIE, DOCTOR, DIE!! appears, and it's that - not his friends' love, but the fact that he can't give his enemy the satisfaction of him dying - that gives Five the Heroic Willpower to overcome the poison and stand as Six... and yes, then have dangerous psychotic episodes rather than the usual pains of a new regeneration.
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    • This has also been ascribed to the Twelfth Doctor era of the revival, due to Peter Capaldi's more serious approach to the character, the playing down (at least at first) of romantic attraction with the companion, and the introduction of more adult storylines. Reaches its zenith with the finale trilogy of Series 9 which is so dark it approaches pitch-black.
  • Dark Secret: Everything about the Doctor.
    Reinette: Doctor? Doctor Who? It's more than just a secret, isn't it?
  • The Dark Side: "The Trial of a Time Lord", has The Valeyard as the ultimate villain. He turns out to be an evil version of The Doctor from his own future (mistakenly thought by some, in-universe, to have come from between the 12th and 13th incarnation) trying to steal The Doctor's remaining regenerations and become an independent person. The Master helps The Doctor defeat him without any prompting or reward beyond being able to live in a universe that doesn't contain The Valeyard.
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  • Dead Alternate Counterpart: Inverted in the alternate universe featured in series 2, where Rose's dad and Mickey's gran are both still alive. The Doctor and Rose don't have counterparts at all (apparently the Time Lords don't exist in this universe, and Rose's parents never had kids, though they do have a dog named Rose); Mickey's counterpart... well, he starts out alive...
  • Death by Origin Story: A number of companions of the Doctor have ended up traveling with them after their close relations died, usually as Back Story (making them Conveniently an Orphan) occasionally as shown onscreen:
    • Vicki's father was killed in a massacre just prior to the events of her debut story, "The Rescue".
    • Sara Kingdom was tricked into assassinating her own brother in "The Daleks' Master Plan", but died herself at the end of the story.
    • Victoria Waterfield's father died fighting the Daleks in "The Evil of the Daleks".
    • Adric lost his brother to the Marshmen in "Full Circle" and, with him, any reason for staying with his own people. When Adric himself died at the end of "Earthshock", he was seen holding his brother's belt in his final moments.
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    • Nyssa lost two family members as a result of the Master's machinations in "The Keeper of Traken". The first was her stepmother, whom the Master manipulated, then killed once he had no further use for her. Then, the Master killed Nyssa's father and took over his body; this was followed soon after by the destruction (in "Logopolis") of Nyssa's home planet.
    • Tegan Jovanka's aunt was murdered by the Master in "Logopolis".
    • For a viewer who begins watching from the beginning of the new series (2005) this trope could also apply to the entirety of the Time Lord race.
    • Technically the regeneration of one Doctor into another is a Death by Origin Story, since the previous Doctor has to die for the new one to be born.
    • While the Doctor first offered Clara Oswald the chance to travel with him shortly before she died in Victorian London and he then realized that she'd also been the Dalek/souffle girl, these mysteries certainly made him much more enthusiastic about tracking her down again. The original Clara being found by the Doctor was also closely linked to the death of her mother when she was a teenager (with the Doctor having witnessed the burial).
  • Death by Transceiver:
    • "The Poison Sky", when the Sontarans massacre the UNIT troops.
    • "The Time of Angels", when the clerics are picked off one by one by the Weeping Angels. Except they keep talking.
  • Death Is Cheap:
    • The Master has died on-screen without regenerating no less than three times. It's never stopped him from coming back for more. The show doesn't even bother to explain why his possessed Trakenite body is alive again in "The Mark of the Rani", after burning to death in "Planet of Fire".
    • The Russell T. Davies era saw "the end of the Daleks" no less than three separate times, and yet everyone's still surprised when more Daleks show up. They wised up after a bit—out of those three "ends of the Daleks," two happened in Series 1. After that, they made a point of ensuring that at least one member of the Cult of Skaro survived each encounter, until Russell T Davies decided to go out with a bang and did them in again at the conclusion of Series 4. Naturally, this meant Steven Moffat had to go and dig them up again, but he's been careful to keep them alive since.
  • Death of a Child:
    • The episode "School Reunion" opens with a child being eaten.
    • In "The Stolen Earth" we see a family of three, with a child about ten years old, retreat back to their house after being ordered out by the Daleks. And then the Daleks blow up the whole house.
    • In "Survival", the Doctor pursues the predatory Cheetah People to Earth. The first person he meets is a little girl in tears because someone has killed her cat.
    • In "Full Circle", a juvenile Marshman known simply as the Marshchild dies (and is, in fact, the only Marshman to perish in the story). Tylos and Varsh also arguably count, as both are teenagers who die during the Marshmen's rampage aboard the Starliner in the final episode.
    • Varsh's younger brother, Adric, who goes on to become a member of the TARDIS crew, is killed off at the end of "Earthshock" when a space freighter crashes into the prehistoric Earth and explodes - with him on board. According to the story, the explosion is also responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
  • Death Ray: Everywhere.
  • Deconstruction: Since its reboot in 2005, the show has been gradually deconstructing itself. The Doctor is, as always, an eccentric man or woman with a saviour complex whose mystique both entices and frightens people, and these traits have increasingly tended towards tragedy for them. It started with realistic problems finding their way into the story, like a companion's family assuming that she has died, and the emotional consequences that followed. And it got worse. Russell T. Davies assaulted the idea of the Doctor themself in "Midnight", in which all of the Doctor's normal methods of controlling a situation backfire entirely, and he is almost killed as a result. Soon after, in "Journey's End", he is shown his "true colours" when his companions are prepared to destroy themselves and the Earth if need be to stop the Daleks' plan.
    • Steven Moffat has since deconstructed the Doctor's Memetic Badass status - it's satisfying to watch the odd monster of the week wet themselves when they realize who you are, but it makes others do desperate, terrible things to get the edge on you. On a meta level, Moffat has integrated the show's title - which previously had little to no bearing on the plot - as a core element of his greater story arc. Characters now mercilessly ask The Doctor who they are, both innocently and spitefully, and the Doctor is forced to reflect on the use of their chosen name and what it means to different people - whether they see them as a healer, or as a warrior, or as monster - and associating the name with that. Moffat's scripts also emphasize the fact it was a chosen name; we still don't know their real name, and it's explicitly stated by the Doctor themself that their real name is unimportant, it's what their chosen name stands for. This is reflected in their darkest secret; a previously-unknown past incarnation of the Doctor who ended the Time War by supposedly committing double genocide; the Eleventh Doctor refused to associate his name with him.
  • Delicious Distraction: The fourth Doctor often had a bag of Jelly Babies with him, and more than once, he used it to distract a guard who was sitting in a hover car. What he'd do was he'd leave a trail of the candies going away from the guard's vehicle, then throw the bag onto the car's hood to get the guard's attention and get him to follow the trail. Then, while the guard was distracted following the candies, the Doctor and his companion would get in the hover car and fly it away. Played With, in that no one was expecting the guard to actually eat any Jelly Babies, just to follow the trail.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • After Jack Harkness left the TARDIS and subsequently joined Torchwood, he made return appearances in the third and fourth series' season finales. Similarly, both Martha and Rose returned for the series 4 finale (along with Martha making prior guest appearances in both Doctor Who and Torchwood) after officially "leaving" their roles of companion.
    • Interestingly, they're not seen as being treated unfairly though technically qualifying for this trope. In the old days, past companions seemed to not exist anymore, even when they'd travelled with the Doctor for a long time, or taken part in important events. The new series avoids this. After Martha's departure, Powers That Be got much smoother at finding where characters who were no longer with the Doctor (but should still be around when we visit present-day Earth) belonged.
    • Roger Delgado's incarnation of the Master. In his first season of Doctor Who, the character turned up in every single serial, from "Terror of the Autons" to "The Daemons". Then, Delgado, while enjoying the show, became concerned that while officially a guest star, many casting directors considered him a de facto regular cast member of Doctor Who and therefore unavailable for other work. So in the next season he dramatically scaled back his appearances, with an eye to making a splashy departure the following season. Due to his untimely death in Turkey, the character was quietly retired for a time.
  • Deus ex Machina: When you think about it from the perspective of a lot of the characters who only show up in one story, the Doctor themself is a Deus ex Machina. Think about it, these people are in the middle of a dangerous crisis, or in the early stages of one, and then out of nowhere, a strange blue box shows up. Then some guy or girl, and their companion(s), walk out and solve the whole damn problem. As the story of the Pandorica illustrates, they're also the more imperial races' idea of an Outside-Context Problem.
    Doctor: The most feared being in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it, or hold it, or... reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • In "Voyage of the Damned", Max Capicorn gets ousted by his own board of trustees and blamed for the company's failure. So he contrives to crash the Titanic (2000 killed) into Earth (6 billion killed) and get the trustees jailed for mass murder. Wow.
    • In "Time Heist", people caught disobeying rules or stealing at the Bank of Karabraxos have to face the Teller as punishment. Not only do they get turned into walking vegetables, but their descendants get incarcerated as insurance that the family will not commit a crime against the bank a second time. It makes sense in that there are such things as crime families afoot like the Slitheen who might co-conspire and this is a preventative measure designed to split them up, but innocent children... hoo boy, it's gonna suck for them.
  • Distress Ball: The Doctor's companions tend to carry these around a lot. The Doctor himself points it out in the episode "The Empty Child", muttering about how he always tell them not to wander off alone and how they never listen. Lampshaded often, including in "The Two Doctors":
    Second Doctor: Now Jamie, stay with me, don't wander off.
    Jamie: Do I ever?
    Second Doctor: It has been known.
  • Distressed Damsel and Distressed Dude: The Doctor, in varying degrees throughout all their incarnations; most if not all of the companions, whether male or female, at some time or another; assorted bystanders of both sexes. Seriously, having someone taken prisoner or menaced by the Monster of the Week is one of the standard plots.
  • Divine Chessboard: In whole-season spanning story arc The Key To Time there were the White and Black Guardians.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In the Russell T. Davies era, UNIT took a much more aggressive and morally questionable approach towards alien threats all in the name of "Homeworld Security". Notably the Brigadier is not impressed at this new mind-set at all and says as much in the Sarah Jane Adventures:
  • Double Entendre:
    • The show featured a number of "unintentional double entendres" where neither meaning was sexual. At least once an episode, someone would say, "There is no plot!", "We must act!", or similar phrases.
    • The Doctor and the Master always seem to be doing this to each other:
    Master: I want the Doctor's body!
    • Jamie's first line to fellow companion Victoria was "quick Miss Waterfield, up your passage!" Frazer Hines (Jamie), Deborah Watling (Victoria) and Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor) were quite keen on getting as many in as possible.
    • In "The Two Doctors", Jamie and the Second Doctor spot a spaceship via the scanner screen.
    Jamie: Look at the size of that thing, Doctor!
    The Doctor: Yes, Jamie, that is a big one.
    • In The TV Movie, Eight shows just how much of a Chaste Hero he is, even if he is the first Doctor to snog on camera, by innocently walking straight into one of these:
    Doctor: See, I told you it [a gadget] was small.
    Grace: What is it they say?
    Doctor: Yeah, they say that on my planet too.
    • Jackie's comment when Rose was explaining to her about how the Doctor has two hearts. This while she's eyeing him up and down.
    Jackie: Anything else he's got two of?
    • In "The Doctor Dances", dancing is used as a euphemism for sex, showing off the Doctor's problems with intimacy and Captain Jack's flexibility, among other things. In a rare visual double entendre, the Doctor literally slips Jack a banana. This is reused in "The Girl in the Fireplace", when Reinette asks the Doctor to dance with her. Notably, this episode also features the Doctor utilizing a banana. (He visits a really wild party, gets very drunk and may have invented the banana daiquiri. Except that he doesn't.)
    • River Song asks the Doctor to sonic her radio to boost the frequency. Amy, on the other hand...
    "Ooh, Doctor, you sonicked her!"
    • The Teller from "Time Heist" works at a bank, but can also "tell" what people are thinking.
  • The Dreaded:
    • The Daleks. Doesn't matter how or when they show up, the sight of just one is always enough to scare the normally upbeat Doctor. Along with anyone else who knows them.
    • The Doctor themself is the Dalek's single greatest fear. The mere mention of the Doctor is enough to terrify the Daleks and stop armies dead in their tracks. Even after recovering from the shock of the Doctor's arrival the fear remains. In "Day of the Doctor" the Eleventh Doctor says that if every Dalek in the universe had gathered together and found out there were three Doctors, they'd call for back up.
  • Dressing as the Enemy:
    • In at least three stories, the Doctor and their allies manage to disable a Dalek, remove the mutant inside, and substitute one of their number. How a whole person fits in there, when the mutant that came out is not much bigger than a human head, is never made clear. Because in the Whoniverse everything's Bigger on the Inside?
      • "The Witch's Familiar" (Season 9, Episode 2) Seems to show a lot more room inside of a Dalek than was previously indicated, once all the guts are removed and the machine is stripped to its basics. It snuggly fits Clara (who, admittedly, is an extremely small woman) in what looks like a chair, perfectly suited for the human form. I guess Daleks are a little more inclusive than we thought.
    • At other times, people have fooled Daleks by dressing up as Robomen or Dalek troopers. In the former case, the deception was falling apart, but was saved when the Dalek were distracted by an attack by people without disguises. In the latter, the deception worked until they were seen in the self-destruct chamber.
    • In "Genesis of the Daleks", the Doctor and Harry dress in Kaled uniform in order to rescue Sarah Jane. The Doctor gestures to the guard, who comes over, and the Doctor blocks his exit while Harry goes in for a Groin Attack that leaves him unconscious.
    • Subverted in the "The Runaway Bride"; The Doctor steals a guard's uniform and uses it to infiltrate a secret chamber — but the enemies aren't fooled for a second.
    • "The End of Time" - how did the cactus-person Vinvocci get that guard's helmet over his head, anyway? Ow.
    • In "Time Heist", after being thought to be dead, Saibra and Psi return disguised as bank security. Psi had to appropriate a uniform from somewhere, while Saibra can just mimic the uniform with her holographic shell. Saibra's shapeshifting ability allows the writers to play with the "faceless goons remove helmets to reveal allies" aspect of the trope, which initially seems to be ruled out by the fact that one of the security guards already has his helmet off; that one is Saibra wearing a false face.
  • Driving Question: "Doctor who?" It's been asked an ungodly number of times, and as of series 6, it's the oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight, and must never ever be answered. "Silence must fall when the question is asked."
  • During the War: The Time War and World War II are only the obvious examples.
  • Dying Clue: The Face of Boe gives one to the Tenth Doctor in "Gridlock" when he tells him that he is not alone, implying that more Time Lords are out there. This would turn out to be foreshadowing the return of the Master later in the season.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The show was originally conceived of as a strictly children's program with a strong educational component. Several early episodes take place in a "real-world" historical setting, with the only "sci fi" element being how the characters got there. The Doctor is prone to making speeches about how things work (though only if it serves the plot; he only ever breaks the fourth wall once, to wish viewers a Merry Christmas in a 1965 episode). This has all but disappeared even a few seasons in, with it becoming a pure adventure show. The last purely historical storyline, The Highlanders, aired in 1966, though a one-off return to the format, Black Orchid, appeared in 1982.
    • To elaborate, the Doctor was originally intended to be a borderline antagonist that kept getting the heroes into trouble. Indeed, in the second episode he almost brains a caveman to death with a rock, only to be stopped by Ian at the last second. It was Ian who was intended to be the show's main protagonist, and his and Barbara's professions (teachers, the former science and the latter history) are clear indicators that it was supposed to be an Edutainment show. Susan was to represent the viewing audience.
    • In particular, have a look at the pilot episode, which was later remade in its entirety. Had it been retained, the programme would have been rather different. Details can be found here
    • Even some signature elements of the Doctor didn't even exist with the First Doctor, at least not on screen. Sonic Screwdriver? Second Doctor. Working with UNIT? Second Doctor. Two Hearts? Third Doctor. The ability to regenerate (usually) just twelve times? Fourth Doctor. The word regeneration to describe the changing of a Time Lord's appearance? Third Doctor. And while the very first episode established that the Doctor and Susan weren't native to Earth, we didn't even know what species and civilisation the Doctor and Susan came from (the Time Lords) until the Second Doctor or the fact they came from Gallifrey until the Third Doctor.
    • Speaking of the Sonic Screwdriver, in its first appearance it was literally just that- a screwdriver that worked through sound waves. The idea of it being a multi-purpose tool was worked in later.
    • The Doctor smokes a pipe in the very first story, "An Unearthly Child". It was decided quickly that the Doctor should kick the habit, none of his companions would smoke either, and it wasn't until an episode of Class (2016) aired 52 years later that a lead character in a Doctor Who-related series (Ram) was seen smoking on screen.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Earth is destroyed on-screen in the episode "The End of the World", but nobody in that era makes a big deal out of it... because it's five billion years from now, Earth's destruction was long overdue anyway, and humanity has abandoned it long before.
    • In the season finale episode "Journey's End", the Daleks prevent Martha Jones from using the Osterhagen Key doomsday device. Just as well.
    • This happens in the show too many times to count. Not always with Earth, but with a planet inhabited by humanoids. Gallifrey, for instance, goes boom in the new series, and in "The Invasion of Time", the Sontarans threaten to blow it up.
    • And in "The Pirate Planet", the eponymous planet destroys other worlds by materialising around them, stripping them of their resources and shrinking them down to the size of a basketball, after which they are displayed in the captain's trophy room.
    • It's the plan in "The Dominators".
    • "Galaxy 4" is all about two races stranded on a planet that's about to this, apparently of its own volition.
  • Edutainment: This was the original purpose of the series, until the Daleks in the second story were such a smash hit that the series lurched into largely a pure entertainment show. That said, the series still occasionally takes a moment to have the Doctor or another companion talk a bit about the history or science involved. One example is the 2015 episode "Face the Raven", in which Clara takes a few moments to describe to the Doctor - and the audience - what a trap street is and how cartographers used them (in real life) to detect copyright infringements of their maps.
  • Eerie Arctic Research Station:
    • The classic-era episode "The Ice Warriors" uses this trope, but technically isn't at one of the poles (it's during an ice age instead).
    • The last story featuring the First Doctor, "The Tenth Planet", which is set in a base in the middle of Antarctica that gets attacked by Cybermen.
    • The first two episodes of "The Seeds of Doom" are set in an Antarctic research station, where one of the research team has been taken over by an alien plant creature, and has very strong overtones of The Thing (1982).
    • "Last Christmas" is set in a research base located in the North Pole where the workers, as well as the Doctor and Clara, are attacked by dream crabs. It later turned out to be a shared dream.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Many villains are these. The Doctor beats them anyway.
  • Elixir of Life: The Sisterhood of Karn are guardians of the Elixir of Eternal Life, as seen in "The Brain of Morbius" and "Night of the Doctor".
  • Emotion Eater:
    • "The God Complex" features a minotaur alien which feeds on faith, such as belief in a religion or in a person, by bringing out their greatest fear and causing the person to fall back on their strongest faith. The episode also uses a tear jerking version of I'm Not Afraid of You to cut off the minotaur's supply. Amy is about to be devoured, because of her faith in the Doctor. So the Doctor purposely makes himself a Broken Pedestal- pointing out all the times he's failed, the danger he's gotten her into, the childhood he ruined, and how vain he is- so that Amy will stop believing in him and be saved.
    • In The Rings of Akhaten, the Doctor encounters another Emotion Eater in the form of a sentient star that has to be kept asleep by constant singing, and when it wakes, it seeks to devour The Queen of Years, a young girl who has been taught all the lore and songs of her people. The Doctor gives it a serious case of psychic indigestion when he force feeds it the memories of his over 1200 year life.
    The Doctor: I walked away from the Last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time. No space. Just me. I've walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a madman. I've watched universes freeze and creations burn. I've seen things you wouldn't believe. I've lost things you'll never understand. And I know things. Secrets that must never be told. Knowledge that must never be spoken. Knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze. So come on then! Take it! Take it all, baby! Have it! You have it all!
    • In "Time Heist", the Teller apparently feeds on the guilt of other living beings.
  • Emotional Maturity Is Physical Maturity: Just how acceptable it is for there to be any romantic implications between the Doctor and their companions is relative to the Doctor's apparent age. This can get complicated, as a few of the Doctor's later incarnations are physically younger looking than some of their earlier ones, despite being chronologically older. In particular, cases such as the relationship between Ten and Rose would have been considered Squick if you substituted One, Two, Three or Seven. Even her relationship with Nine had more of a mentor/student feel. Also, the Doctor themself tends to experience personality shifts that adjust to their current incarnation's apparent age. Notably, the War Doctor, dresses down Ten and Eleven as if they were immature naughty boys, despite the fact that they are both older than he is. One is always treated as if he were the eldest Doctor, even though he is in fact the youngest.
  • Enclosed Extraterrestrials: The Daleks are actually Octopoid Aliens inside their iconic metallic suits.
  • Epic Hail: Whether it's their old companions hailing the Doctor, the whole population of Earth hailing the Doctor, the Time Lords hailing the Master, or Rose Tyler hailing herself, the Russell T. Davies era loves to put an Epic Hail in his season finales. Series 2 is the only one he missed.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: A pack of wolves escape the London Zoo in the "In The Forest Of The Night" episode due to the sudden, explosive growth of forests and run rampant around central London. A tiger also escaped and the wolves are far more afraid of it then any humans.
  • Eternal Hero: As a hero who saves the world in different ages, on different planets, and in different incarnations, The Doctor is a certifiable hero of mythological scope.
  • Eureka Moment: The show has it happen so many times, it's practically a drinking game at show marathons.
    • "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" makes fun of the word itself: the Doctor claims that it translates from Greek as "This bath is too hot."
    • In "Time Heist", in Karabraxos' vault, the Doctor figures out who the Architect is.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Doctor. (Actually, this seems to be a pattern for renegade Time Lords — see also the Master, the Rani, the Monk, ...)
  • Everyone Is Bi: 51st-century humans ("So many species, so little time.")
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: The Eleventh Doctor's second control room has a lot of neat spinny bits - lights around the room, rings above and below the console, and probably more.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: because of The Master's/Mistress's plan to convert all of earth's corpses into a Cyberman Army. The Cybermen were more or less zombies in fancy casing.
  • Evil Colonialist: This is a type of villain who crops up frequently.
  • Evil Is Sterile: The Doctor's greatest nemeses tend to have this trait, most notably the Cybermen and the Daleks. However, depictions of their natures, strengths and weaknesses, and tactics tend to gradually evolve over time and vary with writers.
  • Evolutionary Retcon:
    • The original Daleks were clunky and, because they were mounted on tricycles, had difficulty with rough terrain. And stairs? Forget about it. Well, until their very last appearance, anyway - but they couldn't fire at the same time until the new series. CGI allows the new series to feature flying Daleks who are capable of traversing stairs and interstellar space without trouble. Heck of an upgrade there.
    • Design-wise, they get slight tweaks throughout their existence. Your average Dalek invasion will contain only their current standard look, but lately, any actual Dalek-controlled world tends to be a Continuity Cavalcade of variants.
    • The Cybermen are famous for their repeated redesigns, which are fairly plausible in a species whose whole concept is ruthless self-augmentation. The major shifts are from the original "Tenth Planet" look with visible human body parts to the all-metal appearance of their second story "The Moonbase"; the shift to the "square-headed" silhouette in "The Invasion"; and the "baggy" eighties look from "Earthshock". But practically every story saw some tweaking to the design. The 21st-century series introduced another, even more robot-like look, and there was then a further redesign in the Moffat era to remove the "Cybus" branding that marked the Davies-era Cybermen as alternate-universe.
    • The makers of the series have even said the latest redesign was because in the old series, the Cybermen were constantly changing. The new batch had looked the same since their introduction, so, as Cybermen are known to say, UPGRADE IN PROGRESS!
    • Another Doctor Who example: the Macra. Old series Macra look like this. New series Macra look like this.
    • The Silurians in the old series were done with rather clunky (and practically immobile) masks. The new ones are still created with makeup, but it's far more sophisticated and lifelike. However, the old ones were more alien, featuring sucker-like mouths and three eyes. The new ones look more like green, scaly humans. This is acknowledged in-show as being different subspecies.
  • Evolving Music: The theme tune over the years.
  • Expanded Universe: A huge one. The rabbit hole can literally be said to be endless, because each spinoff has its own spinoff, which ties into other spinoffs... etc. There are at least two hundred original novels covering all thirteen Doctors, hundreds upon hundreds of audio dramas made by Big Finish and other audio companies covering all possible Doctors, companions and villains, and decades' worth of comics, Web Original content, two Alternate Continuity theatrical films and even several theatrical productions. Several of the Doctor's EU companions who have become well-known among the fandom, and a few characters — such as Kate Stewart and Joan Redfern — have actually made their way into the TV series. See Doctor Who – Expanded Universe for more.
  • Expendable Clone:
    • The Sontarans are an entire "species" of clones (stemming from the original General Sontar). Their military power is based on two factors: first, every foot soldier has the tactical and strategic mastery of their race's greatest warrior, and second, We Have So Many Reserves It's Ridiculous.
    • In "The Invisible Enemy", the Fourth Doctor and Leela create "quick-clones" of themselves that can go on a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot inside the Doctor's body and fight a monster. The quick-clones have lifespans measured in hours, and the Doctor isn't terribly bothered about it.
    • Very much averted in the two-parter "The Rebel Flesh"/"The Almost People", in which a group of 'Gangers' are animated by a solar tsunami. The gangers insist they are just as real as the originals, sharing all their memories and personalities. But at the end, Ganger!Doctor sacrifices himself to save the real Doctor. Most Gangers encountered aren't people however, the technology is supposed to just function as a completely controlled remote avatar of the original person and falls apart if the connection is lost, not a clone at all. The episode reveals that Amy had unknowingly been piloting one for some time, and her real body is elsewhere.
    • Less averted in "The Girl Who Waited", where Rory must choose between rescuing the Amy he knows and loves and an Amy who, due to timey-wimey-ness, has been waiting thirty-six years for him, and has become strange and bitter as a result. While Rory genuinely wants to save both of them, when the time comes the Doctor slams the TARDIS door on older!Amy without hesitation, leading to her erasure from existence. He doesn't seem to regret the decision very much. To be fair even Old!Amy seems to agree it's the right thing to do.
    • In "Time Heist", Karabraxos uses clones of herself as secretaries and such, since she won't rely on anyone else. This doesn't stop her from killing them for failure.
  • Explosive Decompression: Exceptions. Several times.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials:
    • The Sea Devils had to be given string vests at the last minute as someone objected to this issue late into production.
    • The Slitheen when not in human suits. They even rejoice in their nakedness.
    • While the Teller walks around in a full-body straightjacket for most of "Time Heist", he and his mate are released wearing nothing at all.
  • Exposition Beam: The Doctor, Eleven in particular, has the interesting ability to mind-meld information into other people's heads without having to explain it verbally, or the target having to be conscious, or even alive at the time. In cases of emergency, where a lot of information has to be imparted very quickly, The Doctor will opt to HEADBUTT the person in question, rather than simply mind-meld with them!
  • Exposition of Immortality: Doctor Who does this all the time. Whether it's a serial Big Bad being outed as an alien who's been on Earth for centuries or the Doctor themself's longevity via regeneration. Encounters with recurring enemies the Cybermen and the Daleks frequently went hand in hand with a montage of past episodes or declamations by either side about their past encounters. It's a little confusing due to time travel being involved, but the Doctor definitely qualifies, as they themself keep on aging in between encounters, and there's often several hundred years for both them and their enemies between each confrontation.
  • Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: The Time Vortex is a fifth dimension the TARDIS can travel in. Within episodes the Doctor tends to use it to travel in short hops, leaving longer distances in both space and time for between adventures.
  • Extra-Long Episode:
    • Numerous episodes of Doctor Who have been longer than the usual episode length. The final episode of "The Trial of A Time Lord" from the classic series ran slightly longer than 25 minutes. In the new series, where episodes are normally 45 minutes in length, this can happens to episodes introducing the new Doctor, such as the Twelth Doctor's first episode "Deep Breath" and season finales such as "Journey's End", both of which ran for a full hour.
    • Conversely, there was a serial in one of Patrick Troughton's seasons where the episodes all ran five minutes shorter than the usual 25 minutes.
    • Not counting specials, several episodes of new Doctor Who have been extra-length by five or ten minutes, most notably the Eleventh Doctor's introduction, "The Eleventh Hour" and every series premiere and finale for the Twelfth Doctor. The longest episode in the revived series is the Twelfth Doctor's introduction, "Deep Breath", at 76 minutes raw. On BBC America these have been shown at full-length for their first showings and cut down to an hour afterward.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: During Classic Who. New Who (and by extension The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood) seem to have stopped this. As series 5 and 6 have few-to-no contemporary invasions, it's difficult to judge if they're continuing this.
  • Faceless Goons: Many of the aliens, including Sontarans, Judoon, Sycorax, and the reboot's Silurians.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • This trope is common throughout the original series where the Doctor and/or his companions will be "concealed" so long as the villain doesn't casually glance in their direction. Which he never does of course.
    • The technology of "perception filters" are often used as a Handwave whenever the plot demands that something not be noticed until it needs to be dramatically revealed. The basic principle is that perception filters don't stop you seeing something, but will stop you noticing something unless you are either already aware of it or are specifically looking for it, and even then it takes effort to consciously spot it. For things that you would never consciously think about, like the number of doors in your house or whether your house actually has an upstairs, the filters are pretty fool-proof, and even the Doctor is not immune to their effects.
    • The second Doctor notes that a volcano is erupting on the island he is on, but needs to have it pointed out to him that he should probably leave because a volcano is erupting on the island he is on.
    • In the first episode of the original series story "Earthshock", a pair of assassin robots dart down a corridor just before a soldier turns to look. While the robots themselves are out of view, their shadows are clearly visible retreating down the passage; however, the soldier completely fails to notice despite staring straight at them.
    • The Ninth Doctor did this in "Rose": he and Rose are discussing the Nestene invasion plans by the Thames, with a clear view of the London Eye, and the Doctor mentions that the Nestenes'll need an enormous transmitter. "What's it look like?" "Like a transmitter, round and massive. Smack dab in the middle of London, must be completely invisible." She has to make him turn around three times before the penny drops.
    • The Master isn't immune either. In "The End of Time", he converts 99.9999999...% of the human race into copies of himself and still fails a spot check, something which the Tenth Doctor is only too delighted to point out.
      The Doctor: Six-billion pairs of eyes and you can't even spot what's in front of you.
      The Master: And what's that?
      The Doctor: (gesturing to the guard aiming a gun at Wilfred Mott) That guard is two inches too tall. (Guard knocks the Master flat on his back)
    • The Eleventh Doctor, along with River Song, had one of these in "The Time of Angels" when they failed to notice that while the Aplan race who built the catacombs had two heads, the statues they supposedly put there only had one... so all the statues were angels who had lost their wings.
      River Song: How could we miss that?
      The Doctor: Low-level perception filter, or maybe we're thick.
    • The Eleventh Doctor again in "The Pandorica Opens". He's in ancient Britain during the time of the Roman occupation when one of the Roman soldiers who've joined his cause turns out to be Rory Williams, who had died thousands of years in the future and then was erased completely from ever having existed by a crack in the universe. The Doctor is the only person who still remembers him. He tries to approach the Doctor but the Doctor, lost in thought about the other aspects of their situation, asks him to be quiet while he tries to figure it out.
      The Doctor: Oh, missing something, obvious, Rory! Something big, something right slap in front of me, I feel it.
      Rory: Yeah, I think you probably are.
      The Doctor: I'll get it in a minute.
    • Early on in "Time Heist", the Doctor ponders why he isn't just using the TARDIS to do this job. Clara then brings up the more obvious question: where is the TARDIS? The Doctor admits he should have led with that.
  • Fake Defector: Adric. Unfortunately, he does this so many times (including in "State of Decay", "Four to Doomsday", and "Kinda") that the fandom regularly mistakes him for "always siding with the villain."
  • Fake First Kiss: Russell T. Davies did this with the Doctor and nearly every companion. The Ninth Doctor and Rose lock lips in the series one finale as the Doctor gives Rose a timey-wimey version of the kiss of life. In series two, the Tenth Doctor gets kissed by Rose's body while it's being occupied by the villain of the week. The Doctor kisses Martha in her very first episode as part of a ploy to confuse an alien DNA scanner. Even Donna, who was always very clear that They Won't, gets in on it, kissing the Doctor in response to his demand that she do something shocking and unexpected.
  • False Reassurance:
    • In "The Three Doctors", the Third Doctor says to Omega, "We will not leave here before you do." Omega assumes this means they will stay there with him. It doesn't.
    • In "Boom Town", Margaret Blaine assures the citizens of Cardiff that the new nuclear power plant will cause no harm as long as she's walking the Earth. This is technically true, since she is an alien in disguise and plans to leave the planet before the meltdown occurs.
    • "The Eleventh Hour":
      The Doctor: You know when grown-ups tell you everything's going to be fine, and you think they're probably lying to make you feel better?
      Amelia Pond: Yes.
      The Doctor: Everything's going to be fine.
    • Played with in "Flesh and Stone", in that Octavian is savvy enough to pick on her hedging and is not impressed; he chews her out and promises that if she's wrong she'll regret it.
      Father Octavian: Do you trust this man?
      River Song: …I absolutely trust him.
      Father Octavian: He's not some kind of madman, is he?
      River Song: …I absolutely trust him.
    • In "Day of the Moon", when Richard Nixon asks the Doctor if he'll be remembered, the Doctor's replies with:
      "Oh, Dicky. Tricky Dicky. They're never going to forget you. Say hello to David Frost from me, will you?"
    • In "Time Heist", bank security politely asks the Doctor and crew to let them in, on the rationale that they don't want to hurt them before executing them.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The show is well known for having ostensibly started off as a somewhat educational sci-fi series that would be fun for the whole family... but quickly led to the tradition of kiddies hiding behind the couch. From Dalek Death Rays, to being eaten alive by a giant spider-thing, to having your blood sucked out of your neck through a straw, almost every other adventure brought a new and painful way to die.
    • Two fairly notorious examples from the classic episodes would be a guard falling into a pool of acid in "Vengeance on Varos" (mostly notable because the Doctor seems to make a mean-spirited quip about it afterward) and Kane, the low-temperature-lifeform villain in "Dragonfire", exposing himself to direct sunlight, resulting in his face melting off, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style (one of the few occasions on which the series' special effects managed to be memorably gruesome).
  • Fanservice Pack: Nyssa and Tegan both changed their looks to get more attractive during the Fifth Doctor's second year.
  • Fanservice Model: Amy was one for a time before starting her adventures with The Doctor. But different from these kind of models, she didn't wear lingerie nor swimsuits, but Fanservice Costumes since she worked as a kissogram. By the time she saw the Doctor again after being a child, Amy was wearing a police officer costume.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • In "Utopia", the homophobia version is used when the Doctor is uncomfortable around the time-travelling omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness, not because of his sexuality, but because he finds Jack's immortality to be "just wrong".
    Jack: So what you're saying is, you're, uh...prejudiced?
    The Doctor: ...I never thought of it like that.
    Jack: (smiles) Shame on you.
    • The Doctor shows their dislike of true immortality in earlier serials as well. For example, in "The Brain of Morbius", he blasts the Sisterhood of Karn for using an elixir to extend their lives because they've completely stagnated, and says that regeneration is preferable because it brings change. This attitude seems to be shared by other Time Lords, who use the same elixir as medicine, but not to prevent their final death.
    • This is the entire premise of the climax of "The Five Doctors". When they encounter the Tomb of Rassilon and Borusa is condemned to eternal stasis as the price of true immortality; the First Doctor clearly knew what the fate of anyone who sought such immortality would be, and states that Rassilon knew that "immortality is a trap", and therefore set up his game to ensnare anyone who actively sought it.
    • The best example in Doctor Who is the Daleks, especially since Terry Nation based them on the Nazis. Also, "Genesis of the Daleks", shows that on pre-Dalek Skaro, the Kaleds (the race that became the Daleks) and the Thals hated each other, and both of them hated the mutants, to the point that the Thals (who were usually shown as pacifist allies of the Doctor) used them as slave labor.
      • The Daleks' commitment to their own racial purity was demonstrated in "Victory of the Daleks". The older, less "pure" Daleks willingly allow themselves to be disintegrated by the newly created Daleks made from the pure DNA in the Progenitor device.
      • In the first season of New Who, the Daleks have been reborn from human DNA, and hate themselves as much as humans. It's stated that this prejudice makes them even more angry at the world, in the manner of the stereotypical homophobic gay person.
      • The Daleks in audio drama "Blood of the Daleks" go out of their way to destroy a group of Daleks created from humans, despite these Daleks considering themselves Daleks and being willing to work with the original Daleks.
      • Averted in "Daleks in Manhattan" and "Evolution of the Daleks" in which Dalek Sec decides that the only way for Daleks to survive is to merge with humans, which the other Daleks were disgusted by. After splicing himself with a human, he gains a conscience realizing everything wrong with the Daleks, and wants to end them himself. Which in the end he sacrifices himself to save the Doctor.
    • On a more comical note, the series 4 finale had this gem.
    • The Silurians, the reptilian original rulers of Earth, call humans apes and have often tried to wipe them out. However not all Silurians are like this and often the humans are shown to be just as racist towards the Silurians.
    • The Ninth Doctor also calls humans 'stupid apes' from time to time, although his feelings towards the human race are generally affectionate and he notes them a couple of times to be one of his favourites. He's presumably frustrated by human behaviour because he loves the species so much. Which is a bit racist as well.
    • During the Eleventh Doctor's retirement in Victorian England in "The Snowmen", he displays a lot of this towards his Sontaran ally, insulting his race's looks and suggesting Sontarans are entirely stupid, directly to his face.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Just about every spaceship shown, including the TARDIS which is essentially Faster Than Time.
  • Fatal Fireworks: In "The Five Doctors", the Second Doctor uses a firework to drive off a Yeti in the tunnels under Rassilon's Tower.
  • Feedback Rule: There's a bit of comedy in a technologically advanced alien having this problem with a piece of technology.
    • In the episode "The Empty Child" when the Doctor grabs the mic, there's a feedback sound right on cue.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens" at the beginning of the Doctor's big speech, with a barely-audible comment about him dropping the device. In this case, it's not even a microphone he's using, but a communicator that he jury-rigged to work as a megaphone and transmittor, so it creating microphone feedback is pure Rule of Funny.
  • Females Are More Innocent: The original show ran for a quarter century and had a large number of villains yet in that time period only about 10 were women, and only one or two of them appeared in the show's first 15 seasons.
  • Feudal Future: Various planets the Doctor's landed on, from time to time.
  • Fictional Painting:
    • In The Pandorica Opens, Vincent Van Gogh paints the TARDIS exploding, much to his distress. The painting first appeared in "Vincent and the Doctor", where is discovered in an actual era as an unedited Van Gogh painting, later demonstrated it was an original painting of him.
    • In the Milestone Celebration episode "The Day of the Doctor", there's the "Undergallery" in National Gallery in London where there're various secret paintings that are unavaliable to the public for various reasons, like a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I with the Tenth Doctor; a version of The Raft of the Medusa, except with Cybermen; and some paintings which are made with Time Lord technology (called as 3D paintings), important part of the plot.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: The Doctor's Bizarre Alien Biology lets them taste things safely...including human blood. "Planet of the Dead" goes further; he can sense traces of cities and mountains in the ravaged world of San Helios' sand. In "The Eleventh Hour", he can tell the exact age of a shed by licking it. In "Day of the Moon", he can tell where the TARDIS-blue envelopes from the previous episode were made from licking.
  • Fix Fic:
    • Over the course of 30 years, nearly every TV storyline was adapted into novelisations. This often allowed writers - especially those who wrote the original scripts - to revise and enhance elements of their stories in ways that couldn't be done when they were broadcast. The most extreme case was "The Massacre", where the original writer novelised his first draft of the script, ignoring all the changes later made at the producers' request. In recent years, Audio GO has put out audio book readings of many of these novelisations; at least two (as of 2013) have been brand-new, rewritten works crafted for audio by the original scriptwriters in lieu of the original novels which were written by house writers.
    • A blog once rewrote the entire Colin Baker era in order to "correct" the influence of Eric Saward, whom the writers despised.
      • Read what's been finished here.
    • After the second season finale of the new series, the internet was flooded with Fix Fics of Rose escaping the Alternate Universe in which she was trapped so she and the Doctor could return to making googoo eyes at each other. Became canon with the fourth season finale. That same finale, however, spawned its own flood of Fix Fics with [Donna regaining her memories.
    • After "The End of Time", another kind of Fix Fic emerged which repaired both it and "Journey's End" in one fell swoop; when 10 regenerates, his mind/soul doesn't die. Instead it gets transferred into the body of 10.5, bringing 10 back to life and reuniting him with Rose.
  • Flat "What": Shows up from time to time.
    • Pretty much a catchphrase for the Tenth Doctor.
    • One example: at the end of "Time Crash", when the TARDIS crashes into the Titanic.
    • Amy would appear to have a taste in these, such as in "The Eleventh Hour", when she sees the hidden door in her own house.
    • There are dueling Flat Whats when The Doctor first meets Donna Noble.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: Female companions are rather unfairly associated with the Screaming Woman stereotype, so the revival team keeps reminding people not to think that about the latest companion.
  • Floating Clocks: The Title Sequence for the Twelfth Doctor features an interesting variation, with the TARDIS depicted as traveling through a dimension that isn't exactly filled with clocks so much as it is itself a clock, and an infinitely spiralling non-euclidean one at that.
  • Flying Saucer: Several, although the most classically-presented 'flying saucer' design among alien spacecraft seen are those used by the Daleks.
  • Foreshadowing: Many, many, many times, that it has it's own page.
  • Forever War:
    • Sontarans versus the Rutans. It's been going on for 50,000 years as of "The Poison Sky", and is still going at least 10,000 years after that in The Sontaran Experiment with no end in sight. Both sides are perfectly fine with this.
    • The Kaled-Thal war went on long enough to turn Skaro into a wasteland and reduce both sides to archaic weaponry - then came the Daleks.
  • For the Funnyz: Leave it to the Doctor to make quips and resort to measures with an amusing/ironic edge.
  • Forgot About His Powers: The Doctor (or perhaps the writers) seems very prone to forget that they are a Telepath, although this often also varies based on incarnation. The Fourth Doctor demonstrated Hypnotic Eyes (just like the Master) on occasion, but this ability has not been used by later Doctors. The Tenth Doctor used telepathy on a number of occasions, but conspicuously did not do so in a number of cases where it would have been useful (such as the murder mystery "The Unicorn and the Wasp").
    • Averted with the Doctor's ability to regenerate. Giving the Doctor god-like powers of resurrection one would think would remove any sense of jeopardy, so it was established in the 1970s that (most) Time Lords only have a set number of regenerations allowed, and in "The Caves of Androzani" (and numerous times in the revival) it has been established that regeneration is not guaranteed and the Doctor can still die, or regenerate into a form that can't survive.
  • The Four Loves: Whether in a romantic context or a simple friendship/loyalty context, the Doctor and their companions exhibit the four categories frequently, with the Doctor sometimes capable of showing all four at the same time.
  • Free-Love Future: By the 51st century, the home time period of Captain Jack and the adopted time period of River Song, humans will do it with anything.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • In the episode "The Time of Angels", you can quickly see that there's a bright red panic button on the Doctor's TARDIS keyboard.
    • In "A Good Man Goes To War", the soldiers who are being briefed about The Doctor are standing next to a display showing the Sonic Screwdriver and the text "1) Is not Sonic; 2) Is not a Screwdriver".
    • In "Time Heist", when Psi is going through the list of criminals, it flashes through several previously introduced characters from the Doctor Who universe, including The Gunslinger, John Hart and Abslom Daak.
  • Furry Fandom: The cat people in "New Earth"/"Gridlock". Not subtle at all with Brannigan (A cat person) having married and had kittens with a human.(Refer to the trope above) The expanded universe novel "The Pirate Loop" has a race of futuristic humanoid badger pirates.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Like the I Hate Past Me example, past or present incarnations of the Doctor note  have been known to find their future selves anywhere from mildly annoying (I.E. First, Second, and Third Doctors to each other, particularly the Second and Third quarreling all the time without the First as a mediator, the War Doctor viewing the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors in disbelief that they will succeed him because of how childish he is, the Ninth Doctor getting into an alleged argument with the Seventh Doctor on a campus) to downright terrifying (I.E. Tenth Doctor reacting to Eleven's blatant forgetfulness of significant Time War events, the Seventh Doctor to just about every other incarnation because of his role as The Chessmaster, etc.) or charming and quite pleasant to get along with (I.E. The Second and Sixth Doctors, the Eighth Doctor's view of the Fifth Doctor compared to his next two selves, etc.). And some of them could be just plain hit or miss (the Fourth Doctor, being a wildcard- his other selves either took to him or got really agitated).

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