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Tear Jerker / Doctor Who

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"A tear, Sarah Jane? No, don’t cry. While there’s life there's..."
"Everybody knows that everybody dies, and nobody knows it like the Doctor."
River Song, "Forest of the Dead"

Seriously, it's a very emotional show. The Hero Dies and turns into someone else on a regular basis, their companions all leave them eventually, most of the time unwillingly or due to other circumstances, and as the show has been running 60 years already there have also been a lot of instances of The Character Died with Him. You have been warned...


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    Types of Moments 
  • The regeneration scenes, if done well enough, are double-whammy combinations of tears of sadness (the death of a Doctor) and tears of joy (the birth of a new Doctor).
  • The way the Doctor rejects his previous selves.
    • In "Time Heist", the Twelfth Doctor calls the Eleventh Doctor's bowtie "embarrassing", and in his premier episode he calls the Fourth Doctor's Scarf "stupid" (though he was in an extreme case of regeneration sickness at the time, so that can probably be excused).
    • In the same vein, going back to see the start of a new Doctor after the end of their tenure. For example, the Tenth Doctor gleefully putting his new outfit together or the Twelfth Doctor proudly showing off his new outfit to Clara, only for the next incarnation to run around in the tattered remains of said outfit and then discard it without a care in the world. Everything ends and it's always sad, but everything begins again, and that's always happy.
    • Also really standing out is the Fifth Doctor absent-mindedly tearing up Four's scarf. The iconic costume piece of the entire series is destroyed without a care as the next Doctor is still suffering from his regeneration sickness.
    • The Doctor knows that what they currently love, whether food or fashion, they'll most likely despise once regeneration hits. They know it's inevitable and it scares the hell out of them.
      Tenth Doctor: Even then, even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away... and I'm dead.
  • Companion deaths.
    • While they might pale in comparison with those who would come later, the loss of Katarina and Sara. The first companions the Doctor ever lost.
    • Adric's stands out.
    • Jack's, despite his being revived later.
    • The Doctor learning of the death of the Brigadier.
    • Amy and Rory's death leads to a deep depressive retirement.
    • Although he was not a companion, the death of Danny Pink.
    • Clara, who dies on screen, right in front of the Doctor's eyes, the first non-robotic companion to do so permanently since Adric. Emphasized by the fact "Heaven Sent" features a Doctor experiencing the same raw emotion of having just lost her over and over for billions of years. The fact she is pulled out of time in the next episode, "Hell Bent" and spends an unknown length of time adventuring after that actually emphasizes this because we know she eventually returns to her timestream and meets her maker.
  • A few non-violent companion exits also count. "The Green Death" and "Warriors' Gate" come to mind. Especially "Warriors' Gate". The fact that the Doctor spends the next two stories wandering around like a lost old widower does not help.
    • Just try watching Leela's departure, knowing the Time War is coming.
    • Tegan departing in tears, because she's just so tired and so sick of all the death and pain, the Doctor begging her, "Please, don't leave, not like this..."
    • Donna's departure is a huge Tear Jerker.
    • Rose's first departure in "Doomsday" remains one of the most emotionally wrought scenes in franchise history, rivalled only by the death of Clara.
  • Hell, just the Fridge Horror of how young the Doctor really is is a real downer. First died of old age at 450, and Eleventh is about 1100 (give or take a few decades). That means that right now he's barely past the point where his second incarnation should be dying of old age. He's sacrificed millennia of his life for the sake of protecting the universe. To make things worse, he hasn't seen any of his family since his first incarnation.
    • Actually, his second, third and fifth incarnation saw Susan again in "The Five Doctors". But still, that's likely over half a millennia ago from the point of view of the Eleventh.
    • The Doctor often lies, and does so unfailingly on topics he's not sure of, like his own age; add to this Word of God has confirmed the Doctor is far older than he states. Still, the concept of the Doctor losing track of his age is a Tear Jerker in and of itself. Because of the life he chose he can't even have such a simple luxury as celebrating a birthday - all the time travel means he doesn't even know when it is, let alone the precise number. Not to mention anyone who would know is long dead.
    • If one adds up all the mentions of his age from the series, then First aged to 450, Second and Third aged between 100 and 200, Fourth through Seventh lived between 50 and 70 years. This adds up to being 1009 when Eight was "born". Think about that: it took six lives to live the span he should have lived in 2 1/2. The fridge horror above still applies. This is continued in the new series, where, while Nine's age is a total mystery with no credible indications whatsoever, Tenth lived 6 years! Which is probably why he freaked out so much about "dying". It has taken him until his Eleventh life to return to Second/Third's standard. This is somewhat balanced out by Eight, who lived about 1000 years by himself, including the novels.
    • Nine is probably the most tragic. In "Rose," he looks at himself in the mirror and makes comments about his face and ears that imply he hasn't really seen them yet which would mean this is very, very early in his incarnation. At the end of the episode, Rose Tyler joins him as a companion and stays with him on the TARDIS until "The Parting of the Ways" where he dies. That means that Rose was with the Ninth Doctor for practically his whole life. Given Rose doesn't noticeably age that much by the time Nine regenerates into Ten, it's a good bet Nine didn't live very long at all, possibly even a year or less.
    • Actually, Nine lived about 100 years offscreen, as the War Doctor in "Day of the Doctor" states that he's 800 but Nine's age is stated as 900. That small moment between him leaving and returning in "Rose" was about a century's worth of adventures for him. But that is a Tearjerker in itself; Rose was the first living face he ever saw, and he came back for her even after a whole century.
      • It's not necessarily 100 years. The Doctor does not know his own age so it could be any amount of time.
    • All of the above was written prior to the Twelfth Doctor's arrival, in which he states he is more than 2,000 years old.
  • A special award for breaking hearts has to go to composer Murray Gold. Just go listen to "Doomsday", or "This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home". You'll understand.
    • Donna's flashback music that plays both in "Turn Left" and "Journey's End"
    • The Tenth Doctor's theme itself is absolutely heartwrenching.
    • The music from the time of the Eleventh Doctor is often especially heartbreaking. The tracks "Melody Pond", "36 Years" and "Forgiven" are of particular note.
    • And then there's "Together - Or Not At All" and "Goodbye, Pond". Otherwise known as the tracks that bid farewell to Rory and Amy.
    • The Eleventh Doctor's regeneration theme, "Infinite Potential" is guaranteed to bring on the waterworks.
    • Gold's leitmotif for Clara is guaranteed to do this, especially after it becomes part of the in-universe canon in "Hell Bent" as we learn that it was composed by the Doctor as an attempt to remember some aspect of Clara. Which renders every use of the music going all the way back to "Asylum of the Daleks" foreshadowing of her fate.
  • The very, very end of "Voyage of the Damned". It's an incredibly death-filled and tragic episode, with all of the deaths being heroic sacrifices. And just when you think your heart's been broken enough, a screen displays "In memory of Verity Lambert OBE, 1935-2007". Cue the waterworks. It happens again with "The Waters of Mars", which is dedicated in the memory of Barry Letts. Damnit, producers, stop dedicating the really tragic episodes to people!
    • One name: Lis Sladen.
      • Considering how Sarah Jane is more or less The Quintessential Companion, you can't possibly imagine how badly the fandom needed series 6 to start and help ease the hurt. And then Moffat gave us an episode that kills the Doctor in the first ten minutes.
    • Although it would have been nice if they'd done an on-screen caption for Nicholas Courtney as well. It was rather upsetting that they didn't. Instead, "The Wedding of River Song" has the Doctor's telephone call during which he learns of the Brig's death — and "The Power of Three" took the extra step of introducing the Brig's daughter the following season. The Brig comes back from the dead in "Death in Heaven" as a Cyberman (specifically a Cyber-LEADER) who defeats the Master one last time, salutes the Doctor before, then blasts off to go on new adventures.

  • In the incredible Tenth Doctor IDW comic "The Forgotten", toward the end, the TARDIS is projecting an image shapeshifting into the Doctor's various companions. It manifests as Adric and grabs a canister of Nitro-Nine, then runs toward an attacking Clockwork Robot. The following dialogue ensues:
    The Doctor: ADRIC! NO!
    Adric: Doctor! Get out of here! I've got this!
    The Doctor: No! I'm not going to let you die again, Adric! I can dismantle the droid- we could use it as a timing device!
    Adric: Don't worry, Doctor. The calculations are right this time. The timer's not real. It's not a pointless death. I'm not real, after all...
    (Adric explodes alongside the robot)
    The Doctor: Adric. Not again. Not like this.
    • And at the end, the Doctor requests to see one more companion before he leaves the Dream World.
      The Doctor: WAIT! Before you go, I may never get a chance to come back here... and there's one companion I'd really like to see again. One last time. It- it's been hard. These years of travelling. Always alone, except for scattered moments of companionship. Please, you know who I want- who I need to see.
      Martha: Of course, Doctor.
      Susan: Grandfather?
      The Doctor: Susan. Oh, Susan. It's so good to see you again. Look, I know you're not real, but bear with me, okay? All these years I travelled, I never regretted leaving a companion as much as I did with you. But you were young and in love- you needed to make your own way- not follow a doddery old fool around. And by the time I realised that I needed to say this- to apologise- you were taken away from me. Everyone was taken away from me.
      Susan: Grandfather, I always loved you. And I know that in your heart of hearts you made the right decision. But now it's time for you to move on, time for you to be left behind and start a new life. Look to the light, Grandfather. Ignore the darkness ahead. Goodbye.

  • There's a somewhat unexpected Tear Jerker at the end of the novel The Glamour Chase: Rory was talking about how unfair it was that Shell Shock sufferers of older times didn't get proper treatment or understanding, the Doctor spontaneously hugs him, telling him how important that compassion is... Then on the very next page he makes a throwaway comment about going to Rio and we realize what's going to happen to Rory next...
  • The book Slipback (based on the radio programme from the 80s) was divided into two parts. The first part did not feature the Doctor or his companion at all and told a bizarre story of a starship captain whose hypochondria was so severe that his body could actually physically create diseases. It ends with the captain manifesting the most deadly communicable disease in the universe. His long-suffering first-mate realizes that if he doesn't stop him, the captain will infect (and therefore kill) everybody on the planet they're heading towards, as well as anyone leaving that planet for somewhere else — resulting in, potentially, a galaxy-wide pandemic. To stop this from happening, the first-mate kills the captain and sets his body on fire, then, realizing that he's probably already infected himself, leaps into the fire as well. In describing the final moments of the first-mate's life, the final sentence says, "He died the way he had lived, in confusion and pain, not really understanding anything."
  • The novels have always been darker, but the writers for the Eighth Doctor Adventures simply seem bent on destroying their hero. The Eighth Doctor is thrown in prison, tortured, emotionally abused and Catch 22'd to levels that would drive most people insane, and the better novels note the fact that yes, there are sequels. By time of the first "Gallifrey" arc his fear of confinement has reached phobia levels.
  • Past Doctor Adventure The Indestructible Man. The Doctor is shot and Jamie and Zoe are separated and spend months stranded on a dystopian Earth, each thinking the other is dead. Madness, grief and suicide attempts galore. Jamie's breakdown is particularly bad — when he finally meets the Doctor again, he believes he's an impostor and threatens to kill him.
  • In the PDA Illegal Alien, Ace is locked in a cell by the Nazis and talks to a man for a few minutes in the cell next to her. As the Nazis take him away to torture him to death, he tells her his name: Sid Napley. What's so bad about this is that he WAS innocent, but the Nazis tortured him anyway.
    • The Cybermen kidnapping loads of people, including children and the elderly and converting them into Cybermen is horrible. They even convert a goddamn baby.
  • Shroud of Sorrow" is just a heartbreaking book, which is a given since the Doctor goes up against an alien that feeds on sadness and despair and picks the day after Kennedy was shot to feed on the Earth, forcing people to relive everything from the death of a childhood pet to the deaths of their parents or partners. The entire thing culminates in one of the saddest scenes in Doctor Who'' history where the Doctor has to relive his memory of attending the Brigadier's funeral, over and over, in all his incarnations to date... Excuse me, I have something in my eye...
  • Seventh Doctor book Love and War, courtesy of the Doctor Who New Adventures line. It's not exactly a happy book to begin with, but the ending is what firmly puts it into tear-jerker territory. After a fungus-infested Jan (whom Ace was in a relationship with) regains enough willpower to blow up the Hoothi sphere, a greiving Ace puts two and two together. The Doctor knew that Jan was infected and counted on him going up to the sphere and sacrificing himself, even shouting out Jan's true name so that he'd regain enough free will to do it. He gave up Jan for the sake of the universe and didn't bother to tell Ace about it, and so she runs off screaming in tears. It isn't until the last minute that the Doctor realizes the emotional consequences of just what he has done and desperately tries to stop her from leaving, but to no avail, and she storms off a broken mess with all the Doctor being able to do is watch her go.
    • It gets worse; several books later Ace rejoins the TARDIS crew after spending years in the 26th century fighting the Daleks, and she's a hard-bitten Sociopathic Soldier who's convinced Violence is the Only Option and is deeply resentful towards the Doctor. It takes a long, long time before the Doctor can even start to repair their friendship, and even then it's never quite the same between them...

  • As frightening as the Daleks are, their entire existence is a Tear Jerker, in a strange way. Here is an entire species dedicated only to war, domination and destruction. They're convinced of their own supposed "superiority" and as such, they don't make friends, they don't have bonds or relationships with anyone else, they hate any "impure" Daleks which shows that even among their own kind, they aren't merciful and worst of all, they're specifically engineered to feel this way! Meaning that it is literally impossible for them to comprehend any other meaning in life beyond simple "extermination": they can't comprehend love, friendship, compassion, creativity or any other emotion that humanity and most other species feel. And that is freaking sad.
    • The Doctor sums up their existence very well in "Doomsday".
    "Sealed inside your casing, not feeling anything. Ever. From birth to death, locked inside a cold, metal cage, completely alone. And that explains your voice. No wonder you scream."
    • It can however go into some Heartwarming (as "heartwarming" it gets for Daleks anyway...) that Twelve saving Davros in "The Witch's Familiar" ended up actually instilling one thing in Daleks: Mercy. Considering Davros created the Daleks, there's a possibility they themselves have mercy.
      • Unfortunately, the same episode also caps off the anguish of Dalek existence with yet more horrific misery: their version of "old age". Namely, how their survive-at-all-costs imperative is so unbreakable that they remain conscious and aware, even after their feeble organic bodies have decayed into slime and been uncaringly flushed down the sewers by younger Daleks. Small wonder they're so unhesitant to perish in battle!
  • The Doctor and the Master's relationship is frequently this, especially in Revival Who when the Doctor was alone except for the Master as The Last of His Kind. Ten is especially desperate to reform the Master, which is followed up with Twelve getting the closest of anyone to succeeding, as the Master - now Missy - travels with him for awhile. Missy did want to stand with the Doctor but wasn't able to, and the Master - driven mad once by the sound of drums - is apparently again driven to madness by a revelation about Gallifrey. With Thirteen, all their progress with the Master is lost and they are back to being enemies and worse - the Master himself has destroyed Gallifrey, once again driving a wedge between them.