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There’s always a lot of emotional upheaval around the Doctor, but while he’s enormously empathic, and hugely generous of spirit, it’s not often that he gets truly shaken himself. But when he does, it’s as if the universe itself has developed a worrying wobble.
Here are five moments, from many, where the Doctor’s happy-go-lucky mask slips, revealing a deeply troubled soul underneath.
“It is discovered” (“The Name of the Doctor”)
At first you think this is about the prophecy of Trenzalore coming true, and that the Doctor is afraid for his life, but that’s not what he’s reacting to. It’s about an unravelling of his secrets, the things that made him who he is. And by the look on his face those secrets are so appalling he can’t bear to even consider them in death. Everything about the Doctor’s reaction to Clara’s words says he knows the thing he has been running from all of his life is coming back to get him, and he’s horrified.
“Good things” (“Vincent and the Doctor”)
Amy does most of the emotional heavy lifting in this scene, because the Doctor has to explain what it is like to soar as high as Vincent Van Gogh does artistically, then plunge to the worst depths of mental illness. And don’t those words about good days and bad days sound like the sort of thing the Doctor understands only too well? While cheerful and reassuring, his is the voice of bitter experience and Amy’s instinctive recoil merely serves to emphasise this.
“Raggedy Man… Goodbye” (“The Angels Take Manhattan”)
It’s all in the face. Rory goes, Amy goes after him, and Matt Smith’s face implodes as if some of the more important structural bones have been whipped out to make soup. The Doctor will never see Amy again, and he simply cannot bear it.
“You took her from her home” (“The Doctor’s Wife”)
This is four minutes of total magic from start to finish, with the Doctor going from imperious and vengeful triumph to another horrified and beautiful goodbye. Fancy being able to speak to your sole, mute travelling companion over all of those centuries, only to have that possibility tugged away. And this after hoping there might still be some Time Lords left after all. Not a good day, all told.
“No, I thought it would hurt me” (“The Name of the Doctor”)
Until this scene, which may or may not be the final time we shall see River Song, the relationship between the Doctor and his wife had always played out like it was something driven more by her than him. There are a lot of reasons for this; River always seemed to be ahead in their upended time stream, her personality tends towards vampish experience over his bumbling unworldliness, he’s too flighty to commit in any case. But this is the moment when all the banter and bickering stops, and the Doctor freely admits just how much he cares for River, just as they are about to part forever.
Deep breaths in, deep breaths out, people.
Now, tell me which heartbreaking Doctor scene is your personal favorite, remembering to begin all comments with “You missed out [recommendation] you preposterous oaf!”
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See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic