Tomorrow night’s (September 13) Doctor Who episode “Listen” sees a return to the darker, scarier moments in the show’s history, after last week’s historical romp “Robot of Sherwood,” and if this just-released clip is anything to go by, the Doctor is forced to take a long and unsettling look at his own life:
But it’s not the first time in all of his traveling that the Doctor has been rattled. Here, then, are five moments when his natural overconfidence and bullishness took something of a hammering.
It may be because he is still deeply traumatized by the events of the Time War, it may be because he believes the sacrifice of Gallifrey was only justified if it brought about the destruction of the Daleks, but when the Ninth Doctor is introduced to the last Dalek left alive, it triggers an avalanche of emotion, most notably abject terror.
Shortly before this illustrative clip begins, the Doctor’s mind is possessed by the sentient sun, which has been attacked by a mining ship, he not only takes on the outrage and pain of the being that now burns inside his mind, he struggles to contain the intense heat and fury. Consequently, while Martha tries to cool him down and keep him alive, he starts to ramble, and despite her best efforts to reassure him, he painfully admits, “I’m scared, I’m so scared.”
“Planet of the Spiders”
During the course of this unpleasant tale of arachnid possession, the Third Doctor meets a former Time Lord mentor of his, K’anpo Rimpoche, who advises him to travel to Metebelis Three and return a blue crystal he had taken. This involves facing an enormous spider called the Great One, whose telepathic capabilities will become greatly increased by the crystal, something the Doctor is understandably hesitant to do. She uses this new power to attack the Doctor, but can’t control it, and eventually she is overwhelmed, but the radiation caused by the overloading of the crystals floods through the Doctor’s body, forcing a regeneration. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane and the Brigadier wait fretfully for his return.
“The Family of Blood”
John Smith isn’t really the Doctor, and doesn’t share the Doctor’s values or general approach to life. Sadly for him, he is only a human version of a Time Lord, and when he has no option but to surrender himself—and the love of his life—in order to save the planet, he does so with none of the Doctor’s stagey emotional deflection. You rarely see the Tenth Doctor looking terrified (although some of his final moments chatting with Wilfred come close), but John Smith is another matter entirely. Not just scared, but horrified at the person he is about to become.
Somewhere in that pocket universe, accessed by that same blue crystal from Metebelis 3, is the stuff of nightmares. Not just physically scary in and of itself, but fond of swishing about just behind you, breathing down the back of your neck, and causing sudden jolts and spins. And does this scare the Doctor, who has seen untold horrors and even caused a few? Well yes, yes it does.
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