11 of the Most Heart-Stopping Cliffhangers in 'Doctor Who' History

Classic Doctor Who was arranged slightly differently compared to the modern version. There were stories, and those stories had episodes. Each of those episodes had a cliffhanger ending rich in jeopardy that would drive the viewers to tune in the following week. Some were terrifying, some were… less so.
As Doctor Who: Flux has proved to be such a mind-boggling return to form in that regard, here’s a roundup of some of Doctor Who’s most gast-flabbering moments — the ones that truly deserve that horrible synth scream just before the final credits.
“Dark Water”

The return of a legendary foe for the Doctor always makes for a good cliffhanger, especially when it’s the Master. But this one pips the rest, even the more recent, jaw-dropping “Spyfall” reveal, because it’s the first time we get to meet Missy. Missy is a female regeneration of the Master, and she is far and away the most unhinged and charismatic incarnation of this interstellar rotter that the Doctor has come across to date, and she’s got the Cybermen with her. Plus, she has already snogged Twelve, planting that extra little kiss on the end of his nose just to seal the deal.
2. “Utopia”

One a similar note, we’ve all had bad days, but can any one of us honestly claim to have had the kind of day in which we’re under siege from monster-men, trapped at the end of the universe, our time machine just stolen by our freshly regenerated schoolyard nemesis? I thought not. To make matters worse, Ten has only just finished congratulating himself for working out that the warning “you are not alone” from the Face of Boe is an acronym for Professor Yana’s surname. Too little, too late.
3.  “Under the Lake”
A relatively common cliffhanger trope is when the Doctor goes off to investigate an issue that is affecting a community – a disease, say – only to fall victim to the same affliction just before the titles roll. Making the Doctor a Weeping Angel in “Village of the Angels” has much the same effect as did seeing Eleven pop up, sprightly as always, with the putty face of a ganger in “The Rebel Flesh.” Here’s another particularly good example: Twelve becoming zombiefied while battling zombies in an underwater base.
4. “The Tenth Planet”
For all of Whovians' complaints whenever the essential lore of the show is given a hefty thwack, there can scarcely be anyone who baulks at the idea of regeneration now. But what a challenging and brilliant idea it was at the time, and how odd it must have been to see this happen with no explanation. The much loved First Doctor is tired, he lies down, he starts to glow... and his face becomes someone else’s. Forever. Imagine if your beloved grandparent suddenly looked like your scruffy uncle, with no warning at all. You’d be outraged! What was the BBC thinking??
6. “The Almost People”
Sometimes the fate of companions in Doctor Who stories can be really – and I mean REALLY – disturbing. Bill Potts became a Cyberman (“World Enough and Time”), Donna Noble got stuck in a talking information statue (“Silence in the Library”) and Martha Jones had to walk the planet Earth for a year (“The Sound of Drums”). And poor Amy Pond has just reached the end of a stressful encounter with the gangers, when she starts to experience pain in her abdomen. The Doctor tells her to breathe, points out that she is in labour, and coldly tells Rory to stand away from her. She is terrified at this point. Then he sonics her into white custard and she wakes up in a shoebox, very pregnant, in labor and looking up at a scathing eyepatch boss lady in the ceiling who is telling her to push. Yikes!
6. “The Mind Robber”
The TARDIS is impregnable, right? Safe as houses, except you can break into houses if you know what you’re doing. So it’s all the more bizarre when something manages to attack the TARDIS and fiddle with it. It could be Donna Noble in a bridal gown in “Doomsday” (to which Ten responds with a trademark “What?”), a Weeping Angel taking over the console at the end of “Once, Upon Time” (“What?!”), or a crash landing from a spaceship that is somehow also the Titanic at the end of “Last of the Time Lords” (“WHAT?!?”). But the Second Doctor had an even rougher time of it in “The Mind Robber,” having parked his TARDIS in a new dimension to try and fix it, when the team is attacked by a siren (noise, not mermaid) and then the TARDIS explodes. Get out of that!
7. “The Name of the Doctor”
We are already quite a ways off from the usual Doctor Who style of story by the time this cliffhanger comes along. Clara has been revealed as the Fix-it Felix who has to enter the Doctor’s timeline and undo the damage caused by the Great Intelligence’s Wreck-It Ralph. She’s restored every victory in his life, tearing herself to shreds into the bargain. But there is one aspect of the Doctor’s past that even she has no access to. It turns out there’s an extra Doctor, and he’s been struck off by the interstellar medical registrar and oh yes! He is Sir John Vincent Hurt. Any questions?
8. The Caves of Androzani
The Doctor has always been a fan of taking extreme risks, especially when the fate of his friends is concerned. But for the most part, this doesn’t include piloting spaceships directly into planets. That’s usually considered a bad idea. “The Caves of Androzani” – long held to be one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of the entire series — shows a poisoned Five taking this extreme measure in order to try and help his equally unwell companion Peri, with the gunrunning owners of the ship on the other side of the control room door, howling in outrage. And this is the second startling cliffhanger of the story, the first showing both the Doctor and Peri being shot by a firing squad.
9. “The Zygon Invasion”
In “The Deadly Assassin,” the Fourth Doctor is seen arriving on Gallifrey, being arrested, evading capture and then, in a move that is exceptionally out-of-character, firing a sniper’s rifle just as the President is assassinated. Cue the credits! In a similar spirit, “The Zygon Invasion” shows Clara Oswald shooting a bazooka at the airplane we know the Doctor is traveling within. The fact that we know she’s a Zygon doesn’t make it any less shocking that she’s so gleeful about her explosive task.
11. “The Stolen Earth”
Russell T Davies is a rotten tease. What’s that you want, besotted Doctor Who fans? Ten and Rose to get back together? A heartfelt chase into each other’s arms for these time-and-space-crossed lovers, across a dystopian street with cars and debris scattered hither and yon? Okay, I can give you that, but you’ll have to take a surprise Dalek with it. Oh, and did I mention we’re doing a regeneration? No? How remiss of me. And as you know, once the Doctor starts a-glowing, there’s no knowing who he’ll be next. HAPPY NOW?
11. “The Time of Angels”
Some cliffhangers achieve the impossible; they make the Doctor look cool. When facing down a cave full of Weeping Angels, who are cockily mocking their chances of survival, the Eleventh Doctor, ably assisted by Amy Pond, River Song and a dwindling cohort of clerics, concocts an audacious plan involving a gun and some jumping. And because the Angels made him cross, he gets to announce his brainwave in a speech that is soaked in cockiness. Then he fires the gun and... well, you’ll have to tune in next week to see what happens!
Which Doctor Who cliffhangers have left you desperate for answers?