Doctor Who's 25 Silliest Moments

Much as we adore Doctor Who, we have to admit that sometimes it’s downright ridiculous. Here's a run-down (in chronological order) of 25 of the show’s daftest bits

“The Chase”, episode four (1965)
Only William Hartnell’s cobwebbed-brained Doc could materialise in a House of Horrors without realising it. On the run from the Daleks, the Doctor and co arrive in a futuristic theme park called the Festival Of Ghana. There they encounter a rubbish Dracula and a mechanical Frankenstein’s Monster, which ends up obliterating the Dalek sent there to kill the Doctor. The most feared monsters in the universe, my arse. You wouldn’t get away with this nowadays – Terry Nation’s estate would send out a hit squad.

“The Chase”, episode five (1965)
So the Daleks have created a robot double of the Doctor. But it’s a rubbish one. Edmund Warwick, bless him, looked as much like Hartnell as Colin Baker looks like Sophie Ellis Bextor. Warwick had been Hartnell's double on a number of other stories, but never had his un-Hartnell-like face been seen as clearly as it is here, as he lip-syncs to Hartnell’s voice with all the animation of Nookie Bear. The double’s even beaten by the Doctor in a fight, making it surely the feeblest robot ever made.

“The Moonbase”, episode four (1967)
“They’ve punctured the dome!” the crew yell as the Cybermen blast a hole in the titular moonbase. Oh no! What to do? Ah, of course, a jacket can seal it off! Oh no, it was just sucked through the hole! What else? Ah, of course, a drinks tray! One piece of plastic kitchenware, and suddenly the whole base is safe. Just to remind you: Kit Pedler, writer of “The Moonbase”, was scientific advisor to Doctor Who and was hired to inject a bit of hard science into the programme…

“Spearhead From Space”, episode four (1970)
For an actor who was desperate to show how serious an actor he was, it’s strange how Carry On Jon Pertwee gets when strangled by the tentacles of the Nestene Consciousness. Normally straight-faced to the point of pomposity, he becomes a goggle-eyed loon whenever there’s something wrapped around his neck. Do people really pull faces like Marty Feldman when they’re being killed? If you’re a strangler on the loose, do let us know.

“The Claws Of Axos”, episode one (1971)
The undoubted star of this Pertwee tale is Pigbin Josh, the comedy relief tramp who becomes the first victim of the Axons, dying with a plaintive, “Oh ar? Oh ar? Aaargh!” But first, before he meets a sticky end, Josh (stunt arranger Derek Ware) rides a bicycle into a pond and spouts a load of Mummerset gibberish about, “Furge thangering muck witchellers rock throbblin’ this time o’ day!” Hats off to his creators, Bristolian boys Dave Martin and Bob Baker.

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“The Daemons”, episode five (1971)
After five episodes of high drama and English village terror, it transpires that all UNIT had to do to get rid of the giant Azal was simply confuse the bleeder. When he starts to zap the Doctor with an energy bolt, Jo steps in front and demands that the hairy-chested alien kill her instead. Cue lots of head grasping as Azal promptly blows a fuse, crying, “This action does not relate!” You got that right, mate. Or convince, either.

“The Time Monster”, episode three (1972)
Oh dear, the Master is experimenting with time again, through a device called TOMTIT - that’s Transmission Of Matter Through Interstitial Time – and is causing all matter of mischief! But how to stop him? The Doctor has the solution: find a wine bottle, attach a set of keys, some nail varnish and a cork and top it off with some tea leaves! Doctor Who ’s Bad Science nadir, it’s Horizon by way of Why Don’t You?

“The Green Death”, episode four (1973)
Jon Pertwee – the man of a thousand voices, all of them Jon Pertwee’s – must have been pestering Barry Letts for years to allow him a scene like this. When the Doctor has to sneak into Global Chemicals, he first slopes in by pretending to be a milkman (complete with comedy Welsh accent). Then, after he’s rumbled, he drags himself up as the plant’s cleaning woman. Oh, how we’d have loved it if Christopher Eccleston had got done up like Hilda Ogden…

“Robot” episode one (1975)
Trying out a variety of new outfits post-regeneration, Doctor number four first comes out as a Viking warrior, then – quick as a flash – the King of Hearts, then Pierrot, all to a weary shake of the head from the Brig. Seems there’s a fancy dress shop in the TARDIS… Of all the Doctor-choosing-a-new-costume scenes, this is the daftest. And the most brilliant. If only Colin Baker’s Doctor had had the Brigadier around to inform him that his costume “might attract attention” too.

“Genesis Of The Daleks”, episode three (1975)
Even the best Doctor Who stories have the occasional dropped stitch. When the Doctor and Harry are wandering through the caves under the Kaled dome to the wastelands they nearly come a cropper to a giant clam, when it attacks Harry’s leg. It’s about as frightening as, well, a giant clam can be. What’s particularly amusing is the idea that this is the product of one of Davros’s previous genetic experiments – was he planning to open a chain of seafood restaurants? Respect to Ian Marter for giving it his all, though.

To read the next five silly moments, click on "next" (below right)

“The Hand Of Fear” episode three (1976)
The Doctor, Sarah Jane and Professor Watson think that a nuclear power planet is about to go into meltdown. Out they scarper and... hide behind a jeep? Of course! If only the citizens of Sheffield had thought of that in Threads – they could have all survived and simply moved to Huddersfield. The Doctor comes across magnificently cool here, though, refusing to even duck down. Although maybe he just thinks he’ll be shielded from the blast by his scarf.

“Destiny Of The Daleks” episode one (1979)
In a scene that continues to get Who ’s hardcore miserablists in a lather, Romana decides to regenerate – yes, decides – then goes through new bodies like Carrie Bradshaw does frocks before a party. The scene has Douglas Adams (script editor at the time) written all over it. Although it contradicts everything we’ve ever been told about regeneration, we’ll forgive it its many continuity sins for being brilliantly daft.

“The Creature From The Pit”, episode three (1979)
Trying to communicate with a giant green splodge is difficult, even when it is actually an ambassador from the planet Tythonus. Having had little success, the Doctor grabs what looks like the monster’s John Thomas and blows into it… Yikes! But first, he tells the creature, “You’ve got beautiful skin”! In the next story, he compliments a Mandrel on its eyes and gently strokes its bottom. Oh okay, we made that up.

“The Horns Of Nimon” episode two (1979)
The TARDIS has been damaged and the Doctor’s trying to repair it. “Right, K-9,” he says, “without our gravitic anomaliser, this is the best we can do. Let’s give it a try, shall we?” Cue some rudimentary BBC explosions (or farts lit with matches) and a sound effect entitled "Major Bloodnok's Stomach", half-inched from The Goon Show . And to think, people say that Douglas Adams’s time as script editor saw the show over-run with undergraduate humour...

“Logopolis” episode two (1981)
Christopher H Bidmead has set himself up as modern Doctor Who ’s science police, so how the then script-editor let this particular bit of pure codswallop through is something of a mystery. The Master is hidden somewhere in the depths of the TARDIS. How to get him out? The Doctor devises a cunning plan: land beneath the Thames, open the doors, and flush him out! Wouldn’t the resulting dry-cleaning bill be a bit steep? And wouldn’t the Doctor and Adric drown in the process?


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“The Five Doctors” (1983)
In the script we imagine it read like something out of Indiana Jones. Sarah Jane falls down a steep embankment, only for the Third Doctor to sling her a rope and heroically rescue her from certain doom! But on location in Wales, faced with a slope of Welsh hillside that would hardly trouble Stephen Hawking, they decided to go through with it anyway. It’s especially insulting to Sarah Jane, one of classic Who ’s few toughies, reduced here to a Perils Of Pauline damsel in distress.

“Warriors Of The Deep”, episode three (1984)
The Myrka – a sea monster controlled by the Silurians – is rampaging through Sea Base 4! At least, that’s the idea. Onscreen, the giant sea creature becoming a lolloping green pantomime horse (filled by the same duo who worked Rentaghost ’s Dobbin), and the rampage a slow crawl. The cherry on the cake comes when Ingrid Pitt, already past her most agile, decides to take the beast on by karate kicking it. Apparently it was Pitt’s idea. Lesson for directors: never listen to actors.

“The Mark Of The Rani”, episode two (1985)
First Gary Cady’s Luke Ward steps on one of the Rani’s bizarre mines and is turned into a tree. Then Peri goes innocently wandering in the same wood… and the tree grabs her tight just before she has a chance to step on one. It’s a daft idea, made worse by a very plastic looking tree. Even Peter Jackson and WETA struggled to make a moving tree look something other than ridiculous. And wouldn’t a normal mine have been more efficient?

“Time And The Rani” episode one (1987)
When Colin Baker refused to come back for regenerative duties after his unceremonious sacking, the production team were left in a pickle. So new boy Sylvester McCoy – though six inches smaller and considerably lighter- is put in a Harpo Marx wig and Baker’s colour scream of a costume, with computer effects overlaid on his face. It doesn’t convince for a minute – the special effects come in way too late to disguise McCoy’s features. And then it’s even further downhill after that…

“Time And The Rani”, episode one (1987)
Doctor Who was already being ridiculed for casting Bonnie Langford as irksome companion Mel Bush, so what kind of sense does it make to have Kate O’Mara as the Rani laser-sighting all the reasons why Langford was wrong for Doctor Who as she impersonates the carrot-topped computer programmer in front of a confused, post-regeneration Doctor? From the springy walk to the helium voice to the Watch With Mother enunciation, it’s an assassination of Langford’s dramatic ambitions.

To read the next five silly moments, click on "next" (below right)

“Dragonfire”, episode one (1987)
What a wheeze, they must have thought back in 1987, to have an actual, literal cliffhanger at the end of an episode. It would have been nice if it had been plotted and had some motivation behind it. But no, instead, Sylvester McCoy climbs over some railings and hangs off a cliff of ice by his stupid question mark umbrella f or no apparent reason whatsoever (it all made sense in the original script, we're told), gurning away as he slides to certain doom! And what kind of hero has to be saved by Sabalom bloomin’ Glitz?

The TV Movie (1996)
Oh, fiddlesticks! One-night-only companion Grace and “the Asian Child” Chang Lee are dead at the hands of the Master. No worries, though – the TARDIS is a time machine, so why not take it back in time a few minutes to when they were alive? Huh? Sorry, America – it doesn’t work like that. A worrying sign of the baggy science that would have followed had Doctor Who become a proper US series back in the ‘90s.

“Rose” (2005)
The first of series one’s trademark bodily function jokes. As if to prepare us for the farting onslaught that was “Aliens Of London”, Mickey comes a cropper to a wheelie bin controlled by the Nestene Consciousness, which gobbles him up. After which the bin bellows a hearty belch. Charming. Thankfully, Russell T Davies resisted the urge to make Davros soil himself or have Rose waft a fruity guff in the direction of Sarah Jane, for which we find ourselves eternally grateful.

“Voyage Of The Damned” (2007)
It’s like the spirit of The Goodies wafted into the world of Doctor Who for one brilliant moment. The Queen had popped up in Who before, for a few seconds in 1988’s “Silver Nemesis”, but not in slippers and curlers, thanking the Doctor for saving Buck House from being flattened by a replica of the Titanic. The Queen was voiced by impressionist Jessica Martin, who played werewolf Mags in 1988’s “The Greatest Show In The Galaxy”.

“Journey’s End” (2008)
At the finale of this episode, the Doctor – aided by loads of his friends – tows the Earth back to its rightful place after it’s been “planetnapped” by Davros. Judging from the shakes that ensue, it’s likely that millions more died from being bonked on the head by falling household objects than as a result of the Dalek invasion in the previous episode. Undeniably daft as the physics may be though, it’s a proper lump-in-the-throat moment.

Steve O'Brien
Read more from Steve at his jolly amusing website,
This article was originally published in SFX in November 2010.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of course! We haven’t even mentioned Dobby Doctor, or Richard Briers, or Ace taking on the Cybermen with a catapult, or Turlough pretending a hatstand is some kind of laser, or… well, frankly, we could be here all day. Have you got a favourite silly moment from Doctor Who that we’ve missed out? If so, be sure to post a comment and let us know! If we get enough reaction, maybe we'll do a follow-up readers' top ten!

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