The Doctor is someone who uses words as their weapons, their whole philosophy is about using the smart way to defeat the villains, avoiding guns at all costs. So it’s natural that someone as old and intelligent as The Doctor is going to come out with some cracking words of wisdom from time to time.
I honestly can’t think of another show that so consistently pulls out such powerful and meaningful speeches that are able to draw that raw emotion out of me like Doctor Who can, so I thought that while I’m taking a short break from ranking all of the series, it would be a great idea to look through and discuss what I think are some of the best speeches from Doctor Who.
To be clear, the episode surrounding the speech doesn’t have much of an impact as to where each speech landed. Even if the rest of the episode was fairly rubbish (which I could say about a couple of episodes on this list) the speeches are being judged for the speech alone, not what surrounded it and also this is limited to modern Doctor Who, because I haven’t seen enough of the classic series to make a fair judgement. Also, I didn’t specifically limit this to only speeches made by The Doctor…it just ended up that way.
10 – The Turn of the Earth – Rose
You know like we were saying? About the Earth revolving?
It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world’s turning and you just can’t quite believe it ‘cos everything looks like it’s standing still.
I can feel it.
The turn of the Earth, the ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty-seven miles an hour, and I can feel it.
We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world and if we let go…
That’s who I am.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that when rebooting Doctor Who for a new audience, while still looking to retain the show’s history and everything that comes with it. The team at BBC Wales had a mammoth task. Would a modern audience care about Doctor Who? Would anyone even get it? In just 45 minutes this show had to explain a 40-year history of an entire TV show and convince everyone to stick around for more, so the biggest hurdle is answering that question, who is The Doctor?
On a basic level, that’s easy, they’re an alien who can change their face and travels around in time and space, but who are they…really? What do they stand for? How do they see the world around us? and, most importantly, why should I care? This speech is the perfect answer to every single question I’ve posed in this entry. It encapsulates everything about who The Doctor is, their intelligence, their wisdom, the way they view the universe and how they can show us that universe.
I defy anyone to watch that speech and not be fascinated by the delivery. The way in which The Doctor slowly lowers his voice with every line, pushing in closer and closer, like he’s speaking directly to you, totally enrapturing you with his words, even though he’s just stating facts. The intensity and the intrigue that makes this show great is all rolled into one and from that moment onwards, you know exactly who The Doctor is and what they stand for and you’re ready to follow him across the universe.
9 – Look me up – Forest of the Dead
Don’t play games with me.
You just killed someone I like, that is not a safe place to stand.
I’m The Doctor and you’re in the biggest library in the universe,
…look me up.
This one is quite short and sweet, but it’s so powerful that I couldn’t leave it off.
A trope that would eventually become overused in the Moffat era is the idea of The Doctor being this universally known figure that strikes fear or love into the hearts of every living being. I understand that The Doctor is thousands of years old and has been all over the universe in every different time zone, but when you think about how the universe is infinitely large and lasts for trillions of years, The Doctor hasn’t exactly been around for very long in the grand scheme of things, they’ve barely even begun to explore the universe when you really think about it, so the idea that everyone will know who he is doesn’t quite sit right with me.
That said, this is the one context where it absolutely makes sense, The Doctor even justifies it in this very speech. They’re standing in a place where almost all the knowledge of the universe is held, of course there’s going to be books on The Doctor, probably a whole skyscraper’s worth.
I often thought Tennant’s intensity was one of his weaker points in his role as The Doctor but this is an example of him absolutely nailing it. Once again, there’s the way he starts of angry and loud, but slowly quiets to almost a whisper, but a whisper that’s burning with rage and intensity. I can feel the chill go down my spine as he says the “look me up” line and if I were the Vashta Nerada, I’d back off too.
8 – Coward or Killer? – The Parting of the Ways
DALEK EMPEROR: Hail The Doctor, The Great Exterminator!
DOCTOR: I’ll do it!
DALEK EMPEROR: Then prove yourself Doctor, what are you? Coward or Killer?
DOCTOR: Coward…any day.
Another short one, but one that manages to wrap up an entire character arc in a sentence.
The Ninth Doctor is one that’s struggling with the very depth of inner turmoil. They’ve only recently ended the Time War, slaughtering billions of their own people in order to save the universe and now they’ve discovered it was all for nothing, because here the Daleks are, as strong as ever. Yet before them stands his chance to do it again, to finally wipe them all out for good, except there’s still that catch, that catch that means if they finally kill the Daleks and end the war, they murder everyone on planet Earth.
The performance of this moment is something extraordinary when the Dalek Emperor asks them that question and forces them to face this horrible choice again. The look on their face, the way their eyes dart between the plunger as they tense up, gathering the strength to push down…only for their whole body to suddenly relax as they take their hands off the plunger and simply declare “coward”.
The pure emotion at that moment is so tangible, it’s like a weight has been lifted off of The Doctor’s shoulders, finally having processed exactly what it was they did on the last day of the Time War. The acceptance that they did the wrong thing that day, even if it was for the right reasons and this is their way of making up for it, for putting themselves at peace. It’s the moment where The Doctor finally lets go of his anger and rage from the Time War, even accepting the fact that it’s his time to die, which is truly the ultimate sacrifice for a character like The Doctor.
7 – Change – The Time of The Doctor
We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives and that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve got to keep moving forward, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.
I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear.
I will always remember, when The Doctor was me.
When it comes to tear-jerkers, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest.
While I had problems with it, I loved Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor. He brought the exact kind of energy that the show needs, that inherent silliness of everything about Doctor Who, but still being able to reel you in with menace and dramatic speeches. He was able to contrast the Doctor’s more serious and light-hearted personas so well that I think he gave some of the best performances the show has ever seen.
So when it was time for him to bow out of the role, you could bet your bottom dollar he’d crank out one final performance for the ages, which came in the form of this speech. Instead of making some grand statement or gesture, he quiets down his delivery and lets out a very personal speech that clearly reflects Smith’s own feelings on his time playing the Time Lord.
It’s undeniably cheesy, but the sentiments on how people change as they go through their lives does have a truth to it and it lines up with the words of wisdom that The Doctor would go on to espouse once Capaldi took up the mantle. Speaking of…
6 – Where I Fall – The Doctor Falls
I’m gonna be dead in a few hours, so before I go, let’s have this out, you and me, once and for all.
Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone, or because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does.. I DO WHAT I DO BECAUSE IT’S RIGHT! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind! It’s just that.. Just kind.
If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, you know, maybe there’s no point to any of this at all. But it’s the best I can do. So I’m going to do it. And I will stand here doing it until it kills me. And you’re going to die too! Some day.. And how will that be, have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand…is where I fall.
Stand with me. These people are terrified. Maybe we can help a little. Why not, just at the end, just be kind?
Many times throughout the series history, various villains have tried their best to cast The Doctor in a negative light and challenge his true morality, but it’s moments like this when their back is truly up against the wall, where we get to see how much of a hero The Doctor really is. One of the best character arcs in series 10 was that of The Master (or Missy) finally growing a genuine connection with The Doctor, with The Doctor inching closer and closer to bring The Master around to their own way of thinking, to make them a good person and this moment is what finally ticks it over in her mind.
Although the concept wasn’t used to its full potential, bringing John Simm’s Master back into the fold was a brilliant idea (even if every single trailer for the series totally spoiled it). It gave us a real contrast of who The Master had progressed as a person compared to the days of The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords and the inner conflict of Missy was clear for all to see. She was letting her former-self drag her back into her mad & evil ways, so The Doctor decided enough was enough. He was going to make one final plea to their best friend, in order to hopefully bring them over to stand together.
Even though The Doctor directs this plea towards John Simm’s Master, it’s clear who they were really trying to appeal to. Missy’s face as The Doctor goes from shouting, to the brink of tears, to near begging is such subtle, yet masterful acting that it reminds me how much more credit Michelle Gomez deserves for this role. What’s more is that the fake-out is written in such a brilliant way, because even though Missy initially rejects this, the penny later drops and they decide to do the right thing, like a true hero would: Without Witness and Without Reward.
What’s more, is it presents The Doctor in the most heroic light they’d been presented in since their identity crisis in series 8. It’s the distilled essence of who I think The Doctor is beneath their many incarnations, the ideals and principles with which he travels the universe and, as I’ve said, what makes him stand out as a hero, despite what many villains have tried to make him believe.
5 – A Story – The Rings of Akhaten
Okay, then. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll tell you a story.
Can you hear them? All these people who’ve lived in terror of you and your judgement? All these people whose ancestors devoted themselves, sacrificed themselves, to you. Can you hear them singing?
Oh, you like to think you’re a god. But you’re not a god. You’re just a parasite eaten out with jealousy and envy and longing for the lives of others. You feed on them. On the memory of love and loss and birth and death and joy and sorrow. So, come on, then. Take mine. Take my memories. But I hope you’ve got a big appetite because I have lived a long life and I have seen a few things.
I walked away from the Last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time. No space. Just me.
I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a mad man. I’ve watched universes freeze and creations burn. I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. I have lost things you will never understand. And I know things. Secrets that must never be told. Knowledge that must never be spoken. Knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze.
So come on, then. Take it! Take it all, baby! Have it! You have it all!
This speech isn’t some grand statement about who The Doctor is. It doesn’t cap off some great story arc, hell, it doesn’t even resolve the episode. It’s just one person opening their heart and letting everything thought in their brain flow out into the open.
The brilliance of this speech all comes from the atmosphere around it. The Long Song is a pitch-perfect backing to this speech, its slow and smooth pace perfectly complements the first half of the speech, where The Doctor runs down Akhaten, doing what The Doctor does best and using their words as weapons to defeat the enemy. The song then swells into a big chorus as The Doctor stands there, allowing Akhaten to feed off of them, letting all of their pent up misery and torment out.
It’s these kinds of moments that remind us of the kind of emotional trauma The Doctor has to deal with every single day and it’s done in the best way possible. When the show has tried to properly focus in on the idea, it very rarely pulls it off in a satisfactory way (see The Waters of Mars & the whole of Series 8), so instead the best way to touch on it is to weave it into a greater story like this. Even better than that, The Doctor is weaponising that pain here, not using it to fuel an attack, but using it to trick a parasite into overfeeding themselves on his emotion. Admittedly, that idea is slightly undermined by the fact that this doesn’t even work and it takes Clara and her leaf to save the day, but that’s a fault with the episode, not this speech.
Even though it may not have some greater meaning in the grand scheme of Doctor Who, the raw emotion on display is so powerful that I always get choked up when I give this one a re-watch.
4 – Guess Who? – The Pandorica Opens
Hello, Stonehenge! Who takes the Pandorica, takes the universe. But bad news, everyone,
Because guess who? Ha! Listen, you lot, you’re all whizzing about. It’s really very distracting. Could you all just stay still a minute because I. AM. TALKING!
The question of the hour is, who’s got the Pandorica? Answer, I do. Next question. Who’s coming to take it from me? Come on! Look at me. No plan, no back up, no weapons worth a damn. Oh, and something else. I don’t have anything to lose! So, if you’re sitting up there in your silly little spaceship, with all your silly little guns, and you’ve got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who’s standing in your way. Remember every black day I ever stopped you, and then, and then!
Do the smart thing…let somebody else try first.
There are two sides to this speech depending on whether you’re watching The Pandorica Opens for the first time or whether you already know the twist and this speech seems brilliant either way.
If this is your first time watching the episode then this is the speech of a hero, this is The Doctor facing down every foe they’ve ever faced and essentially saying “Come at me” only for them all to run away. It’s cathartic it’s triumphant it sets The Doctor is the light of an absolute hero and puts a smile on your face as he bats away countless old enemies like they were nothing.
Then, there’s the side that comes when you know the twist of the episode, that actually, the whole thing’s a trap and letting The Doctor think he’s in control is the whole point. There’s this bittersweet irony to the whole thing when you imagine that the creatures up in those ships must be looking down at The Doctor, thinking he’s the king of the universe and laughing at his hubris.
This whole speech has a strange dual meaning behind it, showing how forcefully The Doctor can use his words as weapons, while also totally tearing down his character and pointing out the fact that The Doctor always assuming he’s the centre of the universe can lead him blind to the facts that are staring him right in the face. Whether you want a feel-good moment or an ironic tear-down of The Doctor as a character, this is a speech that’s got you covered.
3 – I’m Coming to Get You – Bad Wolf
DALEK: Explain yourself!
DOCTOR: I said no.
DALEK: What is the meaning of this negative?
DOCTOR: It means no.
DALEK: But she will be destroyed.
DOCTOR: Because this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to rescue her.
I’m going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet and then, I’m going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I’m going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!
DALEK: But you have no weapons, no defences, no plan.
DOCTOR: Yeah. And doesn’t that scare you to death? Rose?
ROSE: Yes, Doctor?
DOCTOR: I’m coming to get you.
I’ve talked a lot about The Doctor having his “hero moments” so far in this list, but I believe that The Doctor has never seemed like more of a hero than he has at this moment, even if he’s being motivated by hatred and rage.
You’ve got to take a look into The Doctor’s mindset during this speech, earlier in the series they thought the Time War was finally over, the last Dalek in existence killed itself and all of the sufferings they’ve gone through, and all of the horrible things they did seemed like maybe they might’ve been worth it to finally rid the universe of the terror of the Daleks. Now, they’ve just discovered that not only did more escape the Time War, but they’ve multiplied and now there are hundreds of thousands of them. This is a person who very recently wiped out his entire race just to get rid of the Daleks and now they’ve learnt it was all for nothing, how would you feel in that situation?
Ecclestone’s acting during this scene is top-notch, the minute movements in his facial expressions put forth this feeling of someone who is having to suppress so much rage, guilt and fear all at once. In the moments before this speech, they flick between mild joking and serious threats, their head is not in the right space and it shows. I almost get this feeling like they’re going to explode in a fit of rage and totally lose their mind – I know I would – but the don’t. Instead, what they do is channel it all and use it to fuel their drive and desire to do the right thing, as Rose would later say “To stand up and say no”, quite literally in this case.
The way the music swells as The Doctor decides to defy the Daleks’ demand, the way they don’t even raise their voice on the first “No”, it’s just a cold statement of intent, a statement that they’ve had enough of dealing with the Daleks’ shit and they’re not going to tolerate one iota of it this time around. They call the Daleks’ bluff and they tell them exactly what they’re going to do, only to totally ignore the Daleks in the end and simply tell Rose “I’m coming to get you” like they’re just picking her up from karate class, no big deal.
Every time I watch it, it gets me PUMPED and it created one of my favourite cliffhangers I’ve ever seen this show pull off.
2 – War – The Zygon Inversion
DOCTOR: So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and when it’s all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you?
How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?
KATE: Yes, I’d quite like to know that, too. You set this up. Why?
DOCTOR: Because it’s not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does until what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. SIT! DOWN! AND TALK! (sigh) Listen to me. Listen, I just, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.
CLARA-Z: I will not change my mind.
DOCTOR: Then you will die stupid. Alternatively, you could step away from that box, you can walk right out of that door and you could stand your revolution down.
CLARA-Z: No! I’m not stopping this, Doctor. I started it. I will not stop it. You think they’ll let me go, after what I’ve done?
DOCTOR: You’re all the same, you screaming kids. You know that? Look at me, I’m unforgivable. Well, here’s the unforeseeable. I forgive you. After all you’ve done, I forgive you.
CLARA-Z: You don’t understand. You will never understand.
DOCTOR: I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes…I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight…until it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!
I have plenty of problems with Capaldi’s time as The Doctor, which I’ll get more into when I eventually cover those series. However, the one thing that I don’t think many people could deny is that Capaldi himself is easily one of the best pure-actors to ever fill The Doctor’s shoes. Whenever the writing was up to the high standards you’d expect from the show, Capaldi’s acting was on another level completely. I was tempted to put the whole of Heaven Sent on this list for that exact reason, but I think this is the scene where that raw talent and understanding of The Doctor is on full display.
Capaldi came in just after the Time War arc of the show, and arc that had been running in the background since the show’s return in 2005 and even though The Doctor now knows that they didn’t do the awful thing they thought they did, that doesn’t stop those memories that burnt into their mind for hundreds of years feeling real and burning on his conscience and Capaldi does one of the best jobs of capturing that feeling since Ecclestone’s near breakdown in Dalek.
His general sentiments on the whole concept of the war feel so very real in this speech. The futility of it all, the fact that the outcome is always the same and that even if you win, it ends up not mattering shortly after that anyway; a statement that’s mostly backed up by history when you look at it. Doctor Who as a show has never been afraid to take a stand and make a statement about how we can change the world, and this is absolutely the best way to do it (Series 12, take notes).
Capaldi’s performance perfectly captures the desperation in his plea as he uses every word and emotion he can conjure just to cause that little moment of doubt in Bonnie’s mind so he can get through to her. Every word that comes out of their mouth is brimming with the raw power of emotion, the way their voice builds up into shouting only to fall back into quiet pleading like they really are trying everything they can think of in order to get through to her.
It’s so well-written and passionately performed that everything comes together just right to always put me into that emotional mindset as The Doctor pleads with Bonnie.
1 – Everybody Lives – The Doctor Dances
You want moves Rose? I’ll give you moves.
Everybody lives Rose. Just this once…everybody lives!
Do two lines count as a speech? Oh well, my list, my rules.
This moment is not only my favourite moment in all of Doctor Who, but it may just be my favourite moment from anything that I’ve ever watched.
I’ve professed my love for this episode before, but I really want to highlight just how fantastic (pun very much intended) of a moment this is. The way how everything seems so very hopeless in the build-up to this, you can see it in Ecclestone’s performance in the lead up to this moment and also afterwards when The Doctor tells Jack that he “doesn’t need the bomb”, that they clearly had some sort of plan, but he really wasn’t sure about it, so for the miracle of the situation turning out how it did make it all the sweeter.
The slow build of hope as the nanogenes activate when Nancy & Jamie embrace. The quick switch of emotions and you think that Nancy’s going to be turned into a gas-mask zombie, only for The Doctor to suddenly clock on to what’s happening. We’re given that glimmer of hope as The Doctor pleads with the nanogenes to figure it out only for the absolute catharsis of the moment where The Doctor lifts the mask off of Jamie and cries out with joy.
It then leads to this moment just afterwards, where The Doctor gets to feel like a true hero, for the first time in a long time. It’s one of those bittersweet things about what The Doctor does, is that even if they defeat the bad guys and save some people, others always die before they can get to them. When you pile that on top of the fact that this is a version of The Doctor who is still freshly tormented by his actions in the Time War and you realise exactly what this must mean for The Doctor, that despite all odds, despite thinking they were probably going to have to kill all of these innocent people with the bomb, everybody lives. He’s done the one thing that he’s never been able to do before and save everyone. Even though he had originally intended to leave Jack for dead, he ended up riding this wave of ecstasy (along with a push from Rose) to save him too.
While I wouldn’t call this the most heroic moment for The Doctor (I’ve already talked about that) I think it’s probably the moment where they feel the most like a hero, or at the very least, that they’ve absolutely, 100%, without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt done the right thing; a feeling I don’t think they get to feel very often.
It’s euphoric, it’s emotional and it’s just such a pure moment that I will always shed a tear when going back to watch this one.
And that’s it! Thank you very much for reading, please let me know what your favourite speeches are either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back next Tuesday where I’ll be covering WWE Super ShowDown!