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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Alex Antonijevic
    June 14, 2014 @ 12:04 am

    Best cliffhanger for me was Utopia. That felt like the longest week ever, waiting for The Sound of Drums. Stolen Earth was another big one. Pandorica Opens. Name of the Doctor was brutal, too.

    None of the classic stuff had a huge impact for me since I never had to wait long for the next part, so I can't really think of any.


  2. Jack Graham
    June 14, 2014 @ 12:23 am

    I think you're desperately trying to find new material to write about so the Eruditorum never has to end.


  3. Andrew
    June 14, 2014 @ 12:24 am

    From my younger years, Remembrance of the Daleks part 1, upon original viewing. That was thrilling, and just spoke 'Dr. Who's back!' after years and years of being drab programming.

    I had a VCR at the time, and must have watched that episode on a loop until Episode 2 aired.

    And it's probably the best "OK, here are the daleks you've been waiting for all episode" moment of any '…of the Daleks' story.


  4. Dan
    June 14, 2014 @ 12:25 am

    Episode 3 of The Pirate Planet. At school we thought there was no way he could get out of that: the Doctor must be dead.


  5. T. Hartwell
    June 14, 2014 @ 12:34 am

    I'd wager the list for most memorable/iconic would probably be Unearthly Child, Daleks 1, Dalek Invasion 1, Deadly Assassin 1, Androzani 3, Remembrance 1, Curse of Fenric 3, Bad Wolf, Utopia, Pandorica Opens, though I probably missed a few to slip in a couple preferences.

    For my own favorites, though, I've always adored the first cliffhanger to Carnival of Monsters, partly for what a delightful image it is and also because it's the moment where it finally clicks how these two disparate story threads are connected (but it's still weird enough that you're still not quite sure exactly how). That story in general has some very nice cliffhangers. Snakedance 1 is delightfully creepy and unsettling, Brain of Morbius has cliffhangers that are worth more than the sum of their parts, and I've always been fond of the one Aztecs cliffhanger that's just Ringham talking to the camera.

    And a special shout-out to the Trial of a Time Lord cliffhangers, just because crash-zoom Colin face has given me endless joy and laughter over the years.


  6. David Anderson
    June 14, 2014 @ 12:57 am

    1. Sylvester McCoy escapes from a dalek up the stairs.
      2. If you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there is one thing you should never, ever put in a trap.
      3. Joint between: it's the Master (again) – he has cat eyes. / Ace has cat eyes too.
      4. Pertwee and Jo Grant watch a giant hand lift the TARDIS out of the hold.
      5. Pandorica Opens.
      Special mention for the Chronic Hysteresis. It's my earliest memory of Doctor Who. It's so early that I can't even remember it had Tom Baker in it. But unless some other program at around that time had a plot element with the main characters trapped in a time loop, the chronic hysteresis has stuck with me ever since.


  7. Chris
    June 14, 2014 @ 12:58 am

    For Baker/Tamm, we unfortunately have very little to choose from. And even within those there are some moments where you can hear how ill poor Mary was when recording. Still, there are two I especially like. "The Auntie Matter" is a very amusing "Doctor Who invades P.G. Wodehouse" story, and "Phantoms Of The Deep" I love because it takes place underwater which is not somewhere we really see Doctor Who that often (perhaps good to compare to "Cold War" which had aired only a few weeks earlier).


  8. Aylwin
    June 14, 2014 @ 12:59 am

    "might see if I can dig up those K-9/The Mistress audios that existed at one point"

    A secret trove of suppressed Moffat-scripted slashfic?

    On cliffhangers not yet mentioned, the Army of Ghosts one took me completely by surprise and had me bouncing up and down and virtually squeaking with childlike excitement. Which probably says something about me.


  9. David Anderson
    June 14, 2014 @ 1:02 am

    One of the good things about that is that Aaronovitch did the daleks you've been waiting for all episode moment out of the way half way through part one. (I think when I first watched I wasn't quite Doctor Who literate enough to realise that you never have a dalek appear half way through the first episode unless the episode's double length.)


  10. Frezno
    June 14, 2014 @ 1:45 am

    I've got to mention the cliffhanger I just saw for the first time last night; the end to episode 1 of The Leisure Hive. Tom Baker projected onto some sort of screen, and his limbs fly off his torso like a bad 80's music video. As his SCREAMING HEAD flies towards the camera, it's paired with the cliffhanger sting.

    Jesus. I mean, the resolution is just "oh it was only a projection", but that doesn't change the fact that the kids of summer 1980 got to see the Doctor ripped asunder.


  11. Tom
    June 14, 2014 @ 1:55 am

    Watching as a kid: The first Cliffhanger I can remember is the Sunmakers one with Leela getting steamed. City of Death 3 – Kerensky aged to skeleton – is the only classic series episode where I was too scared to watch the next episode until the cliffhanger had gone away. Other ones which are really memorable from my childhood – Kroll 2 with the pipe (er, not quite as strong as an adult), Logopolis 2 with the TARDIS shrinking (still good), in fact all of the Logopolis ones I loved – Kinda 2 with Hindle freaking out (now I think 3 is better), Androzani 3 (still my all time favourite, obvious pick though it may be).

    Watching Classic Series as an adult: Lots more obvious ones! You're right that Time Meddler 3 is glorious. Watching the Ark knowing nothing about it, Ark 2 was a wonderful cliffhanger whose main problem was leading into parts 3 and 4 of The Ark. The "We Are Your Servants!" Dalek one (a cliffhanger that works just as well on audio, luckily). City Of Death 2 is delightful. By the time I watched any McCoy I was re-immersed enough in fandom to come at Curse Of Fenric anticipating "We play the contest again", but it still worked.

    As for the revival – the unrecoverable thrill of The Stolen Earth, of course. My two favourites though are ones which play with the balance between cliffhanger and teaser – the rousing cliffhanger of "Bad Wolf" combined with "They survived through ME" on the Next Time teaser (who? who? I believed some cheeky photoshop fraud that sugggested it was Adam). And "Doctor Who will return in Let's Kill Hitler", which worked on me in precisely the 'slutty' way Moffat intended (now I come to think of it, the combination gasp and laugh for that was exactly the same noise I made for Van Persie's headed goal last night…)


  12. Triturus
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:02 am

    For cliffhangers that worked at the time, the obvious one for me is Earthshock episode 1. I understand that there are problems with it now in terms of the fact that it relied on viewers being Dr-Who-obsessed Cyberfans for its effectiveness. For an 11 year old Dr-Who-obsessed Cyberfan in 1982, it was a real OMG moment, but it only has really that impact once.

    So instead I'll go for the Enlightenment ep.1 'sailing ships in space' reveal. I can still remember going all wide-eyed at that cliffhanger on first broadcast, and on recent re-watch it's still wonderful.


  13. Triturus
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:16 am

    Also, if there's a subcategory of "cliffhangers that I thought were unmemorable at the time but are much more disturbing as an adult", I'd have to say The Two Doctors episode 2.


  14. William Whyte
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:22 am

    Ace has cat eyes too is one of my absolute favourites.


  15. William Whyte
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:24 am

    I personally love Warriors' Gate episode 3, for its understatement: "Well, Doctor. This IS a surprise."


  16. David Anderson
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:24 am

    On the subject of sailing ships in space…
    Does anybody else remember a marionette show, which was shown on UK television at around the same time, which included a sailing ship in space? It was superficially a Star Wars sort-of-space opera, but the leading ship's task was keeping safe the young woman who can defeat the galactic emperor, which in hindsight I think may have had a Japanese sensibility behind it. I can't remember what it was called; we used to come across it at odd times in the schedules.


  17. Douglas McDonald
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:26 am

    Forever wedded to Curse of Fenric part 3's cliffhanger. My reaction to The AV Club's description (http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/doctor-who-classic-the-curse-of-fenric-69525) of it as a 'Z-grade Bond villain line' was first fury ('Of course it's not!'), then defensiveness ('It's all in the delivery!') and then stubborn pride: 'Of course it is. And it's still brilliant.'


  18. Douglas McDonald
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:29 am

    But with an honourable mention to the conclusion of chapter 5 of "Alien Bodies" (noting Steven Moffat's view, as quoted by Dr Sandifer in his post on it, that it was the best cliffhanger of anything he'd ever read).


  19. mengu
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:35 am

    My pick is the series 5 finale, because both the cliffhanger and the resolution are brilliant. River is imprisoned in the TARDIS, Rory kills Amy, the Doctor is locked in the Pandorica, THE STARS GO OUT

    and silence falls.

    The annoyance with cliffhangers is when they're resolved too quickly, too easily, too cheaply, but that one isn't fully solved until three quarters of the way through The Big Bang.


  20. Sean Case
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:40 am

    And of course The Pandorica Opens cliffhanger is followed by the greatest cold open ever. Including a 1,894-year version of Metamorphosis.


  21. Tallifer
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:52 am

    "…might see if I can dig up those K-9/The Mistress audios that existed at one point."

    How about one of the radio plays from the Big Finish "Gallifrey" series? Then you get Romana, K9 and Leela! Even Andred and the Inquisitor from the Trial.


  22. Anton B
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:54 am

    Favourite cliffhangers from my long but addled viewing memories.
    1. Barbara Wright menaced by a sink plunger (Not a Dalek. We didn't know what that was yet).
    2. Half drowned stunt operator inside a Dalek emerges from Thames (though not a surprise, due to the first of what was to become a tradition of Radio Times spoilers.)
    3. Children's variety compere Peter Glaze dressed as a Sensorite looms menacingly outside a window. In space. (That put the shits up us I can tell you!)
    4. Susan abandoned on a Dalek ravaged future Earth. (Scary because it looks like post-war 1950s London and she appears to be marrying some bloke we hadn't noticed before until he threw a fish at her). Doctor Who makes pompous speech and buggers off.
    5. Doctor Who dies and is vision mixed into a dodgy looking bloke with bushy eyebrows.
    6. Cybermen snoozing under a sheet reveals himself after silver painted boots give him away.
    7. Doctor Two covered in foam waving his arms and shouting 'Oh my word!'
    8. Doctor Two is spun around by the Time Lords for gurning too much and not being able to decide on a face from some pencil drawings they showed him.
    9. Doctor Pertwee makes goggle eyes at something off screen.
    10. Doctor Pertwee makes 'comedy face' while pretending to be strangled by a prop.
    12. Doctor Tom makes goggle eyes at something off screen. Then makes quip.
    13. Doctor Tom is drowned in a puddle by a clown for a whole week. Mary Whitehouse is worried.
    14. Doctor Tom falls off a radio telescope. The fella in the bandages was the Doctor all along. No one knows where to look until that nice vet turns up.
    15. It was an Escher painting on a tapestry all along.
    16. They killed Adric.YAAY! Roll credits. Hold on I think the sound's gone.
    17. Ooh spooky mind games in the post-colonial forest. The natives are restless. But it might all be in Tegan' s head. (Which is a scary thought in itself).
    18. "You were expecting someone else?" Well yes actually.
    19. Hell is a crash zoom on Colin Baker's face. Forever.
    20. McCoy playing the spoons while using his question mark umbrella to dangle from a branch over a literal cliff. (Did this actually happen? I'd stopped watching by this point).

    The Movie/pilot
    1. Doctor Mcgann sits down with a nice cup of tea and reads HG WELLS THE TIME MACHINE GEDDIT GEDDIT!? Surely this isn't going to series?

    NU Who
    1. "Did I mention it also travels in time?' Rose slow-mo runs into TARDIS. A nation cheers.
    2. "I'm coming to get you!" A nation cheers.
    3. "Not this old face" "New teeth that's wierd. BARCELONA!" A nation cheers.
    4. YANA. "I am the Master!" John Simm nicks the TARDIS. A nation cheers.
    5. Doctor Dobby is helpless as the Toclafane literally decimate the Earth. Pedants cheer.
    6. Time Lord Victorious. The world worries.
    7. "I'm a gull!" What? Oh 'a girl' haha no he's not. "Chin, blimey!" Doctor Hubris turns into Frank Spencer. GERONIMO! oh. The world waits.
    8. Auton centurion Rory kills Amy while Doctor Bonkers is shut in a box by BBC wardrobe dept monster collection. The world applauds in horror.
    9. Doctor Quirky dissolves Flesh Amy while she gives birth to mystery baby attended by eye patch midwife. The world is appalled.
    10. Capaldi's eyebrows don't know how to fly the TARDIS. Fangirls weep.


  23. William Whyte
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:09 am

    All the Fenric cliffhangers are brilliant.


  24. William Whyte
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:10 am

    Oh and episode 2 of Ghost Light. The energy and momentum are fantastic here. "LIGHT!"


  25. William Whyte
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:14 am

    Meanwhile, the converse competition: which cliffhangers are the most rubbish? Or, perhaps more interesting, which good story has the worst cliffhangers? In the second category, for a long time I thought of Genesis of the Daleks as the runaway winner (Sarah lets go of a thing! … but she's all right!) but a recent rewatch reminded me that Robots of Death basically strikes 0-for-3, which is pretty impressive. Two of the three have nothing to do with the plot, they're all immediate physical danger rather than escalation of the stakes, and they're resolved so quickly that you could basically edit all three out of the movie cut and no-one would miss them.


  26. William Whyte
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:15 am

    Yes! And the resolution is so good too.


  27. ComMaxil
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:16 am

    Fenric part 3 all the way, brilliant line, brilliantly delivered.

    The Mistress/K9 audios are a mixed bag, I found the first one "The Choice" to be pretty poor, but the second one "The Search" is much better and has much to recommend. IIRC it sets up The Mistress' return to normal space (and Gallifrey if you approach it as a Romana story, which I did). Also it has the jauntiest theme tune of any Doctor Who spin-off. Honestly its bizarre but highly recommended.


  28. ComMaxil
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:24 am

    Oh and Earthshock Part 1. Was 5 years old when I saw this and this story is what launched a lifelong love for, and obsession with, Doctor Who. I found part 1 to be terrifying and then the climax. "Destroy them. Destroy them AT ONCE!" Cybermen appear, my 5 year old imagination is fired in ways that nothing previously (with the exception of The Empire Strikes Back, which I had also recently seen for the first time) had done at that point.


  29. ComMaxil
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:28 am

    Actually highly recommended is probably far too generous a recommendation, but worth searching those audios out for a book article. The BBV audios are competent for the most part (and occasionally interesting) but generally not a patch on Big Finish, more like a proto-Big Finish. However Lalla Ward and John Leeson are a very entertaining double act, and liven up proceedings a fair bit.


  30. Tom
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:35 am

    Not really an answer to "good story, rubbish cliffhangers", but one of the many ways Terminus wastes its ideas is by having a potentially great Episode 1 cliffhanger and giving the key line to an extra from a Duran Duran video who jogs up a podium before delivering it.


  31. ComMaxil
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:39 am

    Pandorica is my fave Nu-who cliffhanger by far. I also love the fact that the resolution has so little to do with the previous episode too. Mind you, for me those two episodes are about as close as you an get to perfect Doctor Who in my opinion so no surprise the cliffhanger is so good


  32. jane
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:56 am

    The Space Museum
    It's a revelation that answers the question raised by the episode and presents a mortal danger to our heroes. Sadly the story goes off in a completely different direction afterwards, but it's still a brilliant hanger.

    Enemy of the World 1
    There's no mortal peril here, but this one completely shifts the nature of the story, building tension on the Doctor's easy transformation to the titular villain. Great stuff.

    Carnival of Monsters 1
    As others have said. The sheer chutzpah of that giant hand swooping down from the sky to pluck away the TARDIS, I can't even. Sure, we should already know what the game is, and this just confirms it, but still.

    Ark in Space 2
    Noah recoils in horror from his alien hand. It doesn't just change the game for the story, it changes the game for the whole show, a stamp from the new production team of what's in store for us.

    Androzani 3
    A pure adrenaline rush, which is perfectly fine for a cliffhanger when executed well. Graeme Harper's execution is impeccable as he consistently ramps up the tension to the climax.

    Vengeance on Varos
    The Governor's "cut" is the real gem here (of course the Doctor's not dead) as it signals just what kind of story this is — much more self-aware than it's generally given credit for.

    Paradise Towers
    A double-whammy, in two respects. Part One is a jab and an uppercut, as the Doctor's mistaken for the Great Architect, changing the game, only for the Chief to immediately order him killed; the timing here is hilarious. The confirming revelation that the Rezzies are cannibals in Part Two makes for some lovely world-building.

    The Empty Child
    One of the best "mortal peril" cliffhangers, but it's totally set up by Doctor Constantine's horrifying transformation moments earlier, which is the real game-changer.

    Impossible Planet
    One of the best teasers ever — shortly after the initial exploration phase of the story, our heroes are immediately surrounded by horrifying monsters chanting "We must feed."

    Amy Pond in the Flesh
    Possibly my favorite. The reveal that Amy's a Flesh Monster answers a season-long question, her melting is truly horrific and surprising, and her awakening in a white coffin, pregnant, is completely shocking. The whole scene is truly upsetting. It's a huge game-changer, and it's just a shame that this wasn't the mid-season finale.


  33. jane
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:59 am

    I love how there's so many good ones to choose from. Yeah, both "Cat Eyes" and "The Universe Dies With Amy Pond" are top-notch.


  34. jane
    June 14, 2014 @ 4:02 am

    The direction of Warriors' Gate is quite marvelous. The cliffhanger to Part 2 is so effective at ramping up tension; Part 3 is completely different as a game-changer. One of the best stories to come out of the JNT era.


  35. jane
    June 14, 2014 @ 4:06 am

    My first episode ever was Hand of Fear, Part 3. Which I tuned into shortly after it began, when Eldrad comes out of the nuclear power plant. So, not knowing this was serialized, the impalement of the Blue Woman at the end completely confounded me, especially after the story had gone to such lengths to make her a bit more sympathetic, thanks to the Doctor helping her return home.

    No wonder I got hooked on this show.


  36. Ombund
    June 14, 2014 @ 4:07 am

    On the subject of extra essays, how about Festival of Death? I read it recently and found it an absolute joy. It also seems to work well with your theme of 'the Graham Williams era had some brilliant ideas but sometimes lacked the writers to implement it'.


  37. xen trilus
    June 14, 2014 @ 4:22 am

    Having initially watched Fenric in the form of its feature-length special edition edit, what struck me about part 3's cliffhanger upon going back to watch it in original 4-part broadcast form was that…they mess it up. They do that stupid bloody thing they do with so many JNT era cliffhangers: they slap in a quick shot of McCoy going goggle-eyed right at the end, instead of just letting the great image of glowy eyed Judson linger. Why, God, why?

    Anyway. Has nobody mentioned The Mind Robber yet?
    The TARDIS floats in empty space as the mysterious electronic shriek continues, and then– bang! The TARDIS explodes. The unconscious Doctor is flung off into a void, Jamie and Zoe cling to the console as it spins off into the darkness, the only sounds are screaming and a dreadful, moaning, modulating ambience…
    And were it not for the rather creepy attention to Zoe's bum, I'd have have no qualms submitting the angled rotating console shot as one of my all time DW favourites. It's magical.

    As a side note:-
    I think the reveal of Flesh Amy deserves a bit more credit than it usually gets, if only for a) how deftly it explains Amy's hatch-shaped visions, without a word of technobabble, and b) how effing bonkers it is. Not the best of recent years [Pandorica], but it was perhaps the most utterly weird cliffhanger the show had seen in a long time, in no small part thanks to Frances Barber hamming it up through a rectangle.


  38. ferret
    June 14, 2014 @ 4:31 am

    Episode 2's cliffhanger ramped up the tension marvelously too, and being a set-piece the sequence was almost entirely repeated the next week as it was so kick-ass having Ace take on all these Daleks only to finally be overwhelmed. In fact I'd go the whole set: episode 3's Shuttle Landing cliffhanger was great, not so much being a "how will they get out of that" cliffhanger as a "how the hell did they film that, this is silly old low budget Doctor Who not a movie" moment


  39. Eric Rosenfield
    June 14, 2014 @ 4:52 am

    You win.


  40. brownstudy
    June 14, 2014 @ 5:09 am

    As a kid, I was unnerved by the cliffhanger in Face of Evil when Baker is beseiged by images of his face and a child's voice crying, "Who am I?" I'd not experienced anything that surreal from Dr Who up to this time.


  41. Anton B
    June 14, 2014 @ 5:17 am

    Thanks. πŸ˜‰
    Sorry I just noticed I missed out –
    11 Doctor Pertwee and Jo look horrified as a stage hand picks up model TARDIS.


  42. elvwood
    June 14, 2014 @ 6:04 am

    So many good ones mentioned! The worst cliffhanger for me – because it was so effective it stopped me watching the program for over a year – is the one in Fury from the Deep with foam pouring down on Victoria. Other highlights as a child include the one mentioned from Carnival of Monsters, the Time Warrior potato head reveal, and the blinded Sarah Jane one from Brain of Morbius. All the ones from when I was all growed up have been mentioned, I think; including the Time Meddler, which (a) was the second Hartnell story I ever saw (unless you count his cameo in The Three Doctors), and (b) I am watching at the moment in preparation for writing my reviews (only rewatched episode 1 so far, and haven't found anything original to say yet).


  43. Nick Petrillo
    June 14, 2014 @ 6:34 am

    Evil of the Daleks 5, "They're taking me for a ride, Jamie!". One of the few examples of a cliffhanger showing something good happen to the Doctor, let alone one coming from a Dalek.


  44. Chicanery
    June 14, 2014 @ 6:38 am

    Sounds like Fireball XL-5.


  45. TheSmilingStallionInn
    June 14, 2014 @ 6:57 am

    That is all just so funny! I laughed so much. And some of those are multiple cliffhangers, of course…


  46. John S. Hall
    June 14, 2014 @ 7:03 am

    Most Rubbish Cliffhangers:
    –Death to the Daleks: 3 ("Oh noes! It's the Linoleum of DOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!"
    –Frontier in Space (panning shot of a seated Ogron with its back to the camera)
    –The Five Doctors, edited into four 25-minute episodes for US syndication: Part One — Sarah Jane Smith rolls down a gentle incline; Part Three — The Master descends the Musical Staircase of Rassilon
    –Just about any Season 22 45-minute episode edited into 25-minute episodes for US syndication. One literally ends with the Doctor and Peri finally leaving the TARDIS to interact with the rest of the plot as she jauntily says, "Yes, sir!"
    –Terror of the Zygons: 3 — the spaceship emerges from Loch Ness and flies away
    –The Enemy of the World, episodes one through five. I mean, c'mon, Barry Letts! SRSLY…? πŸ˜‰


  47. Ozy Jones
    June 14, 2014 @ 7:32 am

    I'll just go along with most of he cliffhangers already mentioned, but have to say the one which was the most breathtaking game-changer for me was, on first viewing, Episode 4 of The Invasion of Time… and now, the Sontarans!

    Also would like to put a plug in for 'The Auntie Matter' from BF. Light, fun and frothy, with the usual caveat that light and frothy in Doctor Who still involves grisly death at some point.


  48. Pen Name Pending
    June 14, 2014 @ 7:47 am

    I've been like halfway through this serial for like the whole summer because I haven't gotten around to it and you've reminded me I need to continue. Because that direction IS so amazing…I couldn't peel my eyes away from the opening pan.


  49. Eric Gimlin
    June 14, 2014 @ 8:18 am

    And here I thought I might actually be the first to mention this one, having gotten so far down the list.

    There's a reason Evil is #2 on my most-wanted recoveries list, and this cliffhanger is what pushes it up over Enemy of the World. (I refuse to actually update the list for recent events; I like to remember just how lucky we are.) Utterly mind blowing stuff; I want to SEE Troughton's reaction more than just about anything else that we're missing.


  50. The61scissors
    June 14, 2014 @ 8:25 am

    In no particular order,

    3. GASP so it was the Master all this time.

    and for the actual contenders…

    1. Even with today's knowledge of regeneration, the last minutes of The Tenth Planet Part 4 are so bizarre, that I think anybody would want to see the next episode immediately.
    2. Likewise, although the Doctor instigated the War Lords' defeat, The War Games Part 10 ends with Jamie and Zoe being forced back to their own time and the Second Doctor effectively executed and exiled to Earth for a major show retool. New format, entirely new cast; both the Doctor and "Doctor Who" are on the line here.
    3. As Dr. Sandifer noted one of the cliffhangers of the War Machines deserves credit for making the question be what the Doctor is going to do (also helps that Hartnell was looking particularly badass)


  51. Bob Dillon
    June 14, 2014 @ 8:30 am

    I second the Auntie Matter, it's quite diverting.



  52. Tymothi
    June 14, 2014 @ 8:30 am

    Already mentioned by a few, but Androzani 3. The only time (for me, anyway) that 5 feels dangerous and scary. Which, really, makes it even more effective.


  53. Bob Dillon
    June 14, 2014 @ 8:32 am

    A Blind Eye woud be the goto one here I feel.


  54. Dan Abel
    June 14, 2014 @ 8:40 am

    Star fleet, star fleet…

    Commander macara and the f zero 1



  55. BerserkRL
    June 14, 2014 @ 8:48 am

    I don't know that show but an image search doesn't suggest a sailing ship.


  56. Daibhid C
    June 14, 2014 @ 9:31 am

    Assuming that the best cliffhanger a) leaves you in genuine suspense as to what happens next and b) leaves you there for as long as possible, it's quite hard to beat "Come on, Ace, we've got work to do!"

    More seriously, I've spoken before in praise of the Doctor shooting out the light at the end of "The Time of the Angels", where the subject of suspense isn't just "How is the Doctor going to get out of this one?" but "Why is the Doctor doing something that appears, based on our current knowledge, to be the single worst thing he could possibly do?"


  57. Alex Wilcock
    June 14, 2014 @ 10:39 am

    …which in turn made me want to do a Top Ten Cliffhangers list

    Just to be contrary, I don’t quite have a Top Ten Cliffhangers list online, but I do have a Next Eleven Cliffhangers.

    It’s not quite a weird as it sounds: I started on a rundown of Fifty Great Scenes for the Fiftieth, of which I’d do one a week and about ten-ish would be cliffhangers. But as I lack Phil’s industry, rather than counting down to One by November last year, I’m still doing them. Every month or three.

    However, before I started, having plotted out every one of my favourite scenes in advance (even less excuse for not having written them up), I’d had a shortlist of more like 500 than 50 and so trailed them with several I couldn’t not include. So here, if you like, are my Eleven Great But Not Quite As Great As the Ones That Made the Cut Cliffhangers, several of which it’s nice to see others have mentioned above, and two of which I’ve perhaps overconfidently identified as the two most important single moments in Doctor Who and why we’re still watching today.


  58. Alex Wilcock
    June 14, 2014 @ 11:25 am

    Having cheated a bit there, my actual Fifty has I reckon a dozen cliffhangers, several of which have been published and several of which are yet to be written – with quite a few of those picked already further up this thread – but I will now answer the question and jump ahead to say that my favourite cliffhanger of all is The Deadly Assassin Part One. For a great many reasons, not least that I was utterly dumbstruck by it when I first saw it at the age of five, and it’s still the series’ most fantastic WTF?? moment. It’s also the brilliance of having already shown it to you several times, so you know it can’t happen at the end, and that it’s just so damn well done. Assassination standing still, as Duran Duran would have it later.

    Of those I’ve actually written about, one from each decade:

    A brilliant Hartnell cliffhanger from a story Phil loathes, so I won’t name it, but a terrific turning point.

    A terrifying Tom cliffhanger which was the last one that really scared me as a boy.

    A mind-expanding Peter cliffhanger that’s a fantastic image, with as a bonus my interpretation of another great ’80s cliffhanger that nearly was. As free-form poetry.

    And, as I’ve got two 2000s to come but haven’t written them up in detail yet, my favourite Matt Smith Cliffhanger, excepting perhaps the close of The Name of the Doctor (which is a very similar cliffhanger, but with John Hurt instead)…


  59. Daniel New
    June 14, 2014 @ 11:29 am


  60. Alex Wilcock
    June 14, 2014 @ 11:32 am

    After the shout-outs particularly for The Leisure Hive Part One and Warriors’ Gate Part Three, each of which I also adore, I want to stand up for Season 18. And not just because I did a statistical analysis of the big DWM poll last week and that’s one of the two seasons where my taste is most soaringly way out of line with the average. One thing no-one ever mentions about it is that it’s probably the best season of the lot for cliffhangers – there’s just such a brilliantly sustained run of the buggers. Especially in The Leisure Hive and Full Circle, where every single cliffhanger in each of them is stunning.

    Jane’s got an especially fabulous list above. Though for me I’d also pick the cliffhanger for Paradise Towers Part Three – as it is in my head, cutting it about 30 seconds earlier when something ghastly happens to the Chiefy…

    Does everyone else’s taste in cliffhangers run to mostly Part Ones as well? Making my own list, I was expecting a lot more penultimate episodes in the running, but for me the opening episode cliffhangers absolutely ran away with it.

    Today it should be more the teaser scenes, I suppose, but I have to admit the most memorable of those for me is still Remembrance Part One. Though I reckon the use of the pre-titles to give us a bonus cliffhanger is the most lasting influence Mark Gatiss’ scripts have had on the series.


  61. David Anderson
    June 14, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

    That's the one. Thank you.


  62. David Anderson
    June 14, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

    That Rebel Flesh cliffhanger is really rather good also.


  63. Lewis Christian
    June 14, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

    The first story I caught was Rise of the Cybermen, so that was my first cliffhanger. So many greats to pick from, all of which have been mentioned already. I'm gunna go with Dragonfire 1 just for being so ridiculously ballsy enough to be silly, mad and meta. ? it.


  64. ComMaxil
    June 14, 2014 @ 3:27 pm

    Reborn surely, its the only one with both Romanas in playing Romana and actually interacting directly, though by this stage the series has become pretty weighed down by its own continuity.


  65. Iain Coleman
    June 14, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

    I have a particular fondness for Caves of Androzani episode 1.

    Partly because it is a genuinely well-constructed cliffhanger, and only fails to get more love because it is overshadowed by the even more impressive cliffhanger two episodes later. The Doctor and Peri are marched out in front of the firing squad, the tension builds up as Chellak goes through the execution ceremony, our heroes' faces are covered… and then, rather than cut to the closing credits like you'd expect, we actually see the submachineguns firing. How on Earth are they going to get out of this one? (OK, the clues are all there in hindsight…)

    But for me, there's an extra dimension that makes this my ultimate Doctor Who cliffhanger. You see, I drifted away from Doctor Who half-way through season 21, only dipping in and out. By some long-lost sequence of events, our family collection of VHS recordings included a tape that held Androzani 1 – and nothing else. So whenever I eventually got round to watching it, I had no way of seeing what happened next. I had to wait literally years – until the BBC released the story on VHS – to find out the resolution to the cliffhanger.


  66. encyclops
    June 14, 2014 @ 6:44 pm

    I watched pretty much every story from Pertwee through McCoy, and a bunch of Hartnell as well, in omnibus format originally. I might have seen a few Hartnells in episodic format, but it wasn't until the DVDs started coming out that I actually started seeing stories in episodes. So the cliffhanger thing that's so central to most people's experience of Doctor Who isn't part of mine at all, really.

    The only cliffhangers that don't seem like sudden, surprising breaks in the midst of a story I'd become used to as a single unbroken movie are the ones I see in stories I'm only now seeing for the first time. So that's the balance of Hartnell and Troughton.

    So Episode 2 of The Ark has very little competition for me. Whatever one thinks of the overall story, it's an excellent surprise, exactly what a good cliffhanger ought to be about. I have to concur about Space Museum 1, too. Both great moments in stories that maybe weren't so great as wholes but were superlative in spots, which actually describes a lot of New Who, so that's cool.

    In the new series, yeah, Utopia, probably. Another awesome start to a multi-part story that went downhill a bit by the end. Not a fan of the macho badass cliffhanger at all — so Bad Wolf, eh, Time of Angels, mega-eh. Pandorica wasn't bad.

    Oh, yeah, and then there were Keeper of Traken 4 and Logopolis 4. Those were the only kinds of cliffhangers I got back then, but they were pretty awesome.


  67. William Whyte
    June 14, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

    jane — yes, that run of four from Warriors' Gate through to Castrovalva is one of the absolute high points of all Doctor Who for me, with hard sf and pageantry and real people as characters. And Warriors' Gate is probably the best of the lot.


  68. William Whyte
    June 14, 2014 @ 6:57 pm

    Season 18 is a gem. And interesting point about the cliffhangers. Even Meglos 1 is good! Speaking of Season 18, let's stop to praise Keeper of Traken 3. The stakes are upped yet again AND Kassia, the best supporting character in the story, is dying horribly AND… what is that strange wheezing, groaning sound? Maybe if they'd had the sense to not overuse the Master this would be more remembered. At the time it was amazing.


  69. Unknown
    June 14, 2014 @ 8:27 pm

    The Time Meddler 3 (Well, that looks familiar)
    The Ark 2 (It's a what now?)
    The Tenth Planet 1 (They have hands?)
    The Mind Robber 1 (Some reassembly required?)
    The Ambassadors of Death 2 (I'll get my blowtorch.)
    The Time Warrior 1 (Lick those lips!)
    The Ark in Space 2 (Seriously, yuck.)
    Pyramids of Mars 1 (No gifts, please.)
    The Face of Evil 3 (Well, I don't know if you don't)
    The Pirate Planet 3 (Oh, come on, he can't get out of that.)
    Warriors' Gate 3 (Whoa.)
    Logopolis 3 (Not angry or determined. but sickened)
    Kinda 1 (Can we have the old guy back, please?)
    Snakedance 1 (What just happened?)
    The Caves of Androzani 1 (This explanation better be good.)
    Vengeance on Varos 1 (Who's watching the watchers?)
    The Curse of Fenric 3 (What do you mean, "again"?)


  70. David Anderson
    June 14, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

    I would agree about Season 18 cliffhangers, except that I first watched Doctor Who (that I remember) during Season 18 and I have no critical distance on any of them. I can remember off the top of my head: religious fanatics sacrificing Tom Baker by squashing him with a big rock, a spider jumping on Romana's face, Romana opening the doors to let in the marsh men, and a suit of armour chopping off the Doctor's head as he bends down.


  71. James Ashelford
    June 15, 2014 @ 2:43 am

    The Auntie Matter is definitely worth checking out, Tamm had a lot to do in it as well as the genre collision angle.


  72. Alex Wilcock
    June 15, 2014 @ 3:28 am

    Thanks. I picked it because I think Matt's terrific – and I love the religious / philosophical overtones, too (which seem at odds with the next cliffhanger…).


  73. Leon
    June 15, 2014 @ 3:29 am

    I remember that cliffhanger so well. I also remember missing episode two the following week. It was years before I found out the resolution.


  74. Alex Wilcock
    June 15, 2014 @ 3:32 am

    Right about Meglos 1! And Keeper 3 is a favourite I just didn't have room for: the storm lashing the place as everything goes to ruin is a belter, too, and as you say, Kassia is the character on whom it all pivots (not necessarily the best actor, though). It's a fantastic turning point rather than just an 'old villain reveal'.

    And I can understand that, David… As I say in one of my 'Second Eleven', the cliffhangers from 1975-77 have the same effect on me of hardwired terror and delight.


  75. Daru
    June 15, 2014 @ 4:37 am

    The earliest cliffhanger that I remember vividly from watching it the first time round as a kid was the end of Logopolis where Baker turned into Davison. The character and show I loved was dead, where was it going now?

    From New Who – the first big blast for me was the regeneration at the end of Parting of The Ways – I think I was only person in the UK who did NOT know that it was gonna happen, and it utterly blew me away. Next up is The Pandorica Opens, just for the sheer bravado of Amy being killed, River stuck in the Tardis exploding, the stars going out and the Doctor trapped in the Pandorica. Wow.


  76. Alex
    June 15, 2014 @ 10:06 am

    I still think that particular cliffhanger would have been even better if they'd let it tun a few second longer so we got to see the "bodies" being hit and dropping against the ropes as we see at the start of part 2.


  77. elvwood
    June 15, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

    ComMaxil, I think if Phil doesn't want to listen to the whole lot, he might be better off with one of the very early ones for the very reason you give in the second half of your sentence (plus, they're cheaper). Bob, I'm not totally won over by your suggestion because it's not that typical, but given my concern about continuity it's possibly the best bet. I dunno – Phil could probably make either work. Or even Pandora, looking at a gamechanging chapter in the middle of the narrative.


  78. John Seavey
    June 18, 2014 @ 11:48 am

    I'm surprised nobody has given special mention to Rob Shearman's cliffhangers, which deserve un-freaking-godly amounts of praise. The end of 'Jubilee', Part One, is quite frankly the most perfect cliffhanger Big Finish has ever produced–it was redone on TV to middling success, but there's nothing quite like crafting the entire visual landscape of that scene in your head, filling in every detail as you go, and then hearing THAT VOICE saying, "Doc…tor?" And suddenly realizing the detail you were missing was that there's a FREAKING DALEK in the room with the Doctor. Glorious.

    'The Chimes of Midnight', Part Two, is another glorious cliffhanger, with the Doctor realizing that within minutes, one of them is going to be murdered…only to have the entire cast leave the room, while the Doctor desperately and impotently implores them to stay for their own safety. McGann totally sells this one.

    But the High King of great cliffhangers has to be 'The Holy Terror'. After dropping the best, and quite possibly the only comedy cliffhanger in the series' history ("All hail Frobisher! All hail the big talking bird!"), things get absolutely serious with the end to Part Three. The godchild, having been born, is preparing to unleash murderous hell on every single cast member in order to find his true father. The Doctor knows who it is, but won't say. All he does is instruct the boy to speak in a lower register. And in the voice of the scribe, Tacitus, the mad god shouts, "Who is my father? WHO IS THE MAN WHO CREATED GOD?" Utterly perfect.


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