Exploring the Doctor's Troubled Past as Revealed in 'The Giggle'

Learn more about every battle, every loss and every heartbreak the Fifteenth Doctor referenced in his debut...

The Doctor has seen the best – and the worst – of the universe. But what circumstances led the Fourteenth Doctor to 'retire' to Earth, when the very notion of taking a break had previously terrified the Doctor? The Fifteenth Doctor cites the heavy weight of responsibility, loss of loved ones, weariness and a lack of time to reflect as possible causes. "That Doctor that first met the Toymaker never, ever stopped," he muses. "Put on trial, exiled, Key to Time, all the devastation of Logopolis... Adric. River Song. All the people we lost. Sarah Jane has gone, can you believe that for a second?"

And Rose. But the Time War, Pandorica, Mavic Chen. We fought the Gods of Ragnarok, and we didn't stop for a second...to say, what the hell?"

Here we take a closer look at those moments in time.

"Put on trial...”
The War Games

Near the beginning of the Doctor’s adventures – the Second Doctor battled an alien group called the War Lords and a renegade Time Lord known as the War Chief, who was creating an army of brainwashed soldiers displaced from their own times. The Doctor dispatched them, but needed the Time Lords’ help to get the soldiers back home. But the Doctor was a renegade himself; found guilty of stealing a TARDIS and breaking the laws of non-interference, he was exiled to 20th-century Earth and forced to change appearance.

During the Doctor's sixth incarnation, he was also put on trial accused of crimes he did not commit, but that’s another story… 

Spearhead from Space

Trapped on Earth, but rocking a stylish bouffant and scudding about in a vintage yellow car, the Third Doctor spent his time working for UNIT with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and adventuring with his companions Liz Shaw and Jo Grant. Together, they battled Autons, Silurians, Sea Devils and Daleks. It wasn’t until the Time Lords needed the Doctor’s help defeating Omega that they ended his exile and restored his knowledge of flying the TARDIS. That’s right – to keep the Doctor on Earth, the Time Lords just made him forget how to fly the TARDIS. Simple, but effective.

"Key to Time..."
Season 16: The Key to Time

The Fourth Doctor, having recently parted with companion Leela, was sent on a quest by the White Guardian to find the six pieces of the Key to Time before the Black Guardian could get his hands on it. The Key held incredible power and could prove an immensely destructive force in the wrong hands. To aid him, the White Guardian also sent the Doctor a new companion, Romana

Travelling across the universe, from the planets Ribos to Zeos – squeezing in a trip to Earth along the way – the pair managed to gather all the pieces of the Key. They then almost handed it over to the Black Guardian, who was masquerading as the White. Thankfully, the Doctor saw through his enemy’s cunning disguise and re-dispersed the Key throughout the universe, making the Black Guardian an enemy for life in the process. If the Toymaker is to be believed, both Guardians are now living life as voodoo dolls...

“All the devastation of Logopolis…”

In his final adventure, the Fourth Doctor headed to the planet Logopolis at the behest of the Watcher, a mysterious figure clad in white. There, he and his companion Adric, and new companions Tegan and Nyssa, met the Logopolitans, who used Charged Vacuum Embodiment (CVE) to prevent the destruction of the universe. The devious Master shut off the CVE to hold the universe to ransom, wiping out a massive chunk of the universe, including Nyssa’s home planet, Traken.

The Doctor’s fight with the Master led to a final showdown at the Pharos Project back on Earth. After foiling the Master’s plot to take over the universe, the Doctor fell hundreds of feet from an antenna. With the Watcher and his companions at his side, he regenerated into a new body…


A precocious teen from the planet Alzarius, Adric was a companion of the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. What Adric lacked in life experience, he made up for with technical knowledge and curiosity. He died attempting to gain control of a freighter on a collision course with 26th-century Earth but not before successfully sending the ship back 65 million years, saving humanity (and causing the extinction of the dinosaurs).

The death of Adric affected the Doctor deeply, and could be considered one of their greatest losses. 

"River Song..."

The first encounter between the Doctor and River Song occurs in the universe's largest library, where River sacrifices her life to rescue those 'saved' by the computer. In doing so, she hints at a profound connection with the Doctor that he has yet to experience (spoilers!). However, the nature of time travel means this isn't the last time the Doctor meets River, bumping into her time and time again, even marrying!

With her trusty diary, River was often steps (or years) ahead of him, until she met the Doctor’s twelfth incarnation for their final date. Every meeting was a joyride, tinted with sadness (as it would be with the Doctor ultimately knowing River’s fate). The Twelfth Doctor kept River’s picture on his desk, while the Thirteenth listed her among the greatest people she'd ever known.

“Sarah Jane has gone…"

Sarah Jane was one of the Doctor’s closest friends, having first met the Third Doctor when she stowed away on the TARDIS. Impressing the Doctor with her keen wit and intelligence, she stayed with him even after his next regeneration, until the Time Lords ordered him back to Gallifrey and he was forced to take her home to south Croydon (or leaving her in Aberdeen by accident). 

Many years laters, the Doctor sent Sarah Jane Smith a gift – a robot dog called K-9! With her new pet by her side, Sarah Jane continued to protect the Earth from alien invaders. Eventually she moved to Ealing, where she befriended Maria, Clyde and Rani, and adopted Luke and Sky as her children. With the help of supercomputer Mr Smith, Sarah Jane and her team thwarted the plans of some of the most diabolical rogues in the universe, from the Slitheen-Blathereen to the nightmarish Trickster.

Sarah Jane also went on further adventures with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. She had met seven of the Doctor's incarnations in total; and when the news came that she passed away, it was deeply affecting. But when one is in possession of a time machine, is there truly such thing as goodbye?  Who knows how many more adventures the Doctor may have had with Sarah Jane?

“And Rose...”

From the moment the Ninth Doctor grabbed her hand and told her to “Run!”, the Doctor and Rose Tyler transformed each other's lives. He showed her the beauty of the universe while rediscovering it himself through her eyes. She reinvigorated him and helped the lonely god be the Doctor once again. So, when Rose became trapped in a parallel world after saving the world from an army of ghosts, the Tenth Doctor truly mourned her loss.

When the darkness came and the walls between universes fractured, Rose returned in style, hopping dimensions to help the Doctor. She and the other Children of Time banded together to send the Daleks packing, but when a single-hearted version of the Tenth Doctor was created as a result of a metacrisis, Rose was tasked with looking after him – to make him better, as she’d done once before. Rose’s gift was a Doctor that would grow old with her, but the original Tenth Doctor was once again left alone.

“The Time War, Pandorica…”

The Last Great Time War was perhaps the most destructive event in the Doctor’s life. For the first time, they rejected their given name and took arms, to prevent the Daleks and the Time Lords from destroying time itself. To end the war, the Doctor had no choice but to use an ancient weapon, the Moment, wiping out not only the Daleks but also the Time Lords and their home planet. The resulting trauma would define the Doctor for thousands of years, leaving them as the last of the Time Lords.

However later in their timeline, the Doctors (yes, 13 of them!) managed to seal Gallifrey in a pocket universe at the moment the war ended, saving the Time Lords. From here, the Time Lords sent out a message through cracks in time: “Doctor Who?” - If the Doctor were to reveal their true name in answer to the question, the Time Lords would know it was safe to return. However, a rebellious faction organisation in the universe, The Church of Silence, dedicated itself to making sure the Doctor would never answer, lest the Time Lords’ return began the war anew. They even went as far as blowing up the Doctor’s TARDIS which, ironically, created the very cracks that the Time Lords had used in the first place – but it also destroyed the universe.

Believing the Doctor to be responsible for the destruction of the universe, all the creatures the Doctor had ever wronged banded together to seal the Eleventh Doctor in the Pandorica. Luckily, the Doctor was able to escape and fly the Pandorica into the heart of the exploding TARDIS, creating a second Big Bang and rebooting the universe. 

"Mavic Chen…"
The Daleks' Master Plan

The Daleks' Master Plan

Around the turn of the 41st century, Mavic Chen was the Guardian of the Solar System. Not content with the power that comes with such a rank, Chen set his sights on universal domination. He forged an alliance with the Daleks and together they created the Time Destructor, a superweapon capable of destroying all life on a planet by speeding up the flow of time. 

The First Doctor managed to steal the weapon’s taranium core, rendering it useless. As his plans fell apart before his eyes, Chen was driven mad. With no further use for Chen, the Daleks exterminated him. 

But the Doctor remembered Mavic Chen not for his terrible acts, but for the deaths that came about while stopping him – notably companions Katarina and Sara Kingdom.

“We fought the Gods of Ragnarok and we didn’t stop for a second to say…'what the hell?'”
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Not much is known about these statue-like gods which, when the Seventh Doctor met them on Segonax, took the form of a mother, father and little girl attending the Greatest Show in the Galaxy. The gods delighted in violent entertainment and appropriated the Psychic Circus to that end. When they transported the Doctor to their own dimension, he attempted to appease them by performing magic tricks. Dissatisfied by this, they attacked him with lightning. With one final trick, the Doctor reflected their attacks back at them and defeated them.

That wraps up everything the Fifteenth Doctor mentioned, but it barely scratches the surface of the Doctor’s adventures. And there’s still plenty more of time and space to explore...

Watch on Doctor Who on BBC iPlayer in the UK and Disney+ in the rest of the world.

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