The Unquiet Dead 1.3
Without fail, every season of Doctor Who features one famous person from history. In season 1, the Doctor (#9, Eccleston) and Rose find Charles Dickins haunted by blue ghosts who turn out to be specters from another dimension trying to break into this dimension and take over. They also meet Gwenyth (Eve Myles) who is said to be an ancestor of Torchwood’s Gwen Cooper. She starts a popular Doctor Who trope of foreshadowing season finales by saying random words that don’t mean anything yet, like “Bad Wolf.” In the end, they are not able to save Gwenyth, but they do give Charles Dickins a thrill by allowing him to witness the vanishing of the TARDIS.
The Girl in the Fireplace 2.5
Season 2 takes us to France, where the Doctor (#10, Tennant) falls for Madame du Pompadour, mistress of the King of France. The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey are not able to take her with them or save her from her own history, but they do stop the clockwork droids from stealing her brain. In the end, she writes letters to her time traveling Doctor who fails to return for her in time.
The Shakespeare Code 3.3
One of Martha’s first visits is to Elizabethan England, where she and the Doctor (#10, Tennant) happen on three witches and William Shakespeare, who turns out to be, while certainly flirtatious, not as gentlemanly as they had hoped. As this is early in his career, they can’t help themselves from quoting him and inadvertently feed his own inspiration back into him. With a little help from their knowledge of Harry Potter, they’re able to stop the wicked witches and their…spaceship.
The Unicorn and the Wasp 4.7
The Doctor (#10, Tennant) takes Donna to see Agatha Cristie. Cristie lives up to her reputation when a real murder mystery imposes itself on a house of guests. There is a thief in their midst–the jewel thief known as The Unicorn. The Doctor narrowly escapes death by poison. Oh, and there’s a giant space wasp disguised as one of the house guests as well.
Vincent and the Doctor 5.10
The Doctor (#11, Smith) and Amy visit Vincent Van Gogh living on the outskirts of society and suffering from delusions. These delusions turn out to be a very real invisible, turkey-like monster, which they track to a church and learn that it’s just scared and blind and alone. Before they part with the suicidal artist, they give him one last thrill–they take him to the museum and show him his legacy. Bill Nighy makes a cameo as the museum tour guide.
Let’s Kill Hitler 6.9
An early incarnation of River Song is on the loose. The Doctor (#11, Smith), Amy, and Rory chase her to Germany where she’s planning to murder Hitler. As much as they oppose Nazis, they cannot allow River to rewrite history, so instead of killing the Fuhrer, they lock him in a cupboard. The irony doesn’t escape Rory, but the Doctor does narrowly escape death by poison…again. There’s also a motorcycle.
The Day of the Doctor 7.15
For once, the historical figure is mere decoration to an already dense plot. The Doctors (#10, #11, #9.5) find themselves back in Elizabethan England where Queen Elizabeth I (Gavin and Stacey‘s Joanna Page) has been replicated by a Zygon. We are reminded that the Doctor once (accidentally) married her, but he has difficulty telling the real one from the squiggly alien, even after giving each of them a big smooch.
Robot of Sherwood 8.3
The Doctor (#12, Capaldi) echoes #11’s commercial-famous offer to take Amy to any time and place she’d like to go. Clara, a massive fan of Robin Hood, chooses Sherwood Forest 1190. No sooner do they land than does the Doctor find himself ensnared in a duel with the mythic archer, sword against spoon. Unlike #10 or #11, who would have become like bouncing puppies upon discovering something as strange as a mythic hero in the flesh, #12 is furious. This new Doctor doesn’t like anything he doesn’t already understand. He is somewhat relaxed by the alien robots trying to get their spaceship to the Promised Land, but the anger he has toward Robin Hood’s realness causes the two of them to squabble like children. The lack of wonder the Doctor has within him this season foreshadows terrible things to come. “When did you stop believing in everything?” Clara asks him. His disbelief is militant and he even blows up a target out of anger (and also because he plans to get captured). In the end, we learn that Robin Hood was a real man, lost to history as just a story, and not exactly a hero, but he tried to be. He encourages the Doctor to be the same: try to play the hero and maybe someday, he’ll just be a story (or a TV show), inspiring people to be heroes in his name.