Dark/Bleak//Grim/Depressing Whoniverse Stories

So having just watched Dot and Bubble (very very good imo) and thinking more about the last two stories of Series 14/Season 1, it’s reminded me that I really do just LOVE dark Doctor Who stories. Dark, grim, depressing just lends itself to Who so easily.

Don’t get me wrong, the show is hopeful and whimsical but there’s something when the Whoniverse just sometimes revel in the grime of the universe. I don’t want it to do it all the time but when it does it’s great, for the most part.

Some contenders definitely gotta go to Midnight (obviously), Children of Earth (also obvious), The Caves of Androzani (alright I’ll stop), Creatures of Beauty, The Holy Terror, Fear of the Dark, so many more, I’d love for y’all to discuss and share.

Though a rare occasion of dark Who that doesn’t work is… Nekromanteia. Pure shock value with no substance. Also an absolutely boring and uninspired story that has nothing going for it. Aye, sometimes Who doesn’t get it right 100%. The inconsistencies are why I love it so much.


Jubilee is obviously another rather easy pick.

Master of Callous is astonishingly bleak, with multiple characters talked into suicide in the first episode alone.


OH MY GOD YOU’RE SO RIGHT! Another moment of shame for me tonight… or morning technically.




“Inferno” got to be one of the darkest stories of the classic show. A really grim look into the alternative versions of the main cast with a very bleak ending. Probably the most hopeless situation the Doctor has ever been in


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Also Children of Earth is up there, so’s Turn Left, but neither come close to undeniable the most bleak/grim/dpressing story, which is without a doubt Corpse Day


I also love dark, bleak stories.

I agree with the ones you mentioned (the ones I’ve seen / heard, at least) and yes @JayPea is right that probably the bleakest is Turn Left.

The way England goes full fascist without the Doctor around always turns my stomach, and when Wilf says “not again” about the concentration camps - that scene is absolutely terrifying.

Also Children of Earth, particularly the scene where the politicians are discussing school league tables.

I think the sad thing is that I chose these two because they aren’t far-fetched at all, they are both completely believable.

Away from Doctor Who, but still Russell T Davies is Years and Years and It’s a Sin - if you like dark and bleak and you haven’t seen those yet, do yourself a favour and watch them.

Years and Years looks into the near future and how terrifying things can be (big Turn Left vibes), and It’s a Sin looks into the past at the AIDS crisis in the UK and how people and the government dealt with it. Both terrifying but also so accurate. The very best of Russell!


To be honest, a lot of SJA episodes are pretty dark - Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?, The Nightmare Man, The Curse of Clyde Langer being three that immediately come to mind


Oh, I don’t know how I forgot Waters of Mars, either. The last fifteen minutes or so of that are definitely up there.

I would also throw in an honorable mention to Human Nature/Family of Blood which does not have a happy ending in the slightest.


Five honestly gets a lot of Bleak stories like goddamn, give the poor guy a break. Off the top of my head (and I’m sure there’s plenty more that I didn’t remember/haven’t read/listened to yet):

  • The Darkening Eye
  • Earthshock
  • Spare Parts
  • Creatures of Beauty
  • Warriors of the Deep
  • Deep Blue (which is set literally Right After the previous story where they try and have A Break after the trauma of Sea Base 4. They just get Even More Traumatised)
  • Resurrection of the Daleks
  • The Caves of Androzani

What’s even more messed up is that 5’s darker stories are usually his better stories too. Who knew putting the poor cricket dad into emotional turmoil would yield entertainment

And yeah, good pull on Deep Blue. I remember thinking it was a pretty good, breezy book. Nothing too special but it’s a solid story with a cool violent monster. Also poor Tegan.


Torchwood: God Among Us has a couple really good & really bleak episodes; my favorite is Hostile Environment but A Mother’s Son and Day Zero are so good too. I love that whole series.

In the novels, my understanding is that anything by Jim Mortimore is likely to be really good and have its fair share or more of bleakness, Parasite and Eternity Weeps especially. Eternity Weeps is almost definitely the bleakest Doctor Who story I’ve ever come across. Damaged Goods is also really good and bleak (and my personal favorite thing written by RTD). Falls the Shadow and Who Killed Kennedy are also pretty bleak.


I think Turn Left, Midnight, and Extremis are my favorites from the main show. Any number of the best Sarah Jane Adventures stories are extremely dark, like Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane, The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith, and The Curse of Clyde Langer. Something I like about stories like these, and the best “dark” stories in the whoniverse, is that they have a point to them; they’re not darkness for the sake of darkness.

One of my favorite video essayists, Jacob Geller, made a video called “Every Zelda is the Darkest Zelda” that’s about that idea, using TLOZ games as an example. He says something like ”Being messed up is not a theme. Darkness is not a narrative. Violence on its own is not mature. A world without humor is not a compelling world to fight for." I think about that a lot when considering bleak and grim stories, and I think Doctor Who tends to be pretty damn good at striking that balance.


Absolutely, right there. It’s why stories like Nektomanteia don’t work while something like Jubilee does. Early Torchwood too also has an issue with that too.

There has to be a reason why the story (not just Who, this goes for any piece of fiction) is dark otherwise, it’s just being edgy and violent for the sake of it and that’s not really entertaining.

I think I saw that video recommended to me but I never watched it. Sounds like I’m missing out.