Doctor Who celebrates the adventures of a whimsical time traveler who saves the universe using a teaspoon and an open mind. But just because the Doctor has two hearts, it doesn't mean he's always the most caring person. Sometimes he's the oncoming storm, and sometimes, he's just kind of a dick.
Here are 10 times the Doctor acted like a total bastard. Note: These are all taken from the TV show, because if we included the novels and the audio plays and the comics, this would probably be a list of 100 items instead of just 10.
Also, be warned — there are spoilers for previously aired episodes of Doctor Who in this post about stuff that happened on Doctor Who.
1. Bloodthirsty Bill Hartnell
In the early Doctor Who stories from 1963 and 1964, the Doctor is a mean old man, who would yell at you to get off his lawn if he had a lawn. And he's also surprisingly violent. In his first story, he tries to bash a caveman's brains in with a rock. In his second story, he spends a lot of time convincing the pacifist Thals to abandon their decades-long commitment to peace and go on a killing spree, just so he can retrieve a vital part of his TARDIS. (Which was only lost due to the Doctor's scheming.) In his third story, he tries to throw Ian and Barbara out of the TARDIS while it's in flight — which would be a pretty hideous way to die. Luckily, he then meets Kublai Khan, who teaches him to play backgammon, causing him to mellow out slightly.
2. Enjoying His Rivalry with the Master
Flash forward to 1971, and the Doctor's trapped on Earth with a never ending supply of
cannon fodder soldiers. Luckily, he gets some company: a fellow Time Lord named the Master, who's a rampaging psycho killer. The Doctor takes great pleasure in his battle of wits against the Master — at the end of their first adventure, the Doctor even looks at the camera and says, "I'm rather looking forward to it," meaning their next meeting — because the Doctor enjoys watching UNIT soldiers get massacred. The Doctor traps the Master on Earth for a bit, and later finds lots of excuses to let the Master escape, so he can kill more of the Doctor's friends. It's better than sitting around bored with the Brigadier.
3. Escorting a Serial Killer Around Time and Space
In "The Face of Evil," the Doctor discovers that because he did a terrible job repairing a godlike supercomputer on an alien planet, he's condemned the human colonists on the planet to generations and generations of hellish existence, segregated into one tribe of ultra-savages and one tribe of sterile scientists. Honest mistake, right? These things happen. But what does the Doctor do next? He allows the most the most bloodthirsty of the savages to run inside his TARDIS and travel around with him for two years, racking up an ever-increasing body count. The Doctor basically turns all of time and space into a slaughterhouse for his murderous traveling companion, Leela.
4. The Invasion of Gallifrey
After a year and a half with a serial killer on board the TARDIS, the Doctor decides he enjoys the taste of vicarious slaughter. So when he gets wind that some aliens who are made out of cellophane, the Vardans, are going to try and invade his home planet of Gallifrey, he doesn't do the obvious thing — notify the Time Lords. Instead, he comes up with a super-complicated plan in which he becomes president of Gallifrey and helps the Vardans to invade. (And it's pretty clear they would never pull it off without the Doctor's help.) Once he's lured them into a false sense of security, he defeats them — but then it turns out they were just a vanguard for an invasion of Sontarans. Who slaughter everybody. Oops.
The Doctor makes the ultimate sacrifice, giving up his own life, for his companion Peri, a whiny American whom he barely knows. And then he spends almost his whole next lifetime torturing Peri to punish her for it. First, he has a particularly sadistic post-regeneration "trauma" — instead of dressing as a Viking or playing the spoons, like usual, he just goes and strangles Peri for a couple hours. Later, once he settles down into his new body, he stops physically torturing his companion, and is merely psychologically and emotionally abusive. At last, he "becomes evil" after a botched procedure, and abandons Peri to have her head shaved and her mind erased to make way for the brain of a giant sea slug. After that, one of two things happens: 1) Peri dies. 2) Peri survives and marries a psychopathic warrior king who continues the Doctor's policy of being as abusive as possible towards Peri. Either way, the Doctor never bothers to go back and check on her.
After Peri and a few other terrible companions, the Doctor finally gets a quite decent one: Ace, who wears a bomber jacket and is sort of a baby punk-rocker. The Doctor senses the potential for real greatness in Ace, which can only be brought to the fore by immense mental and emotional cruelty. The Doctor painstakingly finds out what upsets Ace, and then rubs her face in it. The haunted house that freaked her out as a kid? Here it is, only filled with spooky Victorian monsters! Clowns? Here's a whole planet of them. Her mom? Here's her mom as a baby. Finally, it all culminates with the Doctor attempting to goad a timeless force of evil into killing Ace, on the grounds that she's she's just an emotionally damaged pawn. (He's just deploying an immensely subtle strategem, much like he was when he invited the Sontarans to come and kill all the Time Lords.)
7. The Destruction of Skaro
It turns out that back when the Doctor was hanging around on Earth at the start of the series — shortly before he embarked on his caveman-killing, pacifist-inciting rampage — he was harboring an ancient starburst machine called the Hand of Omega, a Time Lord device that could destroy planets. The Doctor randomly decided to put this doomsday weapon inside a coffin and leave it in a funeral home in 1963, then pissed off and traveled around the cosmos for the next 500-odd years. Let's just pause and consider how many times the Doctor almost died permanently during the six lifetimes that followed. If the Doctor had snuffed it, while leaving that huge loose end still sitting in 1960s London, the Hand of Omega almost certainly would have fallen into the wrong hands, causing untold devastation. Luckily, the Doctor remembers at last that he left the ultimate weapon stashed on Earth, and he decides to use it to destroy the Daleks' home planet, Skaro.
But he doesn't just program the Hand of Omega to destroy Skaro — that would be too
easy ruthless. Instead, he booby-traps the device so that when the Daleks try to activate it, they'll inadvertently destroy their own planet. The end result is the same, but this way the Doctor gets to watch lots of people die while the Daleks try to get their "grubby protuberances" on the Hand of Omega. Because given the choice between doing things the easy way versus doing things the way with the biggest body count, the Doctor will always choose the huge body count.
Later, it transpires that the Doctor also left another ultimate weapon orbiting Earth, and once again he's waited hundreds of years to deal with it.
8. The Time War.
We may never find out the details of what happened in the Time War, but the bottom line is that the Doctor killed off his own race, the Time Lords, and then locked the whole incident so nobody could change it. Basically, he decided the Sontarans hadn't gone far enough, and he needed to finish the job. There is some vague talk in "The End of Time" about the notion that the Time Lords had gotten nasty in their final years, and there was a noisy child and some monks with bad hair or something. It totally justified multiple genocide. Anyway, when we first hear about the Time War, the Doctor seems quite gleeful about how he "made it happen" and everybody burned and stuff.
9. Donna Noble
The Doctor gets plenty of advance warning that his companion Donna is going to blow a brain gasket, thanks to Russell T. Davies' penchant for heavy foreshadowing. But even after he realizes that her Time Lordy consciousness is going to break her brain, he's too busy marrying off his human clone to his former companion Rose to worry about Donna. I mean, priorities. And then the Doctor decides the best thing for Donna is to wipe her memories, and leave her in a situation where if she even hears his name mentioned, or sees him, she'll die of a massive brainsplosion. Because that's a tenable situation. Just to make sure Donna doesn't suffer fatal brainmelt, the Doctor then stalks her and has a series of adventures with her grandfather Wilf. But that's okay — he gives her a winning lottery ticket. Because money fixes everything.
10. River Song
And then... there's River. When the Doctor first meets her, he witnesses her horrible burnt-skeleton death scene, and he has years and years to figure out how to get around it. (When the Doctor gets a similar forewarning of his own death, he comes up with an escape clause involving being miniaturized and stuck inside a shapechanging robot.) But the best he can come up with is giving her a fancy sonic screwdriver, which allows her consciousness to be trapped forever in the most boring virtual world ever created, so she can look after a set of non-existent children for all eternity.
Later, the Doctor realizes that River Song is destined to kill him (only, not really) and decides that the best thing to do is fake his own death, and let River take the rap. That way, the Doctor can go off the grid for a bit. The upshot? River has to spend most of her adult life in prison for a crime she didn't commit, (except that the Doctor comes and fetches her every night, so they can go listen to Stevie Wonder together. She doesn't get to live her own life, but at least she's let out to be the Doctor's arm candy.)
Meanwhile, now that the Doctor has faked his own death, does he keep a low profile? Does he, perhaps, glue on a big false mustache? Or fix the Chameleon Circuit so the TARDIS at least won't stick out like a sore thumb any more? Or does he immediately go 'round to Rory and Amy's for Christmas dinner, in plain sight of anybody who might be double-checking to see if he really snuffed it? Basically, River's sacrifice is totally in vain.
Want more Doctor Who bastardy? Here's a video we made back in 2008 showing all the times the Doctor dispatched his foes with maximum cruelty during the classic series. Warning: Our video editing skills were not great in 2008.