The format of the show seems fairly standard. The Doctor turns up in his big blue box, sees a problem, and doesn't leave until it's solved. Sometimes the problem is that he can't just escape, largely due to his TARDIS being disabled/in accessible.

But has the Doctor ever just turn tail, and run? Not after solving the problem, I mean just seen things go from bad to worse, and left people behind and retreated? I can't remember anywhere from the most recent series (doctors 9-11).

If this has happened more than once, a good answer might look at why (and not just list episodes).

  • 6
    Not sure if it counts, due to his motive... but in Human Nature / Family of Blood, the episode starts with the Doctor running... although he's doing it to avoid having to do something more brutal.
    – K-H-W
    Nov 11, 2012 at 12:26
  • 2
    Never cruel or cowardly, never give up, never give in!
    – Liath
    Aug 9, 2015 at 11:50

3 Answers 3


There have been a few cases where the Doctor has indicated that a situation or life form was much too dangerous to face when faced with a choice to poke it with a stick or refrain from doing so, but in the end, ended up getting sucked into events anyway.

Every encounter with the Angels was preceded with the sentiment to avoid them entirely. In fact, he does engage in a retreat in the two-part story arc in Time of the Angels and Flesh and Stone.

The Vashda Nurada in the two-part story arc Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead also resulted in retreat, even though the Doctor was able to broker a limited-time truce in order to get himself and everyone else out of their territory.

  • I’m not sure I’d quite describe the ending of Forest of the Dead as a retreat, quite: once he discovered that the Vashda Nurada’s original forests had been pulped to print the books of the Library, it seemed like he decided that leaving the place to them was actually the just thing to do. +1 to your answer in general, though.
    – PLL
    Dec 3, 2012 at 18:21
  • He didn't have a means to destroy them or make them leave. It was only the Doctor's reputation that bought him the deal of one day to get everyone out.
    – Force Flow
    Dec 3, 2012 at 19:03
  • Yes, that’s true — it was a retreat in the sense that he (at least from what we saw) couldn’t have driven them out if he’d wanted to. But it wasn’t leaving a problem unsolved — he may not have exactly been happy with the outcome, but he was (as I understood the ending) convinced it was the right way to leave things.
    – PLL
    Dec 3, 2012 at 19:07
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    Given that logic, he also resolved the Angel situation in "Flesh and Stone". The good guys made it out, and the bad guys were left behind. However, he still retreated in both the Angel and Vashda Nurada situations, regardless of the outcome of the original problem. Retreat is defined as "a withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat". In both cases, the Angels and Vashda Nurada were more powerful than what the Doctor could take on in a head-to-head confrontation, so he withdrew.
    – Force Flow
    Dec 3, 2012 at 20:47

Ten, in The Waters of Mars, to avoid interfering with a 'fixed point of time' (this was before Eleven worked out / decided that

time could be rewritten

Of course, Ten later changes his mind and goes back to help, but it turns out

it's events that are fixed, not necessarily locations...


There are several examples of when he has TRIED to flat out retreat (ex. Fires of Pompay) However in all such cases that I know of he failed to due cercomstances such as the Tardis disappearing or a companion being kidnapped.

The story of Water on Mars effectively amounted to one giant retreat. Both of my examples involve fixed points in time, however there are other examples.

  • Water on Mars didn't quite result in retreat..."the flood" organism was destroyed when the rocket self-destructed.
    – Force Flow
    Dec 3, 2012 at 18:59

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