Whatever happens next Saturday, now is a time for rejoicing as “New Who” delivers its first bona fide, ZOMG, who saw that one coming REAL ACTUAL CLIFFHANGER. Not that the new series hasn’t been jam-packed with moments that would have made magnificent old school episode climaxes (just imagine Professor Yana’s pocketwatch, or the in-your-face Weeping Angel, or the empty TARDIS in “Father’s Day” with the eeeeowwwwwwwwwww end of episode noise…) But often the new series cliffhanger has been a clumsy beast, generally through trying to pack too much in: either having every character menaced at once, or having the monsters yell their playground-ready catchphrase a few times too often, or by simply diluting the shock with parallel threats. Take this season’s “Silence In The Library” – a good cliffhanger to be sure, but if they’d just stuck to the “Donna has been turned into a computer terminal” one, left the lumbering skellington suit out and cut down on the repetition it would have been several times more effective.

Anyway, they’ve finally got it right, so to celebrate here’s my own list of Who cliffhangers that stick in the brain. Some of these are, I believe, canonically accepted as awesome, others more obscure. The list draws heavily on ones I saw as a kid, the prime time to be shoXoRed by a Who ending… and yes, there will be spoilers!

The “Oh Shit” Cliffhanger: The Ark Part 2
– for those brought up on the strong liquor that is the eeeeooowww sound, the silent cliffhangers of black-and-white era Who are somewhat underwhelming. This First Doctor story is the exception, using the silence to full advantage by letting the implications of the cliffhanger sink in. In The Ark, the TARDIS crew visit a huge spaceship, populated by the remnants of mankind and their servant race, the Monoids, fleeing the destruction of Earth to find a new homeworld. Under construction en voyage – only its torso complete – is a vast statue of a man, which will stand on the new world as an emblem of mankind’s survival. At the end of episode two, the crew jump forward 700 years to find the ship’s journey almost over. They arrive on the bridge and see the completed statue – the camera pans up it to reveal… a Monoid’s one-eyed head carved into the stone. What has happened to mankind? Find out next week!

The Widescreen Cliffhanger: Caves Of Androzani Part 3
– this is often cited as the best Doctor Who cliffhanger ever: the penultimate episode of the Fifth Doctor’s final adventure, with him suffering from terminal poisoning, hijacking the spaceship of the mercenary who’s captured him and sending it hurtling at full speed towards the surface of a planet. In many ways it anticipates New Who: big, noisy, widescreen planet-busting cliffhanger action. But what makes it so awesome is the way Davison, wrestling with the ship’s controls, also gives a speech explaining to the mercenary with remarkable patience exactly why he’s doing what he’s doing. Polite and reasonable to the end: it’s the perfect Fifth Doctor moment.

The Cerebral Cliffhanger: Four To Doomsday Part 2
– another Fifth Doctor story, representative of a short-lived species of cliffhangers based on atmosphere and unfolding plot rather than sheer thrill-power. Several McCoy stories have them, as do stories like “Kinda” and “Warrior’s Gate”: this is my favourite, an incongruously powerful moment in the middle of a slow-building story. A very kindly Ancient Greek dude, who the TARDIS crew have met on a huge spaceship, explains patiently, as if to children, that he is no longer human – “This is the real me”, he says, opening up his chest to remove a hard drive. It’s corny, and it shouldn’t work, but he’s been such a sympathetic character it’s still a shock somehow.

The Behind-The-Sofa Cliffhanger: City Of Death Part 3
– if you watch this now, with a bumbling scientist being aged into a skeleton by the time machine he’s been building, it’s played as much for comedy as anything. However, I was six and I was ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED – it is the one cliffhanger which I simply refused to watch the following week, hiding at the other end of the house and insisting my Dad call me when it was over. For that I had to include it.

The WTF Cliffhanger: Carnival Of Monsters Part 1
– this is another famous one, a Third Doctor story which is notable for how well its first episode builds up weirdness and then resolves it with one extraordinary stroke. The story is quite bold in the way it simply doesn’t connect its two plot strands – the Doctor and Jo on board a 1920s ship which seems to be caught in a time loop, and a pair of galactic carnies trying to pitch their show on a xenophobic planet – until the closing shot, when one of the carnies reaches down inside his machine, and the Doctor is faced with a gigantic hand appearing to pluck the TARDIS away. More “what is going ON?” style cliffhangers, please!

The Nightmare Cliffhanger: The Deadly Assassin Part 2
– set inside the (later much overused) Time Lord Matrix, this sees the Fourth Doctor stuck in a dreamlike landscape, where, as in a nightmare, he gets his foot stuck in a rail and finds himself about to be crushed by an onrushing model train, driven by a sinister figure wearing a gas mask. The direction is the hero here, making the surreal images seem connected and horribly logical and giving real urgency to the Doctor’s imaginary peril.

The ‘Master In Disguise’ Cliffhanger: “Utopia”
– as mentioned in the intro, before this week this was as good as New Who got for its episode ends. They hammered it home a bit, but the “oh look it’s the Master” cliffhanger had never, ever been done well before in what seemed like a grillion old series tries, so they can be forgiven for going a little over the top. And the actual cliffhanger – stuck at the end of time with the TARDIS stolen – is pretty good too!

The Dalek Cliffhanger: Power Of The Daleks Part 2
– most Dalek episode-ends tend to just be some Daleks going “Exterminate!”. There’s nothing wrong with this as a climax really – it’s what Daleks do, after all – but the best ever Dalek cliffhanger is from this Second Doctor story. The Doctor has found an obscure Earth colony planet, struggling for resources, which has happened on a stroke of real luck – faithful and tireless robot servants they’ve salvaged from a crashed ship. We know, and the Doctor knows, that these servants are Daleks, but as the Doctor tries to warn the colonists the Daleks drown him out with an ever-rising chorus of “We! Are! Your! Ser-vants!”.

The Cyberman Cliffhanger: Tomb Of The Cybermen Part 2
– most Cybermen cliffhangers are just marching cybermen: again, a Second Doctor story used them best, the cyber-leader’s flatly inhuman “You belong to us. You will be like us.” both summing up the monsters’ USP and sounding really horrible and scary.

The NOES DONT DO THAT Cliffhanger: The Daemons Episode 1
– a lot of great cliffhangers rely on the Doctor trying to prevent some human or other doing a really really stupid thing. Often, as here, he fails. The Daemons spends its entire first episode building up to the stupid thing, in loving detail – some nice meta-television with the BBC interviewing locals and archaeologists about a (doomed, imminent) dig, the Third Doctor gradually realising that something is very very wrong. Will he prevent the human fools from unleashing forces they can’t possibly understand? Come off it.

The Next Episode Trailer Special Bonus Cliffhanger: “Bad Wolf” – instead of cliffhangers New Who has the “Next….” trailer, which was clumsily used at first, often revealing too much or getting in the way of the previous story. The trailer at the end of “Bad Wolf”, coming after a servicable ZOMG Daleks finish, was much better – a bonus extra cliffhanger, really, the booming “THEY SURVIVED THROUGH ME” at the end pitching fans into a world of speculation they hadn’t even known existed.