Series 7 of Doctor Who has come to an end, with the long wait until the shows 50th Anniversary well underway. To attempt to fill the void, ever so slightly, between now and when we find out who the hell John Hurt is, I present to you two lists: The Top 11 Best and Top 11 Worst Doctor Who episodes from 2005 onwards. Why Top 11? No I haven’t stolen that guys gimmick, it’s simply because there are 11 Doctors……although John Hurt may prove me wrong…..
Also, I’ve only been a fan of Doctor Who, since the revival in 2005, and therefore I am only counting the episodes from then onwards.
Now I MUST STRESS, that this is just one mans opinion, so please do not cry/send hate mail/curse me/kill me if I do not include your favourite episode on the list below. It’s not the end of the world!
With that disclaimer out-of-the-way, let’s dive right into the Top 11 Best Doctor Who episodes (2005 onwards)
A Christmas Carol
The Satan Pit
A Good Man Goes to War
Let’s Kill Hitler
11. Boom Town
Of all the high-flying, bombastic and blockbuster adventures that Who has given us over the years, sometimes it’s refreshing for things to be downsized in terms of scale and effects, and the smaller episodes lend themselves more to stronger character development to fill the void left by giant space adventures. This episode saw Margaret Blaine, the last Survivor the Slitheen family, now the new mayor of Cardiff, with world destroying intentions. However, rather than fight her to the bitter end, instead we see the Doctor wine and dine one of his enemies. Instead of a fight, we had an interesting exchange of words across a dinner table, which led for a more interesting development of one of the shows new villains. Budget constraints and limitations allow for some grounded and creative writing.
10. The Eleventh Hour
With a new Doctor, new companion and a new showrunner, in the form of Steven Moffat, this episode was essentially resetting the reboot of Doctor Who that had been given to us by Russell T Davies. After Tennant’s over the top exit as the 10th Doctor, it was going to be a challenge for Matt Smith to leave an impression, but in this hour-long episode he asserted himself perfectly into the role of the Doctor. For me, the reason why this episode makes my list, is because it takes the tedious task of introducing a new Doctor and companion, by throwing them into a truly high-octane and action packed adventure that grabs the audience and never let’s go. Not only that, but let us not forget the beginning sees the Doctor meet the young Amelia Pond, in some of the most heart warming scenes in Who history.
9. Turn Left
Another Doctor-Lite episode, however this one meant that Donna Noble was the sole focus, which is good enough for me. For those that don’t know, Donna Noble is one of my favourite companions, a lot coming from the terrific performance from Catherine Tate. Not only does this episode give us more Donna for our Dollar, but it also gave us a parallel universe where the Doctor and Donna never meet, thus resulting in The Doctor’s death in what would have been the events of The Runaway Bride. It was an inventive episode, that took several moments from Series 3 and 4, giving them a different and Doctor-less spin as we finally got to witness what a world without the Doctor would really be like. This also allowed for a superb performance from Catherine Tate, giving her opportunity to flex both her standard comic muscles, along with her dramatic ones as she finds out, through a Universe jumping rose, that she is the heart of this parallel world and the only hope to save the lives of those lost in this world. While everything does resort to the status quo come the episodes end, which was obvious, it was still neat to see a different take on the world and adventures we had gotten so used to, and of course for more Donna Noble.
8. The Sound of Drums
With most Doctor Who stories, or two parters, you can often guess that things will easily go back to the a state of equilibrium come the climax. However, with this episode that was not the case. I remember watching this, for the first time, and being blown away by how much the episode was throwing at us. We had the Doctor in a state of helplessness, one of his greatest foes the new British PM, the American President being murdered, the Master’s ripping a hole in all of space and time AND Martha Jones looking out as the world she calls home is being ripped apart. DAMN! I mean, what a setup! This episode featured some terrific build-up, a manic performance from John Simm, and the last 10 minutes threw everything at us and provided the best set up for the concluding episode: Last of the Time Lords.
I’ll be brief for this entry, as I recently wrote a review for it here. Doctor Who had a reputation for being a scary show, one that caused children to jump behind the sofa in sheer terror. I was never a part of that generation, and while I am a huge fan of the 2005 reboot and beyond, I never felt impulsed to throw myself behind the sofa. Hide was the first time I ever felt genuinely scared by an episode, and was frantically looking to set up a permanent residence behind the nearest sofa. The episode featured the right blend of jump scares, suspense and chilling build-ups that make it one of the scariest outings in New Who history.
The Doctor-Lite episodes were often met with little enthusiasm, with the exception of this one. Penned by Steven Moffat and starring a little known actress called Carey Mulligan, this episode featured a wonderfully wibbly wobbly-timey-wimey narrative, a sweet central performance from Mulligan and of course the Weeping Angels. The idea that the common place angelic stone statues could be a deadly creature, that comes to life when you’re not looking is genius. It’s more than enough to scare little Kids from going out into the city for years, with the fear that the moments their eyelids drop, that could be it for them. This episode’s strength came from its villains, which were simple yet incredibly scary and meant they took their place amongst Daleks and Cybermen as some of the most memorable monsters.
5. Asylum of the Dalek’s
By the time he had hung up his Showrunners cap, Russell T Davies had done the Dalek’s to death. Having destroyed all of them in Series 1, only to then constantly bring them back, again and again, with each excuse becoming more and more tired. Once Moffat took over in Series 5, we were then treated to the Mighty Morphin’ Dalek Rangers, which didn’t to the creatures any favours. That was until Moffat penned his first, proper Dalek serial: Asylum of the Dalek’s. This episode saw the Doctor, Amy and Rory be called by the Parliament of the Daleks, to assist in blowing up a Dalek Asylum. For this episode, Moffat brought back many of the classic Dalek designs, along with a quality that the classic show brought: To make the Dalek’s scary and threatening again. As well as starting all the Series 7 story arcs, he gave us an intense and suspenseful Dalek adventure, that rose the creatures to their former glory. This Series 7 opener began Moffat’s pattern of having every episode be a stand alone blockbuster, and boy did this episode tick all the boxes: Action, suspense, fear, comedy and romance. This episode had it all, and then some.
4. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Originally I was only going to include one episode from this two parter, but it became clear that you cannot have one without the other. A well structured and solid storyline that really felt a product of the time period: The Second World War. This was of course highlighted with the wonderfully terrifying villains: The Gas Mask Zombies. They weren’t just another “Monster of the Week,” they were a well thought out and meaningful creation, with Moffat succeeding in making them both terrifying and sympathetic at the same time, with the main creature being a young boy, leading the troops who constantly ask for “their Mummy.” On top of the Zombies and War setting, we also had the introduction of fan fave Captain Jack Harkness; a suave, charming and lively character that breathed new life into the show and provided some funny dynamics as his time traveller persona was the polar opposites of the Doctor’s.
3. The Doctor’s Wife
It’s such a clever concept, what if the TARDIS was put into the body of a human female, this able to communicate and interact with the Doctor in a way we had never seen before. Writer Neil Gaiman had always intended to write an episode based solely on the Doctor’s most important companion, the one that he has travelled with ever since the very first classic Doctor Who adventure.n However, it’s not just the idea, but the way it is utilised, and the utilization comes from a spot on performance from Suranne Jones, who somehow makes the near impossible task of playing the TARDIS, look like a synch. Jones’ performance is stunning beyond belief, managing to compress all of time and space into her performance, making for some delightfully funny moments, but also allowing for some touching and raw emotional scenes between her and Matt Smith’s Doctor. Not only that, but we had the outside Universe setting, and Michael Sheen’s House embodying the Doctor’s ship, to make for one of the best Who episodes of all time.
For me, the first Dalek themed episode from this era of Doctor Who still holds up as the best. This episode saw the Last of the Time Lords and the Last of the Daleks, two immense species, coming head-t0-head. But this wasn’t a simple episode of binary oppositions, as the episode held a mirror up to the Doctor, in the form of this Dalek, as both creatures were the same, the lost and last in the universe, alone. With Rose Tyler being the carrier of the audience in this episode, we were thrown into the middle of this conflict, and at times it didn’t seem obvious which side we were rooting for. This saw The Doctor at both his weakest state, and his most powerful war-torn state, as he pledged to finish what he started, and committing complete genocide. Of course, the reinvention of The Dalek stayed true to the classic Who era, but also made it feel like a genuine threat in a more modern and sophisticated era. It’s a shame that after this, Russell T Davies kept coming up with lame excuses to bring this creatures back, but for what it’s worth, the first Dalek adventure remains the best.
1. Father’s Day
Of all the emotional manipulation, character deaths, and long-winded regeneration sequences that this show has thrown at us, the biggest heart wrenching moment comes from an episode that deals with a very real subject matter: loss of a family member, and taps on that urge from every suffering relative, which is to change the past. Rose Tyler asks the Doctor if they can go back to the day her Father died, just so he isn’t alone in his last moments. However, she ends up preventing his death, which means huge repercussions for all of humanity. The idea is so simple, so obvious, yet it is treated in a realistic and delicate manner.
The scale of the episode might be small, in comparison to others, but the meaning and importance of it could not be higher, especially in the shoes of Rose Tyler. Her character acts as the audiences presence in this Universe, and her actions represent what we the audience would do, were we in her situation. Of course, the episode delivers it Sci-Fi quota, with the creatures known as Reapers that try to fix the broken time line by devouring all in their path. The Sci-Fi elements are good, but they don’t impact or cheapen the emotional core, a core which is carefully constructed and crafted to make for a hard-hitting, but ultimately touching episode that holds a rightful place as my favourite Doctor Who episode
So there you have it, my list of the Top 11 Best Episodes of Doctor Who. Come back next week, where I’ll be ripping into this show I love so dearly, with the Top 11 Worst Doctor Who episodes. Brace yourselves for the list, while I shall brace myself for the backlash.