Doctor Who: it’s about as British as tea and crumpets on a rainy morning. It’s been a popular part of evening television for over fifty years and has almost become a way of life for Whovians globally. The show went through a period of cancellation in the late eighties, came back for a TV movie in the mid-nighties, and later came back to dominating our screens on Saturday evenings since 2005. With the ninth series drawing ever closer, we take you on a journey through time and space as we look back at the ten best episodes since the show came back in the mid-noughties:
10. Rose (Series 1, Episode 1)
Without this episode, Doctor Who wouldn’t have been revived. Rose not only introduces a new generation of kids to the Time Lord and his TARDIS, but it introduces previous fans of the show to a new Doctor played by the endearing Christopher Eccleston. The Doctor that audiences meet this time around, his ninth incarnation, is a witty and comedic Doctor who has a much darker, broody inner persona that is softened by the cockney charm of London born and bred Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). Despite his claims, Rose struggles to believe such an ordinary man could be an alien which is understandable and the two have several little humorous squabbles. The attacking plastic dummies, known to the Doctor as the Autons, are initially perceived to be a joke until death becomes a factor. As the episode progresses, so does the companionship between Rose and the Doctor, ultimately leading Rose to joining him in the iconic blue police box. Seeing a new companion’s reaction to the TARDIS being bigger on the inside never gets old and knowing that all of it was real, Rose naturally wants to know more about what’s out there in time and space. This episode was the dawn of a beautiful partnership, and the dawn of this countdown.
9. Doomsday (Series 2, Episode 13)
In 2006 fans finally got answers to the mysterious Torchwood easter eggs which were dropped throughout the second series of the show, much like the first series and Bad Wolf. In the first part of this finale, Army of Ghosts, the tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose are summoned to the Torchwood Institute to investigate mysterious figures and a large orb. The two are connected and only spell doom for our team of heroes, ultimately bringing forth a face-off between the Doctor’s two greatest enemies: the Daleks and the Cybermen. Doomsday shows the climax of the battle, uniting companions met throughout the series as they form an alliance and attempt to send the Daleks and Cybermen back into the void. However, this comes at a cost and that cost is Rose. She is sucked into the void and is unable to make it back to the same reality as the Doctor. This was essentially the first of many very emotional goodbyes in New Who that the Doctor must face when a companion reaches their time. Millions of fans shed tears as the two stood on opposite sides of the void, shown by only a wall between their hands. This epic battle brought an emotional end to Doomsday, giving it a spot on our list.
This two-part episode from the eleventh Doctor’s (Matt Smith) first series, starting with Time of Angels, saw not only the return of one of New-Who’s scariest monsters, the Weeping Angels, but also the return of the enigmatic River Song (Alex Kingston). New companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) joins them in exploring the crash of the Byzantium, mentioned in River’s first appearance in Silence in the Library. After a shocking revelation that the decaying statues are in fact Angels, something even audiences did not notice at first, the danger becomes highly apparent and Flesh and Stone shows how the group copes with being the Angels’ prey. The Weeping Angels are absolutely terrifying and this time around we learn that they have even more abilities than we were initially aware of. We also learn that the mysterious crack seen on Amy’s bedroom wall in the series opener holds a much scarier significance, and River knows something about it but in the words of the woman herself: SPOILERS! We saw a lot of character development and, in true Doctor Who fashion, were left with many questions at the end of the episode as River drops more hints about the Doctor’s future adventures with her.
7. The Waters of Mars (Autumn Special 2009)
Doctor Who has a habit of making its viewers question what’s out there and The Waters of Mars adds a creepy twist to the mysterious water patches found on the surface of Mars. One of the specials aired before the tenth Doctor regenerated, this episode follows one of the solo adventures of Tennant’s Doctor as he finds himself mixed up with a “fixed point in time”, meaning that it should not be changed. But when does the Doctor obey rules? The destruction of the Mars base, due to an outbreak of a water-borne virus turning workers into rather terrifying zombies, was set to happen and there were to be no survivors. The Doctor, of course, tries his best to save as many people as he can, including Captain Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan) who is a highly regarded and influential woman. The Waters of Mars has visible links to previous episodes, showing just how influential the future can be on the past as well as the much more recognisable vice versa. The ending of this episode ends on a tragic note as Adelaide’s suicide ensures that history is unchanged despite the Doctor’s attempt to save her. It also marks the looming end to the tenth incarnation of the Doctor.
When you think modern sci-fi couldn’t get any scarier, Doctor Who adds a new monster in this creepy episode. Weeping statues in an abandoned house that resemble angels, rather ironic for killer monsters, isn’t it? Writer Steven Moffat took something so seemingly mundane and turned it into a cold-blooded, time-scavenging killer. They cannot be looked at otherwise their almost invisible movements are halted which turns them to stone, coincidentally blending in with human architecture. This episode lacks the Doctor for most of it as he and his companion, Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), are sent back to 1969 and are trapped there. He sends messages in the hopes of them withstanding time and reaching the present, reaching someone to help bring back his TARDIS. Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) finds the messages and goes in search of the TARDIS while avoiding being zapped back into the past like her friends. Add in some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff at the end as Sally encounters a younger version of the Doctor before he was sent back to 1969 and we learn how the Doctor knew who to leave the messages for. Time travel sure is complicated. Overall, the episode is tense and scary with the Weeping Angels now one of the most threatening opponents to the Doctor and one thing’s for certain, after seeing Blink you’ll always double take when passing a statue.
The opener to the eleventh Doctor’s second series starts with ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ emerging from a lake and killing the Doctor. His companions Amy, Rory (Arthur Darvill) and River unite to find a younger version of the Doctor to uncover the mystery of the astronaut. Day of the Moon sees Team TARDIS fighting a new enemy, the Silence who tall grey figures who make those that look away from them forget them; they also have a very scary lightning-like ability. The Silence kidnap an impregnated Amy, for reasons presently unknown, and somehow have abducted a little girl that they performed tests on years ago. Amy sees the astronaut and shoots it, only to learn that the little girl was in the suit and that she has more significance than just being the Silence’s test subject. River appears to know more than she is letting on again, but just how much she knows is uncertain. After all, she does have a complex and somewhat backwards timeline connection to the Doctor! She then fights off the Silence single-handedly and has a very touching moment with the Doctor as he returns her to Stormcage after Amy’s rescue. We learn that River has an intimately close relationship with the Doctor and this episode sets up the series nicely for a River-centric story arc as several of her many enigmas are slowly unravelled. Day of the Moon has a very elaborate plot, full of twists and is a highly engaging series opener.
After several rather turbulent adventures in his twelfth incarnation, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) sees the return of not only one but two of his old enemies. The first being the Cybermen, shown briefly in the preceding episode Dark Water. The episode had its controversial ‘talking with the dead’ mechanic in the Nethersphere, and Death in Heaven reveals that the water concealed the metallic skins of the Cybermen that encased the deceased. The Cybermen descend onto the world of the living to release cyber-pollen which converts the dead into Cybermen, but who’s leading them? A mysterious woman named Missy (Michelle Gomez), who had frequently appeared throughout the series talking to the recently departed, reveals her plans of guiding the dead to Cyberman conversion. But that is not all she reveals; remember how I mentioned a second old foe of the Doctor? That’s Missy, aka The Master! The fellow Time Lord returns with a vengeance and it takes the Doctor, Clara (Jenna Coleman), and the new UNIT featuring Kate (Jemma Redgrave), the daughter of old companion Brigadier, and her assistant Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) to find the shred of humanity remaining in the deceased to end the Cyberman threat. Cyberman converts include the deceased Brigadier himself as he saves his daughter and Clara’s recently killed boyfriend, Danny Pink, who attacks Missy with the aid of other Cybermen. Missy escapes potentially another death, but where is she now? The ninth series will tell…
Yet another outing with the Weeping Angels enters our countdown now. The Angels Take Manhattan is the mid-series finale of the seventh series and marks the final episode of the Ponds. The Doctor reads a book titled ‘Melody Malone’ and he soon realizes that there are parallels to Melody and River, and that the book is foretelling events that will happen to Team TARDIS. Obviously he doesn’t read on after noticing this because of spoilers, which he and River, whom he married at the end of the sixth series, know too well. The team are trapped in 1938 and upon seeing a very old version of himself pass away, Rory knows his time will be up and that the Angels will be hunting him. He climbs to the roof of a tall building, ready to jump, but Amy follows and tells him that if he jumps, she jumps too, and that they do. At this point, millions of Who fans are bawling their eyes out, presuming that this is the end for the Ponds but all four members of the Pond family end up back in present day Manhattan. An Angel sends Rory back and Amy says farewell to her daughter and her son-in-law/best friend before joining her husband in the time-locked 1938. The Doctor is left a sad man, and while his partnership with River is clearly blossoming, their complex timelines prevent prolonged travel together. After two and a half series together, the Whoniverse tragically bids farewell to the Ponds.
The fiftieth anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor picks up from the seventh series cliffhanger featuring John Hurt as The War Doctor, taking it upon himself to hide his home planet Gallifrey during the Time War. The episode saw the return of Kate Stewart and Osgood from UNIT, the tenth Doctor, Rose Tyler, and old enemies the Zygons which we last saw in 1975. The episode portrays the events of the Time War, an iconic event in Doctor Who lore; centred upon in a painting with two names, ‘No More’ and ‘Gallifrey Falls’, the painting also acts as a portal. The War Doctor asks the other two Doctors to help him move Gallifrey to a small pocket in the universe and keep everyone in it trapped in a single moment in time to save them, but the three Doctors cannot do it alone and have recruited all of their past selves to help, including the upcoming twelfth Doctor whom we see for the briefest of moments. The painting’s title is actually revealed to be ‘Gallifrey Falls No More’ as the Doctors all save the planet from destruction. The end scene is one of the most beautiful moments in Doctor Who history as all thirteen incarnations of the Doctor stand side-by-side and look up to the stars for, the now lost, Gallifrey.
The ending of this three-part finale, starting with Turn Left and The Stolen Earth, sees the stars going out and mysterious planets appearing in the sky above Earth. Throughout the series, the tenth Doctor and Donna (Catherine Tate) have heard stories of missing planets and upon being summoned by the Shadow Proclamation, learn that these are the planets appearing with the Earth. Daleks, led by old foe Davros, attack the Earth and abduct humans but a small resistance formed by former PM Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton) reunites all companions featured in the revival series of Doctor Who: Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and Torchwood crew Gwen and Ianto, Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith and K-9, Jackie Tyler, Mickey Smith and Rose Tyler. Davros and the Daleks were using humans to test the reality bomb, a device that harnesses the planets’ alignment to vaporize reality, making the Daleks the only race alive. However, the meta-crisis that created Ten-Two also relayed back into Donna, giving her the most powerful part of the Doctor: his mind. She uses her Time Lord brain to put an end to the Daleks and return the planets to their original places, all except Earth. The Doctor and all of his companions board the TARDIS and work together to fly Earth home. The scene is just pure poetry as the Doctor’s influence on his companions, the Children of Time, unites them as they all save their home planet once more. It was a moment that millions of happy tears were shed and it’s that scene which secured the top spot for Journey’s End.
Would you take any of these episodes out? What would you replace them with?
Comment with your thoughts.