Back in 2005, BBC finally revived its long absent television series Doctor Who, after years of petitioning by Russel T Davies. Fast forward to today and the show is in its seventh season, on its third Doctor, and has garnered a legion of fans in the UK and America. Granted, I was six season late to the party, but now that I’ve caught up, here is a list of my ten favorite episodes.
While it took me practically a whole season to warm up to Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of the Doctor, it’s this episode that really grabbed me. This episode established the idea that, despite being able to change history, there are fixed points in space and time that can never be changed. Rose’s futile attempt to save her father after the TARDIS is destroyed makes for a heartbreaking episode, even if those Reapers did feel a little like Stephen King’s The Langoliers. Paul Cornell would go on to write two of the series best episodes for the next season.
The sheer scale of this two part finale is massive, as every companion of the ninth and tenth Doctors makes an appearance here as 27 planets, including earth, are stolen by the Daleks and their faithful creator, Davros. More so, these two episodes wrapped up a number of story arcs established since the shows inception and marks Davies’ end as a new writing team would take over the show the next season. The loss of Donna Noble, her memories at least, leaves the Doctor in shambles. From there the Doctor goes on a fair well tour of sorts, that culminates in the special, The End of Time.
In the oddest summons seen on the show, The Doctor and Donna Noble are summoned to a planet sized book repository called “The Library” through a message on the psychic paper. This episode is most famous for introducing the character of River Song, as the Doctor’s “wife” met at different times in history, but never quite the right time. The library itself is tied to the imagination of a young girl, and even stranger is the lengths at which the library will go to protect its own inhabitants. In terms of the psychological complexities of this show, this two-parter makes for one of the most stunning executions as seen yet from Doctor Who. The creepiness aspect of the shadows make you think twice about the library, and if not, you’ll still get chills anyway.
This episode is my favorite introduction for a Doctor’s companion as of yet. With Moffat taking over, the show got an entire overhaul; new Doctor, new companions (Amy Pond, Rory Williams), new TARDIS, theme song (Don’t get me started on that). With a new writing team, headed by Moffat, the writing was tighter this season, introducing the story long arc in the first episode. In a way, this episode plays with ideas established in the second season episode, “The Girl in the Fire Place.” Specifically, the Doctor’s tendency to show up a little later than expected. The introduction of Matt Smith, possibly the best Doctor we’ve seen yet, does a great job balancing the witty with the serious, often able to do it within the same sentence.
As mentioned previously, the season long story arc writing improved dramatically with season 5. Granted, the previous 4 seasons weren’t terrible in their execution of finales, but the season long arcs were never really tinkered with either. Here, those two parts of space and time that were never to touch come full circle as its pinned on the Doctor himself. To his detriment, every single enemy that the Doctor has shows up to lock him in the Pandorica, making for a spectacular end to Moffat’s first season as head writer. To the show’s credit, these two episode won The Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) in 2011.
Neil Fucking Gaiman writes a Doctor Who episode, and it’s fucking fantastic! The Doctor and companions get a distress call from a living Time Lord only to be tricked by an asteroid who sustains itself by consuming TARDISes. Suranne Jones as Idris, the living embodiment of the TARDIS’ matrix plays a hell of a role that closes the episode in heartbreak. You truly realize how important the TARDIS is, and the fact that it is a living life force makes it that much more of an emotional affair. This episode received a number of awards, including a Hugo and the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation.
If there is an episode that I ever get the chills over, it’s this one. Tony Curran’s portrayal as Vincent Van Gogh, the lonely painter is such a heartbreaking affair with an equally beautiful ending. After looking at a painting of Van Gogh’s and seeing a creature in a church window, The Doctor and Amy transport back in time to meet up with Vincent Van Gogh and get to the bottom of it. Toward the end of the episode, the lonely Vincent is taken by the Doctor to the future to see just how important his art work is, and thus, the tears. One of the most beautiful episodes of Television you’ll ever see.
Holy shazbot! If ever there was a most critically acclaimed episode of Doctor Who, it’s “Blink.” Strangely though, the Doctor is barely in it. The Doctor and then companion Martha Jones are trapped in the past and are trying to warn Sally Sparrow, portrayed by Carey Mulligan, of The Weeping Angels, which are trying to gain control of the TARDIS, and only through a series of DVD titles can this while thing be figured out. Aside from the Sherlock Holmes type of brilliant plotting, this episode brings the horrors and are on par and terrifying. “Don’t Blink.”
The Family of Blood are seeking the Doctor out for his life force, and having narrowly escaped, the Doctor hatches a plan to hide out in the past; 1913 to be precise, at a school for boys. Only, the catch is that the Doctor has hidden his identity in a watch. The situation is complicated further as the Family of Blood track the Doctor to 1913, even worse, the Doctor may not want to give up his humanity because of a woman’s love. This episode was adapted by Cornell from a novel he wrote back in the 90’s, widely regarded as one of the best Doctor Who novels written.
This episode will always be Steven Moffat’s most brilliant to me. Part of it has to do with Sophia Myles mesmerizing portrayal of Madamme de Pompadour. Even more is how real their relationship feels and plays out on the screen. Of all the Doctors, aside from Smith in “The Doctor’s Wife,” you really get the sense that there is something more there. Something more that the Doctor can’t have. The TARDIS arrives on a seemingly abandoned space ship. On it, they find a French Fireplace that serves as a time window to 1727, to Pompadour’s time, as there are androids interested in her to make their ship fully operational again. What unfolds is a love story for the Doctor, on his own terms, just with a bad sense for timing. This episode was also nominated for awards, winning the Hugo in 2007.