This weekend is, of course, the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who. To celebrate this, I have attempted to put together my favourite 10 Doctor Who episodes. I have only included stories form Doctor #9 onwards, because it has been too long since I saw any of the shows from before then. I do remember some of the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker stories, but it would be hard to compare them with the more recent episodes as I was much younger when I saw them and my memories of them are too distant.
I have re-watched all of the newer stories in order over the past four months or so, but there are so many good ones that it has been hard to narrow them down, so here goes:
10. The Fires of Pompeii (Doctor #10) – this was the second episode of series four. In this one the Doctor and Donna travel back to Pompeii on the day before Mount Vesuvius is due to erupt. The Doctor faces a tough moral dilemma, in which he tells Donna that this particular moment in time is a fixed one that he cannot change, as it would affect the whole of history. It is this emotional component of this story that puts it into my top ten. Interestingly, this episode also featured two actors who were/are to feature in later series of Doctor Who – Karen Gillan (later to be the first companion of Doctor #11) and Peter Capaldi (soon to be seen as Doctor #12).
One of my favourite lines in this episode is when Donna says:
You fought her off with a water pistol. I bloody love you!
9. Let’s Kill Hitler (Doctor #11) – this is the eighth episode of series six, where The Doctor, Amy, and Rory end up in Berlin in the 1930’s, after the TARDIS is hijacked by Mels, a childhood friend of Amy and Rory. They accidentally save Hitler from being killed by the Teselecta, a time-travelling justice department. Things are further complicated when Mels regenerates into River Song. Because River is a criminal herself, the Teselecta decide to pursue her instead. Hitler spends most of the episode locked in a cupboard. My favourite quote from this episode is the following conversation, after which Hitler finds himself in the cupboard:
The Doctor: Rory, take Hitler and put him in that cupboard over there. Now. Do it.
Rory: Right. Putting Hitler in the cupboard. Cupboard. Hitler. Hitler. Cupboard. Come on.
Adolf Hitler: But I am the Führer!
Rory: Right. In you go.
8. The Crimson Horror (Doctor #11) – this is episode eleven of series seven and takes place in Yorkshire in 1893. This one features the trio of Silurian Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and their Sontaran butler, Strax, friends of the Doctor who are investigating the disappearance of scores of people after they have voluntarily gone to live in Sweetville, a community led by Mrs Gillyflower and the rarely seen Mr Sweet. They end up having to save the Doctor and Clara from the clutches of Mrs Gillyflower, as well as saving the world from her plans to poison everybody.
Although this story has many dark moments, it also has some really funny lines involving Strax, who is one of my favourite Doctor Who supporting characters, including one where Madame Vastra asks him the following:
Strax! You’re over excited! Have you been eating those jelly sherbet fancies again?
7. Turn Left (Doctor #10) – this is the eleventh episode of series four and shows the consequences for the world when Donna, after encountering a time beetle, turns right instead of left, causing her not to meet the Doctor, resulting in him being killed when she is not there to save him. This episode features very little of the Doctor himself, and focuses mostly on Donna and the ensuing collapse of the universe caused by the Doctor no longer being around to save it. She encounters Rose Tyler, who persuades her that she is the only hope for the future survival of the universe.
6. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (Doctor #9) – these are episodes nine and ten of series one, and were a two-part story set in London during WWII. This story features Captain Jack Harkness for the first time and has at the centre of it a young boy with a gas mask for a face terrorising the city. More people in a nearby hospital end up like the young boy, with gas masks for faces. The first episode ends in a real cliffhanger with the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack surrounded by these mysterious gas-mask people in the hospital, with no obvious means of escape. In the second part the Doctor discovers what is causing the mystery of the gas-mask faces and has to race against time to prevent this happening to everyone.
The best, and perhaps most quoted, line from these episodes is the oft-repeated line by the young boy:
Are you my mummy?
5. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardobe (Doctor #11) – this is the 2011 Christmas special and is my favourite Christmas episode. As can probably be guessed from the title, this episodes contains many obvious and not so obvious references to C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This is also one of the most emotional episodes for me and I usually choke up a bit as it gets near to the end of the story. It is set in England in WWII, as well as in a strange futuristic snowy world. The episode has some very dark and very light moments, and I love the Christmassy feel to the whole story. Some of the funniest moments happens when Marge, the mother of the English family from WWII, encounters some space miners on the snowy planet. I especially like the following conversation:
Ven-Garr: She’s unarmed sir.
Droxil: Who are you?
Ven-Garr: Wait Armed! No, Unarmed. Sorry sir, she’s wearing wool sir. Natural Fabrics they interfere with our…
Droxil: Please say we can tell the difference between wool and sidearms.
Ven-Garr: We can tell the difference sir.
Droxil: Can we?
Ven-Garr: Not always sir, no.
This is one of my most watched episodes as I really enjoy the way it all ends up.
4. Blink (Doctor #10) – this is the tenth episode of series three, and is another episode where the Doctor plays a very small part. This story is our introduction to the Weeping Angels, who feature again in later stories. The story centres around a young lady called Sally Sparrow and her friend, Larry Nightingale, who are trying to work out the connection between seventeen separate DVD titles, each containing the same cryptic Easter egg, featuring a stranger (the Doctor), with the following warning: “Don’t Blink. Blink and you’re dead. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t Blink. Good Luck.” This episode has some of the most tense and scary moments of the new Doctor Who series’. The following is one of my favourite conversations from this episode:
The Doctor: Fascinating race, the Weeping Angels. The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely. No mess, no fuss, they just zap you into the past and let you live to death. The rest of your life used up and blown away in the blink of an eye. You die in the past, and in the present they consume the energy of all the days you might have had, all your stolen moments. They’re creatures of the abstract. They live off potential energy.
Billy Shipton: What in God’s name are you talking about?
Martha Jones: Trust me, just nod when he stops for breath.
The Doctor: Tracked you down with this. This is my timey-wimey detector. It goes ding when there’s stuff. Also, it can boil an egg at 30 paces, whether you want it to or not, actually, so I’ve learned to stay away from hens. It’s not pretty when they blow.
3. Rose (Doctor #9) – this was the first episode in 2005 when Doctor Who was revived after a long time away. I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical about its return, having remembered how it had disappeared in the first place. However, after a few minutes of Rose my fears were dispelled and I knew we were going to have a winner. It’s just a shame that Christopher Eccleston only did one season, because he was a great Doctor. As well as being introduced to the new Doctor in this one, we meet his companion Rose, for the first time, along with her mum, Jackie, and her boyfriend, Mickey Smith. In this episode they encounter the Autons, whom I remembered from my days watching Jon Pertwee, so they brought back some happy/scary memories. One of my favourite moments is when this early conversation takes place:
The Doctor: I’m the Doctor, by the way, what’s your name?
Rose Tyler: Rose.
The Doctor: Nice to meet you, Rose, – run for yer life!
2. Vincent and the Doctor (Doctor #11) – this is episode number 10 in series five and was almost my top episode. In this one, the Doctor and Amy, after seeing an ominous figure in one of Vincent van Gogh’s pictures at an art museum, decide to go back and see the artist himself. There they discover that Vincent is being tormented by an invisible monster that has been responsible for some deaths in the area. Vincent can see it, but is powerless to fight it. The monster turns out to be a stranded Krafayis. This is definitely one of the most beautiful and sad episodes ever. After thinking that her encounter with Vincent may have helped him to change his mind about his impending suicide, she is disappointed in discovering that when she returns to her present day, he still went through with it. The most emotional moment in this one is when they take Vincent to the art museum in Paris to see his pictures on display, along with hearing what the art professor has to say about him and his legacy, part of which is the following:
The Doctor: Between you and me, in a hundred words, where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art?
Curator: Well… um… big question, but, to me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.
1. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (Doctor #11) – in the end it would have been impossible for me not to have this two-parter as my favourite Doctor Who story. These were the last two episodes of series five. This story has almost everything and, despite being a two-parter, is one of the fastest paced Doctor Who stories. If you haven’t seen it, then I’m not going to give much away, because it is definitely worth seeing. We see loads of the Doctor’s most infamous enemies, Rory takes on almost mythical proportions, the Doctor wears a Fez, and we find out what Stonehenge really is, among other things. There are a number of great quotes from these episodes, including the following one:
The Doctor: You graffitied the oldest cliff face in the universe!
River Song: You wouldn’t answer your phone!
And this one:
River Song: Right then. I have questions, but number one is this – what in the name of sanity have you got on your head?
The Doctor: It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.
[a pause, then Amy grabs the fez off the Doctor’s head and throws it into the air, where River shoots it]
As well, there is this short one:
The Doctor: We’re all stories in the end.
So, that’s my top ten, for now anyway. I won’t get to see the 50th Anniversary special until Monday evening at the earliest, so who knows, it may deserve a place on this list as well. Then, I’m sure that Peter Capaldi will have something to add to this , too. Maybe I’ll be back revising this when the 60th Anniversary comes along!