Since Lockdown started, I’ve been rewatching Doctor Who. Right from the start of NuWho, back in 2005, with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper.
I even watch Torchwood, filtering in the episodes at the right moments throughout the series. It mostly made me feel very old and slightly confused about why I could related to supposed adults more when I was a hormonal teenager…
Anyway, back to Doctor Who. I’ve decided to share my top episode from each Doctor, Nine through Thirteen. This has been a tricky one, and lots of good episodes lost out, but here we go…
I’ve also decided to add in a special mention and a top quote, because I’m super indecisive and that’s the only way I can feel okay with making some hard choices.
WARNING – there will be spoilers.
The Ninth Doctor
It took me a long long time to understand Nine as a character. Honestly, until The Day of the Doctor (the 50th anniversary special with Ten, Eleven and the War Doctor), I didn’t really get it. But watching back the first season in light of that, you can see him for the deeply hurting, deeply ashamed, deeply afraid man he was. It gives a lot more gravity to his performance, and makes me wonder how much he know of his hidden backstory at the time.
Best episode – The Parting of the Ways
I always get confused by this episode’s title, because it feels more right for the last episode of season two. The scene with Rose back on Earth, trying desperately to get back to the Doctor; Mickey and Jackie helping her get back despite that being the last thing they want to do; the chemistry between Rose and the Doctor; the things Rose did while she was the Bad Wolf… there’s just so much to love about this episode.
Special mention – The Doctor Dances
There’s no doubt that the “Are you my mummy?” quote is one of the most memorable ones in NuWho, and the creepy little boy one of the best “enemies”. Out of the two episodes that feature him, I prefer the Doctor Dances, where Jack reveals his true nature as a conman, and the Doctor dances – finally throwing off some of the trauma of the Time War.
Best quote – “I can feel it.”
“It’s like when you’re a kid. The first time they tell you that the world’s turning and you just can’t quite believe it ‘cos everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at 1,000 miles an hour, and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour, and I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go… That’s who I am.”
– The Ninth Doctor, Season 1 Episode 1, “Rose”
This speech was one of the first times I realised the gravitas of who the Doctor was. He’s a 900 year old Time Lord, he flies through space and rescues people and worlds, and he can feel the turn of the universe.
The Tenth Doctor
I was so excited when I found out David Tennant was going to be playing the Doctor. I’d adored him in Casanova, and he just brought such a sense of charm to the show as a whole. The three series he was in were each fantastic in their own way. I adore Rose as a companion, and 100% shipped the two of them (shame she got fobbed off with a version of the Doctor that was half Donna Noble). Having said that, Donna was as engaging as ever on the rewatch, and she bought something completely different to the TARDIS, which I don’t think anyone else has quite captured since.
I was never a fan of Martha and she’s still fairly dull on the rewatch, but some of her episodes are right up there, including the two with the Chameleon Arch watch, and of course, my pick for this Doctor…
Best episode – Blink
I was 16 when Blink was broadcast, but I still had to sleep on the floor in my little brother’s room after watching this for the first time! The “horror” episodes in Doctor Who can be a little hit-and-miss, but Blink was without a doubt spectacular. The timey-wimey nature of the plot, the character of Sally Sparrow (pretty pretentious on the rewatch tbh, but clever and very engaging). And of course, it was the introduction of the Weeping Angels – foes that have taken a place of honour alongside the Daleks and Cybermen for most threatening Doctor Who enemies.
Special mention – Waters of Mars
Waters of Mars just packs such a powerful punch. It’s the epitome of David Tennant’s Doctor, the Lonely God, still grieving for Gallifrey and his people, but starting to come into his own as the last of the Time Lords… only to come crashing back to Earth. The humans in this episode are all hugely believable, and it’s the messages from their families back home that make them so relatable.
Best quote: “And I suppose…”
“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff…”
– The Tenth Doctor, Season 3 Episode 10, “Blink”
It’s just so Tenth Doctor. Dramatic and clever and scatterbrained and the perfect comic relief for such a scary episode.
The Eleventh Doctor
I am constantly torn between who is my Doctor – Ten or Eleven. But without a doubt, the team I’d want to go travelling with is Eleven, Amy and Rory, with occasional drop-ins from River Song.
Perhaps it’s because they were the first consistent trio. Perhaps it’s because Amy Pond and River Song are two of the most kickass women I’ve seen on TV. Maybe it’s because so many of the episodes are just simply amazing. Or the fact that they take timey-wimey and take it to a whole new level.
Best episode – The Time of Angels
You might have realised that I’m a huge fan of the Weeping Angels… I tried really hard not to just have Weeping Angels episodes here, but this one took the groundwork that Blink laid down and brought it up to a whole new level. It’s the scene in the Control Room, where the Angels have surrounded the Doctor, and it flashes from here, to there, to there and then… what? Did one just move? No! It can’t have done! Ahhhhh!
And it’s got River Song in, and Amy’s pretty fantastic in it too. What’s not to love.
Special mention – A Christmas Carol
Honestly I love so many Eleven episodes, so let’s go for one a little out of the left field. Christmas episodes tend to get a bad rep, but I just love the story in this one. It’s sad and beautiful and thoughtful and very Christmas in quite a grown up way. The relationship between Kazran and Abigail is heartfelt and surprisingly realistic given the setting.
Best quote – “Rory’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever met.”
“You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful, and then you actually talk to them, and five minutes later they’re dull as a brick. But then there’s other people, and you meet them and you think ‘not bad, they’re okay’, and then you get to know them, and their face sort of becomes them, like their personality’s written all over it, and they just they turn into something so beautiful… Rory’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever met.”
– Amy Pond, Season 6 Episode 10, “The Girl Who Waited”
I can’t be the only one who wondered what exactly it was that Amy saw in Rory, right? Good old dependable boring Rory who wanted to settle down in Upper Leadworth and grow a ponytail for excitement, vs the kissagram who ran away with a mad man in a box the night before her wedding? But this speech explained it to me, and I never doubted it again.
The Twelfth Doctor
After Ten and Eleven, it took me a long time to warm up to Twelve, particularly since I didn’t like Clara (loved her introduction(s) but felt she was a bit flat character-wise). In particular, he seemed to have forgotten a lot of his backstory, asking a child if they were in their 30s like he hasn’t spent hundreds of years around humans.
But he grew on me over the series. Bill was also a great companion and it’s a shame she didn’t get more than one series.
Best episode – Extremis
Honestly all three of the Monks’ episodes were pretty spectacular, and it was a toss-up between this one and The Pyramid at the End of the World”, where the “small accidents leading to disaster” theme really struck a chord with the current world situation. But Extremis just had such a cool concept – that an all-powerful race could create a simulation of the world in order to invade it – that I actually ripped it off for my megagame Trope High last year.
Special mention – Heaven Sent
This episode just demonstrates what a powerful actor Peter Capaldi is. Throughout the entire episode, he is so The Doctor, and if it weren’t for the fact that there’s a major plothole (why doesn’t the Azbantium wall reset?), it would be my favourite.
Best quote – “You can’t expect a sunset to admire you back!”
But whoever said that he loved me back? He’s the Doctor. He doesn’t going around falling in love with people! And if you think he’s anything that small or that ordinary, then you haven’t the first idea of what you’re dealing with.
Go on, scan the whole parsec! He’s not here! God knows where he is right now, but I promise you he’s doing whatever the hell he wants and not giving a damn about me! And I’m just fine with that! When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back! And if I happen to find myself in any danger, let me tell you… the Doctor isn’t stupid enough or sentimental enough and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me…
– River Song, 2015 Special, “The Husbands of River Song”
One of the most heartbreakingly beautiful moments in the entire show. Did River really believe it? I think so, based on the break in her voice. And the Doctor was there to prove her wrong – that sometimes a sunset does admire you back, especially when you’re “hell in high heels”.
The Thirteenth Doctor
I admit, I’ve struggled to connect as much with the most recent two series of Doctor Who. It’s got very little to do with Jodie Whittaker, who I think is the Doctor through and through – more similar to Smith or Tennant, than to Capaldi or Eccleston.
It’s the fact that there are three companions that bothers me. Even when the Doctor has ended up with multiple companions in the past (Amy and Rory, Rose and Jack), there’s always been a good amount of time to get to know the first one before the second was introduced, and it made them a lot more impactful. They’re growing on me, especially Yaz and Graham, but they have a way to go to me to feel for them what I did for their forerunners.
Best episode – Fugitive of the Judoon
Overall I enjoyed the second Whittaker series more than the first, and without a doubt, the standout episode was the Fugitive of the Judoon.
I’d managed to spoiler myself thanks to a 24-hour delay on me watching the episode, so I knew that a new Doctor was being introduced (but not who it was). I think that plotline was done fantastically – very subtle, and when the big reveal came it was well breadcrumbed so it didn’t seem too unbelievable.
But the moment that literally caused me to “let out a deafening happy shriek, and then burst into over-excited tears like a toddler at their birthday party”, as posted for posterity by Tim on Facebook… was when CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS burst back onto our screens with a cheeky “you missed me, right?”. I was convinced that the spoiler meant I’d missed out on the biggest shock that episode could deliver, but I was WRONG.
Special mention – Spyfall Part 1
I never knew until I saw this episode how much I wanted Doctor Who to do James Bond. It was brilliantly thematic and hit so many of the Bond notes. And the reveal of the Master was exceptional – and best of all, when you watch it back, there are a few moments that make you realise you should have seen it coming.
Best quote – “We’re all capable of the most incredible change.”
“…’cause we’re all capable of the most incredible change. We can evolve while still staying true to who we are. We can honour who we’ve been and choose who we want to be next.”
– The Thirteenth Doctor, Season 11 Episode 1, “The Woman who Fell to Earth”
I’m a fan of this quote because it makes regenerating into something that a human can understand. We regenerate too, just more gradually. We are not the same person we were five years ago, and we will not be the person we are now in another five years. Time Lords just get a whole lot of it at once.
Next for this Whovian…
Wow, I feel kind of Who-ed out… or not! I’ve just started watching Classic Who for the first time. To say it’s a bit different is putting it lightly – while I can look past the image quality and special effects, the social attitudes in 1963 are very hard to get used to.
I can’t promise I’ll do anything like this for the Classic series (or even that I’ll get through watching it all), but I’m sure there’ll be more Doctor Who content on here sooner or later…
How about you? What are your favourite episodes?