Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 8 (2014) Ranked

Series 8! A new Doctor takes the reigns of the show, which means that the whole dynamic of the show tends to get thrown on its head. This goes doubly so this time as Capaldi gives us a departure from the young men of Tennant and Smith. Gone are the days of bouncing around like a goofball, instead giving us a grumpy, cynical and sarcastic style of comedy.

Personally, this was the series I was most dreading because it’s the only one that I haven’t actually rewatched since it originally aired. My memories of a lot of these episodes have faded in the years since 2014. There’s even one episode in here I’m relatively sure I’d never actually seen before.

Still, there’s no time like the present, so let’s get reviewing.

11 – In the Forst of the Night

In the Forest of the Night is the worst episode of modern Doctor Who. It’s really that simple.

Children actors are bad and annoying at the best of times, so it doesn’t help that A) They’re one of the most critical factors of this episode, and B) They were explicitly written to be the most insufferable, stereotypical arses I’ve ever seen. On top of that, all of the adult characters seem to act like children too. There are attempts at comedy, but they are DIRE. Jokes that are so unfunny they’d even be too bad for an episode of The Big Band Theory.

The ‘drama’ in Clara & Danny’s relationship about how much she’s been seeing The Doctor is laughable, and wholly forced into scenes where they have no place being. Speaking of Danny, I have no idea why the writer decided he should be completely inept in this episode, but it turns him into the most unlikable character in the whole thing. I can get behind his motivation of protecting the kids, but he isn’t even good at it, for one thing, he steps up to tiger, with a torch, after which, we NEVER see that tiger again. THAT’S NOT HOW TIGERS WORK. Not to mention that not nearly enough attention is paid to the fact that Danny manages to lose a child at a sleepover. It’s not like she just wandered off either, she’s fully dressed and out in the forest, which means she’s been missing all night, and neither he nor Clara, nor any of the kids noticed.

All of that, all of it pales in comparison to this episodes biggest sin. The one time while watching an episode of Doctor Who that has made me physically angry that it was ever allowed to be broadcast. That is the moment where Clara tells The Doctor not to bother saving all of the children, and The Doctor just agrees. Clara makes this decision, not just to let the human race become extinct, but to let all these innocent children die, without consulting anyone, she simply tells it to The Doctor as a statement as fact. The fact that The Doctor doesn’t spend the remaining 10 minutes of the episode verbally eviscerating her for even suggesting it is a disgrace and a complete failure to understand anything about any of these characters.

Oh, and what’s Clara’s reasoning for letting the children die? Because, if they lived…they’d miss their parents…which is the dumbest justification for anything I’ve ever heard. It spits in the face of anyone who’s ever lost a parent too because Clara’s essentially just said that there’s no point in living without your parents. She says this, by the way, in front of Danny Pink, who is an orphan. Even putting all that to one side, if I was the parent to one of those kids, and you told me that you could’ve saved their lives, but chose not to, I would never stop being furious about it.

And before you say it, I don’t care that it turns out to all be fine in the end, because Clara still made that decision, believing all of the kids were going to die, and THAT’S what matters. Even during their most unlikable periods, I could never possibly believe that Clara or The Doctor would even consider such unbelievable bullshit for a second. It quite simply goes against the entire ethos of the show.

Oh also, making a joke about how they just call the kids ‘gifted & talented’ so they feel special, and it’s actually meaningless? Congratulations on completely shattering the self-esteem of any school kid who gets put in a ‘gifted & talented’ class. I don’t care if it’s a stupid joke on a TV show, kids pick up on this stuff, they will remember it, and it will hurt them.

10 – The Caretaker

Whenever I’ve seen people criticise Moffat’s writing, I’ve never understood where the ‘misogyny’ point comes from, then I rewatched this episode, and I get it now.

This episode treats Clara like an object rather than a character as all the men have a big fight over her. Danny & Clara’s relationship is the focal point of this episode, and it’s absolutely terrible. I know they couldn’t dedicate tonnes of time to establishing their relationship before this, but skimming over it in a montage doesn’t help us feel the connection the show keeps telling us they have. When Clara proclaims that she loves Danny, all I could do was wonder why? We’ve shown them being vaguely flirty and the show keeps telling us that they’re in love, but I’ve never actually seen them make a real emotional connection.

I think the problem comes from perspective. The entire episode is written from Clara’s perspective. On paper, this seems like the smart decision as she’s the bridge between these two worlds. However, the episode never actually focuses on her thoughts and feelings on the conflict between The Doctor & Danny. We get the sense that she wants them to get along, because of course she does, but we never get a real sense of the stress of her worlds colliding. Personally, I think the episode could’ve been a lot better if written entirely from Danny’s perspective, then you could’ve had a proper look at the emotional trauma he goes through when discovering all of this. Not only would it make Clara seem more like a real person, but it would’ve helped up connect to Danny because as it is, I have no reason to like him.

The conflict between The Doctor & Danny shows hints of being good, but more or less just devolves into them being petty little school children to each other. Maybe that idea was the point, but it just comes across as annoying. Danny flips out in the TARDIS for no reason and seems like an arsehole because of it, and The Doctor just seems bitter that Clara didn’t like the guy who looked like him. The Doctor comes across as unbelievably childish for discarding Danny because of his past as a soldier. I know they’ve never liked military organisations or those in them, but The Doctor is always the kind of person to reach out and try to show them the better way, not just bat them away like they’re the scum of the Earth. Neither Danny nor The Doctor comes out of it looking sympathetic or likeable, and Clara is just treated like a little damsel who needs the men to protect her. I know I’ve criticised Clara for never struggling before, but this is too far in the other direction.

At its core, this is an episode that fails to understand its characters,.fails to understand interpersonal relationships, and fails to have any kind of exciting plot. It just wanted to be a drama-based episode, but still had to throw in a monster of the week because it’s Doctor Who. As a result, both suffered.

9 – Listen

Listen is two different types of episode pressed together into one. One half of it is a slow and tense mystery surrounding a very interesting concept. It knows what it’s doing had carries a solid plot. The other half is a character study between The Doctor and Clara, focusing on how it’s shifting with the inclusion of Danny Pink. This fails to understand the established dynamic between these characters, has no idea how romance actually works and tries to wrap it all up with a completely meaningless speech about fear.

I’ll start with the good stuff. First of all, the hook is great. The concept of something under your bed is immediately understandable by absolutely everyone, and I’m surprised it took this long for the show to use it. I loved the idea of how you talk to yourself sometimes to reason that there might be something there. I, for one talk to myself ALL. THE. TIME. And I’d be thrilled to know that all of my genius thoughts didn’t go to waste when I verbalised them.

The scenes where we get teased as if we’re going to see the creature are great. They build so perfectly to their climax. The bedroom scene is the best example of this. It starts with Clara calming Rupert, seeming to diffuse the situation. It’s a sweet scene, but the atmosphere remains tense because we know that something’s really there. The tension then takes a huge spike when something sits on top of the bed. There’s then the whole build with The Doctor, talking things out to Rupert, but simultaneously trying to work things out for himself. The Doctor’s slightly panicky tone as he hopes the creature will go away makes the thing feel genuinely quite scary. The same goes for the scene in the space base later on.

Where things fall apart, though, is the character stuff between Clara & Danny. The dating scene is fine, although I didn’t really buy into their connection. I’m not saying I wanted to see the whole scene where they found common ground and started getting along – I’m totally cool with the episode yada-yadaing over that stuff – but it felt like we so quickly went from them awkwardly trying to find common ground, to them falling out that I didn’t have any time to digest their connection. In fact, it didn’t feel like they had any at all. I understand what they were trying to say about Danny’s mental state by having him flip out with the idea of killing, but the argument makes him seem so unreasonable. A perspective that isn’t helped by the fact that we only follow Clara.

I like that the situation flips a couple of times – they both get a chance to be wrong – but again, not nearly enough time was dedicated to it to be worthwhile. I know they tried to establish a connection between the adventure & the date, but it fell relatively flat for me. The Doctor’s investigation played into the date very little, and I’m sorry, but I just didn’t care about someone who we assume is Danny’s descendant connecting with Clara. Danny is such a focal point around Clara’s internal conflict here, and yet I don’t feel like I know who he is. I grasp the idea of being a soldier that hasn’t quite gotten over his days in the war, but that story has been told so many times that, unless you have something interesting to say about it, you just shouldn’t bother. What we get here from Danny is the most basic version of that archetype.

I didn’t enjoy the stuff between Clara & The Doctor either. I know that it was sowing the seeds for later in the series, but it escalates so quickly that I just don’t buy it. I understand that when The Doctor snaps at Clara, it’s because he’s desperate to solve a mystery from his childhood, but there was no build to it. The Doctor doesn’t seem any different than normal until he suddenly starts forcefully ordering Clara around. Sure, he disregards Clara’s date, but from what we’d seen from this Doctor so far, that’s nothing out of the ordinary for him. It meant that all of the character-based drama (both in this episode and the series at large) feel extremely unearned because no-one bothered to give it any proper build.

It’s such a shame that I’ve had to rank this so low because there’s some great stuff in here, but the character drama that is supposed to carry the episode utterly fails.

8 – Time Heist

If you were wondering which episode it was that I hadn’t seen before, it was this one. I feel it’s important to clarify that, because this is an episode with a lot of twists to it, so I need to impress upon you that I didn’t already know what was going to happen going into this episode. The reason this is so important for me to clarify is because all of the twists were really obvious.

Seriously, there was only one twist that I didn’t see coming, and it was the only one that wasn’t foreshadowed until about 30 seconds before it was revealed. Usually, I wouldn’t think much of a secondary character dying in one of these episodes, but it happened so quickly after they were introduced that I knew there was no way they were dead. Their deaths were given no fanfare and no time to breathe, with exposition about their character crammed into the 10 minutes each of them had before vanishing briefly.

Secondly, I cannot stress how painstakingly obvious it was that The Doctor was the architect the whole time. As soon as they had their memories wiped I knew there was going to be some kind of ‘gotcha’ moment when it came to the identity of the architect, and as soon as The Doctor realised it was a time travel heist, it more or less confirmed my theory. Sometimes, solving a mystery before it’s revealed is a fun experience that makes me feel smart, but in this instance, it felt so obvious to me that I couldn’t help but feel bored as The Doctor ran around trying to slowly figure it all out.

There was a nice variety of stuff to enjoy here, though. The first 30 minutes or so was very tense and enjoyable. The episode didn’t spend too much time introducing us to the world, but it didn’t really need to. Bank, heist, mysterious person behind it all; that’s all we need to know. This meant the heist action got to shine, which was where this episode was at it’s strongest. I still wouldn’t call it anything extraordinary, but I had fun watching the team break into the vault while evading the monster that could sense their guilt. Speaking of, what a brilliant concept for a monster, bravo to the Thompson & Moffat for putting that concept together.

The last 15 minutes leave all the excitement behind, though, which felt like a bit too much of a change of pace. They reach the private vault ridiculously easily when I was honestly hoping we’d get at least one more scene of tense heist shenanigans. It left me wanting more, but not in a good way, I just felt like it had short-changed me on the action and totally killed the pace. The sequence where The Doctor works everything out and confronts the monster is good, but the fact that I’d already worked out the solution took something away from it. The fact that the thing in the vault was another one of the monsters though was a brilliant way to end it and, as I said, I didn’t see that coming.

This is one of those episodes that I can’t really conjure up any strong feelings for. It didn’t do anything terribly, but it didn’t do anything spectacular either. I enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll remember much about it in a few weeks.

7 – Into the Dalek

This is an episode that I keep going back and forth on. I think it succeeds in telling its self-contained story, but when it comes to the long-term, series-length plots, it leaves a lot to be desired.

This was the episode that kicked off the “Am I a good man?” storyline and, in theory, I can see that this would be a very good episode to help that story along. I’ll touch on it in a bit, but there are plenty of moments throughout the episode where the Doctor’s morality is questioned in a meaningful and effective way. The problem with it was that the scene where The Doctor posed the question, was at the start of the episode, not at the end. The Doctor hasn’t done anything in the previous episode(s) that caused this doubt in the mind of the audience, so it just feels like we’re being told what to think.

If instead, The Doctor had asked Clara that question at the end of the episode, it would’ve felt like a natural culmination of the story that was being told. It’s a minor change, but I think it makes a huge difference. One way tells the audience what they should be thinking, while the other allows the audience to come to these doubtful thoughts themselves before the show starts to press on the issue.

Next up, we had the introduction of Danny Pink. Now, I’ve already touched on what I think of him and his story, but, for an introduction, I thought this was quite effective. It felt totally out of place with the episode, but in a bubble, this was an excellent way to give us a bit of a taste of Danny and his budding relationship with Clara. I did find it a bit weird that they seemed to be hot for each other the moment they made eye contact, but whatever.

Looking at the plot, it definitely landed for me. The whole dilemma of a ‘good Dalek’ was an interesting plot thread that I don’t think has been done before. It didn’t feel like a gimmick either, it actually felt like there was a point to this story, that was trying to evolve the Daleks as villains. I think the fact that there was actually a reasonable explanation as to why the Dalek had shifted its perspective went a long way to bringing me into the story too. If the Dalek had just randomly changed its mind, then I wouldn’t have bought it, but the explanation of the damage it had sustained, allowing it to open up its mind was a great touch.

The progression of the characters in this story works well. I genuinely got the sense that Clara was someone who knew and understood The Doctor’s mind when she called him out on his bullshit this time, rather than just her usual ‘generic strong woman sass’. Why we couldn’t have seen this side of Clara in Series 7, I will never know, but I’m thrilled that we’ve got it now.

The finale was near-perfect in its execution. The tension of Clara restoring the memories was a nice segment to have running through everything, but the best moment was when The Doctor went inside the Dalek’s mind. The fact that the main thing the Dalek took on board from The Doctor’s mind was his hatred for the Daleks was a brilliant twist; because we’d seen it bubbling throughout the episode. It adds so much to the “Am I a good man?” discussion too, because we’ve been shown how hate-filled The Doctor’s mind can be, but also, Daleks are born and raised to embrace hatred, so maybe it’s not The Doctor’s fault. That’s why I think the question should’ve come up after the fact, not before.

Fortunately for this episode, the stuff I didn’t like takes up minimal time at the beginning and end, while the stuff that’s in between it is an exciting adventure. It knows exactly the story it wants to tell and tells it in a compelling manner, which is all I ask for from this show.

6 – Robot of Sherwood

I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. I’d managed to convince myself it was a terrible episode. I think all I really remembered is the general goofiness of the thing, which isn’t entirely representative of the episode. Not to mention, it was written by Mark Gatiss, who doesn’t have an exceptionally high hit-rate when it comes to writing good Doctor Who.

The tone of this one is played relatively light, but I don’t mind that. The whole concept of meeting Robin Hood and having him fight robots is an inherently ridiculous one, so there’s no way trying to play it off as serious would’ve worked. The first half of the episode is filled with a lot of genuinely funny stuff. The scene where The Doctor and Robin first meet is hilarious. Capaldi wouldn’t get nearly enough opportunities to show off his comedic side in this series, but here is a gleaming bastion of funny. I’ll admit, the bickering between The Doctor and Robin does become tiresome pretty quick – the scene in the prison cell should’ve been way shorter – but there were still a fair few lines that got a laugh out of me.

Looking to the plot, I think it was about as good as it could’ve been given the concept. A light-hearted romp with Robin Hood and his merry men was never going to be a revolutionary story, but I struggled to find any major complaints with it. We spend enough time with The Doctor questioning how this could all be real that it builds suspense, but it doesn’t go on and on too much. Then, a large chunk of the episode is spent unravelling the mystery, arguably more so than usual.

The guest stars did a fantastic job here too. Tom Riley was able to capture the over-the-top atmosphere that Robin Hood gives off in his stories (much better than Jonas Armstrong’s portrayal of the role, I must say). The way he gave every line this kind of casual, yet slightly posh touch was very endearing. Ben Miller does a beautiful job as the Sherriff too. If you’ve ever watched Armstrong & Miller, you’ll know that he’s able to pull off ‘posh & manacing’ like few others, which made him great for a cartoonish villain like the Sherriff. He carries the serious stuff too though. The scene with him and Clara could easily have been a bore, but I’d argue that his performance makes it interesting to watch.

The climax wasn’t the greatest. A middle of the road sword fight over a pit of lava isn’t a very ‘Doctor Who’ way to solve things, but sod it, this episode was just an excuse to bring back memories of the old BBC Robin Hood series, which had sword fights way stupider than this.

I really didn’t expect to enjoy this episode, but I was proven so very wrong. It’s absolutely not to everyone’s tastes, but I think that as long as you don’t try to take it too seriously, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

5 – Deep Breath

Following The Eleventh Hour, Moffat was going to be hard-pressed to top himself when it came to writing another brilliant ‘first story’ for another new Doctor. Did he nail it? For the most part, I’d say it did.

The thing that stood out to me most in this episode was the humour, which was a bit of a mixed bag. At the start of the episode, most of the jokes landed, and the tone worked for the jokes. The line “Don’t look in that mirror, it’s furious!” got a huge laugh out of me. The problem I had with the humour was that it persisted throughout the episode even once the tone had drastically shifted. Scattering in jokes during serious moments can be good, but they still need to be consistent with the tone of the scene and most of the jokes here were much too goofy to fit in the more serious scenes.

For example, the scene following the interrogation where Clara calls in the Paternoster gang to help them. This was the point in the episode where the action burst into the forefront of the scene and having Strax comically crash into the floor with a thud only for Jenny to make a quip about it didn’t fit at all. Speaking of Jenny, the jokes between her & Vastra were clearly written by someone who has only ever seen lesbians in porn films. All of the jokes between the two of them were had some form of sexual connotation or innuendo behind them, and while that is funny in small doses, it really got tiresome by the end.

That said, I thought the dramatic and serious side of the episode was fantastic. The scenes underneath the restaurant where Clara is forced to hold her breath to escape is incredibly tense, and I loved it. The following scene where she confronts the villain was also a standout moment for the character. The performance was excellent, and I really bought into the feeling of Clara being absolutely terrified but using everything she’s learnt from The Doctor in her travels to keep herself safe.

The way the inner conflict of Clara adjusting to this new Doctor was well told and I liked how it shifted throughout. She starts off with a very clear denial of the situation, and I enjoyed the scene where Vastra confronted her about it. It was the first time since her introduction that I actually felt Clara’s integrity as a character was challenged by other characters in the show. After being a void of personality in Series 7, some attention is finally being paid to Clara’s flaws and facades to make her more of a person. This conflict remains, where she takes a leap of faith on the fact that The Doctor didn’t actually abandon her in her most dire moments. It culminates beautifully in the final scene where she receives a phone call from Matt Smith’s Doctor to guide her towards acceptance. It’s a bittersweet scene and all three actors involved did a fantastic job of performing it.

That’s the perfect segway to talk about the whole point of this episode: Introducing us to the new Doctor. On that front, it was really good – not Eleventh Hour good, but still good. The shifting in tone from comedic, to dramatic, to heartfelt at the end gave Capaldi the chance to show off his full range for the role in just one episode. All of his comedic lines were great, and he was even able to bring the subtlety to the performance in the form of how he slowly grew out of his post-regeneration daze throughout. It seemed like every scene he was just a little bit less crazy, culminating in the final scenes where he confronted the villain and spoke plainly with Clara.

This episode did an excellent job at what it was supposed to do, and regardless of how well the rest of the series capitalised on what it did, the things it set in motion were great. We saw a wide range of what the new Doctor can do, along with getting a good sense of his personality; Clara got challenged and developed as a character for the first time since she was introduced, and it told a compelling story with a satisfying conclusion.

4 – Dark Water/Death in Heaven

So, this finale was a lot better than I remember it being, but I’m still not entirely sure I like it.

Starting with Dark Water, this is a really good episode. It’s not the most amazing depiction of grief (that happens next series), but I definitely think that the numbness that transitions into anger as Clara processes it is good. I definitely felt it hit a genuine place, it doesn’t feel the need to rush through it either, it gives over about a third of the episode to Clara processing her grief, and that’s good. I especially like how The Doctor responds to it, the line “Do you think I care about you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” is pure brilliance.

The tension builds ok, but it definitely reveals the Cybermen a little too early. I know that you won’t get the door & musical sting thing if you didn’t watch Series 2, but for those of us who did, it just spoiled the reveal that happened 5 minutes later. Speaking of Series 2, why does no-one remember the Cybermen? The whole ‘Army of Ghosts’ thing only happened 8 years prior to this, and don’t give that “everyone just forgot” bullshit, because that’s just not how the real world works. We don’t just forget cataclysmic events like that. As it stands though, there was really no reason for these to be Cybermen, especially when they’re just going to play second fiddle to The Master. The only thing the Cybermen actually add over some random monster (other than marketability) is the whole ’emotions’ thing at the very end. Still, surely it wouldn’t have taken much effort to find another way to do it. All it did was serve to continue the decline in threat or interest in the Cybermen.

Those gripes aside though, I still liked the episode. We don’t get a lot of Missy’s antics here, but I think that’s a good thing, just gives us a taste of what we want to see in part 2.

Then we move onto Death in Heaven, which…is ok. There’s definitely some stuff to like in there, but there’s a lot that I really didn’t enjoy.

Missy is a bit from both groups. Her being crazy was fun, and if you enjoyed that side of John Simm’s performance like I did, then you’ll definitely get a lot out of it. The problem is that the craziness is all she has. There’s no menace, no threat. Yes, she’s doing evil things, but she doesn’t actually feel evil or scary. I think what makes The Master so brilliant is how they mix the crazy & sinister sides to create someone who makes you uncomfortable because of how truly wrong they feel. Missy would eventually become a very different (but much better) character, and this feels like we’re just getting to grips with her.

The plot is definitely the weakest part of the episode, mostly because it never feels like it gets going. I’m glad that the character elements were the main focus of the episode, but the plot really suffers because of it. The scenes on the plane don’t feel anywhere as tense or exciting as they were probably meant to, and the rest of it just gets explained to us at various points.

The character stuff though, that’s where this episode (mostly) gets it right. Even though Clara has a minimal role in this episode, I’d say she’s the character that Moffat got the most right with here. She’s playing a much more reactionary role, but her reactions finally feel reasonable and realistic. I keep feeling her pain. Danny’s story has its problems, but on the whole, I still liked it. The revelation that he accidentally killed a kid was good in theory, but in reality, it plays basically no part in the story and doesn’t feel like it affects his story all that much. It gives him a chance to redeem himself, but honestly, sacrificing himself to save the day felt like it was enough. Maybe if it had been built up to a little more, then I’d have been more invested, but outside of a few hints, it wasn’t ever referenced. It was just backstory, not a character trait.

The Doctor is where the episode lives and dies though, and in classic Doctor Who fashion, it does a bit of both. The “am I a good man?” plot thread is not a good one, and while I see what they were going for, it didn’t end well. Missy giving The Doctor an army is all well and good, but she doesn’t actually give him any reason to use it. Sure, there’s the promise of being able to generally bring justice to the universe, but the man’s already got an infinitely powerful time machine and a basically infinite lifespan, what would he need an army of his weakest villains for? There should’ve been some immediate pressing threat that was forcing The Doctor to use the army.

What I thought was this episode’s strongest scene though, is when Clara & The Doctor are sitting in the cafe at the end. Lying to each other. Just 10 minutes (screentime) that Clara declared he was the one man she would never lie to. They’re so bare with each other, and yet we know how it’s dripping in lies and feelings they’re hiding from each other. Genuinely, if that had been the last time we saw Clara (which apparently, it was meant to be until Jenna Coleman signed on to do another series at the last minute), I think it might’ve been one of the best companion exits we’ve seen. This series showed us how the relationship between the two of them is fundamentally flawed. Some reasons are their fault, others are just the nature of their lives, and I think that would’ve been the perfect end. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, and next series we’d get the real end and…oh boy…it’s….sure something.

3 – Flatline

Flatline is an odd episode, and I’m surprised I ended up ranking it this high, and how much you like it will depend on what aspects you chose to focus on. When I look at the writing of the characters in this episode, I see clear examples of some of the biggest flaws there are in this series. However, when you look at it from a plot-based standpoint, it’s an absolutely thrilling episode.

I’m going to talk about the negatives first because I want to leave a positive lasting impression about this one. First up is Clara. After progressing very well as a character up until this point, here she regresses back into the ‘smoother’ version of her character. She becomes the flawless, more perfect version of the character we saw in Series 7, the character with no real substance. Despite having to handle basically the entire situation alone, she never feels like she’s being challenged. She goes in with a head of steam and fixes every problem almost immediately, with only a little assistance from The Doctor. She literally figures out how to bring the TARDIS back to life in about 20 seconds. I’ll accept that of a two-millennium old super-being, but not of a human who’s been consistently shown to not be on The Doctor’s level this series.

The side characters are pretty paper-thin. Rigsy gets a couple of glimmers of hope, but the episode doesn’t invest in him anywhere near as much as it should’ve. I get the impression he was supposed to be a make-shift companion to Clara, but outside of the beginning & end of the story, he just fades into the background. The old guy is just a lazy stereotype. He’s not even close to a real person and exists purely, so there’s a vague sense of conflict in the group.

Now, onto what I love. Most importantly, we get a proper breakdown of The Doctor’s mind. Through his explanations to Clara, we get to fully understand how The Doctor thinks, and how he’s able to solve mysteries like this so quickly. When you look back at older episodes, you can clearly see them going through the steps outlined in this one. It shows a strong understanding of what makes the show great, and exactly why The Doctor is a hero, an understanding that feels lost throughout many episodes in the series.

The whole thing is exceptionally well-paced. I wish they hadn’t shown us what the monsters were doing right in the cold-open, but the mystery still worked regardless. I liked how the episode gave its audience enough credit to connect some of the dots themselves. Things like the weird texture on the wall in the flat is what I’m talking about. Sure, it gets explained eventually, but for that whole scene, it’s just sitting there in shot, with very little attention being drawn to it. It gives us the breadcrumbs we need to make those kinds of connections and feel more like The Doctor.

The ending put a smile on my face too. Yes, The Doctor’s speech is a bit cheesy, and the way he points out the sonic to blast them all away is quite over-the-top, but it feels earned. This was such an incredibly dark and tense episode that to have a big heroic moment like that felt like a huge sigh of relief. It was a bit much, but it wrapped the episode up nicely and left me with positive feelings.

2 – Kill the Moon

Kill the Moon is the example of how brilliant this series could’ve been if it was done properly. Everything that all the other episodes get wrong, this episode hits the mark perfectly. The conflict between Clara & The Doctor, The Doctor’s faults, even Clara & Danny’s relationship is done exactly how I wanted it to be done in this episode.

The plot is very well-paced. There isn’t a lot of action in this episode, but the one or two scenes we do get are well-placed. The mystery unfolds satisfyingly, and every scene gives you just a little clue as to what’s going on. The scene where The Doctor explains it is a little long-winded, but that’s more or less the only problem I have with how the story was told. One thing I do have to have a go at though is how stupid ‘turn your lights on or off’ is as a way to get the Earth to vote. Apparently, Clara only cared what Europe & the east coast of America wanted to do, because they’re the only places she could actually see.

Courtney Woods was an element of this episode that I didn’t particularly care for. She wasn’t bad, or even that annoying, she just felt kind of unnecessary. Her input into the big debate at the end didn’t affect much, it would’ve been nice to get more of an opportunity to see the situations through her eyes. I wouldn’t say her presence made the episode worse though, so it’s not a huge issue.

Ok, now onto the things that actually make this episode the brilliance that it is. Firstly, this is the best showcase of The Doctor’s arrogance and failures we get all series. He steps to one side and ‘allows the humans to make their choice’ in a way that felt incredibly condescending, especially when you know that he’s already got a plan to save the day. When it all finally comes out, and The Doctor explains it, I couldn’t help but feel like he manipulated Clara in a significant way. If that fact had just been allowed to skate by, I would’ve been furious about it, but instead, Clara calls him out on his shit.

This brings me to my other point, which is that this is the best version of Clara I’ve ever seen. She’s not a plot device, or a perfect caricature, or some damsel in distress, she’s a real person with real emotions. It’s incredible how rare it is for Clara to actually be written like this because it’s utterly brilliant. The performance from Coleman was top-notch, not just in her outburst, but the panic and confusion that she goes through the decision she’s making. The Doctor gets his arse kicked because he deserves it, and the fact that he can’t understand why she’s so upset about is the perfect way to make us doubt whether or not he really is a good man.

It ends on a great note too. Danny’s response to Clara’s outburst is perfect. He doesn’t say a word while she vents, he doesn’t go on about how ‘I knew this would happen’ or anything like that, he just listens and then tells Clara what she needs to hear. That 30-second scene gets me more invested in the connection the two of them have that ANYTHING else in the series. He’s not ‘protecting’ Clara, or trying to make a point, he’s doing the right thing for someone he cares about, and that’s all you needed to make him likeable.

If anything, I’d say the biggest problem with this episode is how well it highlights the failings of the rest of the series when it comes to these areas. It’s like someone read all of my complaints in the rest of this article and fixed them in one fell swoop.

1 – Mummy on the Orient Express

As one of the few episodes in this series that is largely unburdened by the overall series arc, Mummy on the Orient Express was allowed to flourish to become one of the purest and most exciting mysteries the show has ever produced.

What makes this episode so brilliant is that The Doctor is in his element from start to finish. The entire thing feels like one big stream of consciousness from The Doctor. He’s constantly thinking on the move, talking to himself at a million miles a minute and clevering his way out of the situation. This is a version of The Doctor we don’t get to see nearly as often as we should in this series, and it just proves how entertaining it can be to watch.

The mystery of the mummy is so well-paced. The use of the timer in the bottom corner of the screen right from the start is absolutely perfect for building suspense, as well as giving us some clues as to what’s really going on. We start seeing each encounter with the mummy the same as The Doctor, an opportunity to learn more, to get a little bit closer to solving the mystery.

This also continues to poke away at The Doctor’s identity as a good man in a meaningful way. As he says at the end of the episode, he would’ve just kept letting people die until the mystery was solved. Not out of arrogance or malice, but because it’s the only way to save everyone that’s left. It’s the kind of higher thinking that puts The Doctor above you or me, it may seem cold-hearted on the surface, but he’s just doing what has to be done. As The Doctor said: “Sometimes the only choices are bad ones, but you still have to choose”.

While the series arc stuff is there, it doesn’t dig its teeth too heavily into the episode like with The Caretaker. Instead, it serves more as bookends to tie everything together. Clara’s slow realisation that she would never be able to give up travelling with The Doctor isn’t addressed directly until the end, because it doesn’t need to be, we can see her processes as everything unfolds. You can feel the awkwardness between the two of them in the early scenes, as neither of them can say what they really want to. A friendship fading is different from a relationship ending, and I think this is a good representation of the fragile balance The Doctor has with some of his companions. While you could argue that Clara’s U-Turn at the end was a bit cheap, I think just enough was sown throughout the episode that we can understand her thought process.

Regardless, what makes this episode brilliant is the thrill and the mystery. It knows exactly when to accelerate and let off the gas, and knows the best ways to build up tension. Even when you already know the solution on a rewatch, its still an exciting prospect because of how well its told. It’s one of the purest Doctor vs Monster stories we would ever get in the Moffat era, and it’s all the better for it.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you thought of this series, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time next week, where I’ll be covering WWE Hell in a Cell!

The 9 Best Cliffhangers in Doctor Who

Doctor Who is a show that has told all kinds of stories over its modern lifespan. I, along with many other fans, would argue that many of the best stories are ones that span two, or sometimes even three episodes. The extended amount of runtime allows for so much more to be achieved than is ordinarily possible. The secondary characters get ample time to shine, the plot can swing to-and-frow a bit more often than usual, and this usually creates a much more compelling story.

They also provide us with the most exciting and hype-inducing trope in narrative history. Cliffhangers.

A cliffhanger cuts the story off at a crucial point. If done well, these cliffhangers will immediately get the audience excited and ready for the next instalment. When done perfectly, they can create some of the greatest moments in the history of the show. If anything is going to have you come away from an episode of Doctor Who still buzzing over what transpired, and what might transpire the following week, it’s a properly well-written cliffhanger.

I want to make it clear that, in this list, the quality of the episode following the cliffhanger is entirely irrelevant. I could point to a handful of the cliffhangers on this list that had disappointing payoffs, but that isn’t important. All that matters is that the cliffhanger itself left a lasting impact on me.

Now, let’s look at some of the best, from modern Doctor Who.

9 – The Sphere Opens – Army of Ghosts

Army of Ghosts is a bit of a flawed episode, but one of it’s best elements is the mystery surrounding the sphere. The way it’s introduced to us as this thing that needs to be observed and researched 24/7, the massive looming presence it has over the room, and even the way it doesn’t quite seem to fit in visually with its surroundings. The Doctor explains that it’s a void ship, designed to travel between parallel universes, and your mind immediately jumps back to earlier in the season, where the Cybermen overran that parallel universe. At that point, it seems like the episode has accidentally tipped its hand, but really, it’s just luring you into a false assumption.

They revisit it enough to keep it regularly in the back of your mind, wondering what on Earth it could be. Could John Lumic have survived his factory exploding? Could it be some incredible new type of Cyberman we’ve never seen before? As the episode ramps up to its climax and the Cybermen reveal themselves as the ghosts around the world, it seems like it’s a done deal. Then episode decides it’s going to totally blindside you.

First of all, the Cybermen deny having anything to do with the sphere. Our reaction is the same as The Doctor’s. Totally unexpected and immediately throws you through a loop. Then, while you’re still scrambling for any semblance of an idea of what it could be, BAM, DALEKS. It’s such an exciting moment, made all the more brilliant with how the episode goes to such great lengths to lure you into the false assumption about what it can be.

Even once the excitement of the reveal subsides, you suddenly come to the realisation that the Daleks and the Cybermen are in the same place at the same time. Will they team up? Will they fight? How will The Doctor possibly cope?

It does precisely what a great cliffhanger should do. It doesn’t just put the characters in danger that you know they’re going to get out of within 30 seconds of part 2. It poses you a whole bunch of exciting questions as to where the story is going to go, not to mention hitting you with a huge reveal.

8 – O – Spyfall Part 1

Having The Master as a recurring villain consistently makes for such great reveals, purely because they can change their appearance without our knowledge. You’d think I’d have stopped falling for it by this point, but every time a new human-looking mysterious villain comes along, I always fall for it.

The difference here is that O was presented as an ally of The Doctor’s that they already had a history with. Immediately there’s a bunch of intrigue surrounding the character, which was only magnified during O’s conversation with Graham earlier in the episode. There, we saw a hint of menace appear in the character, especially when discussing the topic of The Doctor. We get these very subtle hints that he’s hiding something, but nothing so overt to give it away. Even something like O seeing the inside of The Doctor’s TARDIS becomes a very weighty scene once we know the twist.

I understand why many people aren’t as big on this cliffhanger as I am. It was done in a way that went over a bunch of people’s head at first, and to be fair, I didn’t realise that the house flying alongside the plane was supposed to be The Master’s TARDIS either. However, I very vividly the remember the moment when it hit me that he was The Master. It was a revelation that almost left me winded when I connected the dots. It took me a few seconds after he claimed to be “the spy…master” to work it out, but once everything clicked, I felt blown away by it.

This was backed up by Sacha Dhawan acting circles around everyone in the scene for another minute following the reveal. It kept things building right up until the climactic plane crash. It hit me in a way that I don’t think any other cliffhanger has hit me on this show before, which is why I rate it quite highly.

7 – A Trap – The Time of Angels

Ok, this one is a bit of an exception to my rules of good cliffhangers.

This was a cliffhanger that really extends out about 5 minutes before the episode actually ended. It held a tremendous sense of rising tension, as things very slowly, then very quickly, got dire for our heroes. The fact of the Aplans having two heads is one of those facts that totally passes you by when you don’t know it’s important. It even doesn’t twig for The Doctor, that’s how insignificant it was, but I can’t describe the level of “Oh shit!” that went off in my head when The Doctor asked why the statues don’t have two heads.

From that moment on, it’s a remarkable moment for Smith’s Doctor. The way they immediately take control of the situation and gives out orders is The Doctor at his peak. Then, we have his speech about the flaw in the angel’s trap. The Doctor looks like such a badass hero as they talk circles around the angels and even though it doesn’t really raise any plot-related questions or have any significant revelations. I always feel so pumped when The Doctor finishes his speech, declaring “Me…” and firing the gun.

The Time of Angels is a blast of an episode outside of this, but this ending put the topper on things. It always leaves me pumped and always makes me want to rush right into the next part to keep the excitement rolling.

6 – The Pit Opens- The Impossible Planet

One of the best stories of the RTD era, The Impossible Planet is entirely based on the slow and creeping build of tension and mystery. Most Doctor Who episodes have some level of that, of course, but this episode makes it the central focus of the plot. It’s an episode that refuses to let you in on any of its secrets in part 1 and then hits you with everything it’s got in part 2.

This approach had the potential to cause part 1 to be boring, but it was built so brilliantly that it actually makes for some of the best edge-of-your-seat viewing from that era of the show. The way the episode starts to give you little hints and pile on the intrigue, slowly but carefully, makes the whole thing feel ludicrously tense in its delivery. The Doctor doesn’t even discover the pit until about 2/3rds of the way into the episode. However, it didn’t need to come in sooner because of how much it eats at you. It’s the most straightforward kind of mystery, there’s a locked door, and you want to know what’s on the other side. That alone could be enough to carry it, but then you throw on top of that the idea that The Devil himself could be in the pit? Now that’s excitement. That’s not all though, as I haven’t even mentioned about the mystery surrounding the Ood yet.

After spending the whole episode very slowly feeding you hints as to what might be going on and how it’s all going to fall apart, the writer suddenly slams their foot down and hits you with everything at once. First, the Ood start killing people, and Rose is trapped in a room with them. Next, the whole planet starts falling into a black hole, throwing everything into chaos. All of this is topped off by the pit being opened and some demonic voice declaring that they’re free.

While I did say that I don’t like it when a cliffhanger just throws a petty threat at the characters, here it works in tandem with the game-changing revelation of the pit opening up. It works because it accelerates the pace of the episode to a fever pitch, which after a very slow episode is incredibly effective. More importantly, it raises more questions than it answers. What’s free? What’s it going to do? How can The Doctor stop it? Why has the planet chosen now to fall into the black hole after orbiting it for so long? All these questions are the kind of thing that will float around in your head for the next week and ensure you come back for part 2.

5 – The Long Way Round – Heaven Sent

Let’s get this out of the way first, the payoff to this cliffhanger (i.e., the entirety of Hell Bent) is utter shit, but as I said, that has no bearing on how awesome this cliffhanger was.

I’ll talk about it more when I eventually rank Series 9, but Heaven Sent is an absolute masterpiece. The story it tells & the way it tells it are beautiful, while Capaldi put on arguably the best performance of his entire career, carrying a 45-minute monologue about grief. The emotional stakes by the end of Heaven Sent are insanely high. We’ve just watched The Doctor kill and revive himself several trillion times so that they could punch his way through a solid wall of the toughed substance in the universe. When it comes to a character journey, they don’t get much more emotional than that.

Then, you have the series-wide stakes. After 10 years since the revival of Doctor Who revealed that Gallifrey had been destroyed. After The Doctor spent all this time with the guilt of its destruction weighing on their mind; they have finally step foot on their home planet once again. That in itself is a massive moment, but when you pair that up with ordeal that the Time Lords had just put him through…it’s such a powerful moment.

As I said, Hell Bent would absolutely shit it all up the wall, but I refuse to let it take away from the genuine work of art that is Heaven Sent. This cliffhanger was easily the perfect way to cap off such an episode. It fills you with this desire for The Doctor to march into Gallifrey’s parliamentary rooms and show them who’s boss.

It’s an incredible combination of a historical moment for the show, with a meaningful and heartfelt character moment for The Doctor and that’s such a wondrous achievement.

4 – The Doctor Regenerates – The Stolen Earth

Is it a bit goofy? Yes. Does it mess with the laws of regeneration a bit? Definitely. Did it blow my God-damned mind when I watched it for the first time? Hell. Yeah.

I’m not entirely sure there’s much to say about this one, because what makes it so good is incredibly simple. The Doctor, without any form of indication or announcement, suddenly starts regenerating, with seemingly no way for stopping it. It’s entirely based on shock factor, which you could argue is cheap, but I say balls to that, I loved it.

It’s one of those Doctor Who moments where, when I think back to it, the first thing that comes to mind is the raw feeling of “WHAT?!” that I experienced at the time. Sure, as an adult, it would be reasonably apparent that this was a fake-out, but as a kid, it threw everything I was expecting into the bin. I was convinced that we were saying goodbye to Tennant and that we’d have some new Doctor for the finale. I can only chalk this up to the fact that children are stupid, but sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

Quite simply, remembering this cliffhanger makes me really happy. It’s very rare that any show or film can truly shock me or blow my mind anymore, so I genuinely treasure the times where a show like this properly blindsided me with something incredible.

3 – “Listen to me!” – The Pandorica Opens

Honestly, this could’ve made the list just for that final shot alone.

The Pandorica Opens is such a wild ride of an episode. We race through The Doctor’s adventures of Series 5 to get a message to them, then we mess around with the Romans; then we get a giant box of mystery; then Rory turns up after being erased from existence; then The Doctor gives an epic speech; then the Pandorica Opens…

This may be the greatest twist in Doctor Who history. The way it was built up with the most fearsome warrior in the universe, and how all of The Doctor’s old foes show up to get a piece of it. It builds so wonderfully to the climax, and you’re so very ready to see what’s really inside the Pandorica. The moment where it finally opens to reveal an empty chair is SO GOOD. The sinking look on The Doctor’s face as he starts to get dragged towards the box pulls in so many emotions, even to the way he starts to break down as he pleads with the monsters that they’ve got it all wrong.

It makes sure to show you just how dire the situation is too, with it continually cutting back to River trying to prevent the TARDIS from exploding but utterly failing. Then, just as one final kick in the nuts, Rory shoots Amy and kills her against his own will. That final shot of the camera zooming out from Amy’s body to the sight of the whole universe collapsing in on itself was pure genius. In a single ten-second shot, you’ve encapsulated everything at stake, the personal drama of the characters and the universe-wide threat of the crack in the skin of the universe.

What’s even more amazing is that it’s willing to end on a downbeat note. It doesn’t build with a bombastic soundtrack to a climax. It quite literally peters out into silence, leaving you with nothing but your own thoughts as to what on Earth just happened and how it could possibly be solved. It leaves you with a feeling of total hopelessness, which is perfect for reeling you back in for the emotional highs of the series finale.

2 – “I’m coming to get you” – Bad Wolf

(From my Best Doctor Who Speeches article)

I’ve talked a lot about The Doctor having his “hero moments” so far in this list, but I believe that The Doctor has never seemed like more of a hero than he has at this moment, even if he’s being motivated by hatred and rage.

You’ve got to take a look into The Doctor’s mindset during this speech, earlier in the series they thought the Time War was finally over, the last Dalek in existence killed itself and all of the sufferings they’ve gone through, and all of the horrible things they did seemed like maybe they might’ve been worth it to finally rid the universe of the terror of the Daleks. Now, they’ve just discovered that not only did more escape the Time War, but they’ve multiplied and now there are hundreds of thousands of them. This is a person who very recently wiped out his entire race just to get rid of the Daleks and now they’ve learnt it was all for nothing, how would you feel in that situation?

Ecclestone’s acting during this scene is top-notch, the minute movements in his facial expressions put forth this feeling of someone who is having to suppress so much rage, guilt and fear all at once. In the moments before this speech, they flick between mild joking and serious threats, their head is not in the right space and it shows. I almost get this feeling like they’re going to explode in a fit of rage and totally lose their mind – I know I would – but they don’t. Instead, what they do is channel it all and use it to fuel their drive and desire to do the right thing, as Rose would later say “To stand up and say no”, quite literally in this case.

The way the music swells as The Doctor decides to defy the Daleks’ demand, the way they don’t even raise their voice on the first “No”, it’s just a cold statement of intent, a statement that they’ve had enough of dealing with the Daleks’ shit and they’re not going to tolerate one iota of it this time around. They call the Daleks’ bluff and they tell them exactly what they’re going to do, only to totally ignore the Daleks in the end and simply tell Rose “I’m coming to get you” like they’re just picking her up from karate class, no big deal.

Every time I watch it, it gets me PUMPED and it created one of my favourite cliffhangers I’ve ever seen this show pull off.

To add to what I said there, there is no cliffhanger in history that gets my adrenaline pumping quite like this one. The revelation of the gigantic fleet of Daleks, just a handful of episodes away from seeing just one Dalek murder countless people; the look of fire in The Doctors eyes & the fury in his voice. It ends the episode letting us know that The Doctor is in for the fight of his life, and you’ll have to come back next week to see how it goes. Thrilling stuff.

1 – “Bye-bye!” – Utopia

Ok, I might’ve told a hyperbolic fib earlier. THIS is the greatest twist in Doctor Who history.

What’s brilliant about this cliffhanger is that you don’t actually need to know who The Master is to feel the gravity of the revelation. I definitely didn’t when I watched this episode for the first time, but the episode makes sure to hit you with all the big notes so that you understand what an unbelievable reveal this is. The use of the fob-watch was a great touch because you immediately think back to its use earlier in the series. It keeps piling it on too, you get the callback to the Face of Boe’s final words. Then, just to top it off, we see him regenerate to absolutely solidify the monumental threat this guy really is.

The turn in Derek Jacobi’s performance when he becomes The Master is an incredible piece of acting, only for the whole situation to be turned on its head when John Simm enters the scene. The work of the music that undercuts the whole thing cannot be understated either. It’s loud, brash and bombastic when the reveal first occurs, before moving into a more brassy affair, that’s slightly slower, but still carries the weight of the threat and despair that The Master imposes.

This is a cliffhanger that turns everything we were told since the start of the modern series on its head. The Doctor is no longer the last Time Lord, but this new Time Lord turns out to be one of The Doctor’s most powerful foes. Then, to throw several more spanners in the works, The Master steals The Doctor’s only constant companion in the form of the TARDIS and leaves him stranded at the end of the universe, with monsters bearing down on him, Martha & Jack. Also, Jack is there, which makes any scene better.

That shot of The Doctor staring at the space where the TARDIS used to be, with a mixture of shock, desperation & rage on his face is all that’s needed to up this from one of the best to the very best. It honestly has absolutely everything you could possibly want from a great cliffhanger.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know of any Doctor Who cliffhangers you love, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Wednesday for the next instalment in my 100 Favourite Games series!

Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 7 (2012 & 2013) Ranked (Part 2)

If they could split the whole series into two parts, why can’t I split this article into two parts? Anyway, welcome back to my review of Doctor Who Series 7! After looking through the worst of what this series had to offer (mostly Clara), we now get to have a healthy dose of positivity as I just cover the best.

If you haven’t read part 1, then I suggest you check it out here. Now, let’s get on with the review!

9 – Asylum of the Daleks

This is an episode that people often point to when insulting Moffat’s representation of the Daleks, and I can’t say I entirely disagree. Having the Daleks call on The Doctor to solve a problem because they’re too scared to do it themselves seems incredibly counter-productive. That said, I think the justification given for it would’ve made some level of sense…had the “mad” Daleks actually been represented in a way that made them seem any different to regular Daleks. That was my biggest issue with this episode, a lot of time was put into telling us that these were “insane” Daleks that are so much worse than regular ones, but when the time came to show us that, they didn’t seem very different to anything we’ve already seen. Oswin being the lone exception, which is a great jumping-off point to talk about that.

Personally, I think this was a brilliant idea. Given that Jenna Coleman had already been announced as the new companion at the time this episode first aired, it was a genius idea to get a buzz going surrounding her character. The episode sticks to its guns as well, it plays off of what the audience already knows and makes us believe that she actually might join the TARDIS team in that episode right up until it’s ready to reveal the twist. Unlike a companion such as Astrid, who we knew was never going to stick around for more than one episode, the way the story surrounding Oswin is told leans all the way into what we’ve come to expect from the show.

Everything else surrounding the episode is quite enjoyable too. While I’m not a fan of the Pond’s divorce, it technically happened in a web series, not this episode, so I’m going to let it go. Plus, their reunion here actually makes for some sweet moments, including one of my favourite subtle moments ever in the show. That being when Amy tells The Doctor “You can’t fix this like you fix your bowtie”, then later on in the episode when The Doctor fixes Amy & Rory’s relationship, there’s a brief shot of him fixing his bowtie. That’s some Edgar Wright level stuff right there.

It does lean into the humour a bit heavily, but unlike in other comedic episodes this series, most of the jokes are actually funny, so it works to this episode’s benefit, rather than its downfall. The line “Don’t be fair to the Daleks when they’re firing me at a planet” always gets a chuckle out of me and I love that Rory – who has never encountered the Daleks before – thinks the ball things in their lower-half are eggs, that’s prime Rory right there.

The only major issue I have with the episode is that the plot is quite weak. The goal of the episode is pretty vaguely defined and most of the time is spent just standing around discussing other plot-threads that aren’t related to the task at hand. There also isn’t much of a sense of danger throughout, I know they’re surrounded by Daleks the whole time, but every encounter is dealt with so quickly, that it may as well have not even happened. The final twist of Oswin wiping The Doctor from the Dalek’s database would be an interesting one if it was ever actually used for anything noteworthy. Instead, it gets reversed quickly after barely being mentioned it may as well have just bin an out-right retcon.

Asylum of the Daleks doesn’t really do much in terms of treating The Doctor’s greatest villains like any real threat. Still, the majority of the other factors in the episode hit the mark to create something that I had a decent amount of fun with and is quite rewatchable.

8 – Cold War

When bringing a monster from the classic series of Doctor Who back, it’s always hard to tell whether it will actually be a worthwhile endeavour. While looking back on old Doctor Who episodes and seeing the abysmal costumes & special effects is fun from a modern perspective. It’s when those same effects appear in a modern episode, surrounded by all the high(ish) quality looking stuff, it can fall a bit flat. The Ice Warriors are one that suffers from that problem, I think. Their costumes are incredibly clunky and clearly made out of a very cheap plastic that seems to have patterns carved into it with about the same quality as you’d expect from a mid-range action figure.

So, when faced with bringing them into a modern setting, the team at Doctor Who had to figure out a way around it and I think they did a surprisingly decent job. The team working on the episode seemed to be very careful with any shot that involved the suit of armour, making sure that it didn’t show too much detail at once, to avoid that cheap look. IN addition to this, the relatively dark lighting of the setting allowed for plenty of opportunities to obscure specific details when necessary, to ensure that the new Ice Warrior looks more imposing than dumb.

They also worked to include new aspects of the monster’s lore. Something which doesn’t always work, but went ok in this example. Once the Ice Warrior leaves his armour, the whole tone of the episode shifts to one of a creeping panic, and I think it really nails the feeling of tension amongst it all. The entire episode up until this point, The Doctor has been talking at length about how honour-based the Ice Warriors are. Meaning that when he describes the desperation of the Warrior leaving their armour, it has a lot more weight than if it hadn’t been brought up until then like so many other episodes do with twists like this.

The process and eventual resolution of the episode is very well-executed and tense too. The Doctor finds himself in yet another situation of being surrounded by people who want to fight, but he has to find a way to convince them otherwise. It’s these moments of diving into another being’s nature and finding the best way to convince them of his own perspective that is when The Doctor is arguably at their best. This episode sees Smith’s performance abandon many of the more goofy-traits he’s adopted and focus on being serious.

It’s not a perfect episode though, hence why it’s not higher up on the list. A lot of the reasoning behind the Ice Warrior’s actions aren’t entirely clear to me, especially towards the end where he suddenly does a 180 and decides not to blow up the world. The episode was slowly building towards that point, but I feel like it only got about halfway there before jumping forward a bunch of steps to the end. Also, Clara is once again quite the non-factor. She has a tense scene where she’s forced to come face-to-face with the alien, but it doesn’t really do much for her character. It’s a scene that does wonders for the tension of the overall episode, but when it comes to giving Clara a landmark experience in her adventures with The Doctor, it doesn’t really hit that point.

Ultimately, Cold War is a good episode, but not an especially memorable one. It did a fair job of bringing back the Ice Warriors and was scattered with several cool or exciting scenes. Just for whatever reason, it failed to make any kind of lasting impact on me.

7 – Journey to the Center of the TARDIS

The TARDIS has always been an interesting and mysterious subject in Doctor Who, and I like that. Much like The Doctor’s real name, I don’t think we should ever know too much about the TARDIS. Partly because if you establish too many rules, then a lot of things in the show will stop making sense, but also because it should be a device beyond our understanding. This is a machine that can exist at every point in space and time simultaneously, there shouldn’t be any possible explanation for how it works that a human could understand.

So, with that said, you’d think that I’d dislike this episode for shedding away some of that mystery right? Well, actually no.

The thing is, as much as this is an episode where we literally explore the TARDIS, we don’t actually learn anything new about it that hadn’t already been referenced in previous episodes. There had been several jokes about the library and the swimming pool running through the past couple of series, and although we’ve never seen things like the Eye of Harmony before, we’ve known they exist. Instead, this episode more serves to get a better idea of the character of the TARDIS.

I know that was done last season too in The Doctor’s Wife, but with that, it was deliberately given a human personality, when that isn’t realistic. The TARDIS that we fly with every episode isn’t a human and given that there has been some sort of conflict between Clara and the TARDIS brewing in this series, I think it’s important to understand a bit about how it feels. We get a decent chunk of that here, as it does things like getting rid of doors to prevent people from stealing its stuff, or merely looping the corridors when people threaten to blow the walls down. Even something as simple as a “snarl” to scare people off of its damaged engine room fills this machine with a greater sense of character and life than it ever had before.

As for the plot, it’s not overly compelling. The whole idea that the TARDIS would have its defences lowered just because it’s in a mode that makes it easier for humans to fly seems like a bizarre design choice. Then again, if that’s what’s needed to make the episode happen, then alright, I’ll bite. The secondary characters aren’t overly appealing. One has your classic ‘jerk for the sake of a jerk’ attitude that I couldn’t care less for, regardless of what dramatic redemption arc the episode tries to throw at him towards the end. The other two secondary characters are just plot devices for the main secondary character’s story, and as such, they don’t get anything noteworthy to them.

I’m also not a big fan of the solution to the episode. The “it actually never happened because time travel” solution isn’t a clever or interesting one at the best of times, but this episode is determined to have it both ways. It wants to have the original timeline aborted, so everyone involved forgets the events of the episode. However, it also wants all of the character development it did to have still happened. This means we get a scene where the two brothers have apparently reforged their relationship…except the events that caused them to do that never happened. It’s not a situation where you can be selective about what your characters do and don’t remember, either all of it happened, or none of it did.

Like most episodes in this series, it’s flawed, but I still found a decent amount of stuff to enjoy about it.

6 – The Power of Three

Ok, first thing’s first, let’s all agree that the episode should’ve been called “Cubed”. Yes, I know the whole point is “the power of three” referring to The Doctor, Amy and Rory, but I think it would’ve been better as a nice little twist at the end, instead of being blasted right out in front of you from the start.

If there was ever an episode that was crying out for two parts it was this one because I think it absolutely could’ve done with a bunch of extra time, even an additional 10-15 minutes would’ve helped boost this episode to the top spots on this list. Instead, it had several points that felt very rushed.

First thing’s first, the mystery in this episode is absolutely brilliant. As we’ve seen with Chibnall’s writing since taking over had head-writer, he knows how to set up a good mystery, and that is on full display here. The idea that millions of these cubes could just appear out of nowhere and no-one on Earth would’ve seen the moment they did so is a bit unbelievable, but I’m willing to roll with it. Immediately, the episode gives us this tangible thing that we know is going to somehow be vital to the episode, except we have absolutely no idea how or even what that is.

Watching the TARDIS team try to solve the mystery opens the door for so many different possibilities, and the episode does a good job of playing on all of them. First of all, there’s The Doctor trying to live a normal life. This whole sequence was a bit silly, but I think it was a good idea to break up the relatively slow pace of the episode with a nice bit of fast-paced humour. I found it quite amusing to see The Doctor doing tonnes of household chores, including doing a mathematically impossible number of kick-ups, in just an hour. After his abysmal outing in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, this is where Brian finally gets a chance to shine as a character. He’s got this complete and total dedication to his task of watching the cubes that I can’t help but root for him as he adorably takes it SUPER seriously; documenting the complete lack of anything the cubes are doing, on the hour, every hour.

The episode also does an excellent job of transitioning in and out of the comedy, injecting a few serious scenes of the cubes doing stuff in between the comedic moments, before transitioning out of it entirely as we head into the scenes at UNIT. I loved the sequence were the cubes suddenly started doing just about any random thing you can think of, it only served to add to the mystery surrounding them, and it led to some pretty funny moments in there too.

The other big point this episode touches on is the impact on the Ponds’ lives that travelling with The Doctor has on them. This is a big part of why I think this episode needed more time because it was squashed in between all of the cube stuff that it very rarely had any time to breathe and ended up feeling quite forced since this was the final episode before the Ponds’ departure.

Speaking of rushed, once the cubes open, the episode falls apart a little bit. There are some genuinely exciting scenes, like The Doctor having one of his hearts fail and also the way the team go to the hospital to discover where Brian had been taken. Then, they get onto the spaceship and confront the Shakri, and the whole thing falls apart. There’s a conversation where absolutely everything gets explained, then The Doctor quite literally just waves his magic wand (sonic screwdriver), and everything’s fine. There’s not even anything in the way to try and stop him from doing so, the ship just has an AI that gets deactivated, and that’s it, suddenly everything’s fine again.

If this episode were a two-parter, I would’ve had part one end with the opening of the cubes and then spend all of part two attempting to take down the threat that they posed. Having The Doctor just waltz into the thing and immediately solve it without having to overcome any kind of obstacle was extraordinarily disappointing and left me feels deflated at the end of what had been a really good episode up until that point. (Also, making it two parts meant you could’ve called part one “Cubed” and part two “The Power of Three” and I wouldn’t have had to have that ramble at the start of this piece.)

5 – The Rings of Akhaten

Giving a companion their first outing in the TARDIS can often be quite a daunting task because there are a few ways that you could go with it. You could make it character-based, like The Fires of Pompeii or The Beast Below. That allows us to get a much better sense of this new character than in the series opener. You could make it absolutely nothing like The Shakespear Code. Or finally, you could roll out all of the costumes you happened to have in the studio, build a weirdly convoluted set and blast us with everything weird and wonderful about Doctor Who. The Rings of Akhaten does the last one.

Much like The End of the World from, Series 1 (I’m pretty sure it even reuses a couple of those costumes), this episode is entirely focused on seeing the broader universe from Clara’s Earthly perspective. It’s one of those episodes that I’ll recommend to people who want a good idea of what the show is all about because it really has a bit of everything. There’s humour, there are aliens, there’s character, and there’s even an epic speech. The only real problem is that shoving all this stuff in means that some elements don’t play out quite as good as they could’ve. Although that’s not a massive issue in this episode.

One of the concepts I wish got played up a bit more is the idea of an economy based on sentimental value. I know it features pretty heavily when taking down the monster, but how would an economy based on that actually work day-to-day? Surely if you’re continually having to pay for goods and giving up sentimental items, you’ll pretty quickly run out of things you’re sentimental about. Even the people who take the items aren’t gaining anything. They can’t use those items to pay for stuff because to them, it has no sentimental value. Right? I don’t know, it’s a nice idea and fits thematically with the episode, but it also feels dumb. So take your pick, I guess.

I liked the way the episode used The Doctor investigating Clara’s life as a way to give us some context that we’ll need later on in the episode. In hindsight, it feels a little forced, but I still think it works. Speaking of, we may as well discuss the climax of the episode, because it’s a bit weirdly paced.

First thing’s first, The Doctor’s speech is fantastic. One of the all-time great speeches in Doctor Who without a shadow of a doubt. It’s brought down a peg only by the fact that it somehow doesn’t win the day. Seriously, how was it NOT the resolution to the episode? Everything about it from the music, to the pacing to the words themselves, said it should absolutely be what saves the day. Yet somehow it doesn’t. This isn’t the only time Doctor Who uses this twist, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This was one of the times where it didn’t. I understand that this allowed Clara to get her heroic moment, but it felt so unnecessary and totally sucked the air out of the episode. Not to mention, Clara is going to get PLENTY (I’d go as far as to say too many) hero moments during her time in the TARDIS. However, as a standalone scene, it is a very well-written moment and is one of the few times during her time on the show where I actually thought Clara felt like a person.

The pacing of the finale aside, this was a solid episode. It gave me hope for Clara’s direction as a character (more on how that turned out next time), and it told a solid, self-contained story. Plus the speech.

4 – A Town Called Mercy

HOW did it take this long for Doctor Who to do a western? It would’ve been one of the first ideas on my list. Sci-fi and Western are two genres that just feel so perfect together, and this episode is proof of that.

A trope that I’ve noticed a lot of throughout Moffat’s reign is there will be some sort of narration or story that we’re told at the beginning of the episode. It’s designed to sound like the story is describing The Doctor, only for it to turn out that they were actually describing the main villain of the episode. It’s a bit of a weird trope, but the way it keeps coming up makes me feel like Moffat’s trying to make a point about something…or he’s just not all that great at establishing villains and needs the audience to be told what a badass they are, rather than just showing us…you take your pick.

One of the big things I love about this episode is how light on action it is. I know that doesn’t sound like a compliment, but stay with me. For one thing, Doctor Who is a show that’s always thrived on its conversations rather than it’s fight scenes. Secondly, it plays perfectly into how westerns work. If you watch most of the classic westerns, they’re a lot of people standing around and discussing the plot. There’s the occasional shoot-out to break things up (which we also get here), but the driving force of things is the interactions of the characters. It leads to scenarios where, when guns are finally drawn, there’s so much more weight to the scene because of everything that went into it. There’s a reason Mexican Standoffs are a staple of the genre, minutes of slow build for a quick and satisfying payoff.

This episode does the exact same thing. We get a small chase sequence in the middle, and the climax has a mix of the two, but what carries the episode is the main characters talking and trying to understand one another. This isn’t just to solve the mystery either, we get some proper understanding of the characters involved here. We feel that anger that The Doctor feels when he realised Jex has lied because we’d spent such a huge chunk of the episode investing in the lies he presented us. These conversations peak and trough in intensity, giving us charged scenes where The Doctor puts Jex on blast for lying, all the way down to a prolonged and tense scene on the boundary, as The Doctor decides whether or not to throw Jex out.

The resolution to the episode plays well off of these established characters too. Someone who’s done horrible things like we’re told Jex has can never truly be redeemed, but I certainly felt sympathetic for him when he made the sacrifice play. I also liked the Gunslinger becoming a person to protect the town once The Doctor leaves, although I think it would’ve hit home a bit better if we had a deeper understanding of his mentality.

To put it simply, I thought this one was a lot of fun. It blended the classic moments of westerns with Doctor Who’s identity well. It played a slower pace that absolutely worked gave us substantial investment in the key characters. This investment meant that they could carry the episode, allowing characters like Amy and Rory (who are usually the protagonists) to take a back seat to the action for a change.

3 – The Time of The Doctor

I’ll harp on about this until the day I die, but this episode should’ve been called ‘The Twelfth Night’ to have some nice symmetry between this and The Eleventh Hour.

I’m aware that this an episode regarded mainly by the fanbase as not being all that great, but I’m going to, yet again, be a contrarian and say I really like it. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but to be fair, there are only two episodes of Doctor Who that I would say are perfect.

Right out of the gate, this is a funny episode. I don’t care what you say, Matt Smith suddenly and unexpectedly pulling his hair off to Clara’s horror will always get a laugh out of me, and nothing you say will change that. The bit with the telepathic clothes is a bit weird, the joke runs out of steam pretty quick, but it’s still a silly concept that I can get behind. I also think we get the opportunity to see all sides of Smith’s Doctor in this episode. I’ve spoken before about how I never liked how cartoonish of a character he became. There is a bit of that scattered in here, what dominates the episode is the more calm, collected and just straight-up badass version of Smith’s Doctor we saw early on in his run.

We saw a return of the weird Dalek conversion thing that we got in Assylum, which wasn’t great, but apart from that, I enjoyed the return of all the villains. I know many of them had become pretty overused by this point, but this is a regeneration episode, I don’t mind an extended trip down memory lane. The thread between Clara and The Doctor is a bit weird, and the fact that he keeps sending her away feels more like an excuse for us to follow The Doctor through 900 years of his life without actually having to live it out. I’m not suggesting we should’ve actually followed The Doctor for all that time, of course, I just think it could’ve been achieved a lot nicer through a method other than The Doctor constantly breaking Clara’s heart.

Then there’s the element of The Doctor’s regeneration itself. I think it was quite nicely done. Firstly, the fact that they actually addressed the things that they could’ve easily ignored (namely the War Doctor and Tennant regenerating twice) is appreciated, and the way they got The Doctor new lives was quite graceful and made sense. Even if Chibnall did later cause it to make no sense whatsoever, but that’s not the fault of this episode. The scene in which it happened was slightly over the top and rather manic, but MAN I loved it. I know it was cheesy and kind of dumb, but the way it’s built up to with the music and the growing intensity of The Doctor’s speech makes it work for me.

The one criticism I’ve seen levelled at this episode which I absolutely do not understand is that his regeneration speech was too long-winded and self-aggrandising. I don’t understand this for two reasons, one is that Tennant’s regeneration sequence went on for WAY longer and everyone loves that. Two is that it’s an awesome speech. Yes, some of the things he said didn’t quite make sense in the context of the show, but overall Moffat just knows how to write a good speech and how to make it feel amazing visually. The build-up of the music is just perfect, the line “I will always remember when The Doctor was me” works so well for Smith’s sentimental character and Amy giving us one last goodbye to top it all off was just plain beautiful. Then once it was over, the regeneration happened quick as a flash and we’re on to new adventures. I love it.

2 – The Angels Take Manhattan

I watched this episode when it first aired in 2012, and part of my soul is still crying about the ending.

This was far from the best outing the Weeping Angels have ever seen, and I think a lot of the aura surrounding them had disappeared by this point, but I still found them to be compelling villains. What carried this episode was the mystery surrounding what’s going on in New York and the character drama between the protagonists, so all was needed was a monster who could stand around and be threatening; not talk. The angels fit perfectly into that role.

Speaking of the mystery, it’s played in quite an interesting way. The thing is, from the very first scene, we know the angels are behind everything (the title of the episode gives it away). This meant that instead of the ‘who’ the mystery aspect of the episode focuses entirely on the ‘how’. It’s a trick that doesn’t always work, but this episode manages it. There were a few moments where the characters were working out stuff the audience had already been told, and I did want them to just ‘get on with it’ at a couple of points, but they were few and far between.

The character drama varies in how much it hits its mark. On one side of things, you have the melodrama between The Doctor and River, which doesn’t work at all. The Doctor isn’t a character that lends himself to relationship drama, and any attempt at it comes off as dull. The justification given as to why everyone’s suddenly annoyed at The Doctor makes no sense to me at all, and it’s totally forgotten about 5 minutes later, so what was the point in having it?

Speaking of things that don’t land. The concept of ‘time can’t be rewritten once you’ve read about it’, which just doesn’t make any sense to me. I know it was only introduced so that the grave at the end would carry much more weight (which it absolutely did), but what aspect of a future event being read about make it destined to always happen? We’ve seen plenty of pieces of writing being changed to align with the new future in this show. If this was a brand new show that hadn’t already had its laws fleshed out over and over again, then maybe it would work, but this is an aspect that goes against just about everything previous writers (including Moffat himself) have created.

Alas…now we must get to the heartbreak that makes this episode so amazing. Amy and Rory’s exit from the show. Amy & Rory had been The Doctor’s main companions for two and a half by this point, not to mention the only companions The Eleventh Doctor had ever had until then. I loved them both as characters, so they deserved the best of exits, and that’s precisely what they got. The best part is, they even got to dangle the fake-out in front of us before snatching it away.

The leap off of the roof was an excellent scene. We snapped from the fast pace of the chase around the hotel to this quiet and cold scene, where Rory has to make the choice to throw himself to his inevitable doom. Then Amy comes and joins him. It’s all done in such a way that it feels so unbelievably tense, it plays it up like something is about to come along and magically save them, but it doesn’t. They sacrifice themselves to stop the paradox, which gives them one final moment heroism before everything turns out to be ok, and they survive.

Then it happens for real.

Could I bitch about how it doesn’t make any sense that the angel survive? I could, but I don’t care, because everything else about this scene was perfect. Rory’s disappearance happens so suddenly that you don’t have any time to process it before Amy is faced with doing the same. Usually, I’d say that was a bad thing, but it’s exactly what this scene needed to ramp the emotions from zero to a hundred in seconds. Then, Amy makes her final choice. The choice between continuing to travel with The Doctor or living a life with Rory. What makes it so great is that the scene doesn’t try to push that aspect of it too hard, it gives its audience the credit to realise that for themselves. That’s something I wish Moffat did a lot more often in his writing instead of explaining everything all the time.

The sense of raw tragedy at that moment when Amy looks away from the angel and says goodbye is so overwhelming. Everything from the look on The Doctor’s face, to River’s acceptance that it’s for the best, to the fact that it genuinely wasn’t The Doctor’s fault that it happened this way. The episode isn’t done tugging on your heartstrings though, it still has one more ace up its sleeve in the last page of the book The Doctor was reading at the beginning of the episode. Up until this point, I was a bit teary but was keeping it together, but the scene where The Doctor runs back through the pack to retrieve the last page of the book was the moment that opened the flood gates, and I cried for that whole scene.

It’s without a doubt the best companion exit that the show has ever done, and that aspect alone dragged it up about 3 places on this list to the number 2 slot. I know it has areas that need touching up, but any piece of fiction that can bring that level of emotion out of me deserves all the praise in the world.

1 – The Day of The Doctor

It’s the most feel-good episode of Doctor Who ever and was an absolutely fantastic celebration for the show’s 50th anniversary. I’m going to break this down one thing at a time because there’s SO MUCH in here.

First up, John Hurt, what a performance. While I can’t deny I’ll always be a little bit sad Ecclestone didn’t come back to play this part, I certainly can’t complain about the man they got to take his place. The idea that The Doctor would’ve had a whole extra life during the Time War that he’s kept hidden all these years makes so much sense, I love it. What makes it even better is the characterisation of this Doctor, John Hurt’s look and voice is the perfect fit for a battle-hardened but war-weary old man who is just desperate for a way to end the violence. The scenes where Hurt’s Doctor is discussing what he’s going to do with The Moment feel so weighty and tragic in their own way, it was a masterful performance.

Speaking of The Moment, it was a brilliantly written aspect of the episode. It doesn’t get much explaining, and that’s precisely how it should be, it gives it this aura of being beyond our understanding. We just accept the fact that it can break the time lock of the Time War and show The Doctor his future selves because why wouldn’t it be able to do that? It poses these questions to the audience to make us rethink this event that we’ve already justified in our minds countless times. We’ve always taken The Doctor’s destruction of Gallifrey for granted, believing it was justified because that’s what The Doctor believes. The Moment is there as this unbiased source asking those hard questions. Even something as simple as “how many children are there on Gallifrey?” is enough to turn the whole situation on its head.

Then there’s the fun stuff. Smith and Tennant were an acting duo seemingly made for each other. Their portrayals of The Doctor had a lot of similarities, but this was a scene that did everything it could to show us their key differences with brilliantly comedic results. The jokes they throw at each other are ever so slightly different enough so that they don’t just feel like the exact same person, which encapsulates just about everything great about The Doctor as a character. Even when Hurt’s Doctor shows up, his style of comedy meshes with the other’s to significant effect. The whole scene in the forest is easily one of the funniest, most enjoyable scenes in the show’s history.

Around about the halfway mark of the episode is when things start to get epic. The Doctors’ entrance into the black archive is over-the-top in just the right way. Maybe I’d shout it down under other circumstances, but this is the 50th anniversary, it’s an all-out celebration of the show and – by extension – The Doctor himself, so I say let him have a cheesy, yet epic entrance. The scene following this, where Tennant and Smith sort out the squabble between the humans and the Zygons always gets me pumped with how heroic it makes The Doctor appear.

What’s extra genius about it is how it serves the much greater purpose of getting Hurt’s Doctor to understand the amazing person he’ll become once he’s ended the Time War. It even presents the counter-argument to the ‘but he’ll kill all the children’ argument. Even in the face of Clara directly telling Hurt’s Doctor that he’ll regret it every day for the rest of his life and he’d do anything to change it, Hurt’s Doctor just very calmly says “how many lives has his regret saved?” It makes you imagine a universe where The Doctor never went through that trauma of losing everything he’d ever cared for and didn’t use that motivation to become the incredible hero we just saw avert a war with ease.

THEN we get the ultimate hero moment for The Doctor. It’s big, bombastic and an absolute blast to watch as The Doctor plainly explains how he’s going to end the Time War and save Gallifrey. Without witness and without reward, he calls quite literally all of his experience and knowledge in the form of all his previous selves (and one future-self). He rights the biggest wrong he’s ever committed. It removes the horrible cloud of slaughter that has followed The Doctor through the whole of modern series and presents him as the purest good in all of the universe.

This episode is such a joy to watch over and over. It’s got laughs, it’s got emotion, and it’s got an incredible pay off to long-standing storylines. Even Tom Baker showed up and put on a fantastic performance. I honestly can’t think of a better way they could’ve celebrated the 50th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest television programme ever produced.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read through all of that. Please let me know what you thought of these episodes, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here this time next week, as I’ll be covering NXT Takeover: In Your House!

Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 7 (2012 & 2013) Ranked (Part 1)

With Series 6 being a bit weird with a big gap in the series happening half-way through. The team at the BBC decided they were going to take that one step further with Series 7 and have parts one and two of the series feel wildly different from each other. So much so that you could easily mistake the first half of Series 7 for Series 6.

Still, Series 7 was largely a series of goodbyes. As we first said goodbye to the Ponds and eventually said goodbye to Matt Smith as The Doctor. We got a whopping three Christmas episodes spread across three years and even saw the gigantic 50th Anniversary episode (featuring modern Doctor Who’s first full-length multi-Doctor story).

You’d think that with all this crazy stuff going on, it would easily rank among one of the best series of the show in history, right? Well…not quite. It had its highlights (which we’ll get into), but for me, there was a lot to dislike and a surprising amount of just plain mediocre stuff to endure. So let’s stop generalizing and break it down episode by episode, starting with…

17 – Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

I knew this was going to be last. Before I even started rewatching this series I knew this one was going to hit the bottom and it currently holds the title as my second least favourite episode of Doctor Who ever (we’ll get to my absolute least favourite next time…it’s probably the one you’re thinking of).

So first things first, there is WAY too much going on with the characters. While I enjoyed his later appearance in the series, Rory’s dad, Brain, is absolutely rubbish in this episode. He’s framed as nothing more than a bumbling idiot who’s quite handy with a toolbox and while there are a couple of funny moments, it’s mostly just jokes that don’t land at his expense. This includes the single worst joke in Doctor Who history, where he’s asked if he’s got anything in his pockets and Brain responds “just my balls” and…I just don’t know what to say about that. Doctor Who is no stranger to the odd sexual joke (“Get a girlfriend, Jeff” is still one of my favourite one-liners in the show’s history) but what makes them funny is that they’re subtle little jabs on the uptight BBC One; and somehow, the “I mean these golf balls” fake-out just makes it worse. If you’re gonna go for the joke, at least have the balls (pun very much intended) to stick with it.

Getting back into the actual plot, it has no idea what it wants to be. The whole concepts of there being a spaceship full of dinosaurs should be enough to carry the mystery, but apparently, we needed to add a whole bunch of unnecessary layers to it. So the Indian Space Agency ask The Doctor to investigate it to see if it’s hostile as they’re planning on shooting it down if it is. So The Doctor goes there, investigates the place, discovers that not hostile is it non-hostile, but it’s carrying extremely precious cargo in the form of ACTUAL LIVING DINOSAURS and the ISA…decide to shoot it down anyway? With everything still on board? What? It makes absolutely no sense and the whole idea of needing a time limit to pressure the heroes is entirely unnecessary when you consider the actual scheme of the villain.

This leads me nicely into talking about the villain. Who isn’t exactly a bad villain, but he’s extremely bland. It’s just an old dude who wants to sell stolen stuff on the black market, which is pretty much the most basic of evil plots you can come up with. Originally he wants to sell the dinosaurs, but upon discovering Queen Nefertiti of Egypt is on board (because The Doctor brought her and some random hunter along for absolutely no reason) he decides he’d rather sell her. Which again, makes NO SENSE because who in the entire universe would actually believe she’s the real deal? How would you even begin to prove that to a potential buyer? Dinosaurs are an easy sell because come on, who wouldn’t buy a real dinosaur if they could? But you just pull up some random woman dressed in period-appropriate clothes and claim she’s the real deal? No-one’s going to believe that.

Then we have the most stupidly cliched and telegraphed resolution ever where this ship just so happens to need to people from the same family in order to pilot it. Well, would you fancy our luck?! Rory brought his dad along! What a fantastic bonding experience! It’s so unbelievably dumb and like something directly out of a Cbeebies show that’s trying to teach children about teamwork. Speaking of childish, there’s also these two robots voiced by Mitchell & Webb. I love that duo in their other shows, but here, they’re used for the most basic kid-friendly humour imaginable that wasn’t even remotely funny.

This whole episode is a mess from start to finish. With a whole bunch of threats for the sake of threats, a plot that relies entirely on coincidences and some of the worst jokes and character moments that I’ve ever seen the show perform. What a travesty. At least it’s only up from here…

16 – Nightmare in Silver

…not that far up though.

With this episode, I’m honestly convinced Moffat had some sort of vendetta against the Cybermen and set out to make them look like the most boring and worthless villains possible in the hopes he could rid them from the show forever.

First thing’s first. Angie & Arty. They’re crap characters. They’re little more than bratty, entitled kids who never undergo any process of change and simply exist in the episode to get captured and give The Doctor and Clara some sort of stakes in the fight. The whole opening set-piece with theme park was quite lifeless. It didn’t serve any purpose to the plot and certainly didn’t give us any sense of character in the kids, not to mention, the moment you see the “dead” cyberman, all tension is gone from that section of the episode because it’s obvious what’s going to happen.

The secondary characters throughout the episode are generally awful too. Warwick Davis’ character has a couple nice moments, the one where he’s telling Clara about the war was pretty nice but other than that there’s nothing interesting that any of the other characters have to offer the story. They’re just some tropes with names attached, names I don’t even vaguely remember despite the fact most of them had speaking roles.

As I referenced in the opening paragraph of this entry, what really messed this episode up was that it just totally screwed with the Cybermen. By which I mean, they literally just become The Borg. They went from removing people’s brains and putting it in an emotionless metal suit, to placing implants that alter the brain instead; which is pretty Borg-like. Also, now they can upgrade themselves on the fly in order to adapt to the weaponry they’re being attacked with; another pretty Borg-like feature. One of the biggest problems with the Cybermen is that they’re just a bit bland and making them damn-near identical in nature to a different, vastly superior sci-fi villain does not help in the slightest.

The resolution is dumb as well. With Davis’ character just being like “oh yeah, I can just teleport us all out of here safely and kill all the Cybermen” which makes the entire plot up until that point completely meaningless.

The whole episode is just a series of bad creative decisions that lead to what is quite simply a bad episode. It wasn’t catastrophically bad like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, but it wasn’t much better.

15 – The Name of The Doctor

This episode felt a bit like it was a victim of circumstance. It was the finale of Series 7 but at the same time, its hands were tied in terms of what outstanding plot threads it could wrap up. So much of the mystery surrounding the events of Series 7 were all in anticipation to the 50th-anniversary and regeneration episodes later that year so very little of major consequence actually happened. We got the reveal of the “Impossible Girl” arc, but that’s about it. As such this felt more like a mid-series finale, akin to A Good Man Goes To War; except not as good.

My biggest problem with this episode is that you could watch the first five minutes, skip over most of the episode and watch the last 10-15 minutes and have pretty much the exact same experience. The middle of the episode is stuffed with so much filler that I’ve almost stopped paying attention by the time it gets to the point where anything even remotely consequential happens. I liked seeing the devastation of the battlefield on Trenzalore (even though the regeneration episode showed it wasn’t actually what happens) but it doesn’t go much further than that. There’s no tension to the scenes where The Whispermen are chasing The Doctor and Clara because what are they going to do? Take them to the place they were already going.

Then there’s the timeline stuff. Which, mechanically, is fine. I’m on board with the concept of a being like The Doctor having that in his tomb instead of a body and I like the concept of someone going through this time stream in order to rewrite The Doctor’s life. Then Clara jumps in it and everything goes to shit. First thing’s first, how does Clara being around stop the Great Intelligence from doing what he wanted to do? The Great Intelligence now has what is essentially omnipotence over The Doctor’s whole life and how in any way does Clara scattering herself across that timeline stop him? Especially when the episode itself states that The Doctor is very rarely even aware of her presence, so it’s not like she’s warning him about what’s going on.

What gets me the most is that this is HUGELY wasted potential. This could’ve played out as one of the most exciting stories ever as Clara has to battle The Great Intelligence literally across The Doctor’s whole life. It would’ve been such an incredible feat for them to insert major scenes throughout past Doctor Who adventures as Clara has to actually work out a way to stop The Great Intelligence, with lots of different versions of The Doctor helping her out along the way. Instead what happens is…basically nothing, it seems simply the act of Clara entering The Doctor’s timestream completely wipes The Great Intelligence from existence, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and IT’S NEVER EXPLAINED.

Also, despite being told several times over that Clara entering The Doctor’s time stream would mean she’d die, she’s actually fine. This is also never explained. I know The Doctor goes in to save her (which just raises further questions) but I thought the whole point was that entering the time stream scattered her very being across The Doctor’s whole life, how can she just be in a slightly smokey room waiting to be saved?

The only saving grace this episode has, in my opinion, is the reveal of John Hurt at the end. The back and forth Hurt & Smith have just before the cliffhanger sends chills down my spine and while I would’ve preferred to see Ecclestone, this was still excellent.

Unfortunately, that is it in terms of the things I liked about this episode. It’s an absolute mess that only answers one of the many questions this series posed to the audience and even that answer wasn’t satisfactory. It’s full of ridiculous inconsistencies (inconsistencies which only go greater thanks to various reveals in future series) and leaves me in know what satisfied with the time I invested in watching the series. While I do like the setup for the 50th-anniversary episode at the end, it’s not saving this thing.

14 – The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe

After absolutely knocking it out of the park with his first Christmas special, Moffat decided that one was enough and promptly shat the bad with this one. Another parody was never going to be a brilliant idea (especially as in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the whole point is that it’s NEVER Christmas) and I definitely don’t think this one landed anywhere near as well as A Christmas Carol did the previous year.

In my Series 6 rankings, I touched a bit on The Eleventh Doctor slowly becoming more and more goofy and childish as his tenure went on and I think this episode might be the very peak of that. The scene where The Doctor is showing the family around the house and going through all of the crazy fun modifications he’s made to the place starts off as a nice bit of fun but quickly goes off the rails crossing over into “a bit much” territory, the peak of which was inarguably The Doctor launching himself at the hammocks and missing, before popping up to comedically proclaim “this hammock seems to have developed a fault”. As I’ve said many times, I’m a fan of comedy in Doctor Who, I think it’s what elevates some of the best episodes of the show to legendary status but this whole scene may as well been written for a sitcom. I could edit in a laugh track to happen at the end of the hammock scene and it wouldn’t seem out of place in the slightest; it was just a step to far in terms of departing from the tone of the show and really threw me off.

Once we get into the actual drama of the plot, it feels a bit…meh? It takes the most basic elements of the source material and throws them at the wall in a manner that doesn’t really work. The kid goes off into the forest alone, so the others attempt to find him, only to realise that, they’re all in danger. Once again, the threat of the episode doesn’t exactly feel like a huge deal and I’m not sure how melting something with acid turns it into fuel, but fine, whatever. Also, you’re seriously telling me that at no point during the process of getting them into the ship and tying them up, there was no opportunity for any of these three, well-built miners to overpower Madge and take away her relatively primitive weapon? Oh and then she’s just suddenly able to pilot the giant mech…until it’s comedically useful for her to mess it up and fall over; cue laugh track once again.

The ending is sweet, but it doesn’t feel earned. They played on the idea of Madge hiding her husband’s death from their children a little, but it doesn’t exactly feel like she went through any kind of character progression because of it. Even when the kids do find out about his death, it doesn’t have any consequences because about a minute later, it turns out that he’s actually still alive, so it doesn’t even matter that she lied about it.

I can only be so harsh on this episode since it is a Christmas episode and those tend to be a bit more simplistic plot-wise. That said, I still think it’s among the worst of the bunch.

13 – The Crimson Horror

Honestly, that’s such a brilliant title and I wish it was used on a better episode.

This episode has a couple of concepts that I like, but I don’t think any of them are really used to their full potential. For example, I like the idea of the first half of the story being told from a different set of characters – in this case, The Paternoster Gang – who are slowly discovering the mystery before running into The Doctor’s adventure half-way through. It’s a much more interesting way of revealing a mystery, allowing you to have a way to not quite tell the audience everything right at the beginning because The Doctor can show up at the mid-point and fill in the gaps.

As it stands, I also quite like The Paternoster Gang. Strax can sometimes stray too far into silly, but there were still a decent amount of jokes he mad here that gave me a good giggle. Vastra & Jenny are quite good and Vastra, in particular, is a competent breath of fresh air, as most of Moffat’s secondary characters end up being quite dumb; that said, I think they do stretch the whole lesbian things between the two of them a bit thin. There’s only so many suggestive jokes you can make before it gets grating.

This is yet another scenario in which the villains’ main motivations are a little bit misty and unclear to me. I understand it on the level of her being someone who only wants what she deems as “perfect” people in this new society, but very little attention was paid to how she classifies that, outside of obvious faults like her blind daughter. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the actual plan either. A society that people sign up for but then are never seen again is an extremely overplayed trope in all of fiction, sci-fi especially and there was nothing all that special about the one in this episode to justify using the trope. It might not seem like a big deal, but for me, as soon as I got the concept of it being a society where people go missing, I knew a rough outline of what was going to happen throughout the rest of the episode.

The climax is fine, but nothing particularly special. It’s your classic “villain has a last-ditch attempt that almost succeeds until it turns out the good guys had already stopped it.” sequence and, once again, there was nothing noteworthy about this incarnation of it. We even got the guilt-free killing of the villain as she falls to her death after trying to attack someone.

The whole thing just feels like a “nothing special” episode. The only thing that actually makes the episode feel like Doctor Who is the characters, but even they aren’t all that strong. Clara has very little role to play outside of being a damsel in distress for the first half. She’s instead undercut by the Paternoster gang, who dominate pretty much all of the screentime the good guys have. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think things could’ve been balanced a bit better to give every character a bit more of a feature role, especially considering what a large role they’d all play in the series finale.

12 – The Snowmen

This episode feels like it was written with the wrong mentality. Instead of coming up with a plot and then working the plot-threads for the coming series into it, it felt like this episode was written with the sole purpose of introducing both Clara & The Great Intelligence and then they tried to build a plot around it. It didn’t work.

One of the biggest problems with this episode is The Doctor. While Moffat would later create an absolute masterpiece centred around The Doctor’s grief over losing Clara, in this episode, where The Doctor grieves losing The Ponds, it misses the mark. Instead of having The Doctor contemplate everything about himself, he just sits up in the TARDIS and sulks about it. I understand that side of grief that can potentially make someone just want to shut out the world, but the manner in which it’s done here doesn’t seem authentic, especially when The Doctor snaps in and out of it whenever the plot demands.

While we’re on the topic, can we just talk about how unbelievably contrived it is that Clara just so happens to have a problem with a pond, so she can say “Pond” to The Doctor and snap him out of his sulking? I genuinely laughed when I heard it, there wasn’t even a hint of subtly or finesse to it. Why would Clara even chose “pond” as the word? I get that it’s happening in a pond, but I feel like the ghost made of ice would be a more pressing part of the problem and you’d rather choose one of those as your single word.

When it comes to the villains…it’s fine. It’s a Christmas episode, so there’s got to be something Christmassy in the plot and if that has to be evil snowmen then whatever. The Great Intelligence is kind of interesting until The Doctor just obliterates it with very little trouble. The way The Doctor tricks Simeon into erasing his own memory is clever, but I didn’t feel nearly invested enough to care.

Ultimately, this episode did what it had intended to do and set up both mysteries about Clara & The Great Intelligence, but it wasn’t done in the most interesting of ways and, as I’ve already explained, it wasn’t resolved in all that great of a way either.

11 – Hide

This is a solid 30-minute episode that unfortunately had to be stretched to 45.

Clara continues her role here of being more of a plot device than a person and as a result has little-to-no impact on the plot, a theme that would carry through most of her episodes in this series. The Doctor, on the other hand, does a really good job of owning the stage throughout this enitre thing. I wouldn’t put his attitude in this episode anywhere up with any of the best Eleventh Doctor stories, but thanks to Clara’s lack of personality, the weight of this episode falls on his shoulders and he does an admirable job carrying things. The secondary characters are ok, but they’ve got pretty basic personalities, so they struggle to hold my attention when it’s just them on screen.

As for the ghost story/horror aspect of the episode, it’s ok, but nothing special. I enjoyed the twist of the “ghost” being a time traveller that’s stuck somewhere and I especially enjoyed seeing The Doctor going through the entire history of Earth just to confirm his theory. It was a creative use of time travel, which is something Doctor Who doesn’t do as often as you’d think it would.

Unfortunately, the episode ran into what I’m going to call the “Iron Man 3” problem. Which is where half the episode is spent building up a big monster that’s set to be the villain of the piece, only for that to turn out to be a fake-out. At this point, we’re introduced to the real villain, but they’re nowhere near as compelling or interesting because the first half of the episode was dedicated to establishing something else. The monsters in Hide are pretty throwaway if you ask me and I didn’t think they worked as a threat to The Doctor.

The episode tries to use a lot of horror movie techniques when it comes to the creatures, but often uses them in the wrong ways, or later squanders the whole thing. For example, when we’re first introduced to the concept of them, we get the perfect “less is more” build-up and if they’d stuck to their guns with that, the whole thing could’ve been quite exciting. What was done instead, was that the episode revealed them clear as day and chase The Doctor. The thing is, The Doctor actually gets away and deals with the creatures quite easily, so instead of spending the rest of the episode on the edge of my seat waiting to see The Doctor have to face them again, I don’t feel any tension because the aura of mystery and fear that was surrounding them is gone.

Looking back to the plot, I think the episode should’ve ideally wrapped up right about when The Doctor saves the trapped time traveller and manages to escape the creatures himself. It felt like a natural stopping point for the episode, all of the main character beats were wrapped up and when The Doctor realised that he had to go back to help the creatures, it seemed entire like the episode was trying to fill for time. It’s a neat twist, but not one that was built-up enough to feel earned. The only real hints we got about this twist were things that you wouldn’t be able to know were hints until you knew the solution, which isn’t how clever foreshadowing is done.

Although the episode did lose steam very quickly in its latter half, I thought the first half was quite the entertaining episode and just enough was done in this one to drag it up a few places in my estimations.

10 – The Bells of Saint John

This is an odd episode because it leans quite heavily on its characters (specifically Clara), but it doesn’t quite land the right feel for them just yet.

Going into this episode we were fresh off of meeting a version of Clara from Victorian London and watching her die. In theory, this is a cool idea and I like the fact that The Doctor is able to run into another version of her, the problem comes in when the show starts to act like they’re the same person and all the characterisation we got from Victorian Clara still stands (minus the period-relevant dialect). I understand that, mechanically, they are the exact same person but they’ve led different lives with a different set of memories, so when we’re introduced to modern-day Clara she feels like a very different person and it makes it jarring when the show pretends they’re the same.

While we’re talking about The Impossible Girl thread, the whole mystery surrounding Clara’s origin is one of the biggest factors as to why I’m not a fan of Clara in this series. My opinion of her shifts during her time with Capaldi, but her time with Smith is a horrible introduction for her. As a direct consequence of everything to do with her centring around The Impossible Girl thread, she gets absolutely no room to develop any kind of personality and, as I’ve touched on in previous entries, she doesn’t really do anything in this series unless it’s directly related to that mystery. While she would later develop some form of a personality, the entirety of her time in Series 7, she more closely resembles a plot device than a person.

Speaking of plot, when the episode isn’t leaning into the character stuff, I think there’s a pretty fun plot here with a lot of exciting moments. It’s nothing spectacular, but I thought there was a lot of excitement to be had in the scenes where The Doctor is trying to prevent Clara from being uploaded, or when he’s racing up The Shard to confront the villain (as goofy as it was). If the episode wasn’t also tasked with introducing modern-day Clara, then I think a bit more could’ve been done with the concept though. “Evil Wi-fi” is an idea that you can do a hell of a lot with (as many other sci-fi stories have proved over the years) and this one doesn’t do anything particularly special to make it stand out from the rest.

I’ve got my problems with this one, for sure, but a lot of them are more to do with what they set up for later in the series, rather than what actually happened here. In addition to that, I still have a good time with the action scenes, even if they aren’t anything particularly noteworthy in the long run, so I’m happy to stick this one in the middle and give it a pass.

And that’s all for Part 1! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this list, make sure you follow me here and on Twitter @10ryawoo so you’re updated when Part 2 drops in a few weeks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these episodes and make sure you come back this time next week, where I’ll be covering WWE’s Money in the Bank!

10 Best Speeches From Doctor Who

The Doctor is someone who uses words as their weapons, their whole philosophy is about using the smart way to defeat the villains, avoiding guns at all costs. So it’s natural that someone as old and intelligent as The Doctor is going to come out with some cracking words of wisdom from time to time.

I honestly can’t think of another show that so consistently pulls out such powerful and meaningful speeches that are able to draw that raw emotion out of me like Doctor Who can, so I thought that while I’m taking a short break from ranking all of the series, it would be a great idea to look through and discuss what I think are some of the best speeches from Doctor Who.

To be clear, the episode surrounding the speech doesn’t have much of an impact as to where each speech landed. Even if the rest of the episode was fairly rubbish (which I could say about a couple of episodes on this list) the speeches are being judged for the speech alone, not what surrounded it and also this is limited to modern Doctor Who, because I haven’t seen enough of the classic series to make a fair judgement. Also, I didn’t specifically limit this to only speeches made by The Doctor…it just ended up that way.

10 – The Turn of the Earth – Rose

You know like we were saying? About the Earth revolving?
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 a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty-seven 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.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that when rebooting Doctor Who for a new audience, while still looking to retain the show’s history and everything that comes with it. The team at BBC Wales had a mammoth task. Would a modern audience care about Doctor Who? Would anyone even get it? In just 45 minutes this show had to explain a 40-year history of an entire TV show and convince everyone to stick around for more, so the biggest hurdle is answering that question, who is The Doctor?

On a basic level, that’s easy, they’re an alien who can change their face and travels around in time and space, but who are they…really? What do they stand for? How do they see the world around us? and, most importantly, why should I care? This speech is the perfect answer to every single question I’ve posed in this entry. It encapsulates everything about who The Doctor is, their intelligence, their wisdom, the way they view the universe and how they can show us that universe.

I defy anyone to watch that speech and not be fascinated by the delivery. The way in which The Doctor slowly lowers his voice with every line, pushing in closer and closer, like he’s speaking directly to you, totally enrapturing you with his words, even though he’s just stating facts. The intensity and the intrigue that makes this show great is all rolled into one and from that moment onwards, you know exactly who The Doctor is and what they stand for and you’re ready to follow him across the universe.

9 – Look me up – Forest of the Dead

Don’t play games with me.
You just killed someone I like, that is not a safe place to stand.
I’m The Doctor and you’re in the biggest library in the universe,
…look me up.

This one is quite short and sweet, but it’s so powerful that I couldn’t leave it off.

A trope that would eventually become overused in the Moffat era is the idea of The Doctor being this universally known figure that strikes fear or love into the hearts of every living being. I understand that The Doctor is thousands of years old and has been all over the universe in every different time zone, but when you think about how the universe is infinitely large and lasts for trillions of years, The Doctor hasn’t exactly been around for very long in the grand scheme of things, they’ve barely even begun to explore the universe when you really think about it, so the idea that everyone will know who he is doesn’t quite sit right with me.

That said, this is the one context where it absolutely makes sense, The Doctor even justifies it in this very speech. They’re standing in a place where almost all the knowledge of the universe is held, of course there’s going to be books on The Doctor, probably a whole skyscraper’s worth.

I often thought Tennant’s intensity was one of his weaker points in his role as The Doctor but this is an example of him absolutely nailing it. Once again, there’s the way he starts of angry and loud, but slowly quiets to almost a whisper, but a whisper that’s burning with rage and intensity. I can feel the chill go down my spine as he says the “look me up” line and if I were the Vashta Nerada, I’d back off too.

8 – Coward or Killer? – The Parting of the Ways

DALEK EMPEROR: Hail The Doctor, The Great Exterminator!
DOCTOR: I’ll do it!
DALEK EMPEROR: Then prove yourself Doctor, what are you? Coward or Killer?
DOCTOR: Coward…any day.

Another short one, but one that manages to wrap up an entire character arc in a sentence.

The Ninth Doctor is one that’s struggling with the very depth of inner turmoil. They’ve only recently ended the Time War, slaughtering billions of their own people in order to save the universe and now they’ve discovered it was all for nothing, because here the Daleks are, as strong as ever. Yet before them stands his chance to do it again, to finally wipe them all out for good, except there’s still that catch, that catch that means if they finally kill the Daleks and end the war, they murder everyone on planet Earth.

The performance of this moment is something extraordinary when the Dalek Emperor asks them that question and forces them to face this horrible choice again. The look on their face, the way their eyes dart between the plunger as they tense up, gathering the strength to push down…only for their whole body to suddenly relax as they take their hands off the plunger and simply declare “coward”.

The pure emotion at that moment is so tangible, it’s like a weight has been lifted off of The Doctor’s shoulders, finally having processed exactly what it was they did on the last day of the Time War. The acceptance that they did the wrong thing that day, even if it was for the right reasons and this is their way of making up for it, for putting themselves at peace. It’s the moment where The Doctor finally lets go of his anger and rage from the Time War, even accepting the fact that it’s his time to die, which is truly the ultimate sacrifice for a character like The Doctor.

7 – Change – The Time of The Doctor

We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives and that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve got to keep moving forward, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.
I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear.
I will always remember, when The Doctor was me.

When it comes to tear-jerkers, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest.

While I had problems with it, I loved Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor. He brought the exact kind of energy that the show needs, that inherent silliness of everything about Doctor Who, but still being able to reel you in with menace and dramatic speeches. He was able to contrast the Doctor’s more serious and light-hearted personas so well that I think he gave some of the best performances the show has ever seen.

So when it was time for him to bow out of the role, you could bet your bottom dollar he’d crank out one final performance for the ages, which came in the form of this speech. Instead of making some grand statement or gesture, he quiets down his delivery and lets out a very personal speech that clearly reflects Smith’s own feelings on his time playing the Time Lord.

It’s undeniably cheesy, but the sentiments on how people change as they go through their lives does have a truth to it and it lines up with the words of wisdom that The Doctor would go on to espouse once Capaldi took up the mantle. Speaking of…

6 – Where I Fall – The Doctor Falls

I’m gonna be dead in a few hours, so before I go, let’s have this out, you and me, once and for all.

Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone, or because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does.. I DO WHAT I DO BECAUSE IT’S RIGHT! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind! It’s just that.. Just kind.

If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, you know, maybe there’s no point to any of this at all. But it’s the best I can do. So I’m going to do it. And I will stand here doing it until it kills me. And you’re going to die too! Some day.. And how will that be, have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand…is where I fall.

Stand with me. These people are terrified. Maybe we can help a little. Why not, just at the end, just be kind?

Many times throughout the series history, various villains have tried their best to cast The Doctor in a negative light and challenge his true morality, but it’s moments like this when their back is truly up against the wall, where we get to see how much of a hero The Doctor really is. One of the best character arcs in series 10 was that of The Master (or Missy) finally growing a genuine connection with The Doctor, with The Doctor inching closer and closer to bring The Master around to their own way of thinking, to make them a good person and this moment is what finally ticks it over in her mind.

Although the concept wasn’t used to its full potential, bringing John Simm’s Master back into the fold was a brilliant idea (even if every single trailer for the series totally spoiled it). It gave us a real contrast of who The Master had progressed as a person compared to the days of The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords and the inner conflict of Missy was clear for all to see. She was letting her former-self drag her back into her mad & evil ways, so The Doctor decided enough was enough. He was going to make one final plea to their best friend, in order to hopefully bring them over to stand together.

Even though The Doctor directs this plea towards John Simm’s Master, it’s clear who they were really trying to appeal to. Missy’s face as The Doctor goes from shouting, to the brink of tears, to near begging is such subtle, yet masterful acting that it reminds me how much more credit Michelle Gomez deserves for this role. What’s more is that the fake-out is written in such a brilliant way, because even though Missy initially rejects this, the penny later drops and they decide to do the right thing, like a true hero would: Without Witness and Without Reward.

What’s more, is it presents The Doctor in the most heroic light they’d been presented in since their identity crisis in series 8. It’s the distilled essence of who I think The Doctor is beneath their many incarnations, the ideals and principles with which he travels the universe and, as I’ve said, what makes him stand out as a hero, despite what many villains have tried to make him believe.

5 – A Story – The Rings of Akhaten

Okay, then. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll tell you a story.

Can you hear them? All these people who’ve lived in terror of you and your judgement? All these people whose ancestors devoted themselves, sacrificed themselves, to you. Can you hear them singing?
Oh, you like to think you’re a god. But you’re not a god. You’re just a parasite eaten out with jealousy and envy and longing for the lives of others. You feed on them. On the memory of love and loss and birth and death and joy and sorrow. So, come on, then. Take mine. Take my memories. But I hope you’ve got a big appetite because I have lived a long life and I have seen a few things.

I walked away from the Last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time. No space. Just me.
I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a mad man. I’ve watched universes freeze and creations burn. I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. I have lost things you will never understand. And I know things. Secrets that must never be told. Knowledge that must never be spoken. Knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze.
So come on, then. Take it! Take it all, baby! Have it! You have it all!

This speech isn’t some grand statement about who The Doctor is. It doesn’t cap off some great story arc, hell, it doesn’t even resolve the episode. It’s just one person opening their heart and letting everything thought in their brain flow out into the open.

The brilliance of this speech all comes from the atmosphere around it. The Long Song is a pitch-perfect backing to this speech, its slow and smooth pace perfectly complements the first half of the speech, where The Doctor runs down Akhaten, doing what The Doctor does best and using their words as weapons to defeat the enemy. The song then swells into a big chorus as The Doctor stands there, allowing Akhaten to feed off of them, letting all of their pent up misery and torment out.

It’s these kinds of moments that remind us of the kind of emotional trauma The Doctor has to deal with every single day and it’s done in the best way possible. When the show has tried to properly focus in on the idea, it very rarely pulls it off in a satisfactory way (see The Waters of Mars & the whole of Series 8),  so instead the best way to touch on it is to weave it into a greater story like this. Even better than that, The Doctor is weaponising that pain here, not using it to fuel an attack, but using it to trick a parasite into overfeeding themselves on his emotion. Admittedly, that idea is slightly undermined by the fact that this doesn’t even work and it takes Clara and her leaf to save the day, but that’s a fault with the episode, not this speech.

Even though it may not have some greater meaning in the grand scheme of Doctor Who, the raw emotion on display is so powerful that I always get choked up when I give this one a re-watch.

4 – Guess Who? – The Pandorica Opens

Hello, Stonehenge! Who takes the Pandorica, takes the universe. But bad news, everyone,
Because guess who? Ha! Listen, you lot, you’re all whizzing about. It’s really very distracting. Could you all just stay still a minute because I. AM. TALKING!

The question of the hour is, who’s got the Pandorica? Answer, I do. Next question. Who’s coming to take it from me? Come on! Look at me. No plan, no back up, no weapons worth a damn. Oh, and something else. I don’t have anything to lose! So, if you’re sitting up there in your silly little spaceship, with all your silly little guns, and you’ve got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who’s standing in your way. Remember every black day I ever stopped you, and then, and then!
Do the smart thing…let somebody else try first.

There are two sides to this speech depending on whether you’re watching The Pandorica Opens for the first time or whether you already know the twist and this speech seems brilliant either way.

If this is your first time watching the episode then this is the speech of a hero, this is The Doctor facing down every foe they’ve ever faced and essentially saying “Come at me” only for them all to run away. It’s cathartic it’s triumphant it sets The Doctor is the light of an absolute hero and puts a smile on your face as he bats away countless old enemies like they were nothing.

Then, there’s the side that comes when you know the twist of the episode, that actually, the whole thing’s a trap and letting The Doctor think he’s in control is the whole point. There’s this bittersweet irony to the whole thing when you imagine that the creatures up in those ships must be looking down at The Doctor, thinking he’s the king of the universe and laughing at his hubris.

This whole speech has a strange dual meaning behind it, showing how forcefully The Doctor can use his words as weapons, while also totally tearing down his character and pointing out the fact that The Doctor always assuming he’s the centre of the universe can lead him blind to the facts that are staring him right in the face. Whether you want a feel-good moment or an ironic tear-down of The Doctor as a character, this is a speech that’s got you covered.

3 – I’m Coming to Get You – Bad Wolf

DOCTOR: No.

DALEK: Explain yourself!

DOCTOR: I said no.

DALEK: What is the meaning of this negative?

DOCTOR: It means no.

DALEK: But she will be destroyed.

DOCTOR: No!

DOCTOR: Because this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to rescue her.
I’m going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet and then, I’m going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I’m going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!

DALEK: But you have no weapons, no defences, no plan.

DOCTOR: Yeah. And doesn’t that scare you to death? Rose?

ROSE: Yes, Doctor?

DOCTOR: I’m coming to get you.

I’ve talked a lot about The Doctor having his “hero moments” so far in this list, but I believe that The Doctor has never seemed like more of a hero than he has at this moment, even if he’s being motivated by hatred and rage.

You’ve got to take a look into The Doctor’s mindset during this speech, earlier in the series they thought the Time War was finally over, the last Dalek in existence killed itself and all of the sufferings they’ve gone through, and all of the horrible things they did seemed like maybe they might’ve been worth it to finally rid the universe of the terror of the Daleks. Now, they’ve just discovered that not only did more escape the Time War, but they’ve multiplied and now there are hundreds of thousands of them. This is a person who very recently wiped out his entire race just to get rid of the Daleks and now they’ve learnt it was all for nothing, how would you feel in that situation?

Ecclestone’s acting during this scene is top-notch, the minute movements in his facial expressions put forth this feeling of someone who is having to suppress so much rage, guilt and fear all at once. In the moments before this speech, they flick between mild joking and serious threats, their head is not in the right space and it shows. I almost get this feeling like they’re going to explode in a fit of rage and totally lose their mind – I know I would – but the don’t. Instead, what they do is channel it all and use it to fuel their drive and desire to do the right thing, as Rose would later say “To stand up and say no”, quite literally in this case.

The way the music swells as The Doctor decides to defy the Daleks’ demand, the way they don’t even raise their voice on the first “No”, it’s just a cold statement of intent, a statement that they’ve had enough of dealing with the Daleks’ shit and they’re not going to tolerate one iota of it this time around. They call the Daleks’ bluff and they tell them exactly what they’re going to do, only to totally ignore the Daleks in the end and simply tell Rose “I’m coming to get you” like they’re just picking her up from karate class, no big deal.

Every time I watch it, it gets me PUMPED and it created one of my favourite cliffhangers I’ve ever seen this show pull off.

2 – War – The Zygon Inversion

DOCTOR: So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and when it’s all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you?
The troublemakers.
How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?

KATE: Yes, I’d quite like to know that, too. You set this up. Why?

DOCTOR: Because it’s not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does until what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. SIT! DOWN! AND TALK! (sigh) Listen to me. Listen, I just, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.

CLARA-Z: I will not change my mind.

DOCTOR: Then you will die stupid. Alternatively, you could step away from that box, you can walk right out of that door and you could stand your revolution down.

CLARA-Z: No! I’m not stopping this, Doctor. I started it. I will not stop it. You think they’ll let me go, after what I’ve done?

DOCTOR: You’re all the same, you screaming kids. You know that? Look at me, I’m unforgivable. Well, here’s the unforeseeable. I forgive you. After all you’ve done, I forgive you.

CLARA-Z: You don’t understand. You will never understand.

DOCTOR: I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes…I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight…until it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!

I have plenty of problems with Capaldi’s time as The Doctor, which I’ll get more into when I eventually cover those series. However, the one thing that I don’t think many people could deny is that Capaldi himself is easily one of the best pure-actors to ever fill The Doctor’s shoes. Whenever the writing was up to the high standards you’d expect from the show, Capaldi’s acting was on another level completely. I was tempted to put the whole of Heaven Sent on this list for that exact reason, but I think this is the scene where that raw talent and understanding of The Doctor is on full display.

Capaldi came in just after the Time War arc of the show, and arc that had been running in the background since the show’s return in 2005 and even though The Doctor now knows that they didn’t do the awful thing they thought they did, that doesn’t stop those memories that burnt into their mind for hundreds of years feeling real and burning on his conscience and Capaldi does one of the best jobs of capturing that feeling since Ecclestone’s near breakdown in Dalek.

His general sentiments on the whole concept of the war feel so very real in this speech. The futility of it all, the fact that the outcome is always the same and that even if you win, it ends up not mattering shortly after that anyway; a statement that’s mostly backed up by history when you look at it. Doctor Who as a show has never been afraid to take a stand and make a statement about how we can change the world, and this is absolutely the best way to do it (Series 12, take notes).

Capaldi’s performance perfectly captures the desperation in his plea as he uses every word and emotion he can conjure just to cause that little moment of doubt in Bonnie’s mind so he can get through to her. Every word that comes out of their mouth is brimming with the raw power of emotion, the way their voice builds up into shouting only to fall back into quiet pleading like they really are trying everything they can think of in order to get through to her.

It’s so well-written and passionately performed that everything comes together just right to always put me into that emotional mindset as The Doctor pleads with Bonnie.

1 – Everybody Lives – The Doctor Dances

You want moves Rose? I’ll give you moves.

Everybody lives Rose. Just this once…everybody lives!

Do two lines count as a speech? Oh well, my list, my rules.

This moment is not only my favourite moment in all of Doctor Who, but it may just be my favourite moment from anything that I’ve ever watched.

I’ve professed my love for this episode before, but I really want to highlight just how fantastic (pun very much intended) of a moment this is. The way how everything seems so very hopeless in the build-up to this, you can see it in Ecclestone’s performance in the lead up to this moment and also afterwards when The Doctor tells Jack that he “doesn’t need the bomb”, that they clearly had some sort of plan, but he really wasn’t sure about it, so for the miracle of the situation turning out how it did make it all the sweeter.

The slow build of hope as the nanogenes activate when Nancy & Jamie embrace. The quick switch of emotions and you think that Nancy’s going to be turned into a gas-mask zombie, only for The Doctor to suddenly clock on to what’s happening. We’re given that glimmer of hope as The Doctor pleads with the nanogenes to figure it out only for the absolute catharsis of the moment where The Doctor lifts the mask off of Jamie and cries out with joy.

It then leads to this moment just afterwards, where The Doctor gets to feel like a true hero, for the first time in a long time. It’s one of those bittersweet things about what The Doctor does, is that even if they defeat the bad guys and save some people, others always die before they can get to them. When you pile that on top of the fact that this is a version of The Doctor who is still freshly tormented by his actions in the Time War and you realise exactly what this must mean for The Doctor,  that despite all odds, despite thinking they were probably going to have to kill all of these innocent people with the bomb, everybody lives. He’s done the one thing that he’s never been able to do before and save everyone. Even though he had originally intended to leave Jack for dead, he ended up riding this wave of ecstasy (along with a push from Rose) to save him too.

While I wouldn’t call this the most heroic moment for The Doctor (I’ve already talked about that) I think it’s probably the moment where they feel the most like a hero, or at the very least, that they’ve absolutely, 100%, without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt done the right thing; a feeling I don’t think they get to feel very often.

It’s euphoric, it’s emotional and it’s just such a pure moment that I will always shed a tear when going back to watch this one.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for reading, please let me know what your favourite speeches are either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back next Tuesday where I’ll be covering WWE Super ShowDown!