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 1 (2005) Ranked

It is time for a mighty quest to begin.

I recently decided to go through every single episode of Doctor Who since 2005 (thanks to BBC IPlayer), and I decided I’m going to get some prime content out of this because I’ll take every opportunity available to talk about Doctor Who.

Once a month I’m going to be taking every episode in each series, and ranking them based on how much I enjoyed them, and then talk a little bit about why. This will conclude once I’ve done all 11 series, I will write a list where I rank the series themselves from worst to best.

Christmas specials will usually be attached to the series they come before, with a couple notable exceptions, those being: The 2009 specials will be counted in series 4, The Day of The Doctor & The Time of The Doctor will be counted in series 7, and finally Resolution will be counted in series 11, since there is no series 12 yet.

Lastly, as always, I will be counting multi-parters as a single entry.

So with the rules in place, let’s start with ranking all the episodes in series 1.

10 – The Long Game (Episode 7)

This is the thing with covering series one. Sure, this is the worst episode, but it’s also still great.

Not from a singular narrative perspective, of course, the whole thing with Satellite 5 and the Jagrafess is pretty cookie cutter and not very entertaining, but overall it takes it’s time out to make a point about companions. Given that this was the first series since the ’80s, it could quite easily have been assumed by the audience that The Doctor simply decided to travel with Rose because she was the first person he came across. This episode uses Adam to show the audience that not just anyone can do this.

Adam is a bumbling idiot, who goes around making stupid decisions and having mind-altering surgery without considering the consequences. Sure he’s an unlikable idiot, but that’s the point, you need him to show us exactly why Rose is so good as a companion for The Doctor. We never really see companions get thrown out of the TARDIS like that, but when it happens to Adam, you feel like he deserves it and the line from The Doctor “I only take the best” does wonders to serve Rose as a character.

Most of the episode may just be set up for the finale, so I can’t rank it that highly, but it does serve a pretty important purpose for the first series of Doctor Who.

9 – The Unquiet Dead (Episode 3)

I didn’t expect this one to be quite this low.

This is quite the testament to just how good the rest of series 1 is that this ended up this low down because I think there’s a lot to like here. It was the first instance in modern Who of us meeting a historical figure, so it had to essentially set a template for future series, and I think it did a pretty good job of it.

It set the template for what the monster should be – something relevant to the historical figure, in this case, ghosts – it also set the template for what the goal of the episode should be about. As much as there are monsters and adventure, the ultimate goal of the episode is for The Doctor and his companion to in some way change that historical figure’s view of the world, or inspire them to make one of their most notable works.

This also had the twist of Dickens being extremely sceptical of the world around him, and for the longest time refuses to believe that these ghosts can exist. This point leads to something I wish we saw at least a little more of in future episodes like this, which is The Doctor putting his foot down, taking a second out from showering the person in praise and sternly tell them how it is.

Many of the future episodes consist of nothing but The Doctor swooning over whatever figure they’ve got for the week and it ends up hampering what I mentioned the goal should be.

Ultimately, this episode set the template it needed to for these kinds of episodes and is arguably the best example of that template in the Russel T. Davies era.

8 – Rose (Episode 1)

Talk about an impossible task.

This episode is great for a pretty simple reason. It had 45 minutes to get an entirely new audience caught up and understanding of what Doctor Who is, and make it an exciting adventure to keep people coming back next week. And it did it.

It glosses over some things that would be expanded upon further in future episodes, but ultimately Rose is able to give us our 101 course in Doctor Who, give us some quick thrills and scares, then be home in time for tea. It took pretty much the perfect angle to do this as well, which is having us view the entire episode from the perspective of Rose.

This means that for one, we get to intimately know Rose’s character within the first ten minutes of the episode, we watch her throughout her day; see how she responds to a situation she’s not used to, and also see what her home life is like and gives us the impression that she wants to get out. It also means that the audience doesn’t feel like we’re missing out at any point, because we learn exactly what Rose does about The Doctor, at exactly the same time she does. We uncover this mystery of who The Doctor is together which both makes us connect to Rose and become more invested in finding out what The Doctor can do.

In 45 minutes, we got a ground level understanding of everything Doctor Who and it was at no point boring, which is why this is such an achievement.

7 – Aliens of London & World War Three
(Episodes 4 & 5)

So up until this point, Doctor Who had shown off a lot of what it was all about, with a sense of mystery and peril being ripe throughout the first three episodes, with a sprinkling of humour, but only enough to make the tone light enough.

With that light tone, it had never really gone full into comedy, it had kept quite a large sense of drama and danger throughout. What Aliens of London (and the first half of World War Three) does is show the much lighter side of Doctor Who. Sure there are monsters that live inside people’s skin, but they’re fat and fart a lot, which is childish yes, but funny nonetheless.

The Doctor also shows his comedic chops in this story, not to the point where he’s cracking jokes all over the place, but Ecclestone’s comedic timing is impeccable, and it can have even the smallest quip seem hilarious. I think after three episodes, that got fairly dark towards the climax, an episode like this was needed to remind us all that Doctor Who can be a fun experience too.

The Slitheen are also generally just a rather comedic villain, to the point where their big plan is simply for profit. They don’t want to take over or enslave the human race, they just want to make a quick buck and then move onto the next one; despicable sure, but ultimately pretty rubbish. That’s the thing with the Slitheen, from the perspective of a monster, they’re pretty rubbish, but when you look at the picture as a whole you realise they’re a perfect fit for the episodes that they appear in, and ultimately that is what a monster should be for.

6 – The End of the World (Episode 2)

Episode 2 had arguably a bigger task than episode 1 in Series 1. Not only did it have to keep everything that was in the first episode running strong, while developing the characters further, but it also had to give us everything alien in order to truly showcase the wonders you can experience when travelling with The Doctor.

The End of the World took a pretty good approach to this, by bombarding us with a whole bunch of aliens straight away to get everyone used to the idea of seeing strange stuff. Not only did it give us aliens though, but it also gave us Cassandra, a human who doesn’t even slightly look human. It meant that this episode introduced us to new things, while also managing to force us to take a look at what the human race could become.

Rose is a really good way of communicating all of this to the audience because she ends up reacting in the same way that I think most of us would in that scenario. She’s slightly overwhelmed by it all and it takes a chat with a simple maintenance worker in order to ground her thoughts and make her realise that these aliens aren’t so dissimilar from us, and the nice little point that the only other human is, in fact, the one that’s a freak.

That said, it doesn’t get too preachy about it. The episode could’ve quite easily lingered on the “humans are the real monsters” message, but instead, it took it’s time to focus on the action and the characters themselves. This episode works so well thanks to how it gives us all of the “alien” we can handle while ramping up the action and intensity from the first episode to show everyone exactly how exciting a Doctor Who adventure can be.

5 – Father’s Day (Episode 8)

Father’s Day is an episode that seems to divide opinion in the fanbase at large, but I think a lot of the people who don’t like it are looking at it from the wrong angle.

If you look at it like it’s a standard Doctor Who adventure, then yes it’s a bit disappointing and seemingly has a lot of missed opportunities, but I don’t think that’s what the episode is supposed to be about. It had the obvious point of the dangers of messing with time and exactly what can go wrong, but also the idea of just what grief can do to people, and how people who lost a parent before they were born/old enough to remember can do to someone.

Rose had always lived with the knowledge that her dad died and we saw her mum tell it to her as a child right at the start of the episode, and you get the impression that she’s always lived with curiosity. The idea that there’s this man that she can’t remember meeting, but still has such a strong emotional connection with her is the kind of thing that is clearly very confusing for her to have grown up with, and when she actually saw him for the first time it became very real all of a sudden.

The entire episode is essentially about Rose having to finally deal with her father’s death for real, and finally getting an opportunity to grieve for him, after growing up curious about him. We see when Rose is talking to Pete that she ends up creating this ideal world where her dad was always there for her and provided for her, and we see Pete come to that realisation that none of it’s true. He knows that he could never be the kind of dad that Rose says he was, and when he comes to the realisation of what he has to do, he’s finally able to do for Rose was he believes a dad should, which is protect her, at any cost.

It’s a heartbreaking episode right from the beginning because we know what’s going to have to happen, but it’s able to make statement after statement about just what growing up in the situation that Rose can do to someone, and it manages to do it without feeling like it’s trying to push an agenda about parenting, it’s just the characters acting like you’d expect those characters to act, which is always where the best drama comes from in my opinion.

4 – Boom Town (Episode 11)

I talked earlier about how the Siltheen is an inherently funny villain, and Boom Town seems to take that concept to its logical extreme.

This entire episode seems to be designed as a light-hearted adventure to bridge the gap between the rather dark tones of Episodes 9/10 & 12/13 and it fits perfectly into that slot. There are some jokes that don’t quite work, but for the most part, I thought this episode was a blast.

It’s got a little bit of an edge to it and tries to throw in a bunch of threats towards the end, but that’s not the focus of the episode at all. Margret Blane seems to fit her role perfectly, as the bumbling villain who’s just trying to get away, and if she can do some evil while she’s at it then that’s great. The main thing this episode does though is just let the characters loose and let them have fun interacting with each other.

There’s plenty of dynamics going on like Mickey and Jack which is the clash of men trying to alpha up and then the idea of what Mickey has to cope with while Rose away. The best example of this that I can think of in the episode is The Doctor having dinner with Margret in the restaurant. That entire scene is very comedic but sits with a rather dark undertone that only serves to make the humour even funnier.

This entire episode has that sense of fun to it that I love Doctor Who to have from time to time, especially between two darker stories like what we got in season one. It’s the perfect way to bridge the gap.

3 – Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways
(EpisodeS 12 & 13)

This is a story absolutely brimming with inventive ideas. Daleks aren’t anything new I know, but the way the threat was presented in Bad Wolf was pretty fresh for the time.

While the idea of the British game shows haven’t aged well since all three of the ones featured have since been cancelled, and it wouldn’t surprise me if people watching this episode in 10 years time had no idea what was going on, and if you’re American then you probably didn’t understand it when it aired.

That said, as a Brit who was around when all these shows were airing, I thought it was quite entertaining. The idea of the deadly game show is nothing new, but Davies gave it that British charm that made it feel like a fresh idea and was able to re-add the joy that had been sucked out of ideas like that over the years.

It once again presented us with Rose potentially dying yet again this series, and while usually, it’s pretty obvious that she’s not going to die, the way the story was written made you believe that perhaps it was possible that this was the end. It was the season finale, and Rose’s death would give The Doctor the fire he needed to take down the station for good.

The second part of the episode is running with high emotions, with the Daleks going around and killing everyone one by one was the best way to keep that level of a threat going that was established in Dalek earlier in the series. Then you’ve got some brilliant moments like The Doctor telling the Dalek’s exactly how he’s going to get Rose back, or the entire sequence where Rose is trying to get back to The Doctor.

This also defines The Doctor’s character post Time War, he was so desperate to end it that he was willing to potentially wipe out the human race just to finally be rid of them. When he’s finally confronted with that choice though, his declaration of “Coward, any day” making a bold statement that he will always do what’s right, even when he’s probably going to die because of it.

Rose suddenly appearing to save the day is something that does feel a little bit cheap on a rewatch, but it was built to and makes sense in terms of the story, so that makes it ok as far as I’m concerned. Ecclestone’s regeneration was exactly what it needed to be as well, and exactly what every subsequent regeneration has been as well, giving a big climactic speech where he says goodbye and then we get flung straight into the madness of the new Doctor.

2 – Dalek (Episode 6)

This was the first time that a lot of viewers of the show would have ever seen the Daleks, which means this was an episode that had a hell of a lot riding on it. It was the one chance that the show had to show us just how deadly and terrifying the Daleks are, and why we should be absolutely terrified of them.

First of all, updating the look was essential, while the original Daleks are iconic, they certainly wouldn’t have looked very tough and terrifying by modern standard, so encasing them in a tough looking golden metal updated the look so that they actually looked the part for this episode.

Then, right at the start of the episode, the writers made a statement on how scary these things are before it was even loose, simply by putting it in the same room as The Doctor and watching his reaction. This is the first time The Doctor will have seen a Dalek since he ended the Time War, and his reaction is written and acted to perfection. That disbelief and pure terror when The Doctor realises it’s trapped in the cell with this thing, which then turns in a borderline psychopathic joy when he realises it can’t touch him.

Taunting, insulting, torturing, these things completely go against what we’d seen out of The Doctor up until this point. Seeing what the Dalek could do to The Doctor just by existing already makes it terrifying enough, and then it gets loose.

Watching it break out of the cage in an instant and then “downloads the internet”, which is a very 2005 thing for it to do, turns it very quickly from a dying soldier into a killing machine that will stop at nothing to get it wants. Once it starts killing it gets even more scary, with bullets not even being able to touch it, and it is able to intelligently overcome every obstacle that’s placed in its path; the Dalek is able to build up this aura of being completely indestructible.

Then it turns out it’s conflicted because of what Rose imprinted upon it when she restored it, with The Doctor noting that it hates its own existence manages to make it even more terrifying. Then we get a touching moment at the end, where The Doctor is so desperate to kill this thing that he doesn’t even question what’s going on, and it takes Rose once again “imprinting” on him in order to make him realise what’s going on.

The Dalek killing itself at the end is something that is able to land perfectly on an emotional level. This is pure evil, it’s killed loads of people and is a ruthless monster, but you can’t help but feel sorry for it when it feels like it has no option but to wipe itself out because it’s become impure.

This episode re-established Doctor Who’s most iconic villain as a major threat and set them up for when a whole army shows up in the finale, while also serving to be its own fantastic self-contained story.

1 – The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
(Episodes 9 & 10)

I struggled so much picking between this and Dalek for number 1.

This episode was the first one to be written by Steven Moffat, and it didn’t disappoint. Not only was Moffat able to create an iconic villain in the gas mask child, that managed to make the phrase “Are you my mummy?” terrifying, but he was also able to create an extremely clever and fully formed narrative, worthy of a Hollywood action film.

The introduction of Captain Jack added a new dynamic to the TARDIS crew and in such a short time we see him transition from a conman out to make a profit to someone who’s willing to sacrifice himself in order to save the day. Moffat was able to create a character that was truly able to stand the test of time in the Doctor Who universe, with his own spin-off series, multiple appearances in the main series and was even originally intended to be featured in “A Good Man Goes to War” if it wasn’t for Barrowman’s scheduling conflicts.

The plotline with Nancy is a brilliant part of the story too because the whole way through we know that she’s important to the solution and we get little nuggets and hints of what role she plays but it’s never revealed or made obvious until right at the end when it’s important. This episode goes to great length to create tonnes of mystery, with the pacing of when each question is answered near perfectly plotted out.

I love the level of emotion that comes out towards the end of the episode, with the utter despair of their seemingly being no solution in sight, with the complete one-eighty into absolute joy as things turn around, that pure unadulterated joy in The Doctor voice as he proclaimed that “Everybody lives!” is perhaps my favorite Doctor Who moment ever.

This episode has just about everything that a Doctor Who story should have, the mystery, the monsters, interesting and likeable secondary characters, a dash of humour here and there with the absolute joy at the end.

So that’s it! That’s what I thought of every episode of Doctor Who series 1! I hope you enjoyed, and let me know what you think of this series in the comments below and on Twitter @10ryawoo. Make sure to come back this time next week, where I’ll be ranking every game in the Assassin’s Creed franchise!