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!

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!

Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 4 (2008 & 2009) Ranked

Series 4 is a bit of a strange one when it comes to grouping all the episodes in for a list like this, for the sole reason of the 2009 specials which some people group in with the rest of series 4 and others don’t. For the purpose of this list, I am because I don’t think ranking 4 episodes on their own would be very interesting and also because it brings us neatly to the close of David Tennant’s time as The Doctor and Russel T Davies’ time as head writer for the show.

I will probably write an article where I compare the head writer’s styles and what I do and don’t like about them at some point in the future, but in short I always thought Davies delivered a lot more consistent quality with his writing (I know there were many writers but Davies would often have a large hand in episodes written by others). Similarly, I think Tennant was one of the best at immersing himself in the role of The Doctor on screen, it’s no coincidence that when you mention Doctor Who, Tennant is often the first image in people’s minds.

NOTE: These Doctor Who posts are going become slightly less frequent from now on, I’m still aiming for one a month but I will likely miss that target as I’m getting busier as university starts up again this month and I don’t have as much time to rewatch all the episodes.

So let’s take a dive into the final series of this era of the show as I rank every episode from Doctor Who series 4.

15 – The Next Doctor

This is a tricky one to explain because like most Doctor Who episodes I quite like the ideas it puts forth, but the execution completely falls flat for me.

First things first, David Morrissey does a great job in this episode, the role he was given was quite complex, starting off as The Doctor and moving into a more human and vulnerable character as the episode moved on, but I think he did a great job here. He had the posture and booming voice to bring back memories of some of the classic era Doctors while maintaining that hint of fun that’s necessary for The Doctor in the modern era, I don’t think he could’ve carried a series as The Doctor, but in this one-off role, I think it was great.

Where this episode falls down for me is the story. For one thing, the Cybermen were completely unnecessary outside of drawing in the viewers because they served almost no purpose to the story that any other generic villain could’ve done (which is quite representative of the Cybermen as a whole during the modern era, but that’s neither here nor there). The Cybershades were a nice twist on the idea but awfully implemented given that they served absolutely no purpose to the plot at all, their presence was never given a second thought and we’ve never seen them since.

Finally, there’s Miss Hartigan, who is a really great villain in completely the wrong story to actually leave an impact. If she was in an episode in the middle of a series with real stakes outside of a lighthearted Christmas episode then I honestly think she could’ve gone down as one of the best one-off villains of the modern era, but she just felt out of place in this story more than anything. It didn’t make a great deal of sense as to why the Cybermen needed her for their plan in the first place, but then come the end of the episode she’s suddenly able to overcome the Cybermen’s emotionless programming which is something that happens way too much and makes the Cybermen look extraordinarily weak.

Ultimately this was an episode that didn’t play to any of Davies’ strength as a writer and it didn’t even have the usual level of fun that redeems the Christmas episodes from being total trash.

14 – The Doctor’s Daughter

In this instance, I don’t actually think the ideas were all that good.

I will say it was very clever to bring in The Doctor’s “daughter” on a technicality, not to mention a technicality that actually made sense and I’m willing to accept is a reasonable explanation. My main problem with this episode is that the characters get no development that’s worthwhile. One of the things that is endlessly entertaining in this episode is the banter between Donna and The Doctor, you can put those two characters in almost any situation, leave them to chat and it will be endlessly entertaining to listen to them go back and forth, but there’s almost none of that in this episode.

Secondly, I don’t think Georgia Moffett did a very convincing job in the role. Her performance always falls flat for me when I rewatch this episode, none of her dialogue is said with any conviction and most of her movements feel more awkward than like a soldier. If it felt like she was trying to play up the idea of a being that had only existed a couple hours was learning how to live, but instead it felt like someone trying to replicate natural human dialogue and failing.

In addition to this, Martha’s presence was completely pointless, she gave us a reason to see the Hath’s perspective through the tunnels but that was pretty pointless in the grand scheme of things. After a short while, we abandoned the main group of Hath anyway and the one that did stick with Martha was killed off fairly unceremoniously regardless so her being in the episode ended up being quite superfluous.

The one saving grace of this episode is the twist of how long the war between the humans and the Hath had actually been going on for. The idea that so many generations had been created and died in such a short time that a war that’s only been happening for a week can be misconstrued as years is absolutely genius and was telegraphed in just the right way to stop it feeling obvious while still drawing attention to it throughout.

Unfortunately, that one twist is not able to save the rest of this episode from being thoroughly unentertaining to watch, with actors that didn’t fit their roles, others that did fit but were pointless to the episode and a central plot that couldn’t carry the sheer volume of characters it had to deal with.

13 – Planet of the Dead

If you keep talking about how great a team The Doctor and a one-off companion would be, the more obvious it is that they have no chemistry at all.

I know there are some fans that have a soft spot for Lady Christina but I was not feeling her at all in this episode and I think the main reason for that is her complete lack of chemistry with Tennant. I quite like the idea of a companion that is fundamentally at odds with what The Doctor stands for – which is what makes Missy such a great character in later seasons – but it’s a kind of character that needs a whole season to grow and change, not 45 minutes.

In addition to Christina there was a cast of secondary characters that were entirely pointless because aside from the fact that the performances made them come across more annoying than anything else, they didn’t add any stakes. While I’m a big fan of The Doctor having a cast of secondary characters to save, once the big threat of the…stingray things were revealed, the small personal stakes of getting home to friends and family no longer mattered because their lives were on the line.

As far as I’m concerned, Tennant is the thing that saves this episode from being a total write off. While there isn’t much of a dynamic between himself and Michelle Ryan’s Christina, Tennant fills out his side of it as well as he possibly can, in particular being a great comedic foil when it came to Christina’s schemes. Unfortunately, that is pretty much it as I didn’t find much else to enjoy when watching this one back.

12 – Planet of the Ood

Since their first appearance in Series 2, the Ood have become quite a strange race in the Doctor Who universe because they just keep popping up everywhere, despite never actually being the focus of the episode, with this being the lone exception; and if I’m being honest, it proves why they shouldn’t bother.

I think the Ood would’ve benefitted from being a race that we never knew much about, it would create a better aura around them every time they showed up in the background of another episode. As always there are still some elements about this that I liked, such as all of the emotions of the Ood mind coming out in different and strange Ood behaviours, I just don’t think that the Ood as we know them were a very convincing race for this kind of story.

As we saw in The Impossible Planet/Satan Pit, the Ood are at their scariest when they’re slow and menacing, their expressionless faces make for a terrifying monster that just walks right at you and kills you if you get too close. So it wasn’t all that effective when some of them went rabid, partly because it’s to opposite of what we’ve seen of them up until now, but also their mode of attack seemed so stupid, it looked like they tried to maul people, but their mouth is full of tentacles, so how does that hurt anyone?

There were a handful of things to enjoy in this episode though, The Doctor and Donna have as good banter as they always do and although the characters in the corporation aren’t anything different from what we see in any story of this ilk, they were well performed and added as much as they could to the plot.

Ultimately, I can’t say that I dislike Planet of the Ood too much because the good points do shine through fairly consistently, but as a story about the Ood, it didn’t land for me.

11 – Voyage of the Damned

It’s another Christmas episode that’s perfectly fine, but nothing special as most of them are.

I’ve never understood this, how did the Titanic crash into the TARDIS? How did The Doctor fix it instantly and why does NO-ONE ever bring it up? I know it was just designed as the teaser for the Christmas episode, but it’s never addressed and I find it very weird.

Nitpicks like that aside, I don’t have a great deal to pick apart with this episode, as I’ve said before the Christmas episodes are almost always inoffensive fun and this isn’t much different. I liked the disaster movie style setup since it made for a nice and steady pace throughout and as always gave us a chance to get to grips with each of the characters in our party of survivors, which is one of the biggest strengths of the format.

The threat of the episode is really good right up until the end. The Heavenly Host are good in their role and while they would’ve been crap as the main danger, they are a great fit in the role of “temporary roadblock” for our main party. Where the episode, unfortunately, falls down is in that the big bad guy of the whole thing is extremely underwhelming and incredibly boring. Nevermind the fact that the whole thing was essentially one big insurance scam, which just isn’t interesting to talk about, but the performance is really over the top and way too cheesy, even for a Christmas episode.

Astrid was far and away the best part of the episode though, Kylie Minogue does a great job in the role and is the best character for grounding everything emotionally between The Doctor’s epic speeches and all the explosions. I think we all knew going in that Astrid wasn’t going to be travelling with The Doctor anytime soon, but I certainly didn’t expect her to die like she did and even though there’s only so much emotional attachment you can have to a character that was introduced an hour ago, the sense of sadness definitely lands like it was supposed to.

As I’ve said, this episode is perfectly fine, the plot isn’t anything overly clever but it’s enjoyable enough for a re-watch and my main complaint with the episode isn’t even a factor in it for the majority of the running time, so I think it’s a good effort.

10 – The Unicorn and the Wasp

It can be argued with this episode that the plot and characters could be quite weak at times throughout and while I agree with some of those criticisms, I think this episode is so much fun that I don’t care.

This episode does suffer a few of the problems that many of the other historical figure episodes do such as The Doctor fawning over Agatha Christie a bit too much and the villain is a bit contrived in order to have significance to Christie’s books. However, when it comes to a Doctor Who murder mystery, I certainly can’t say I’d have done it much differently.

All of the characters had enough personality and backstory to carry the out the mystery and although the culprit was fairly obvious if you were paying attention at the start, a decent effort was made of obscuring it throughout the episode. What carried this episode though is the dynamic between The Doctor, Donna and Agatha, watching these two run around the house chasing the wasp while bouncing off each other in the best way as they solve the mystery is so much fun to watch that I don’t care the plot isn’t all that robust.

Agatha herself is great in this episode, which is quite crucial when the episode tends to live and die on how much we like her. She has this raw scepticism about everything that grounds The Doctor as he bounces off the walls talking about space wasps, I get the feeling from her that she wants to believe what The Doctor says and can’t see any real reason to distrust him, but at the same time, she just can’t accept it.

On top of all that, this episode has some of the funniest moments in Tennant’s era as The Doctor, mostly thanks to his rapport with Donna. The highlights for me was Donna attempting to speak high-class 1920s English and the entire sequence where The Doctor is trying to expel the cyanide from his body. That second scene in particular always cracks me up, it had the potential to be way too cheesy but listening to The Doctor and Donna yelling at each other is hilarious and I always lose it at the line “HOW IS HARVEY WALLBANGER ONE WORD?!” Something about his face and delivery cracks me up every time.

This is an episode that’s never going to be considered among the best, but for light entertainment to occupy you for 45 minutes, I think it’s a good time.

9 – The End of Time

I really want to like this one more, I really do but there are so many problems I have with it.

Let’s talk about the good first. As a goodbye for both Tennant and Davies, I think it was fitting. The plot was big and mad which is what Davies has always loved doing and the pacing of the episode meant we got to see every side of Tennant’s personality in his role as The Doctor, so while I have my complaints, I think it was a fitting episode to go out on.

The biggest highlight of the episode, however – and honestly the main reason this episode landed this high – is Wilfred Mott because that man is easily my favourite companion The Doctor’s ever had. Bernard Cribbins is such a wonderful actor and he completely understood this part through and through. He’d had some stand out moments in other episodes this series, but here id where he does his best work and creates some of the most emotional scenes in show history.

I can’t help but choke up when I think about the scene on the Vinvocci spaceship as he switches so seamlessly between laughing with joy about being in space and seeing the Earth, to sitting down and talking about his late wife and wondering whether The Master had changed her in her grave. Then that scene comes to one of the most touching moments I’ve ever seen as Wilf begs The Doctor to take the gun; it’s impossible for me not to cry a little as Wilf breaks down mid-way through that last line about how wonderful he thinks The Doctor is.

I think that’s why Wilf is such a brilliant character. Not just because of how joyous and wonderful of a person he is, but because we see his elation at finally being shown the world. He’s an old man who believes he’s seen and done it all, that’s why he star gazes and looks for aliens because he wants to see something new and when The Doctor comes along and shows him a whole new world he never even dreamt of, you get the sense that he’s eternally grateful to The Doctor, forming such a strong bond in such a short length of time.

…ok so that was a lot longer talking about Wilf than I’d intended, but I don’t regret it.

A couple of minor points in this episodes favour are, The scene between The Master and The Doctor in the scrapyard; “I don’t wanna go” because it was delivered to perfection; The payoff to the “four knocks” prophesy was heartbreakingly brilliant and Timothy Dalton…just…Timothy Dalton.

Moving onto my problems with the episode, most of them come at the hands of how The Master was treated here. I don’t mind the way in which he came back or even the lightning powers, I just don’t feel like he acted like The Master for most of it. Outside of that one scrapyard scene, it didn’t feel like the villain role in this episode could only be filled by The Master, I think it could’ve been someone newly introduced in that episode and it would’ve worked just the same.

Although I’m never the biggest fan of involving Galifrey in modern Doctor Who stories, I think this is the best it’s been done in the modern era of the show. As I mentioned above Dalton played Rassilon to perfection and it was presented more as this intangible threat rather than an actual place to get involved heavily in the story.

My biggest issue though is that The Doctor becomes more of an action hero towards the end, which isn’t what The Doctor’s about. I don’t want to see him dramatically steering a spaceship away from missiles or dropping hundreds of feet through a glass ceiling with a gun, that’s not The Doctor. It’s pretty brief admittedly, but it takes so much away from the climax of the episode for me that The Doctor doesn’t even try to come up with another way until he sees the face of a mysterious woman (who has been unofficially confirmed by Davies as the Doctor’s mother).

The goodbye tour was something that is generally controversial, but I didn’t have a problem with it, it was the end of an era for the show and I liked giving everyone a little sendoff (although I’m not big of Martha & Mickey getting married, I liked Tom Milligan).

When push comes to shove, I thought this episode worked for Tennant’s finale, but when I break it down from the perspective with which I break down every other episode, there are a lot of things that just miss the mark for me.

8 – The Waters of Mars

This one gets a slightly different treatment to the rest of the episodes because I’m writing this straight after rewatching it. This was the first time I’ve watched this episode since about 2010, so I was never able to see what it was going for on the deeper level here, and more importantly whether or not it worked.

The Waters of Mars presents us with an idea that at its core is brilliant, it was explored in the Fires of Pompeii a little bit, but it took a different angle to it than this episode. The idea of The Doctor messing with fixed points in time is something that at the face of it sounds terrible, a sci-fi show breaking its own rules is usually a recipe for disaster, but this takes such a great angle to look at it.

Pompeii is easy, it’s hundreds of faceless people, who we don’t know and have never known, sure they go down in history, but as a collective, not independently. Here we have a base of just a handful of people, who all have names and lives that we know about, it faces the audience with that deep moral battle to which there is perhaps no right answer. The Doctor can’t stand to let people die, but he has to because the event is fixed.

But what would happen if he did save them?

This episode shows us, what happens when The Doctor breaks his own rules and changes a fixed point in time. Ignoring the inconsistencies with how that was treated in later series because it wouldn’t be fair, ultimately nothing of consequence actually happens. The history of the human race doesn’t change, just a couple of the minor details, so is the episode instead telling us The Doctor was right?

This brings me to my exact problem with this episode, and what I think ruined this idea that could’ve been absolute gold. It was simply contained to a single 45-minute story, and even then only the last 15 minutes or so are actually about this. The idea of The Doctor’s grief over losing absolutely everyone is something that never gets explored to its full potential, and that moment when he finally snaps and decides to save them doesn’t feel earned because of it.

I’ve read A Writer’s Tale and I understand that Davies wasn’t thinking about anything like this very far ahead of actually writing it, but if we’d have had an entire series where we saw The Doctor’s pain and despair build up slowly over episode after episode, then seeing him suddenly mentally snap like this in The Waters of Mars would’ve felt like the natural climax of the story, and I think it would’ve been absolutely incredible. Instead, we had him suddenly completely change his mind on what he believed (although I must say, that long drawn out scene, where he is walking away while listening to everyone die, was wonderful in an absolutely dark way), only for him to do a 180 back 10 minutes later when something about his plan goes wrong.

What frustrates me so much more though is that his actions have almost no consequences, The Master comes back sure, but that would’ve happened regardless of whether he’d changed the fixed point or not. Imagine how amazing The End of Time could’ve been if it was about the consequences of The Doctor making this massive blunder, with the Time Lords coming back, not only to escape the Time War but to punish The Doctor for his actions.

With no build, and no real pay off the entire thing just seems so pointless, which is so immensely frustrating to me because like I said at the start, the core of the idea is utterly amazing. Just imagine how iconic that very last moment of The Waters of Mars – where The Doctor simply proclaims “No” before it smash-cuts to the credits – could’ve been if it had been built to over a whole year of storytelling, leading into the biggest cliffhanger in show history up until that point.

Right in the middle of the list feels like the only place I can put this episode because its ideas are without equal, but the execution left me so frustrated at what could’ve been.

7 – The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky

In all honesty, I didn’t expect this one to land this high when I was originally putting this list together, but actually, there’s a lot of stuff to like here.

Starting off with what I didn’t like though, Martha’s inclusion in this episode seemed a little pointless. Much like the Doctor’s Daughter, it didn’t really seem like she served any real purpose to the story other than bringing The Doctor to the situation in the first place followed by a quick exposition dump, which is probably why she got taken out of action for such a large chunk of it.

That’s more or less it when it comes to my major complaints though, all of the secondary characters are well written, with the UNIT officers being largely unlikable, which is generally their point while we also got to touch base with one of the soldiers on the ground in the form of Ross, which I think was a nice perspective to get and show the human side of big armies like this.

The concept of evil Satnav is also something great, it’s one of those ideas that just work both on paper and when put into action; the idea that something could just take control of your car and drive you into a river is genuinely scary because of how close to home it is. While I’ve never been a great lover of the Sontarans as villains, they’re handled about as well as they could be here. Unlike so many villains in Doctor Who they feel like they have a real personality behind them beyond a gimmick and it makes them fun to watch on screen.

There honestly isn’t much to complain about here, the only reason it’s not higher is that as much as it’s mostly good stuff, nothing blew me away or took the episode to that next level it was just a solid episode.

6 – The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End

As where the previous entry was solid the whole way through, this one is much more on the binaries, there are some things that I absolutely love and others that I can’t stand, although it averages out to an above-average episode.

In a weird twist, my biggest complaint in the episode is Tennant himself. He’s his usual self for most of The Stolen Earth but in the final act he just loses something in his performance for me and that carries over into Journey’s End. He still sits in the role well, but a lot of his dialogue comes out more unconvincing than usual and his chemistry with Billie Piper is absolutely gone. On top of that, he has to play the meta-crisis Doctor too who is easily the worst written character in this whole episode.

The meta-crisis Doctor as a concept is fine, I know many people see it as contrived and simply a way for Rose to have her own Doctor, but I disagree with that sentiment; it’s a crucial point in Donna’s story as well and served as a brief spot of introspection for The Doctor himself towards the end of the episode (although that was a thread that wasn’t pulled very far). My problem is that as a personality there was absolutely no spark which made him unenjoyable to watch. I got the impression that he supposed to be this weird in-between of Tennant’s Doctor and Donna, but instead, he just seemed to flip widely between the two with no rhyme or reason and Tennant utterly failed at convincingly performing the “Donna” side of the character.

There were plenty of positives with this story though, so let’s discuss those.

The biggest one is just about every other character in the episode performed their roles to perfection. Donna’s character leaned much more heavily on the soft emotional side of her character for this episode and it played so well, especially following a whole series of seeing her joking about. Praising everyone else individually would take too many words but all of the returning companions did a fantastic job and yes, their presence didn’t largely affect the story, but that wasn’t the point this time around this was the last chance we had to get all of these characters together for one big celebration of the era of Doctor Who and that’s exactly what it ended up being.

Although The Dalek army wasn’t very threatening as a villain they were exactly what the episode needed as they brought that grand scale a finale like this requires and  Julian Bleach’s performance as the returning Davros was absolutely perfect.

Finally, there’s the absolutely iconic moment of Donna’s goodbye because that whole sequence is utterly heartbreaking in the best possible way. The conversation where Donna’s mind began to fail her, Tennant’s tragic expression as he went against the wishes of Donna who was literally begging him not to erase her memory and poor Wilf’s expression as he saw The Doctor cradling Donna is his arms (seriously, Cribbins’ delivery of the “Donna?” line makes me cry every time I watch it).

Ultimately, this was a fantastic episode dragged down in some key areas. If it wasn’t for those problems this could easily be a top 3-level episode but as it stands it’s an enjoyable episode with some fantastic moments and a couple of problems.

5 – The Fires of Pompeii

You know, that Peter Capaldi guy was really good in this episode…I wonder if they’ll ever get him back on the show for something?

This is one of those episodes that mostly remembered for one key scene and while that admittedly is mostly why I like it so much too, there’s a whole bunch of other great stuff in here too.

Watching Donna’s first real trip in the TARDIS is great because she bucks so many of the trends that most other companions went through. Donna is easily the most fully-formed companion when it comes to her character and in this episode, every aspect of her personality shines through in the best light. We see her fun-loving side at the start as she tries to speak actual Latin to see what would happen with the TARDIS translation matrix, which is a question I never knew I wanted the answer to until I got it. We also get a good sense of the dynamic between The Doctor and Donna as she constantly refuses to bend to The Doctor’s authority because she refuses to be seen as The Doctor’s subordinate, she’s his equal and she’ll make sure he knows it.

What really brings this episode to life though his her caring side. She has this almost maternal instinct with almost everyone she meets, especially Evelina who she immediately gravitates towards. Then, of course, there’s her determination to save the people who live in Pompeii as the volcano erupts and her sheer horror as The Doctor refuses to do anything about it. This leads us to the scene in the TARDIS where Donna pleads with The Doctor to just save someone, as she reminds him of what makes him better than his enemies, that he saves people; not everyone and not all the time, but always someone.

This angle could’ve been quite the big step so early on in Donna’s time in the TARDIS, but James Moran really stuck the landing when it came to the writing in this one to give us a perfect view of every aspect of Donna’s character going forward, managing to flesh her personality out almost entirely in a single episode.

4 – Partners in Crime

Fires of Pompeii was an episode that focused on Donna as a person, but as the series opener, the main focus on this episode was re-establishing the rapport between The Doctor and Donna.

The entirety of the first act is great stuff and watching both Donna and The Doctor independently investigating the Adipose Industries and doing pretty much the exact same things is really fun to watch and also immediately shows us how big of an impact The Doctor had on Donna’s life. On top of that, the fact that they constantly miss each other by literal inches at times is absolutely hilarious and you can call it cheesy all you want, but the scene where they’re miming to each other while Miss Foster is interrogating Penny Carter never ceases to entertain me.

Miss Foster herself is quite a good villain, especially for the first episode in the series. Her general demeanour is very domineering and she has this way of talking that’s surprisingly threatening. The Adipose themselves are a perfect fit for a one-off monster and there’s this sense of tragedy to them since they’re just children who have no say over what’s going on, but their very birth is killing people and that fact is seen in people’s reaction to seeing thousands of them walking the streets, people aren’t running away scared they’re just staring, not entirely sure what to make of them.

The one thing I’m not a fan of is the solution to the episode and the character’s reaction to it. They stopped the people transforming pretty quickly (so quickly it barely seemed like a threat in the first place), but several people still died and no-one seems to care. Moreover,  as much as The Doctor tries to save Miss Foster, when she gets dropped The Doctor doesn’t seem that upset about it, he just gives this look that to me says “oh well” which is not how I’d expect The Doctor to react in that situation, he should’ve been furious at the Adipose parents for murdering her like that.

However, that issue isn’t a major one in the grand scheme of things because it’s not the point of the episode. The point of this episode was to get us into the groove of The Doctor and Donna being best friends and having adventures together and that is something it absolutely succeeded at.

3 – Turn Left

What’s most impressive about this episode is that it takes a wholey unoriginal concept and manages to work wonders with it.

Davies did a great job here of looking through and seeing what actually would’ve happened over the events of the previous two series without The Doctor’s involvement and is able to use previous allies of The Doctor offscreen effectively to add emotional impact to their deaths and to explain away the times when the world would’ve ended because of the lack of The Doctor’s presence.

Most of the episode focused on Donna and this was absolute to its benefit because as I’ve mentioned Catherine Tate is brilliant in the role and Donna herself is a great character. It’s clear she hasn’t gone through the same development that her adventures with The Doctor would have given her, but all of the aspects we expect to make up Donna are still there, just the emphasis is slightly shifted to be a bit less caring and a bit sassier.

The episode also does a great job of showing us a very believable version of modern Britain as a dystopia after London was destroyed. The way there are so many people crowded into a single house and the sheer humanness of it all really brings the idea of it close to home, followed up by the foreign family that Donna and her family have been living with being taken away to what’s implied to be internment camps is absolutely heartbreaking, a moment made by Wilf’s reactions to the scene and Donna’s breakdown as she chases the truck demanding to know where they’re being taken.

The last act of the episode also serves as a good context for The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End as that episode could’ve been bogged down with a lot os exposition if it wasn’t cleverly weaved into this one. Billie Piper is just as good in this episode as she always was as Rose, although she does suffer a little from not having Tennant to bounce off of. Finally, there’s the solution to the episode which is another great moment as Donna realises the only way to change her mind is to throw herself in front of a truck and cause a traffic jam.

It would be easy to write off Turn Left as just setting up the finale that came right after it, but there’s so much squeezed into this one that makes it a brilliant episode in its own right.

2 – Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

Don’t get me wrong I’m going to be making plenty of complaints about Steven Moffat’s writing in future lists, but every episode he wrote in the Davies era made the top two of their respective lists, so there’s a reason he took over as head writer.

There’s so much to unpack in this story since there a number of factors from following seasons that this episode is partly responsible for, not to mention both of the episodes in this two-parter feel very different from one another. One of the things Moffat is best at is setting up mysteries, maybe not always paying them off (although he is in this story) but the set up is almost always brilliant and there’s plenty of examples across this entire episode.

Silence in the Library is more or less entirely dedicated to setting up these mysteries as we get fed so much information that puts all of the pieces in place to be revealed in Forest of the Dead. The “4022 People saved, no survivors” is such a brilliant paradox that I didn’t see the solution to until it came out and it didn’t feel like a cop-out either; but the big mystery that gets set up here is River Song.

The idea of The Doctor meeting someone from his future was always ripe for the picking, but somewhat impractical to execute with how TV is produced – that’s why we never see episodes like Day of The Doctor from the younger Doctor’s perspective – however this was a brilliant way to set it up because I always felt very heavily that River was someone extremely important to The Doctor’s life and her heartbreak, when she realizes that he’s never met her before, is so real. Not only that but the whole thing becomes even more hard-hitting and emotional when you rewatch it already knowing how her story plays out, especially her death scene and The Doctor saving her which always gets a tear or two out of me.

In addition to this, the Vashta Nerada are a brilliant villain because of how inconceivable they are. Not only are they invisible, but the way they act and move is completely unknown to us, then there’s the added fear of “not every shadow, but ANY shadow” which somehow makes it even more terrifying. That’s not even mentioning the fact that it’s a shadow, something which is almost impossible to avoid, especially in a big built-up area.

One of my favourite ideas from this episode is Donna’s life inside the library’s data core,  the weird way in which time jumps forward to skip the boring bits and how it’s clear something feels wrong, but you’re not sure what. We see Donna making a life for herself and as much as we know it’s a good thing that she’s being pulled out by The Doctor that tragedy of her losing her children and husband is still very real.

Outside of that, The Doctor’s side of the adventure is quite the thrill ride as they run from place to place trying to avoid any shadow they come across. It also gave us the first real instance of The Doctor lording himself over the villain in a trope that would eventually become overplayed but here I loved it. The simplicity of the “Look me up” line sends chills down my spine.

The only real complaint I can think of is that the secondary cast, other than River Song, was quite lacklustre as characters, generally just serving as fodder for the monsters to show how threatening they are and the one that survives only does so because he’s needed for exposition.

That’s a relatively minor complaint though because this episode is absolutely great to rewatch, everything Moffat was attempting in this episode really came together to make something I thoroughly enjoy watching.

 1 – Midnight

Perhaps the only episode of Doctor Who I’ve ever seen that I can honestly describe as flawless.

It’s an episode based entirely in a single place, with a bunch of character’s we’ve never met and a monster we never discover anything about, we don’t even see the TARDIS at any point and yet every single element comes together to create an experience that is unlike anything else the show has ever produced.

What carries this whole episode is the secondary characters, of which there are a lot, but they all feel like fully formed people and Davies achieves this in the space of the opening 15 minutes as we see them board the shuttle bus and immediately get to grips with everything we’re going to need to know about them as we get to watch The Doctor go around and talk to each of them and make friends with all of them as The Doctor does.

Knowing these secondary characters so in-depth is crucial for making the episode what it is because after getting time to grow to like every single one of them, we get to see each of them completely break down and fail to be true to themselves as this unknown horror terrifies them to the point of madness. The writing in this episode shows a clear understand of exactly how people react in a crisis, especially those with no experience in those situations and you can easily sympathise with everything they do because you know that you would do the same. If some unknown creature possessed someone in front of me and there was one guy taking complete control and actin like this was normal for him, I’d be very suspicious of him as well, especially with my mind warped by fear of what’s happening.

The monster is also absolutely terrifying for a multitude of reasons. First of all, we never find out anything about it, what it is, what it wants, why it possesses people, any of it; all we’re ever told about it is that it’s living in a place where no living thing should be able to survive. Then there’s the copying thing, which is inherently creepy but it’s even more terrifying for The Doctor, who’s greatest weapon is his words and now they’re being weaponised against him.

The situation gets all the scarier as it possesses The Doctor because again, we have no idea why any of it’s happening. Why did it lock on to The Doctor? How did it lock onto The Doctor? and what is it planning to do now it’s in a body that can freely move? We just don’t know and we’ll never know which puts us in the exact same state as the terrified passengers who completely brake and decide to throw The Doctor out. The hostess feels like such a hero when she finally realizes what’s going on because she was the only person who was able to rise above the fear and primal instincts inside of her to save everyone, especially after being shouted at and branded as useless by many of the other passengers and death made all the more tragic when The Doctor asks simply “What was her name?” only to discover no-one knew.

This episode was a creative risk to take because if any one of the key factors had been any less than perfect it could’ve brought everything else tumbling down with it, but Davies absolutely nailed every single aspect in this episode to make one of my favourite ever episodes of the show.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, make sure to let me know what you thought of the series in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Make sure you drop back here next weekend for my coverage of WWE Clash of Champions 2019!

Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 3 (2007) Ranked

Series 3 had quite the challenge ahead of it because it was the first series of New Who to not feature Rose as the companion. You can sit there and debate all day about how good of a companion Rose actually was, but in 2007, Rose was still a beloved companion that was fresh in the mind of the fanbase at large, so anyone that came along next was going to be heavily scrutinized.

I’ll get into detail on what I thought throughout this list, but overall I think Martha was a worthy replacement to Rose that took the characterisation of a companion in enough of a new direction to avoid feeling like “another Rose”.

However, there was a lot more to this series than just Martha, so let’s get into it and rank every episode of Doctor Who Series 3.

10 – The Lazarus Experiment

One of the things that distinguished Series 3 for me, is that even in episodes I consider bad, there’s usually a decent amount of elements that I liked. This episode is the one exception to that thought.

This entire episode really gives of “last minute” vibes. I’ve no idea what the situation was surrounding the writing of the episode, but everything just felt so rushed, and like the writer just needed to sit there for a while and think everything through and flesh it out a bit more. Even the CGI feels rushed, the visual of the Lazarus monster seems like it was supposed to be the rough render of the creature, but they just sent it out for broadcast instead.

Martha’s family are definitely the worst out of the domestic characters that we get to know throughout new who and I think that’s mostly because we never had any time to flesh them out. They’re in multiple episodes during this series, but this is the only episode where there’s any attempt at fleshing them out as people and unfortunately, it’s not a very good attempt. Martha’s mum is nagging and overprotective, her brother’s a bit too lax about life and her sister’s fairly useless but lucks herself into high-status roles. That’s pretty much all we get, not the mention her dad, who we get pretty much nothing on, other than he’s a bit of a player.

The bulk of the episode is pretty mindless running away from the monster, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I really think this episode needed more to it than that. The conclusion is pretty underwhelming too, with a chase scene that’s nothing special and The Doctor using sound waves to mess with Lazarus’ DNA, which works because…I honestly have no idea how that makes any sense.

The moment at the end of the episode where Martha puts her foot down about just “being a passenger” in the TARDIS was a nice development for the relationship between The Doctor and Martha, but other than that, it’s best to leave this one buried in the middle of the series.

9 – Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks

A little tip for you, don’t spend 3 quarters of the episode setting up a big mystery about who the big bad guys are when the word “Dalek” is literally in the title of the episode.

If you ignore the fact that the big reveal is given away in the title of the episode, the mystery is plotted out pretty well. We find out people are disappearing, we find out it’s linked to something in the sewers until we get the reveal of what’s happening to the people who go down there. The pig slaves are a bit of a weird one because they don’t really thematically make any sense if the Daleks can manipulate genetics to this level, why not create creatures far more useful?

Then there’s the main focus of the plot, which is Dalek Sec taking on a human form and evolving. This is a really interesting concept, that I wish had a bit more time to flourish. I loved the scenes were Sec was confused, but also amazed at some of these human concepts that he’d never experienced in his life and how they slowly affect him, unfortunately, this sort of stuff gets swept under the rug a bit too quickly in order to get to the Daleks murdering everything in sight.

One thing I’ve noticed looking back is that The Tenth Doctor’s attitude towards the Daleks is actually quite inconsistent. The Ninth Doctor pretty clearly wanted to wipe them all out, but it’s never really made clear how this incarnation of The Doctor feels about them. He obviously hates them, but specifically how much is made unclear. In Doomsday, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with getting rid of them all, but in this episode, he’s suddenly all emotional about not wanting to cause another genocide.

I understand that it’s largely because he just saw the human/Dalek hybrids murdered, but not enough weight was really put on that moment for me to actually get the feeling that something had changed in The Doctor’s mind; these are his greatest enemies, it should take longer than a few seconds for him to change his mind about killing them.

This is one of those episodes that I like the concept of, but don’t think the execution lived up to what I wanted from it. If the human Dalek thing had a bit more time to grow I think it could’ve been a lot better, but unfortunately, the second part didn’t spend as much time on it as I would’ve liked and it meant the whole thing just devolved into The Doctor fighting the Daleks yet again.

8 – The Shakespear Code

This episode doesn’t do anything to break the pattern of “historical figure” episodes, The Doctor spends most of it fawning over Shakespear, they mention the darker sides to the character and then they find a way to save the day. I really enjoyed all of the little jokes throughout about Shakespear stealing some of his most famous lines and it puts me in mind of that “Bootstrap Paradox” scene from Capaldi’s era.

The thing is, these episodes tend to live and die on how compelling the historical figure actually is and honestly, I wasn’t overly thrilled by Shakespear. He doesn’t really possess much of a will of its own it seems and I’m not just referring to that bit where the witches possessed him. Shakespeare himself doesn’t seem to serve to move the plot forward at all, everything just tends to happen around him and he goes along with it, he contributes very little of his own thoughts.

On top of that, I’m not really a fan of the Carrionites either. I know they’re cheesy and over the top by design to mirror Shakespear’s writings, but they don’t really fit in with the tone of the rest of the episode. Their powers are also really vaguely defined and I really don’t buy the idea that you can do magic just by saying the right words, not least because it decides to stop working when the plot finds it convenient. That’s just a step too far for me to suspend my disbelief.

Also in this episode, The Doctor and Martha’s relationship accelerates way too fast. That scene where they’re laying in bed in the hotel and Martha just stares at him like she’s already head over heels for him and lets out a sigh is way too much, way too fast. They’ve known each other for a little over a day at this point and sure, if a guy like The Doctor comes along, you’re bound to fall for him quicker than other people, but this was so heavy-handed in only their second episode together, it doesn’t sit right with me.

The climax was actually quite fun to watch though, the sense of terror ended up being delt on quite heavy as the witches emerged from the crystal ball and I love the touch of the red tint to the whirlwind it creates. Although I’ve railed on the idea of words being magic, the solution to the episode does at least work well using that logic, although I’m not the biggest fan of “expelliarmus” being the word to seal the deal. It capped the episode off with a nice fun climax that just about hit the right notes to redeem some of the problems I had with the episode up until that point.

7 – 42

This is another episode that feels pretty throwaway in the grand scheme of things, but I think it has a lot more excitement to it than The Lazarus Experiment. The concept is given to us very concisely in the cold open, broken down spaceship, vaguely defined monster aboard,  42 minutes until everyone dies. It’s simplistic but honestly, I think that’s better for the episode, as where this one falls down is when it tries to add the complexity.

I’ll start off with what I liked. I thought the tension in this episode was done pretty well, the monster tended to pop-up when you weren’t expecting it to and it made for some really good scenes as it slowly killed people. As far as secondary characters go, I thought the crew on the ship was quite good for one-offs, Kath had a decent backstory to her and for what little we got to see of her, I thought she was a pretty well-rounded person. The moment where Martha and Riley are ejected towards the sun and The Doctor shouting “I’ll save you!” but it’s silenced by the vastness of space was a beautifully shot moment and the eery calmness of the conversation Martha has with Riley as they hurtle to what they think is their death was a very touching moment.

There was also a lot of not so great stuff in this episode. The pub-quiz to override the security deadlocks seemed very contrived and all of the questions were conveniently centred around 20th & 21st Century trivia, it really felt like Chibnall desperately needed a reason for Martha to call her mother, and this was all he could come up with.

I also thought the reasoning as to why the monster was attacking the crew to be quite lacklustre. It was because they absorbed the heart of a living star as a heart, I mean…ok? It makes sense and fits in with the story, but it doesn’t explain how this star can possess people and just generally seems quite uninteresting of an explanation. It also means that all they have to do to escape is dump the fuel, which again, makes sense in context and you can see why no-one would’ve thought of that, but the episode didn’t centre around the mystery of “why?” it just centred around trying to get the ship working, which means that the solution doesn’t feel satisfying, because it ignores what the characters were trying to accomplish up until that point.

The concept for the monster is good though, and I liked the visual of the possessed men lifting their visor and evaporating people, but some of the core elements of this story don’t work for me and it really overwhelms the good.

6 – Gridlock

Gridlock is an example of an idea Doctor Who attempts every now and then that I really like to see, even if the execution wasn’t perfect, which is taking a really mundane idea (in this case, a traffic jam) and taking it to its logical extreme, and then having that be the whole episode.

The bulk of the episode spent in the traffic jam, I think has a lot of stuff to like about it. Once Martha gets kidnapped by the couple and you begin to learn about the motorway, it becomes a very tragic tale, the episode is able to change your mind very quickly on what kinds of people these are because they’re just looking out for their family. The scene where the whole motorway lights up with song is such a heartbreaking moment as well, as these people hold on to the little hope they have that someday they might be freed.

It also manages to fit in its fair share of fun and humour into the episode without compromising all of the tragedy around it, with The Doctor’s journey through endless cars on the motorway, seeing all kinds of people who are in these cars. It also gives a really good impression of exactly the situation their in, because it’s all well and good knowing these two cars very well, but seeing flashes of these people living their whole lives in these cars gives a great view of the exact scale of what’s going on.

Unfortunately, I found everything outside of what’s going on in the motorway to be a bit lacking and it suffers from a notable lack of focus when it comes to exactly why everything is going on. The Macra are a fine enough villain and really the only place they could possibly fit is in a story like this, where there’s just something at the bottom of the motorway that kills people. The problem is, it’s never explained how they got there, I understand that they feed off of pollution, so all of the exhaust smoke is the perfect living space, but how did they actually get there in the first place and breed to be able to cover the entire motorway, which as far we’re told covers the length of the whole planet?

Then there are the emotion patches, which are never explained at all. We know they can make you feel certain emotions, but they can also induce sleep and cause amnesia and that really seems like the kind of thing that needs explaining. All we ever get is the knowledge that they’re some kind of drug, so making them the main explanation as to why everything’s gone wrong seemed like an odd move. We’re told that a virus mutated in the “Bliss” drug, but that means absolutely nothing to us when we don’t understand how these patches work, how can a virus possibly mutate in something, that from the audience’s perspective, is just a magic sticker?

I did like the classic Doctor Who twist at the end though where it’s revealed that trapping people in the motorway was actually an act of heroism, not villainy, whenever Doctor Who pulls something like that it always gives me a nice feeling inside, because I always like to think Doctor Who as a show that gives the attitude that humans are flawed but ultimately good.

The core idea of Gridlock hits the mark really well, and if the episode had focused on it a little more and cut some of the pointless guff, it probably would’ve ranked a lot higher. Unfortunately, the lack of focus at either end of the episode takes away from the impact of everything a bit and leaves me feeling unsatisfied when the episode reaches a conclusion.

5 – The Runaway Bride

This is quite the rarity for Doctor Who since we actually get to meet a future companion, a season out from them actually joining the TARDIS. However, at the time, this was intended as a one-off appearance for Donna, so I’ll be treating it as such.

As with most Christmas specials, there isn’t a lot to them in the way of grand plots or introspective narratives because it’s designed to be a healthy dose of fun for the family on Christmas Day, not to mention this didn’t have any heavy lifting to do in terms of establishing a new Doctor or companion which I personally think works to its benefit. The cliffhanger from the end of Series 2 was a great way to ensure that we could get into the whimsy of this episode quite easily, as there was a risk of everything being dragged down by The Doctor being mopey about Rose, but luckily Davies was able to avoid too much of that in this episode.

While this episode isn’t afraid to take it slow at certain points, it tends to keep it’s foot on the gas as much as it can, which would usually make for something quite boring, but I think the action here ends up being varied enough to keep the fun in it. The scene where The Doctor has to fly the TARDIS along the motorway while trying to convince Donna to jump is a joy to watch back, it hits the action, the fun and the small dose of emotion it throws in in just the right way to make it a great scene to watch.

I’m not a big fan of the Racnoss though. The spaceship looked very nice and the idea of a Christmas star made out of spider webs is something I like, my problem with the Racnoss however mostly comes from the queen herself. For one thing, it’s so obvious she was struggling to talk through the mouthpiece she had in and while they did try to make it into more of a style, I can’t help but hear someone who’s struggling to talk properly.

On top of that, the fact that she’s so stationary is really jarring when her torso upwards moves about a lot. I understand why that was the decision, of course, it would’ve been very expensive indeed to make the giant base move, but it creates such a disconnect when the part that is actually the actress is sitting there swaying around on the spot and being extremely animated, while the base just sits there lifeless. Then we get to the Racnoss’ plan, which at the very least makes sense, but I’m not sure it’s all that compelling, not least because most of it happens off-screen or in flashbacks.

I think there would’ve been something to be had in starting the episode with about 5-10 minutes of Donna going about her job and meeting Lance before hitting the wedding and reaching the cliffhanger point. I think it would’ve made the whole thing be woven into the story a lot better because it sticks out pretty hard when Donna has to explain it in the middle of the episode, not least because the whole thing just stops dead in order to let her tell it.

Overall, The Runaway Bride is a good episode to watch if you’re looking for a bit of lite fun from your Doctor Who, which is ultimately what Christmas episodes are designed for after all. That said, if you’re looking for something a bit deeper, then you’re best looking elsewhere in the series.

4 – Smith and Jones

I’ll be honest, this one landed higher than I thought it would.

This episode has so many moving pieces to it, that you almost wouldn’t think it was the first episode in a series, since they normally focus almost exclusively on establishing whatever new stuff needs to be established (in this case, Martha Jones) however, instead of specifically focusing on Martha the whole way through the episode, we only focus in on her for the first 10-15 minutes, before letting the plot and The Doctor take over, which actually does a better job establishing Martha than I think focusing solely on her would do.

Instead of making the episode about her, like Rose did, or anything involving Clara would later do, the episode instead makes sure we’ve got a rough idea of who she is and then just throws her into the thick of it to see how she’ll cope. That scene between her and The Doctor as they step onto the balcony of the hospital, looking out at the moon is brilliant. The way Martha just can’t quite take it all in, but still does her best to keep her cool and instead just starts talking to The Doctor about her family instead.

Not to mention, we also have a number of other trainees at the hospital around the place to better exemplify why Martha is the one that The Doctor gravitates towards. You have the woman who Martha is with for most of the first act, who acts panicked and clearly isn’t thinking straight given what’s going on. The way she panics when Martha goes to open the window, thinking they’ll lose the air even though the windows aren’t air-tight anyway, it shows someone who can’t keep calm in a crisis, which is someone who would be awful at travelling in the TARDIS. Then we’ve got the male trainee who spends most of it toadying to the Judoon and acts like he has things under control when actually he’s got no say in the matter, only to take credit for the whole thing after the fact. It’s always important in episodes where we’re introduced to a new companion to allow us to understand exactly why The Doctor picks them over anyone else and characters like the ones I’ve mentioned are the best way to make Martha look great.

The plot itself is pretty solid. Given the actual role of the Judoon in the universe of Doctor Who I do find it odd that they’re totally fine with potentially murdering everyone in the hospital just to find one alien, not to mention, surely if they have the technology to transport a specified piece of a planet to the moon, they’d also have the technology to provide enough Oxygen. I quite like the Plasmavore as a villain though, it has a genuinely scary concept behind it and the idea of someone sucking all of the blood out of your body is quite horrific when you think about it. The solution to the episode was quite clever, even if it was rather sudden and it keeps to The Doctor’s general ethos of out-thinking the villain.

Like most introduction episodes, it’s not the strongest overall product, but it’s very good at what it needs to do, in this case establishing Martha as the next companion.

3 – Human Nature/The Family of Blood

You know, I’m starting to think it isn’t a coincidence that these late-series two-parters keep landing so high on these lists.

There’s so much to this story that I couldn’t even begin to cover all of it, so I’m just going to cover the highlights. First off, is the performance of John Smith, it’s absolutely amazing how both the writing and the performance involved int his episode genuinely makes John Smith feel like a completely different character from The Doctor. I know that’s the point but given that it’s the same actor playing the role you’d expect they’d feel somewhat similar but they really don’t.

On top of that, because John Smith feels so different to The Doctor I find myself actually getting invested in him over the course of the story as a completely separate character. I want to see his romance work out with Joan, I want to see him discover the mysteries of these strange dreams he has and honestly I think there’d be some entertainment in watching him go about his day-to-day life in the school and interacting with the boys; and it’s exactly that sort of investment that makes the climax to this episode so heartwrenching.

The thing is, as much as I’d love to see this character grow and see his stories resolved, we never can, because we need The Doctor and that scene in the cottage where John, Joan and Martha are talking with him and arguing over whether or not John wants to sacrifice himself for the greater good is so emotional. What makes it sting the most though is having Joan there as a way to frame it all, because if she wasn’t there then as the audience I think we’d all just want The Doctor to hurry up and come back to get it over with, but keeping Joan there is such a brilliant way to tear the audience’s emotions and that scene after The Doctor returns where Joan asks him “Can you change back”, he tells her “Yes”, but when she asks “Will you?” He has to say “No” and it’s truly heartbreaking.

The Doctor as a human could’ve ended up being such a rubbish gimmick for an episode, but so much care was put into getting every detail just right that it actually ended up being one of the better Doctor Who stories to come out of the modern series. It’s an episode that my appreciation for grows every time I re-watch it and I’ll not tear up at the climax.

2 – Blink

I’m sure everyone’s very annoyed that this isn’t number 1, but my list, my rules.

It’s very rare that I actually find an episode of Doctor Who legitimately scary these days (of course, when I was a kid, it was easy) and the thing is, I don’t think there’s anything inherently scary about the Weeping Angels, in fact I think many of the later Angel stories proved that it’s very easy for them not to be scary, so what makes this episode so damn terrifying?

Simply put, this episode is a master at controlling the feeling of tension. For one thing, our protagonist is someone we’ve never met before, which instantly means anything can happen. We know that The Doctor or Martha would never be in any real danger if it were them because we’re only part-way through the season, but Sally Sparrow? She could easily die at any moment which means we’ve instantly got a protagonist that can actually be in extreme danger.

On top of that, the visual and sound direction in this episode is absolutely phenomenal, every time an angel moves and the camera cuts with an audio sting it sends chills down my spine. On top of that, throughout so much of the episode it’s always framed so that the angel is never in the foreground, which is brilliant at hiding the mystery early on and then once the audience knows what’s going on, the trick becomes a fantastic method of creating tension, because you know that something’s about to go down the moment you notice one in the background.

On top of that, the episode is great at slowly revealing it’s mystery to you, as Sally’s friends slowly disappear, first getting a letter and Sally being in total denial about it, only to come to that tragic scene where she finds an old Billy in the hospital, not an hour after having a conversation with the young version of him. Then you’ve got the elements of The Doctor having the conversation already written out in front of him for the DVD that ends up fitting everything The Doctor says, it even creates that nice timey-wimey loop of Larry writing a transcript of the conversation from The Doctor on the DVD, only for Sally to give it to him so he can say it on the DVD, so who originally wrote it?

This is an episode that manages to nail making you think and throw you through a loop with the mystery, while still nailing the horror aspect of it and creating an iconic monster in the process.

1 – Utopia/The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords

This version of The Master is one that tends to divide opinion and it really depends what you want from your villains. If you prefer more serious menacing villains then this definitely won’t be for you, but if you’re more like me and prefer watching off-kilter psychopaths going around being psychopathic, then this is the best version of The Master there is.

As it stands, I think this was the right version of The Master to go with, not just because it’s the kind of villain I prefer, but because it’s the most interesting type of character to go up against Tennant’s Doctor. Tennant is a Doctor that often relies on being over the top with hyperactivity, making quips and bouncing off the walls while thinking his way out of problems, so I love the idea of a villain like this version of The Master, who forces The Doctor to act more seriously, while the villain himself is being rediculous all over the place. Not that I don’t see the appeal in a Master on the level of Anthony Head’s performance in School Reunion, but I think this one works best for the story being told.

First off, Utopia is an amazing episode all on its own. Derek Jacobi’s performance as Yana is absolutely inspired, the way he plays the confused old man that gives off the same vibes as The Doctor, only to suddenly turn into a menacing villain and nail that too is absolutely incredible to watch. The mystery builds so slowly and brilliantly, so when it finally hits the climax and everything goes bombastic it feels HUGE and the cliffhanger at the end of Utopia is my favourite cliffhanger in TV history.

Then we get into Sound of Drums and this is electric. Any time The Doctor and The Master are talking in some way it’s rivetting. The Doctor needs to stop The Master, but he still wants to hold on to the one part of Galifrey that wasn’t destroyed. More so than that, the chemistry Tennant and Simms have together is absolutely unstoppable, just listening to the two of them go back and forth weaves such a brilliant tapestry in the story that it really feels like these are two people who have known each other for centuries.

All three parts also do a great job of pushing Martha to her limits as a character, The Sounds of Drums systematically tears her life apart, taking away her family, her home and eventually even The Doctor, which is what makes The Last of the Time Lords so compelling to watch.

In The Last of the Time Lords, we’re not watching the crew attempt to stop something horrible from happening, The Master’s already won and has ruled over the Earth for a year. So we’re instead seeing a bunch of people who have nothing, try to build themselves back up take down The Master. It’s so clear that despite what Martha’s been doing for the year we didn’t see, she can’t forget the horror of what The Master did to the world and there’s also the worry that her family might not even be alive when she finally gets there.

This episode is what truly defines Martha as a character for me, because sure, The Doctor told her what to do and she undoubtedly had help from various people along the way, she travelled the war-torn world all on her own and became a totally different person because of it. No longer is she afraid to stare The Master in the eyes, or laugh in his face as he points his laser screwdriver at her. She spent so much time spreading this message around the world and it’s clear that all this time she was telling it, she started to believe in it too and became a better person because of it.

Say what you want about Tennant gaining Jesus powers as the solution to the episode, but I think it worked for the story. Setting up the archangel network as the downfall of the human race in the Sound of Drums, only for it to be the solution in The Last of the Time Lords was a very clever twist and I like the symbolism in the whole world being the ones to cause The Master’s downfall.

What’s even more compelling to watch is The Master’s breakdown once he knows he’s lost. Refusing to accept The Doctor’s forgiveness, threatening the Black Hole converters, only to realise that would be an incredibly stupid thing to do until finally beating The Doctor at his own game, be taking away the one thing he wanted more than anything else, another Time Lord. The Earth is safe and all the good guys survived, but in refusing to regenerate, The Master is causing The Doctor more pain than any death ever could and the moment where The Doctor is completely inconsolable as he holds The Master’s corpse in his arms is genuinely heartbreaking.

Everything in this finale pulls together so perfectly, all of the important characters get complete arches over the course of the three parts and by the end of it, you can clearly see the impact on each of them. Nothing is left as a loose end and there’s not a second wasted in terms of what’s shown on screen, it’s exactly what a series finale should be.