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

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

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

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

17 – Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 – Nightmare in Silver

…not that far up though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 – The Name of The Doctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 – The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe

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

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

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

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

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

13 – The Crimson Horror

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 – The Snowmen

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

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

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

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

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

11 – Hide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 – The Bells of Saint John

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Episode of Doctor Who Series 5 (2010) Ranked

Out with the old and in with the new…well, new from 2010’s perspective anyway. It’s needless to say that Matt Smith had a monumental task ahead of him having to follow David Tennant as The Doctor, who was easily the most beloved actor to ever play the role. Smith’s time as The Doctor as a whole was quite interesting because the type of personality he portrays in series 5 is distinctly different from the rest of his series, but that’s something I’ll discuss as we get to them.

Series 5 was the first chance the show had gotten at a completely fresh start since 2005, with a new Doctor, new companion, new head writer and many new people filling major roles behind the scenes as well. it was time for a completely different style of writing and storytelling and, for series 5 at least, I’d say it was a success.

How much of a success? Well let’s take a look, shall we? As I rank every single episode from series 5.

10 – The Vampires of Venice

This episode ended up having a lot of elements to it that didn’t come together quite in the way I think the writers wanted it to, both from a single episode perspective and also a series-wide perspective.

Firstly, “Vampires, but aliens” is just a lazy premise. Of course, that doesn’t automatically make it bad (just look at what a thrill ride “Tooth and Claw” turned out to be) but the fact of it was that the idea of them being aliens didn’t add any extra layers to the story outside of allowing the writers to give them some more exotic technology, it felt more like a plot device than a story element. Not to mention the main plan of villains was a little bit goofy; “So we’re in Venice…I know, let’s flood it!” I mean, come on, try to think outside the box just a little.

The other main thread, which is more of a series-wide story, is Amy and Rory’s relationship. At this point in the series, it had become obvious that Rory was going to play more of a major role in the series than it first seemed, but it was also clear that Moffat wasn’t entirely sure where he wanted this particular thread to go. Probably down to the fact that he wasn’t sure how long the actors would be staying in the role for, there wasn’t a great deal of long-term planning when it came to telling the story of their relationship, so the conflict they go through in this episode feels like it’s rushing things a bit.

That said, I did like how the conflict was presented. Instead of making it a big melodramatic thing that takes up far too much of the time reserved for running away from monsters, it’s cleverly weaved into the rest of the plot as it goes along. The Doctor and Rory will have conversations about Amy while running away from the monsters which is great for making sure it doesn’t cloud too much of the episode’s story and adding a bit of levity into tense moments.

Ultimately, this isn’t necessarily a bad episode, but with a fairly weak villain and plot threads that seem odd compared to the direction they would eventually go in, this one ends up falling to the bottom of the pile as an episode I don’t particularly fancy rewatching.

9 – The Beast Below

This episode is brilliant at one thing but fairly mediocre at everything else.

What it’s brilliant at is allowing Amy (and by extension, the audience) to get a really good look into the new Doctor’s mindset when faced with tough situations. As great as The Eleventh Hour is (we’ll get to it), it never puts The Doctor on the back foot, he’s always in control of the situation and only suffers temporary roadblocks, so this episode makes sure to do the opposite and sticks The Doctor in a situation where he has no idea what’s going on and is faced with a horrible decision when he finally does figure it out.

Seeing any character at their lowest is always the best way to get a sense of who they truly are and that’s exactly what we see from The Doctor here, but because it’s mostly seen through Amy’s perspective, it means we also get a chance to see inside her head as she figures out exactly how The Doctor works and builds that unbreakable bond between the two of them that becomes so vital later down the line.

Unfortunately, that’s more or less the only thing I really like about the episode. There are plenty of versions of the “decent society with a horrible secret” story out there and this isn’t among the best. For one thing, we get straight up shown one of the main horrible things immediately, so it doesn’t create much of a mystery for the rest of the episode and it takes away a lot of the tension. Also, the elements of this society don’t make a great deal of sense. I can buy the idea that they take children who don’t achieve and put them to work, but the method seems incredibly stupid. So they ban them from taking the elevator? That just seems more inconvenient for everyone involved than anything else, they only get to kidnap them when they don’t do as they’re told anyway, it just seems so weird.

I’m also not a big fan of Liz 10’s character either. It reeks of trying-too-hard if you ask me. Yeah, we get it, she’s a queen who doesn’t act like a queen is supposed to, but the episode is insistent on continuously rubbing that fact in our face and I find her more of an irritant than an impactful character.

Like I said, there’s an absolutely masterful thread buried in this episode, which is why I ranked it so high, but unfortunately, it’s covered by a lot of stuff that I don’t particularly enjoy watching.

8 – Victory of the Daleks

This is perhaps the definition of a 50/50 episode. There’s so much like, but just as much to dislike.

Let’s address the elephant in the room first, The Paradigm Daleks. I’ve always thought the designs were a bit much, gaudy for the sake of gaudy if you will. If they weren’t immediately scrapped as an idea then I could’ve perhaps looked passed the visual design if they became much more interesting as a concept; the idea of Daleks with assigned roles is very intriguing to me. At the end of the day, these designs were immediately shouted down and any plans that may have existed for them were scrapped and they’ve existed as mere background scenery ever since and I can’t say I blame them, the golden Dalek design that had been used up until this point was just so perfect that a change was never going to go over well.

While we’re on the negatives, I’ve never really bought into the idea that Bracewell could be disarmed purely by proving he has human memories and emotions, especially since the Daleks aren’t supposed to even understand any emotions other than hate. It also takes the sting out of the fact that the Daleks outfoxed The Doctor because that should’ve been a big deal for him but immediately gets swept under the rug when Bracewell lives.

Onto the positives now, and straight away a massive thumbs up goes to making the Daleks seem actually intelligent and threatening again. It’s been far too long since we saw Daleks scheming and coming up with a plan outside “bring a massive army to murder everyone”. The way it subverts everything we know about the Daleks to see them acting like helpful robots and the reveal that it was all a ploy to trick The Doctor into identifying them as Daleks was an absolutely genius twist. Not to mention they do it again when they reveal Bracewell was a bomb, forcing The Doctor to stop his attack on the ship so that he can save the Earth instead. As much as that moment does get quickly brushed over, it’s still great when it happens.

I think the main reason this episode gets overlooked is that it ended up making no impact on the Daleks in any way since the only change was negatively received and was promptly never featured again. Innovating with the Daleks is a dangerous game, so much so that the only time I think it’s ever worked in Modern Who was in this year’s Resolution episode, but we’ll get to that later.

7 – The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood

There are many episodes of this show that I would say needed more time in order to fully flesh out their story, this is one of those rare cases where I actually think splitting this episode into two parts was a bit too much.

The pacing of this episode is a bit start-stop. The episode starts out with a very harsh sense of urgency and almost immediately after The Doctor & Co discover what’s going on, Amy gets kidnapped. This is an event that should’ve taken place towards the end of the second act in order to rev the action up towards the climax, but instead, we have to go through a whole bunch of different stages where the pace dies off completely, before suddenly putting the pedal to the metal again in order to give us a decent cliffhanger.

The second part has a great deal of padding to it as well, with people wandering around the Silurian base, getting captured, freeing themselves, getting captured again, escaping again and so on. There are some good elements in there, such as taking a look at what people will do when their family is at stake and how people snap under pressure. The problem with having it here is that we already saw it in the previous series with Midnight, which played that string MUCH better than it’s done here.

I think a huge chunk of the middle could’ve been cut out of this episode, most notably the section where the Silurian’s come to the surface and The Doctor captures one. The only real purpose it serves is to give information to the audience and that could’ve been done some other way when The Doctor got down into the Silurian’s base anyway. If this episode had been a bit more focused, then I think it could’ve been really fun, but it was unnecessarily made into a two-part story which greatly hindered its ability to tell the story it wanted to tell.

6 – The Lodger

I find this episode extremely weird to go back and look at because all of the elements in it are stuff I wouldn’t expect to like very much, but it ends up coming together quite nicely.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of James Corden as a comedian, he fits into much more of the American style of comedian which is a style I’m not overly fond of so I generally don’t find much of his stuff funny. That said, I think he did a great job in this episode and I really like Craig as a character. Being an episode that almost entirely focused on comedy, there was always going to be a handful of jokes that didn’t land, but for the most part, I always find myself laughing when watching this one back.

The way the dynamic evolves between The Doctor and Craig is very well done, although it perhaps goes a bit over the top with The Doctor being better than Craig at everything, I don’t think we needed to watch The Doctor slaughter everyone at football for example. Regardless, the way Craig responds to The Doctor unintentionally wrecking his life and the awkward, apprehensive way that Craig deals with it all is hilariously British.

Where the episode falls a bit flat is in its main mystery, because unlike most episodes where we get drip fed little hints and clues before the big reveal of what’s actually going on, but this episode doesn’t give us anything the whole way through until everything suddenly gets revealed right at the end and it all feels a bit underwhelming, not to mention it’s slightly odd that there’s just this bungalow in the middle of a street of terrace houses, but whatever.

This was an episode that decided it wanted to focus more on its characters than its plot and although that leaves a glaring weak point in the episode, it’s still a fun one to watch.

5 – Amy’s Choice

Amy’s relationships with both The Doctor and Rory were a constant theme during her time in the TARDIS and it eventually became a little bit of a crutch to lean on when it came to creating conflict between the trio, however, this episode was a great example of how that conflict looks when it’s done right.

It’s a classic example of how everything seems so much more dramatic and important when you show instead of tell. So many of these arguments lie on what *might* happen if Amy and Rory live their normal lives together and what *might* become of Amy if she spends too long travelling with The Doctor. Instead, this one drops us right in the middle of both of those potential futures in order to give us a better understanding of how giving one up would affect Amy emotionally.

The Dream Lord is also a great villain, being able to show The Doctor his darker sides without going down the route of lunacy and jealousy that a villain like The Mater gives us. Toby Jones put on a brilliant performance in this episode as being with almost deity-like control of the dream worlds and the way the character was written feels to me like an accurate representation of what The Doctor would be like if he decided to turn to a life of villainy.

While it’s true that both of the worlds the trio were forced to chose between being dreams did retroactively take a lot of the tension out of the episode, the emotional impact and decisions the characters had to make were still very real and that’s what has a lasting impact on them going forward.

Not only did this episode give us a compelling take on Amy’s inner conflict, but it did it through the medium of an intriguing mystery and wonderfully performed & written villain. Very nice indeed.

4 – The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

Many fans of modern Doctor Who would be quick to tell you that Blink is the only good story that features the Weeping Angels, those people are wrong because this one is brilliant.

Part 1 has mastery over its sense of tension and mystery. Not only do we get the second-ever appearance of River Song, leading us to revisit all of the mystery surrounding her and then we start to dive into an expanded knowledge of the Angels’ powers. The scene early on in the episode where Amy has a close encounter with an image of an Angel that became an Angel – which incidentally, is a brilliant idea – served to ramp up the tension early on and helped to keep us on edge throughout the whole episode.

Having such a large group of people investigating the ruins with The Doctor could’ve been a recipe for disaster, but they’re very quickly killed off one-by-one in off-screen attacks, keeping all of that tension boiling over nicely until the conclusion. The mystery of the first part is brilliantly written because all of the elements we need to solve it are right there from the beginning; we’re told very expressly that the Aplans had two heads and we can clearly see that the statues only have one, but it stares us in the face so obviously that we just can’t see it until The Doctor joins the dots, leading to a rather epic – if a  bit cheesy – cliffhanger

The second part of the story moves away from the mystery and instead focuses in on the action. You wouldn’t think there’d be many exciting ways to have a chase scene when the creatures doing the chasing are statues, but this episode manages it and the first half of the episode is very exciting as the crew make their way through the Byzantium. When things slow down again, we get a real look into the mystery box for Series 5 with the crack in the skin of the universe, doing something we never saw during Davies’ era and getting an understanding of exactly what this treat is and what it means before we fully address it in the series finale.

The episode isn’t flawless though. While I’ll admit that the sequence where Amy has to blindly make her way through the forest, with the angels potentially attacking any moment was very tense to watch, when you think about it for any more than a few seconds, you realise that it makes absolutely no sense. I thought the whole point of the angels was that it was physically impossible for them to move when someone was looking, but this concept makes it seem like they don’t actually know when someone’s looking, so they actually could move if they really wanted to? I know The Doctor said the angels were scared, so their instincts would be off, but that doesn’t quite feel like enough to satisfy the problems I have with it.

Ultimately, that is a rather minor complaint when compared to the rest of the episode though, because as a whole this story manages to have a dose of everything that makes Doctor Who exciting. There is a well-written mystery, exciting action and an iconic villain, alongside a little bit of timey-wimeyness to whet our appetites for the season finale. As a sequel to Blink, I think it does a great job of expanding on the lore of the Weeping Angels and shows the full potential how truely exciting they can be when written properly.

3 – Vincent and The Doctor

Quite simply, this is the kind of episode that every “historical figure” episode should aspire to be.

In previous episodes like this, the episode spends so much time with The Doctor fawning over whoever it is they happen to meet, and there is an aspect of that here, but it’s in a very different way. Van Gogh in this episode is written as a character first and Vincent Van Gogh second, which is exactly how these episodes should be done, because it’s all well and good spending time with a famous person, but why should I care about anything that happens to them if I don’t get a good sense of their character.

This episode has a nice helping of mystery to it, with an invisible monster that made for some weird action scenes and was a clever way to save on the CGI budget, but it’s mostly there as a tool to help tell Van Gogh’s story. There are the more obvious parallels of Van Gogh being able to see things that no-one else can, but more than that there’s the sense of him being an outcast from society and feeling like he just doesn’t understand how he fits into the world around him.

All of this leads to the touching ending to the episode, where The Doctor brings Van Gogh to the modern-day, in order to see his paintings,  the things he – and everyone from his time period – thinks are utterly worthless, being adored by hundreds, if not thousands of people, as an art expert explains what a brilliant genius he thinks Van Gogh was, showing him how truely appreciated he will become. Only to rip it away from you with the reveal that despite this, he never overcame his demons, but it still doesn’t feel like heartbreak, as The Doctor’s speech reassures us that, just giving him that moment of knowing how loved he will become was enough to change his life in a deep, but unobservable way.

This is an episode that doesn’t rely on the historical figure to carry the episode, but instead tailor-makes the entire episode for that historical figure. It gives us an honest look into the mind of Van-Gogh and takes us on an emotional journey that gives us a slightly bittersweet but still ultimately happy ending.

2 – The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

While it’s true that I do love a series finale that focuses in on the characters and their internal conflicts, sometimes a massive scale thrill-ride to decide the fate of the universe can be just as fun to watch.

The first part of this story is absolutely one of my favourite episodes of modern Doctor Who ever. The way it sets up its mystery is marvellous, quickly and concisely showing us how Van Gogh’s painting came to be in River’s possession, while simultaneously giving us a whirlwind tour of some of the places The Doctor has been throughout the series. The rest of the episode is a tense walkthrough of what the Pandorica is and what could possibly be inside of it.

Although there’s very little in the way of action, there are enough big moments sprinkled throughout to make things extremely exciting as each little bit of the mystery unravels; including one of the best speeches The Doctor has ever given, as he gets all of the armies above his head to argue to each other (even if it turns out that was never the case by the end). The speed at which we get new mysteries, while ongoing ones get answers are paced almost to perfection, as we get little pieces of information bit by bit, keeping just one step ahead of us so that we don’t quite work out what’s going on until it’s time for the reveal. A reveal which gives us an absolutely amazing cliffhanger, by the way.

The Big Bang shifts the focus of the episode from solving the mystery, to fixing the problem. As an episode, it’s much faster and louder, keeping us on the edge of our seat with lots of chase scenes and a healthy dash of comedy. The only time the episode would ever stop to breathe is when it had a big moment or reveal to give us, like The Doctor appearing from the future and “dying” in front of everyone or that really cool moment where River stopped fucking around and straight-up murdered the Dalek.

Normally, I’d call something like “rebooting the universe” a pretty rubbish way of solving everything, but the elements where set up so well throughout both this story and the series as a whole that I think it works really well. The solid character moments come in towards the end of the episode and it ties everything up in a neat little bow, tying in that really confusing scene from Flesh and Stone and cleverly implanting the memory in Amy’s head of how to bring The Doctor back (although I’m not sure how River knew she needed to give Amy the diary).

This story consists of two very different styles of episodes that are both brilliant in their own way – one a slow & tense mystery, the other and fast & frantic action-adventure – but both fulfilled their purpose almost perfectly and created a series finale that not only tied together the main mysteries from the current series but set up some new mysteries for the next.

1 – The Eleventh Hour

Easily the best introduction to a new Doctor we’ve ever had.

While The Christmas Invasion before this did a great job of establishing the new Doctor, it suffered somewhat from being rather lite on The Doctor himself, spending most of the episode in a post-regeneration daze. The Eleventh Hour had that task, only bigger, because not only was this the first episode in 4 years not to feature the beloved David Tennant, but they also had to introduce a brand-new companion to boot.

The episode manages to get everything you could possibly want from such an episode. Giving us the comedy of The Doctor being a bit loopy post-regeneration, but keeping it confined to Act 1 so once the episode really kicks into gear, we can just watch The Doctor be The Doctor and get a real good sense of who this new incarnation really is. It also does a great job with the new companion, introducing us to young Amelia Pond and seeing The Doctor bond with her, only for the rug to be taken out from under us as The Doctor overshoots his timing and re-encounters a fully-grown Amy instead.

As the episode pans out, we get to see these two characters build on that bond with young Amelia, with a character who feels very different, but is still clearly the same person; a lot of credit has to go to both actresses for pulling that off. We don’t have to go through that period of Amy not believing a word The Doctor’s saying because she already went through it as a child, instead, it’s more about Amy learning to trust The Doctor, after he abandoned her and cursed her to a life of seeing therapists because everyone else was convinced he wasn’t real.

While the main threat in this episode – both Prisoner Zero & The Atraxi – isn’t anything special, it’s exactly what it needs to be, because it puts an extreme amount of pressure on The Doctor to solve the problem in a very limited amount of time, which is arguably when The Doctor as a character is at his most awe-inspiring, thus bringing out the best performance in the person playing him. If anything it was actually quite a huge risk to have such a huge task in Matt Smith’s very first episode, it was a real sink or swim moment.

Thankfully, Matt Smith absolutely nailed every moment of it. Later on in his run, I had a lot of problems with this incarnation of The Doctor, but in this episode (and in fact, this whole series) those problems are virtually non-existent. Even watching this as a 10-year-old, I instantly fell in love with Smith as The Doctor and accepted him as a worthy successor to Tennant’s throne, culminating in that epic moment where Smith stepped through the image of his predecessors and declaring that he is The Doctor, a statement I absolutely believed.

This was an episode that managed to perfectly establish a new Doctor, Companion and Head Writer all in one, while still managing to be an exciting adventure that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, please let me know what you thought of this series of Doctor Who, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back this time next week, where I’ll be running down my favourite music from the Pokemon franchise!