It’s been a while since I’ve written about Doctor Who, so I thought I’d do another list in remembrance of the show no longer on Netflix or Hulu for some ridiculous, unexplained reason. While I have a lot of feelings about the fact that watching Doctor Who will no longer be as easy as it once was, I thought I should take the positive route and remember the happy times by sharing my top 10 Doctor Who episodes of all time. This list was actually harder to put together than I realized, as there are a lot of New Who episodes to choose from and even more truly great episodes than just ten, but I tried my best. Feel free to let me know your favorite episodes, and whether there were any you thought should make my top ten.
10. “Nightmare in Silver” (Season 7, Episode 12)
This episode finds the Doctor and Clara, along with the two kids Clara is nannying, at Hedgewick’s World of Wonders, an abandoned alien theme park. There, they meet the inhabitants of the park, including soldiers on an outpost. They realize that they have landed in an era after one of the great Cyber Wars, in which an entire galaxy had to be blown up to destroy the Cybermen. While they are there, Cybermites take over the kids Angie and Artie, the Doctor gets caught up in a chess match with the Cyberiad/Mr. Clever, and Clara has to ready the troops to fight the newly upgraded Cybermen.
I love this episode because while the Cybermen are one of my least favorite villains and are generally scary, there was a lighthearted atmosphere to this episode. Matt Smith was in his prime, playing both the Doctor and Mr. Clever, and I always love when the Doctor has to deal with different versions of himself. Plus Porridge was played by Warwick Davis, who we affectionately know to be Professor Flitwick and not-so-affectionately know as Griphook from the Harry Potter movies.
9. “Let’s Kill Hitler” (Season 6, Episode 8)
In “Let’s Kill Hitler,” the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves in Berlin in 1938 after the TARDIS is hijacked by Amy and Rory’s best friend Mels. There, they not only run into Hitler, but a Teselecta, a robot run by miniaturized people who travel in time to punish war criminals. In the frenzy between Hitler and the Teselecta, Mels ends up getting shot and surprisingly regenerates into the woman we all know as River Song. We find out that not only have Amy and Rory been growing up with their daughter (timey-wimey), but that she has been sent to kill the Doctor. River-Mels then goes off to wreak havoc on Berlin, while the Doctor tries not to die and Amy and Rory go to stop her.
This is one of my favorite episodes, again because of how fun it is. They took an age-old time travel trope of going back in time to kill Hitler and made Hitler not only the butt of the joke, but pretty much inconsequential to most of the story. Seeing River meet the Doctor for the first time was really awesome, especially since we’ve known her since season 4 by this point and they always meet in the wrong order. Here, Melody Pond is not yet River Song, but we still see some of the characteristics that make us love River in the future (past for us?). Season 6 as a whole is timey-wimey but this episode in particular sort of brings it all to a head, and makes you want to watch Doctor Who in the order of River’s timeline, something I have yet to accomplish.
8. “Blink” (Season 3, Episode 10)
“Blink” follows Sally Sparrow, a woman who enjoys exploring old things. She arrives at an abandoned house that is, unbeknownst to her, infested with Weeping Angels, aliens that take you back in time and feed off of your potential time energy (essentially letting you live to death in the past). They are also quantum-locked and are stone when you look at them. In this episode, Sally becomes enlisted by a series of Easter eggs in the movies she owns that have the Doctor, who is stuck in 1969 because of the Angels, instructing her how to get the TARDIS back to him and Martha. While this is a Doctor-lite episode, it is really good and introduces us to what I think are the most terrifying creatures in the entire Who universe.
When watching this episode initially, I was uninterested because I was scarred by the Episode That Must Not Be Named, another Doctor-lite one. Because that episode was so terrible, I wasn’t excited about another episode with little Doctor, but by the end I was pleasingly surprised. Once I watched it a second time, I knew that this was one of the best episodes in Doctor Who. The Weeping Angels are some of my favorite aliens, mostly because of how scary they are, and while there was little of the Doctor and Martha, we did get the invention of the phrase “timey-wimey.”
7. “The Girl Who Died” / “The Woman Who Lived” (Season 9, Episodes 5 & 6)
In this two-part story, the Doctor and Clara come across some Vikings that are attacked by an alien race called the Mire. They are able to defeat the Mire, but one of the girls they meet, Ashildr, is killed in the battle. The Doctor gives Ashildr a chip that not only brings her back to life, but keeps her cells regenerating forever, making her immortal. In the second part of the story, “The Woman Who Lived,” the Doctor comes across Ashildr three hundred years into the future of her timeline. Due to her human mind, she is unable to remember all of the events that happened with the Mire, and now refers to herself as Lady Me. She is also the Knightmare, a robber looking for a gem that will help her and the alien she befriended get into space. The Doctor has to stop her when her plans backfire and the alien decides to attack the humans in the area.
I love this episode in part because I love Maisie Williams, who plays Ashildr as well as one of my favorite characters in Game of Thrones, Arya Stark. Maisie is a really good actress for someone as young as she is, and her chemistry with the Doctor is great. This episode is also great because it is largely about Ashildr becoming an antagonist to the Doctor. Each time she shows up in Season 9, she is a slightly different person, and we get to see how immortality affects humans in both different and similar ways to the Time Lords. These episodes, mainly “The Woman Who Lived” are not action-heavy, but they are very thought-provoking and well-acted.
6. “The Shakespeare Code” (Season 3, Episode 2)
In “The Shakespeare Code,” the Doctor takes Martha Jones into the past as a way to thank her for helping him in the events from the last episode “Smith and Jones.” He takes her to see Shakespeare, and the three end up having to stop a plot to bring back the Carionites, old witch-like aliens that plan on bringing back blood magic and ending humans in the 17th century.
This is one of my favorite episodes for a number of reasons. For one, it’s a fairly lighthearted episode, but it also shows off how well the Doctor and Martha work together. When you add Shakespeare’s flirting with Martha as well as all of the Harry Potter references, this episode is the best. I can pretty much watch this episode whenever, and I pretty much never skip it in a rewatch.
5. “The Girl in the Fireplace” (Season 2, Episode 4)
In this episode, the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey find themselves on what seems to be an abandoned spaceship in the 51st century. They soon find that the ship has windows into 18th century France, more specifically into the life of Madame de Pompadour. The Doctor and his companions must stop a group of clockwork repair androids from killing Madame de Pompadour in order to power their ship—which they think will work due to it being named after her.
This is one of my favorite episodes for a few reasons. For one, there is minimal Rose, and so we get to see David Tennant in his element without having to watch him flirt with Rose or ignore Mickey. We also get to see the effect of having the Doctor in your life while for him it only feels like a short amount of time. This story is sort of a microcosm of the later story with River Song, in that the Doctor appears in different moments in Madame de Pompadour’s life (though admittedly, in the right order). We also get to see the clockwork androids, which are really awesome and that I wish were in the show more often (I loved “Deep Breath” because of the connection).
4. “The Time of Angels” / “Flesh and Stone” (Season 5, Episodes 4 & 5)
In “The Time of Angels,” the Doctor receives an SOS from River Song. After rescuing her, they follow the Byzantium, a ship that crash-lands on the planet Alfava Metraxis. There, they discover a nest of dying Weeping Angels, who they accidentally help to regenerate due to the power coming from the Byzantium. As they try to stop the Angels, they also run into the crack in time that was in Amy’s wall as a child, which is continuing to eat up all of time and space. They are able to stop both the Angels and the crack by getting the crack to consume all of the Angels, sedating it for a while.
I love pretty much all of the episodes with the Weeping Angels except for “The Angels Take Manhattan” for obvious reasons (RIP Amy and Rory). But this episode is even better because it gives us the Angels and River, who is one of the best characters in New Who. We get to see the Doctor uncomfortably interact with and flirt with River, while Amy makes fun, while also dealing with the terror of the Weeping Angels and the crack in time.
3. “The Doctor’s Wife” (Season 6, Episode 4)
In “The Doctor’s Wife,” the Doctor takes Amy and Rory outside of the universe into a pocket universe where he thinks there are living Time Lords in need of help. It turns out that not only are there no Time Lords, but that they have landed on a planet that eats TARDISes in order to survive. House, the planet, has taken out the TARDIS’s consciousness and puts it inside of a woman called Idris, before stealing the TARDIS with Amy and Rory still inside. Together, the Doctor and Idris-as-the-TARDIS (aka “Sexy”) have to get the TARDIS back and save Amy and Rory.
This episode is so great because we actually get to hear the TARDIS talk! She is just as confusing as the Doctor, seeing all of time and space at once. It’s a great episode because not only do we get to see the Doctor interact with his TARDIS in a way that he never has before, but it gives the TARDIS agency. We often hear about how the TARDIS is alive, and has feelings, but in this episode we actually get to see it. It’s not only comical, but touching, and I don’t think I’ve ever skipped it when watching my favorite episodes.
2. “The Day of the Doctor” (50th Anniversary Special)
In “The Day of the Doctor,” the Eleventh Doctor runs into two of his past incarnations, the Tenth Doctor and the War Doctor. While dealing with a Zygon invasion into Earth, the Doctor is forced to once again reckon with his decision to destroy the Time Lords and Daleks in order to end the Time War. We see the War Doctor, the Doctor no one talks about, struggling to make his decision. He goes see his future (in 10 and 11) to help him make his decision and ends up getting caught up in their issues with dealing with the Zygons before making the decision of his own to deal with the Time War.
This is the first episode I saw of Doctor Who and it was what made me go back to watch from the beginning. It’s so great to see the Doctor interact with himself, especially in different regenerations, and that really is the best part about this episode. It’s also great to see the Time War, an event that is referenced often before this, and which we see the repercussions of, but is never actually shown until now. Even without context, this episode is fun, but going back to watch it after watching all of the seasons beforehand makes the episode even better. Not only did I get to see my favorite Doctor, David Tennant (as 10) come back, but I got to see him and Matt Smith act together in a way that was really brilliant. Also Ollivander is the War Doctor, which was great.
1. “Silence in the Library” / “Forest of the Dead” (Season 4, Episodes 8 & 9)
“Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” are a two-part story and my absolute favorite in the entire series. These episodes find the Doctor and Donna in the Library, a planet that is the largest library in the universe. However, the Library is abandoned, despite the scanner saying that there are a billion billion life forms on the planet. The two of them run into a crew of archeologists who have come to see if the planet is inhabitable again. The archeologists are headed by a woman named River Song, who knows the Doctor despite him never having met her before. Together, they defeat the Vashta Nerada, aliens that hide in the dark and are basically piranhas of the air, as well as save the people who the Library database had saved into it’s computer. In the end, River dies in order to save the Doctor and the rest of the people.
I love these episodes. Not only are we introduced to the amazing River Song (who dies in this episode, but comes back a number of times in later seasons due to her and the Doctor meeting in the wrong order), but we get the terrifying Vashta Nerada, a group of aliens that pretty much justify anyone’s fear of the dark. These episodes are terrifying, both because of the Vashta Nerada but because of the initially confusing motive of the Library “saving” people. We find out through Donna that they are all saved from being eaten, but also “saved” to a hard drive. In addition to it being well-written, this episode also has some great acting, especially at the end between the Doctor and River. The fact that Alex Kingston has managed to have chemistry with every Doctor she’s interacted with so far is an awesome feat and makes me love her as River even more.