Following on from yesterday, here’s my top twelve (any guesses why i picked twelve…?) Modern Doctor Who Stories. These are my favourites, but feel free to disagree with them and post alternate lists in the comments below.
12. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead: (Series 4, Steven Moffat) River Song’s first episode (and last). David Tennant’s best performance in series 4 and one of Catherine Tate’s best in Forest of the Dead. The Vashta Nerada (piranhas of the air) are suitably scary, and ‘Hey, who turned out the lights?’ is still a pretty freaky scene. Also, great cliffhanger.
11. Dark Water/Death in Heaven: (Series 8, Steven Moffat) The cybermen return in one of their best stories. Missy’s identity is revealed, and Michelle Gomez gives a masterful performance. Danny and Clara’s relationship is heartbreaking broken and the 12th Doctor finally works out who he is. Add in a touching reference to the Brigadier and the unexpected death of two loved recurring characters, this finale has a lot going for it.
10. Amy’s Choice: (Series 5, Simon Nye) Even the Doctor has a dark side. Personified here as the Dream Lord (brilliantly played by Toby Jones), this episode has Amy, Rory and the Doctor all in the spotlight and some genuinely unsettling scenes, as well as a plot that keeps you guessing. A slightly convenient ending is the only drawback.
9. The Day of the Doctor: (50th Anniversary Special, Steven Moffat) The 50th special really delivered and the final 15 minutes are perfect. The opening hour has a surprising amount of humour and character moments (but fortunately one of Moffat’s strengths is comedy). David Tennant settles back in remarkably easily and Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman are as good as ever. John Hurt is also a very believable ‘War Doctor’ and cameos from Peter Capaldi and Tom Baker are unexpected highlights. Downsides? The Daleks are mainly cannon fodder or silent killers rather than the insane, calculating schemers they are at their best, and i wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more of the time war.
8. The Waters of Mars: (Series 4 Specials, Russell T. Davies) Tennant’s true last hurrah as he gets far better material than ‘The End of Time’ gives him. For once, we see the tenth Doctor lose control after rejecting his apparent powerlessness to alter a ‘fixed moment in time’. A classic ‘base under siege’ story with some of Davies’ best ideas included. Dark, daring and damn good to watch.
7. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday: (Series 2, Russell T. Davies) A great finale with a shock cliffhanger as the Daleks and Cybermen collide and the Doctor encounters Torchwood. The ‘Cult of Skaro’ make an impression as Dalek’s with more individual personas and Tracy Ann Oberman is good value as Torchwood’s leader. Rose gets a touching final send-off (even if Davies chickens out and gives her a happier ending in series 4). Only the cybermen’s irritating inability to kill a single Dalek (come on!) prevents me putting this higher.
6. The Snowmen: (Series 7 Xmas Special, Steven Moffat) The best christmas special with a wonderful performance from Jenna Coleman, a chilling villainous turn from Richard E. Grant and some brilliant comedy curtesy of the Sontaran Strax. The highlight of the split series 7.
5. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang: (Series 5, Steven Moffat) Moffat’s best finale (Pandorica is one of my favourite episodes and cliffhangers) and he shows that lone cybermen or Daleks can still be threatening. Matt Smith’s speech in Pandorica and Arthur Darvill’s performance as Rory are highlights.
4. Blink: (Series 3, Steven Moffat) Hold on! Blink fourth? Yes, i know many of you probably think i’m crazy, but while Blink is arguably the cleverest and most renowned episode of New Who, it isn’t my favourite. I rewatch the top 3 a lot more than Blink, which is what consigns it to fourth place. Nevertheless, the best ‘Doctor-lite’ episode (David Tennant gets about 5 minutes of screen time) and the one that introduced the weeping angels, this will never be forgotten. That Carey Mulligan’s career took off after her performance here as Sally isn’t a surprise!
3. The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: (Series 2, Matt Jones) The top three were very hard to seperate. This one just lost out – a slightly convenient ending and a far too easy resolution of the (fantastic) cliffhanger to part one count against it. The Doctor is forced to confront his own faith and beliefs while Rose struggles to get everyone out alive, the plot gives both regulars a lot to work with. The support cast is great and the Ood are perhaps the most memorable ‘alien’ creatures (in terms of appearance) created on modern Doctor Who. The Beast was a suitably ‘demonic’ and all-knowing villain who really added to the tension. I wish they’d bring this writer back.
2. Dalek: (Series 1, Rob Shearman) Iconic. The Daleks have never been better as a single one rampages through an alien collector’s underground bunker in Utah. Christopher Eccleston’s greatest performance in the role of the Ninth Doctor as well. As i said in my full review of this episode, this is still unsurpassed as a Dalek story in the modern era of Doctor Who.
1. The Girl in the Fireplace: (Series 2, Steven Moffat) My absolute favourite. The episode where most people realised Tennant was a great Doctor. Sophie Myles is brilliant as ‘Madame du Pompadour’ and the clockwork repair droids are still some of Moffat’s creepiest creations. Rose and Mickey can be minorly annoying (her barely concealed jealously and Mickey’s panicking) but the story isn’t really about them. If you don’t like this episode… maybe your watching the wrong show!
This was the hardest ‘top ten’ list i’ve ever done – even adding 2 extra spaces meant i couldn’t include all my favourites, i know some of you will probably be surprised to see ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances’, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, ‘Listen’ etc. missing but as much as i like/admire those… i had to make a choice. And this was veering dangerously close to a top twelve Steven Moffat stories list anyway what with 7 out of 12 stories being written by him. That said – when on form – he is clearly the best writer Doctor Who has available.