Top Thirteen Modern Doctor Who Stories

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.

Spoilers

13. 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.

12. 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.

11. 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

10. 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.

9. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (Series 1, Steven Moffat)

8. Face the Raven (Series 9, Sarah Dollard)

7. Dark Water: (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. 

6. 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.

5. Blink: (Series 3, Steven Moffat) Blink fifth? 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!

4. The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: (Series 2, Matt Jones) The top four were very hard to separate. 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.

3. 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.

2. 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!

1. Heaven Sent: (Series 9, Steven Moffat)

I know some of you will probably be surprised to see ‘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 8 out of 13 stories being written by him. That said – when on form – he is clearly the best writer Doctor Who has available.

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