Which Doctor Who Series was the best?

 

As series 10 approaches here’s my rundown of those that came before it. I will state that I like all 9 of them even the one I’ve put in 9th place (each series has an average score of between 3.65 and 4.04, so there isn’t a massive difference in quality as far as I’m concerned). At least half of you will probably disagree with my order, but that’s the point of opinion pieces isn’t it?

I’m not including any Xmas or other Specials (i.e. the Snowmen doesn’t count as part of Series 7 nor is The Waters of Mars an extension of Series 4). For every series I’ve rated each episode as either great, good, average or weak and I’ve also given the average score for each series (the order is loosely based on this but not entirely so). Feel free to leave comments with your own order below…

Warning: Spoilers for Series 1-9 (obviously!)

(9th) Series 4: Putting this last will undoubtedly be a controversial choice, but there are several reasons this is the case. Firstly, Donna is my least favourite companion, and while Catherine Tate shines in some episodes (The Doctor’s Daughter, The Unicorn and the Wasp, Turn Left) she’s downright annoying in others (Partners in Crime, The Fires of Pompeii, Journey’s End) as while she is good at tender and quiet moments she tends to massively overplay comedic or angry moments (where she just comes across as hysterical). Secondly, Journey’s End is my least favourite finale in all 9 series (I enjoyed it to an extent when I was 14 but now it just annoys the hell out of me with its overuse of technobabble, B-movie universe ending plotline, piss-easy resolution and ridiculously long runtime). It’s overblown, overdone and completely squanders the great set-up The Stolen Earth had created. Davies reversing Rose’s exit annoys me more than Moffat’s admittedly haphazard exits for Amy, Rory and Clara put together (it was perfect and didn’t need changing plus the finale had too many characters before Rose, Mickey and Jackie turned up). That all said, the series isn’t actually that bad – the Poison Sky till The Stolen Earth is actually a very, very good run of episodes, David Tennant’s performance is great (even if I think the 10th Doctor gets a bit too passive/pacifistic) and John Barrowman and Billie Piper make the most of their returns (unlike Freema Agyeman, whose acting is pretty weak at times – a problem that wasn’t there at all in Series 3). In the end, there’s only 5/6 episodes from this series I’m likely to ever rewatch again – which is a lower figure than it would be for any of the other 8 series. It was a consistent run, but in the end, it could have been so much better. 

Great Episodes (4.5/5 or higher): Silence in the Library, Forest of the Dead, The Stolen Earth

Good Episodes (4/5): The Poison Sky, The Unicorn and the Wasp, Midnight

Average Episodes (3 or 3.5/5): Partners in Crime, The Fires of Pompeii, Planet of the Ood, The Sontaran Strategem, The Doctor’s Daughter, Turn Left

Weak/Bad Episodes (2.5/5 or lower): Journey’s End

Season Average: 3.65 (A few classic episodes can’t save what is in the end a pretty average run of stories.)

(8th Place) Series 6: I might be pro-Moffat but I can see why some people hate this series. Aside from the increased complexity, 5 of the episodes are pretty weak and thus the quality of the season has a real inconsistency to it. It’s not a series which rewards casual viewers – but it isn’t trying to be. It has a lot of really good episodes – but the mid-season break doesn’t work on a series this inconsistent – neither half is as good as it would have been as a whole (though the 2nd half is definitely better than the first). The series myth-arc overshadows everything else and I know this annoys a lot of people. On the positive side, Rory becomes a much better character in this run and is one of the highlights of the series. Conversely Amy’s character doesn’t really go anywhere – though I’m not blaming Karen Gillan for that – despite ‘The Girl Who Waited’ giving her one of her finest hours. Suranne Jones is probably the best of the guest stars (as Idris/The Tardis) while Matt Smith and Alex Kingston are both good as ever as the Doctor and River Song, even if it’s probably Smith’s weakest season overall with one or two exceptions where he gets stronger material. The most inconsistent of Moffat’s series, but it has more highpoints than low ones.

Great Episodes (4.5/5 or higher): Day of the Moon, The Doctor’s Wife, A Good Man Goes to War, Let’s Kill Hitler, The Girl Who Waited, The Wedding of River Song

Good Episodes (4/5): The Impossible Astronaut, The God Complex

Average Episodes (3/5): The Curse of the Black Spot, Closing Time

Weak/Bad Episodes (2.5/5 or lower): The Rebel Flesh, The Almost People, Night Terrors

Season Average: 3.73/5 (Plenty of hits dragged down by too much filler).

(7th Place) Series 3: Fan opinion of series 3 tends to come down to whether or not you’re a Martha fan or not – because the episodes themselves are consistently good/average rather than great/terrible. Blink is amazing and Gridlock is dull and has a stupid concept, but everything else falls somewhere in the middle. The Dalek two-parter is a wasted opportunity (the pig-slaves look particularly stupid) while Human Nature is charming and The Lazarus Experiment exciting (Gatiss in my opinion is a better actor than writer). Smith and Jones serves as a great introduction for Martha, who proves herself a very capable companion even if Agyeman’s Martha isn’t quite as charming as Piper’s Rose. The finale is a mixed bag with Utopia rescued from mediocrity by an awesome 2nd half (and a stunning performance from Derek Jacobi), The Sound of Drums giving John Simm his best material (so far – come on Moffat!) and Last of the Time Lords fumbling the landing and getting far too ridiculous. My patience with RTD snapped after the final episode and never really recovered – I feel sorry for John Simm – his master was written so poorly at times I don’t think we ever got to see his true potential barring a few scenes in The Sound of Drums. In the end I quite like Martha, although her family never felt half as well-written as Jackie or Pete Tyler did were, David Tennant was as good as ever and John Barrowman made a welcome (if all too short) return.

Great Episodes (4.5/5 or higher): Blink, The Sound of Drums

Good Episodes (4/5): Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code, The Lazarus Experiment, Human Nature, Utopia

Average Episodes (3 or 3.5/5): Daleks in Manhattan, Evolution of the Daleks, 42, The Family of Blood, Last of the Timelords

Weak/Bad Episodes (2.5/5 or lower): Gridlock

(6th Place) Series 1: It has 3 very strong episodes. It only has 1 terrible episode. But the first series’ low budget and low ambition mean it hasn’t aged too well in comparison to the others – it’s still a fine series, but too much childish humour (farting aliens and burping wheelie bins) and too many stories set on space stations make this occasionally frustrating to re-watch. Eccleston and Piper are great throughout though, and the guest stars shine even when the CGI monsters don’t (Nestene and Jagrafess… ughh). It has its moments and serves as a good reinvention of the series, but it’s not quite a classic run. John Barrowman injects some energy into the final 5 stories as Captain Jack (indeed from The Empty Child onwards the series has a very strong run) but Mickey is a waste of a supporting character. The series does feature the best Dalek story of the modern era though.

Great Episodes (4.5/5 or higher): Dalek, The Empty Child, The Doctor Dances, The Parting of the Ways

Good Episodes (4/5): The Unquiet Dead, Boom Town, Bad Wolf

Average Episodes (3 or 3.5/5): Rose, The End of the World, Aliens of London, World War Three, Father’s Day

Weak/Bad Episodes (2.5/5 or lower): The Long Game

Season Average: 3.81/5 (A consistently good run which never hits true greatness)

(5th Place) Series 2: This series has a lower average rating than several of the ones behind it on this list, but there’s a good reason for the inconsistency. Series 2 would have the 5th  highest average if it hadn’t included Love and Monsters, which is not only the worst episode of the modern run but quite possibly the worst episode of any Doctor Who era (I’ve watched episodes from 1963 which weren’t this bad!). The Absorblaroff is the stupidest monster ever seen on Doctor Who (which takes quite some doing – there’s a whole pantheon of bad monsters from Classic Who) and Russell T. Davies’ script is the nadir of his writing career. Aside from that episode, series 2 is pretty great. It still has the best finale in Army of Ghosts/Doomsday (the only weakness being the Cybermen’s inability to kill a single Dalek – I mean come on!) and two of my favourite stories of all time in The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit and The Girl in the Fireplace (which I consider to be the best modern who episode – just surpassing Blink, Dalek and Heaven Sent). New Earth is pretty weak and the Cybermen aren’t quite as scary as they should have been but otherwise it’s a great season. If only Russell T. Davies hadn’t later Retconned what was a perfect (if heartbreaking) exit for Rose. Still, it’s the best series of the Davies era and features two of the best cliffhangers in who history in ‘The Impossible Planet’ and ‘Army of Ghosts’.

Great Episodes (4.5/5 or higher): The Girl in the Fireplace, The Impossible Planet, The Satan Pit, Army of Ghosts, Doomsday

Good Episodes (4 out of 5): School Reunion, The Age of Steel

Average Episodes (3 or 3.5/5): Fear Her, Tooth and Claw, Rise of the Cybermen, The Idiot’s Lantern

Weak/Bad Episodes (2.5/5 or lower): New Earth, Love and Monsters

Series Average: 3.73/5 (Love and Monsters drags the series down all by itself with its score of 1/5 – even the worst episodes from the 60’s and 80’s don’t get a rating that low from me! Quite possibly the worst episode of Doctor Who ever made)

(4th Place) Series 7: Again I’m going against the fanbase a bit here. But I really don’t get the hate this season receives. Admittedly a few episodes could have used a bit more script-editing from Moffat (a problem he fixes somewhat in series 8 and 9) but none of the episodes are terrible. No not even Rings of Akhaten (its experimental yes but 1. This isn’t a bad thing and 2. Matt Smith’s performance is extraordinarily good). Amy and Rory get a strong exit (if not as strong as they could have had if Moffat had simply killed them off), Clara gets several great introductions and Matt Smith is probably at his best here. The finale isn’t as good as I’d have liked (its too busy setting up the 50th) and Nightmare in Silver should have been better (and scarier) but there’s relatively few disappointments. The Power of Three coasting through on the cast’s chemistry is probably the most wasted opportunity in the season, but when we have an appearance from the wonderful Mark Williams as Brian Pond (Williams), I won’t complain. I think I like this a lot more than other fans because I instantly liked Clara (I knew Jenna Coleman’s potential from other stuff I’d seen her in) and I think series 8 and 9 proved me right – though I’m sure some people still disagree.

Great Episodes (4.5/5 or higher): The Angels Take Manhattan, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, The Crimson Horror

Good Episodes (4/5): Asylum of the Daleks, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Bells of St. John, Hide, The Name of the Doctor

Average Episodes (3 or 3.5/5): A Town Called Mercy, The Power of Three, The Rings of Akhaten, Cold War, Nightmare in Silver

Weak/Bad Episodes (2.5/5 or lower): N/A

Season Average: 3.88 (A consistently good run, if one bereft of any classic episodes)

(3rd Place) Series 8: For the first half of the series I wasn’t sure about it (or Capaldi) but from the last 5 minutes of ‘Kill the Moon’ onwards the series really kicks into high gear and doesn’t let up till the finale. And who didn’t get shivers at ‘Dark Water’ and its electrifying ending? Capaldi, Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Michelle Gomez and Moffat delivered a great season – which I must say I didn’t expect to be topped quite so soon. The direction was of a very high standard (particularly by Rachel Talalay and Ben Wheatley) and Murray Gold’s as good as ever. What’s not to love? Missy is a far better written Master than John Simm ever was, new writers Jamie Mathieson and Peter Harness deliver some of the season’s highlights and directors Rachel Talalay and Ben Wheatley are some of the best the series has seen. Into the Dalek might not have been as revolutionary as hoped, and Robot of Sherwood, Time Heist and In the Forest of the Night were fun run-arounds rather than classics, but it’s the only series of the 9 apart from series 7 with no weak episodes. If the Cybermen had been better utilized in Death in Heaven and Kill the Moon’s science wasn’t so ludicrous this series might have edged into 2nd place on my list.

Great Episodes (4.5/5 or higher): Listen, Kill the Moon, Dark Water

Good Episodes (4/5): Deep Breath, The Caretaker, Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline, Death in Heaven

Average Episodes (3 or 3.5/5): Into the Dalek, Robot of Sherwood, Time Heist, In the Forest of the Night

Weak/Bad Episodes (2.5/5 or lower): N/A

Season Average: 3.96/5

(2nd Place) Series 5:

The last time the show went through a truly major transition (until Series 11 in 2018 anyway) was 2010. Change of Doctor. Change of companion. Change of showrunner and executive producers. And yet boy did Series 5 deliver on everything it needed to. Matt Smith did the near-impossible task of making the Doctor truly alien again (after Tennant’s incarnation gave us the most ‘human’ version we’ve ever seen) yet still remaining as likeable. He has the same relentless energy but a mad professor vibe instead of Tennant’s and Eccleston’s tortured heroism – which is a refreshing change of pace. Amy Pond may not have always had the best writing throughout, but I can’t really fault Karen Gillan’s acting anywhere, while Arthur Darvill provides sterling support and avoids making Rory into just another Mickey Smith. As for the writing, Series 5 is probably the highlight of the show’s run. Moffat excels with the overarching mytharc and the guest-writers are the best they’d been since Series 1 – even Gatiss, Whitehouse and Chibnall’s mixed entries still have plenty to love.

Weaknesses? The Beast Below is probably the most boring thing Moffat’s ever written and… that’s about it. The Silurian two-parter is a bit by-the-numbers (but still engaging enough to get a 3.5) and the monsters in Vampires of Venice and Vincent and the Doctor are a bit unconvincing, but as a whole the series has the best myth-arc of the 9, coupled with a fantastic opener, an epic finale and a groundbreaking turn from Matt Smith. Even Tennant/Davies fans have to acknowledge this was a superb series that showcased Moffat and Smith’s talents. Gillian and Darvill both grow into their roles, while Alex Kingston makes River Song a joy to watch in her four appearances in the series. The infamously needless redesign of the Daleks aside, the series makes few errors. The number of fans I know who don’t like this series is lower than it would be for any of the other 8 – it’s certainly the least hated run, but the inconsistent writing for Amy and Rory means it isn’t quite the best…

Great Episodes (4.5/5 or higher): The Eleventh Hour, The Time of Angels, Flesh and Stone, Amy’s Choice, The Pandorica Opens, The Big Bang

Good Episodes (4/5): Vincent and the Doctor, The Lodger

Average Episodes (3 or 3.5/5): Victory of the Daleks, The Vampires of Venice, The Hungry Earth, Cold Blood

Weak/Bad Episodes (2.5/5 or lower): The Beast Below

Season Average: 4/5

(1st Place) Series 9:

What a series! Heaven Sent is up there with the best things Moffat’s written, Capaldi’s performance was BAFTA worthy and Jenna Coleman sealed her status as one of the best actresses to play a companion. A near-perfect final 3 episodes and an experimental yet successful run of 9 before it, this series had something for anyone. Even Sleep No More has its advocates (though I’m not one of them – it had some interesting ideas but I think the direction wasn’t equal to the task – and Gatiss’ script had its usual overload of clichés). The Girl Who Died is the only other weak link (let down by poor extras and a lack of real tension) but still has its moments. Hell Bent was a divisive finale but it was done so well I won’t fault it too much for messing around with Clara’s exit. Maisie Williams was a particularly memorable guest star (particularly in the wonderful The Woman Who Lived). Any fanboys (or fangirls) still pining for Tennant and the Davies era – what show have you been watching? Capaldi is as strong an actor (if not stronger) as Tennant ever was and half the time he’s getting better material (cf. his speech in Zygon Inversion and basically everything in Heaven Sent). So on behalf of Capaldi and Moffat’s fans – this is my favourite series of the show (modern and classic) and I can’t wait for series 10. Hope Capaldi and Moffat exit on a high!

Great Episodes (4.5/5 or higher): Before the Flood, The Woman Who Lived, Face the Raven, Heaven Sent

Good Episodes (4/5): The Magician’s Apprentice, Under the Lake, The Zygon Invasion, the Zygon Inversion, Hell Bent

Average Episodes (3 or 3.5/5): The Girl Who Died

Weak/Bad Episodes (2.5/5 or lower): Sleep No More

Season Average: 4.04

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