Top 10 Modern ‘Doctor Who’ Episodes

Doctor Who is one of the longest running sci-fi TV series, running for over 50 years and one of Britain’s greatest television exports. The show was revived 10 years ago and is about to enter into ninth season and has become one of the BBC’s most popular show. Since the revival the show has seen The Doctor face foes old and new and stop numerous threats to both Earth and the Universe as a whole.

The new version of Doctor Who was designed to appear to newcomers to the series as well as longtime fans. Since I became of a fan because of the new version of the series I will look the ten best episodes from the modern era.

10. The Doctor’s Wife
the doctors wife

The Season 6 episode “The Doctor’s Wife” was guest written by Neil Gaiman, a man best known for writing Stardust, Coraline and The Sandman and his episode was awarded the 2011 Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Best Dramatic Presentation at the 2012 Hugo Awards.

This episode sees The Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams receiving a distress call from a Time Lord and enter into a rift between Universes to try and save him or her. Where they end up is a void made up from trash and space debris where a group of people have salvaged a living from the junk. Also with them is an eccentric woman called Idris who pretty much jumps on The Doctor when she first sees him.

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What made this episode such a delight was Suranne Jones’ performance as Idris, a unhinged woman who is completely batty and has a mysterious connection to The Doctor. Jones was fantastic, letting out her inner Helena Bonham Carter and injected a lot of humor in the episode. Gaiman’s written ensure that was a balance of drama and comedy and references the history of the show.

9. Into the Dalek
into the dalek

Ben Wheatley is considered a directing hot prospect in the UK, making the cult hits Kill List and A Field in England. So it was a coup for the producers when they got Wheatley to direct the first two episodes of Season 8. The best of the pair is the second episode “Into the Dalek” which is basically a Doctor Who version of The Fantastic Voyage.

This episode sees The Twelfth Doctor come to the aid of one of his mortal enemies, a Dalek who has been captured by humans. The Dalek claims to hate his own race and wants to help the Doctor to defeat them: but the Dalek which The Doctor calls Rusty has a radiation leak and a team needs to be shrunk to treat it. The team have to race against time as Rusty’s immune system and an impending action by The Daleks.

Series 8 has been considered a disappointment by Doctor Who with episodes like “Kill the Moon” and “In the Forest of the Night” being produced. “Into the Dalek” is a much stronger offering and the best episode so far with Peter Capaldi’s run as The Doctor. He was much more confidence in his second episode that saw him being much better as a more serious, darker Doctor as he confronts Rusty with all the atrocities the Daleks have committed. Though Capaldi still has a little bit of fun as The Doctor, before he took the role Capaldi was best known for the political satire The Thick of It.

8. Utopia
doctor who upotia
“Utopia” was the first part of a three part finale of the third series of Doctor Who, bringing together both Doctor Who and its spin-off Touchwood. When in Cardiff recharging the TARDIS Captain Jack Harkness finds the Doctor and Martha Jones and attempts to meet them. But because Jack is an anomaly in time the TARDIS ends up taking the trio to end of the universe. In this dark future all the stars have died and all that is a ragtag band of humans lead by Professor Yana (Derek Jacobi). Yana believes humanity’s only hope is a fabled Utopia, but need a rocket ship to take them there.

“Utopia” was a darker episode in the series, both thematically and literally, showing a universe which is dying and has humanity look for any kind of hope it can in this grim world. Even worst many other humans have resorted to cannibalism to survive and devolved into a creature known as The Futurekind. It was the best part of the Season 3 finale.

7. The Christmas Invasion
the christmas invasion

“The Christmas Invasion” was the first Christmas special in the modern era of Doctor Who and the best. The episode is simple enough, an alien race called the Sycorax are preparing to invade Earth, starting with London. But complicating matters is The Doctor’s recent regeneration that has rendered unconscious. Without his help it is left to Rose Tyler, her mum Jackie and Rose’s boyfriend Mickey to stop the aliens along with the Prime Minister Harriet Jones.

“The Christmas Invasion” was a great start for David Tennant’s tenure as a The Doctor, showing himself to be a ruthless Doctor when needs be, yet having better comedic timing then Christopher Eccleston: it was a great little moment when he told Jackie to shut up. The episode also had a great visual of all the windows on The Gherkin smashing, using classic model world to achieve it. Though the episode was set at Christmas its storyline could would have been the same whenever it was set; other Christmas Specials have become too forced, shoehorning the Christmas stories, setting and iconography.

6. The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
the satan pit - the beast
The Doctor has faced off against many deadly foes over his thousand year life and in the 2006 two-parter “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit” he has to take on the embodiment of evil. Some may call him Abaddon. Some may call him Krop Tor. Some may call him Satan. Or Lucifer. Or the King of Despair. The Deathless Prince. The Bringer of Night.

The Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler arrive on the planet of Krop Tor, a planet that is orbiting a black hole where a scientific expedition have landed. On the planet are ruins in an language that even the TARDIS cannot translate and a mysterious force that possesses the expedition’s archaeologist and the alien servants, The Ood. The Doctor end up going to center of the planet to retrieve the TARDIS and to find a huge chained up beast that may be there since the beginning of time, while Rose and the rest of the expedition have run away from the possessed Ood and get away from the planet before it is pulled into the black hole.

“The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit” was an excellent pairing of episodes that showed a tougher look at space travel in the Doctor Who universe, that there is a hard grind, had a great speech by The Ood and The Ood were revisited in future episode. The episodes were atmospheric with its sense of dread, particularly “The Impossible Planet” section.

5. Doomsday
doctor who doomsday end

“Doomsday” is the second part of the Season 2 finale, an episode that saw two of The Doctor’s greatest enemies appear in the same episode and go to war, using London as their battleground.  Picking off where previous episode, “Army of Ghosts” left off,  the Cybermen have invaded Earth from a parallel version of Earth, following four elite Daleks who hid from the Time War in Void Ship, a ship where time and space stops around it. Even worst the Daleks have a device called the Genesis Ark that if the Daleks can find a way to open it could lead to rebirth of the Dalek race and all the inter-dimensional travel has been having adverse effects on the different worlds.

On a pure fan experience it was gleeful to see to iconic two villains in the series having to do battle, even if it was one sided towards Dalek and was a very satisfying finale, being more grand and spectacular then “The Parting of Ways” (which was a solid episode). It was Billie Piper last appearance as Rose Tyler as a season regular; media speculation at the time believed Rose was going to be killed off.

“Doomsday” along with “Army of Ghosts” was nominated for a Hugo Award and had 8.22 million viewers in the UK. The storyline regarding the negative effects of characters jumping was a reference to Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and the author said he was flattered by reference.

4. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
time of angels

“The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone” was the first two-parter during Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor and reintroduced a popular new enemy to the series and expanding on their mythology about them.

The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond arrive on the planet of Alfava Metraxis when River Song left them a message for them to come to the planet. With River is a group of soldiers known as clerics who have captured by a Weeping Angel. But the capture of Weeping Angel leads to a chain of events that could awaken the species and put the whole universe in jeopardy.

This two-parter made The Weeping Angels into an even bigger threat then they already were like watching them on a camera will end up creating another and they straight up murder people instead of sending them back in time and having the ability to absorb radiation to give them all the energy they need. The episodes expands on the relationship between The Doctor and River, gave Amy her fear of The Weeping Angels who presence are a constant danger to her and set in motion the Season 5 storyline of cracks in the universe wipe everything it absorbs from existence. The episodes also had some excellent visuals, from the decaying Angels slowly surrounding The Doctor and his companions and the clerics battling them. “The Time of Angels” ended with one of Smith’s best speeches as The Doctor.

3. Day of the Doctor
day of the doctor - the three doctors
“Day of the Doctor” was the 50th anniversary special that united Matt Smith and David Tennant and introduce John Hurt as The War Doctor. Made as a tribute to all things Doctor Who it was an event of episode, with mini-episode tie-ins, one of them giving Paul McGann a proper send off as The Doctor, united two popular Doctors, has a cameo from a popular former Doctor, gave us our first glimpse of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, tied up a plotline involving the Time War and set up a future arc. It was a treat for fans old and new.

The special episode sees the Gallifreyan stronghold of Arcadia about to fall to the Daleks and the War Doctor being prepared to wipe out both the Time Lords and the Daleks to end the Time War. In the 16th Century the Tenth Doctor is in a relationship with Queen Elizabeth I while also tracking down in the Zygons and in modern London the Eleventh Doctor discovers a painting the Zygons trying to invade Earth from the past. All three Doctors unite in Elizabethan England to stop both the Zygon and find a way to save Gallifrey.

The episode was filmed in 3D and was one of the last shows to be shown on the defunct BBC 3D and broadcast in cinemas as well as on television. It also introduced the character Osgood who quickly became fans favorite. It was a highpoint for Smith’s Doctor because his final episode was a huge disappointment.

2. Dalek
rose and the dalek

The 2005 episode “Dalek” was the first episode in the modern version Doctor Who faced his oldest nemesis, The Daleks, genetically engineered abominations that feel nothing but hate and survive in battle armor.

Set in the then-future of 2012 The TARDIS takes The Ninth Doctor and Rose to a secret underground bunker of Henry Van Stanton, American billionaire who has a huge collection of alien artefacts, including a head of Cyberman the Doctor defeated in 1975. Van Stanton’s latest acquisition, a live alien, has become the centrepiece of his collection and his scientists are trying to get the being out of its metal casting. But when Rose accidently frees the last known Dalek and it starts killing everyone in sight, aiming to break out of the bunker. The Doctor has to face an enemy he thought was extinct and his own personal demons.

“Dalek” played to Christopher Eccleston strengths as he shows a darker side to The Doctor, showing his willingness to his break his own cardinal rules with his willingness to kill creature and face up to the fact his sacrifice of his own race during The Time War could have been for nothing. The episode was a great antidote to the previous two-parter, “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” that had The Doctor an alien race that disguised themselves as overweight people with flatulence problems.

The episode was nominated for the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at the 2006 Hugo Awards.

1. Blink
doctor who blink
The 2007 episode “Blink” is often considered one of the best episode of modern Doctor Who era and the best Doctor-lite episode. Written by Steven Moffiat the episode sees the introduction of one of the most iconic enemies The Doctor, The Weeping Angels, one of the oldest beings in the universe who feed on the life force on other creatures. As The Doctor says they kill people with gently because they send their victims back in time and they live their lives in the past. But The Weeping Angels are cursed with being locked in stone if anyone sees them, moving only when no nobody is looking, leading to creepy visual of the Angels coming towards someone when lights in a room turn on and off.

Carey Mulligan stars as Sally Sparrow, a young woman who is thrust into a battle against The Weeping Angels when her best friend becomes a victim of these. The Doctor and Martha are stuck in the 1960s without the TARDIS. The pair leaves clues and advise for Sally in the form of DVD Easter Eggs and she has to race to send the TARDIS back to The Doctor before The Weeping Angels can stop her.

What makes the episode so remarkable the Moffat’s writing and Hettie MacDonald’s direction. They created a fantastic monster for The Doctor to face, having great visuals and Moffat was ability to seamlessly weave The Doctor’s message to Sally’s reaction. Mulligan was considered by fans as a perfect candidate to become The Doctor’s companion.

“Blink” was an award winning episode, it won the BAFTA Craft and BAFTA Cymru Awards for Best Writing, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form and  The Constellation Award for Best Female Performance for Mulligan. The episode was voted the second best Doctor Who story by reader Doctor Who Magazine.

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Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.

1 COMMENT

  1. Incredibly different than my list but that’s what art is all about. In case you’re curious, here’s my Top 10:

    1. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
    2. Fathers Day
    3. The Girl in the Fireplace
    4. Blink
    5. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
    6. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
    7. Vincent and the Doctor
    8. The Doctor’s Wife
    9. Heaven Sent
    10. The Husbands of River Song

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