Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top Ten Episodes of Doctor Who

I'm in a very list-y mood (list-y still isn't a word) and I wanted to do another TV show top ten because I guess I'm in another movie drought (I say this just as Transformers: Age of Extinction and How to Train Your Dragon 2 hit the cinemas) and also found this list fitting due to the return of Doctor Who in a month with Peter Capaldi at the helm. I'm hyped as I suspect Capaldi's Doctor will be a much darker and more morally ambiguous Time Lord (perhaps leading to the Valeyard, hmmm?) which is something the series has been lacking in recent episodes. Now, Doctor Who throughout David Tenant's era made up most of my childhood and was my favourite TV show. It kind of saddens me that the series has taken a dive that seems to try to be overly complicated and pleasing to fangirls and maybe I've just grown up seeing as my favourite TV shows now are Breaking Bad, Sherlock and Avatar: The Last Airbender but I have a special place in my heart for Doctor Who.

This list will be sticking to the new era of Doctor Who starting from 2005 with Christopher Eccelston as the 9th Doctor to 2013 with Matt Smith as the 11th because we have yet to see Capaldi in action and I haven't seen enough classic episodes to have a fair opinion of them.
10. The Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
The episodes that launched a thousand Tumblr pages. Over the past two years, we had seen The Doctor and Rose blossom as an inseparable couple but the time had to come when we saw these two part ways. Many hold this up to be the most depressing episode and it's very easy to see why. That image above sums up the whole situation and the broken look on The Doctor's face gives me chills. I'm not the biggest fan of Rose but even I felt like the series had taken a big loss over the first companion of the new era of Doctor Who. It was a shift in tone and paved the way to the much darker episodes yet to come. We also get to see childhood dreams lived out in a war between Daleks and Cybermen which leads to some great action scenes and it's great to see The Doctor try to compromise under the circumstances. All or nothing is the aim of the game in Doomsday. The name says it all.

9. Dalek
Daleks are in almost every series of Doctor Who now and have slowly become less of a threat because of it. The show seems to enjoy pointing out as many flaws as possible about the supposed "supreme beings". However, Dalek was the first time we saw a Dalek in the new era and it is still the best Dalek related episode so far. At this point in the show, the game is simple. One Time Lord vs one Dalek. No complications, no deus ex machina, just pure fear. The first moments when The Doctor realises what's going on and is as scared as he's ever been should set the bar of what a Dalek's presence should mean. They should be feared and yet, this episode also highlights the fact that they aren't just mindless machines. In fact, they are living organisms for feel and have needs....yet still need orders and a Dalek without orders leads to a one Dalek army. Don't lie, you freaked out when you first saw it levitate up the stairs. While they have been overused now, I can still look back on their first appearance with fondest...even though this episode is now set in the past (this one is set in 2012...ouch).

8. Blink
Doctor Who is a show that, in it's heyday, was infamous for scaring the living daylights out of audiences and leaving them hiding behind their sofas. Excluding the next entry since I didn't even know what Doctor Who was, I have screamed twice watching it. The Forest of the Dead with all that Vashta Narada and deformed gltich people business and Blink for the God damn Weeping Angels. Sure, they have lost their appeal because Moffat won't stop milking them but when they first appeared, you can bet they left an impression. Acting as a 'Doctor-lite' episode as he barley makes an appearance, we see clever mind games involved in guiding Sally Sparrow (believe it or not, played by Carey Mulligan) to the TARDIS as The Doctor and Martha have been ambushed by Weeping Angels and send back in time. Nightmare fuel ensues as Doctor Who adds statues to the list of things we are now afraid of. Don't think that ending didn't make us paranoid.

7. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
This was the first time I had ever laid eyes on Doctor Who and it terrified me instantly as I'm sure it did to many. Out of all the episodes on this list, this is the only one I'm going for based on pure fear factor alone. It's notorious for being one of the creepiest episodes and it's easy to see why. Steven Moffat knows how to build suspense, invade our minds and pull all kinds of twists and turns all throughout his double-parter. Also introducing Captain Jack Harkness who would grow so popular that he'd get his own spin-off also didn't hurt. The World War II setting also gives us a unique look and feel that already leaves us feeling on edge because we know bombs could drop any second. This is the go-to episode for constant dread and making us freak out at every gas mask we see...until Team Fortress 2 came along and made them adorable.

6. Midnight
I'm always a fan of "bottle episodes" (episodes that take place in one set with a small cast to save money) because the writers are forced to throw their characters into new territory and nothing gets newer for The Doctor then the events that transpire in Midnight. Set in a tight, enclosed space (already creating tension due to the sense of claustrophobia), Midnight sees The Doctor facing an internal enemy that turns out to be one of the most deadly and most feared purely through exploiting fear of those around it. It's a genius episode that breaks The Doctor's confidence for the first time and pits him against a truly formidable foe that comes incredibly close to causing his demise. Chilling, freaky yet not afraid to throw in a tiny bit of humour, Midnight puts The Doctor in with the most terrifying monsters of all.....scared and irrational humans. AAAH!

5. The Girl in the Fireplace
Who ordered their episode that delivers a massive gut punch and leaves you in a pool of your own tears? The Girl in the Fireplace is the episode for you. Something that Doctor Who hasn't really done (as far as I know) is having characters get emotionally invested in a historical figure. Fires of Pompeii did well with Donna feeling sorrow for the doomed citizens of Pompeii (including Peter Capaldi and Karen Gillan...seriously) however it was The Girl in the Fireplace that perfected it. The Doctor, Rose and Mickey travel to an abandoned spaceship to find a time portal that takes The Doctor through to France throughout the 18th century and grows a relationship with Madame De Pompadour. The catch is that what may seem like minutes on the spaceship is years in France. As you might guess, there is only one way it can end and leaves us on one of the saddest notes of the series. 

4. The End of Time
Throughout David Tennant's run as The Doctor, Doctor Who was my life. I was opposed with nothing else and my mind only thought about Doctor Who. I'm proud that I have a show I could embody as my childhood however all good things must come to an end. It's actually quite hard to talk about this episode without talking about the next one on my list but we'll have a go. The End of Time makes us realise that everything The Doctor had been fighting for his entire life was in vain as we see the Time Lords return as a new enemy for him to face in his last days with his rival, The Master, thrown into the mix. What strikes me most about this episode is the ending. Out of the three modern Doctors, only the 10th has regenerated unwillingly. The 9th was proud and with Rose, the 11th was content and with Clara but the 10th was scared and alone. That is a horrible position to but such a joyful and social incarnation to be in during his last moments. The moment that The Doctor regenerates signifies the end of my childhood. After all, 15 is a good age to move on, right?...I still tear up at that scene. A depressing farewell to one of my favourite fictional characters.

3. The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords
I suppose you may be wondering who or what my favourite Doctor Who baddie is. After all, they can make or break an episode. I can reveal that my favourite is The Master. It may seem quite cliche to simply pit a hero against an evil version of himself (okay, there's more to it...he's not the Valeyard) but this is the episode that completely turns that on it's head. The reason this episode works so well can be summed up in it's first scene. The Master has already won. Right as the episode starts, he is already in power and in control. The Doctor has no TARDIS, he, along with Jack and Martha, are on top of the public enemy list and The Master is almost ready to decimate the human population. The stakes are the highest they have ever been and we see The Doctor fall into the mercy of his maniac of a former friend. The Master's insanity is explored with great depth and almost becomes sympathetic if it weren't for the constant barrage of evil and shocking strokes of psychotic torture and desolation. A truly thrilling romp from start to finish that ends on a bittersweet ending thanks for beautiful music and some of David Tennant's finest acting. 

2. Vincent and the Doctor
I may be making myself out to be a David Tennant fanboy with no broad scope on this list. That's only partially true. Yes, he's my favourite Doctor but I still have place in my heart of Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor. I am aware that the best episode that highlights his Doctor is The Beast Below...or The Rings of Akhaten but I will tell you why Vincent and the Doctor does so many things right. It nails what the show was supposed to do in the first place and that is explore time and highlight historical figures as well as explore their real life turmoil in a fresh way. Vincent Van Gogh is played wonderfully by Tony Curran and we see his real life suffering portrayed in a heart-breaking fashion (the ending still hurts) tied in wonderfully to the narrative by making great use of his talent and unique mind. However, there is one moment that lets this episode skyrocket up the list and that is when The Doctor takes Vincent to a museum showcasing his artwork. Whoever chose the music for this scene deserves a bloody raise because I can't hear that song without getting teary eyed. The music, the acting and even the cinematography is beautiful and is probably the most emotional I've ever been watching anything. Yes, I cried....every time. 

1. Human Nature/The Family of Blood
For many years now, I've been parading about claiming that Vincent and the Doctor is my favourite episode...that is until I stumbled upon this masterpiece when re watching the show. This is the episode that cemented The 10th Doctor as my favourite fictional character. We are shown an impossible vision of The Doctor living a human existence with no memory of his life as a Time Lord and having to deal with real human issues having now been torn down to our level. Love, loss, regret, pride. It conveys that, while from another world, he is still human at heart. The parallel's between The Doctor and John Smith make for wonderful commentary and are introduced to an enemy clearly out to destroy The Doctor's livelihood and everything he cares about as well as being introduced to Joan Redfern who works alongside John through is identity crisis in an archaic but lovely setting. In a way, it proves that anyone can make a difference and there is true power stored in even the smallest man. This is a truly inspiring episode but it's the ending that solidifies this as number one for me. The Fury of the Time Lord. One thing is for certain: Don't. Mess. With. The Doctor. He is a force to be reckoned with. He's labelled as the Oncoming Storm for a reason. This is the episode that makes me realise that he isn't really a hero...but in a good way. Hero is a label, it's just a title. The Doctor can antagonise, he can save galaxies and entire civilizations, he can destroy people's livelihoods through one sentence or action. A major case of "Be careful what you wish for" tied up with a perfect ending that pulls together aspects from earlier points in an effort to say "this was going somewhere". A well thought out, beautifully written episode that captures the true essence of The Doctor and the show as a whole. And two Game of Thrones actors helps.

Also the Scarecrows were cool.

Honourable Mentions:
Love and Monsters
The Doctor's Daughter
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
The Rings of Akhaten
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky

It would appear that from all these episodes that Series 3 is evidently my favourite. I can't quite make that claim but it certainly delivered some tremendous episodes, didn't it. 

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