Thursday, April 15, 2010

Doctor Who Week: Day 4 - Top Ten Modern Doctor Who Episodes

I could get vulgar here and liken my reaction to news of a new Doctor being cast in 2004 to the male state of arousal, but I won’t. I could also be unnecessarily dirty and compare the way I received the announcement that the then Sci-Fi Channel would be airing that new Doctor’s adventures to male completion of the sex act, but who needs that mental image?

Instead, I’ll just say that I was stoked that we were all getting new Doctor Who. I was excited back in 1996 when FOX aired the doomed pilot/movie with Paul McGann taking over for the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy; but the news of Christopher Eccleston being cast as the ninth Doctor brought with it the promise of a whole new series! And eventually, NEW TOYS! But I’ll get to those later.

I thoroughly detest the term “nerdgasm”, but it couldn’t be more appropriate.

Since then, we have experienced the most awesome adventures the Doctor has ever taken us on. A bigger budget, superior acting and an international fanbase have all combined to produce the most successful Doctor Who series ever. Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and now Matt Smith have continued our favorite Time Lord’s adventures in ways that we never could have imagined; introducing us to new companions, new planets, new aliens and a non-stop parade of dastardly new villains; along with most of the old favorites. All this while maintaining the simple charm and magic of the original series. And it’s continuity, a choice I will forever be grateful for. The producers could have taken the easy way out and rebooted the franchise entirely, but I strongly believe we would have lost a lot of the gravitas that the show now has. Events just wouldn’t seem as impactful if we didn’t have the Doctor’s 900-plus year history to back everything up.

Here are what I consider to be the ten best episodes of this new era. I'm going to be somewhat more vague in describing events and plotlines, as these are still relatively new and there is a chance some of you haven't watched. I recommend you do, obviously.

10 – Partners In Crime
10th Doctor w/ Donna

When Rose left it was horrible. I know women (Mrs. Troublemaker was one) who didn’t even want to watch the show anymore. But then Martha turned out to be great. Freema Agyeman had big shoes to fill and did it admirably. We all became as fond of Martha Jones as we had been of Rose, just in a different way.

And then she left.

And stuck us with that bitchy cow, Donna Noble. Who I eventually admitted to liking as well. Not nearly as much as her predecessors, but she needed to be who she was to get the bigger picture over. And it worked beautifully.

Me and the missus missed not only the Christmas Special before the fourth series, we also missed the original U.S. airings of the first few episodes thanks to a temperamental DVR. Once we were able to tune back in, this grumpy old redhead broad was really bringing down the tone of the show. We kept recording them, but got further and further behind as far as actually watching them went. One day off, I decided I didn’t want a repeat of the Colin Baker years – mediocre Doctor Who was better than no Doctor Who at all, right?

If only we could have watched this episode everything would have been okay from the beginning. This is the one that tells you who Donna is and why. It is also the most fun episode of the fourth series, possibly of Tennant’s whole run. Partners In Crime is a zany chase adventure – kind of like an old Chevy Chase/Goldie Hawn movie. This is another one of those episodes that might well lure in the uninitiated. Big, big fun.

In this story corporation is marketing a miracle fat-burning supplement to the overweight populace, but there is a side-effect: your burned fat is converted into alien life-forms, who separate from your body while you sleep. This is, of course, extremely nasty; so the Doctor must put a stop to it.

Donna Noble is also investigating the corporation and crosses paths with our favorite Time Lord (who she previously met at the end of the last series) just in time for him to save her life. The duo save the day and the Doctor likes the sassy redhead enough to invite her along for further adventures.

9 – Silence In the Library
10th Doctor w/ Donna

This was a big episode. It’s definitely one you need to watch twice to catch everything. The Doctor and Donna visit a planet-sized library, only to discover that it is curiously devoid of lifeforms. There are a whole lot of great plot twists in this one, so I’m not going too far into things. Just know that it is pretty much non-stop action and suspense and is torturous to watch with commercials, let alone with the week-long break between this episode and the next – which was the conclusion - when they originally aired. Silence in the Library is the start of big things, and posed questions that remain unanswered to this day. 
8 –Doomsday
10th Doctor w/ Rose

This is the episode where Rose says goodbye so that she can go be a hooker (Billie Piper left the series to star in Secret Diary of a Call Girl and be incredibly naked, so we can't be too mad at her). I am not usually a fan of things that make me cry like a little girl, but this episode will tear your heart out of your chest and shake it like a British nanny.

The ending is almost unbearable. 
7 – Dalek
9th Doctor w/ Rose

The pepper pots of doom survived!

This is a great episode about a filthy rich douchebag who collects stuff and just happens to have collected a Dalek at some point. Christopher Eccleston really gets to chew some scenery in this one, and it is amazing. The Doctor sort of loses his mind for a bit and goes into this mad rage (due to this idiot just sitting on one of the greatest threats the universe has ever known, along with the fact that for reasons I’m not going to go into the Doctor was pretty darn sure there weren’t any more of these evil sonsabitches left anywhere at all and this one existing really fucks with his head about that whole certainty and how it came to be a certainty. Phew.) , but Rose is there to calm him down. We find out that Daleks do have feelings, after all. But not really. This episode gets extra credit for the extremely satisfying table-turning on the aforementioned douchebag.

6 – School Reunion
10th Doctor, Rose, Mickey, Sarah Jane(!), K-9(!!)

Sarah Jane Smith! K-9! What more could you possibly need? How about this one: EVIL GILES, MOTHERFUCKER!

That’s right. For all of you Buffy fans out there, none other than Mr. Anthony Stuart Head plays the Big Bad in this one! And is awesome!

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey are investigating a school where strange things are afoot. Our heroic Time Lord is performing a little light interrogation when who should walk in the door but long-lost (abandoned) companion Sarah Jane Smith. She, too is investigating the school-wide shenanigans.

It turns out Giles is actually an evil alien from an evil planet with evil plans and, as is their wont, our heroes must stop him. In an awesome moment of awesomeness, K-9 saves the day and basically the planet.

Side Note: Proving the scientific theory that Billie Piper looks hot in pretty much anything, she even manages to look good in lunch lady drag at the beginning of this episode. Amazing.

5 – The Sound of Drums
10th Doctor w/ Martha, Captain Jack

Wow. Could there ever be a villain more satisfying than Evil Giles? Yes, but only if it’s the super-maniacal, mad diabolical nemesis to end all nemeses – THE MOTHERFUCKING MASTER, Y’ALL!

Proving that old villains never die, they just get updated (or regenerated); the Master returns after two whole seasons of hints to become… well, just watch it. 
4 – The Girl in the Fireplace
10th Doctor w/ Rose, Mickey

This one does a very good job of portraying the human perception of the Doctor. While unraveling an evil alien plot (naturally), our hero meets Madame De Pompadour, who is apparently important to French people. Normally this would mean she doesn’t matter, but seeing as she plays such a key role in the Doctor’s life we’ll give her a pass.

First meeting the Doctor as a little girl (De Pompadour, not the Doctor), we see the French historical figure grow up into a smokin’ hot babe over the course of many years as she has multiple meetings with the Time Lord. Due to the nature of the nefarious alien plan, all of these meetings are taking place over a matter of hours for the doctor.

It turns out that Evil Clockwork Robots want to harvest the lady’s brain in a misguided attempt to repair their damaged starship, the crew of which all died out some time ago. Heroic heroism ensues, panties get moistened and the Doctor saves the day. And the babe.

3 – Blink
10th Doctor w/ Martha

I suppose this one is the Doctor Who equivalent of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Hush. It is a stand-alone story that is scary as crap.

Much of the narrative is shown through the eyes of non-regular characters, with the Doctor not even making an appearance until almost halfway through the episode, and even then it’s just on video to warn the girl the story revolves around to watch her ass. You see, there are these stone angels, or “Weeping Angels” that look incredibly sinister and – surprise, surprise! – are more sinister than they look. I don’t want to drop any spoilers on you, just know that this is one of those twisty-turny, timey-wimey episodes that make you say, “Oh, shit!” a whole lot. Unless you don’t curse, in which case I suppose you’d say, “Oh, deary, me!” or something.

2 – Journey’s End
10th Doctor w/ Rose, Donna, Martha, Captain Jack, Sarah Jane, Mickey

They got the band back together – so to speak – for this last grand adventure before the Doctor set off on his own to face the reality of his impending demise (and rebirth). Not only do we get the big honkin’ finale to the past four years of Russell T. Davies plotlines, we also get Daleks threatening not just the Earth or the universe; but reality itself. Those guys are such absolute fuckers.

Journey’s End is the second part of the previous episode – The Stolen Earth – and it is a rollercoaster ride. The episode begins with the tease of regeneration and, if you’re like me and avoid spoilers like urban youths with boxes of candy bars, it seemed like a real possibility. Me and the Missus had no clue what had happened on the show in the UK, we thought it was entirely possible the eleventh Doctor might take over right then (everybody did know at that point that Tennant was on his way out). Given that we all know now that David Tennant came back for several more specials, I don’t feel I’m betraying anything by saying we did get a new Doctor, but not in the way we thought.

All of our favorite companions from the new era work together to assist the Doctor in this final (okay, that’s doubtful) showdown with his mortal enemies, the Daleks and their one-time leader, Davros. We also get to see the TARDIS piloted as it was meant to be, along with a nifty explanation for the craft’s famous unreliability. 

Which is not the only thread to be tied up.

Everybody gets bittersweet resolution at the end of this episode. It’s not quite the heartbreaker that Doomsday was, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t get misty several times over watching the end of this one. 

It’s funny, the new doctor – Matt Smith – may look all emo, but Tennant’s run could definitely use a Cure song over a WWE-style recap video.

1 – Rose
9th Doctor, Rose is introduced

To clarify – these are not necessarily the best episodes of the new Doctor Who series, they are my favorites. As such, Rose is more important and beloved than the others for many reasons:
  • It was a great episode that showed the chances were good that this new iteration of Doctor Who could be around for a very long time. It brought back the super-creepy Autons – android villains from the original run, as well as just feeling like Doctor Who in a way the 1996 telemovie almost completely failed to. Also, the seeds were planted for many future stories and dilemmas, conveying that sense that the show was here to stay. 
  • Christopher Eccleston was fantastic. He was manic and clever and dry and mysterious, all while being totally accessible. He managed to convey a sense of being in control while being sucked along for the ride; kind of like the guy steering the raft in the rapids. 
  • Everybody immediately fell in love with Rose. Wide-eyed and cynical at the same time, Billie Piper played the Doctor’s newest companion in a way that made her charming enough and tough enough to be the audience’s conduit without being pointless baggage. Rose doesn’t just accept everything, which gives the creative talent on the show an excuse to reintroduce all of the old conceits of the franchise to a new audience. 
  • To quote an esteemed rock band: Everything that’s old is new again. While the exterior of the TARDIS was relatively unchanged, the inside was redone to look much more imposing and majestic than it ever had before. The Doctor was using his sonic screwdriver again, and it was a new model. Additionally, the show itself featured slick, new credits and the first ever Doctor Who theme song that didn’t sound like it was recorded from a Casio.
Just thinking about this episode gets me excited and makes me want to watch it again. It was such a relief to find that not only was the Doctor back, he had everything well in hand.

Doctor Who Link of the Day:


  1. I started watching in the middle of the 2005 season. It was The Empty Child that totally creeped me out and sucked me in!

  2. Yeah - that was a great one. It almost made the list simply for introducing Captain Jack. The transformation effects were super-creepy.

  3. And the whole "mummy! mummy!" so effing freaky. Last night I watched the black hole eps. They were pretty intense too, I must say.