Top 10 Wen-sday – Top Ten Episodes of Modern Day Dr Who

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As I mentioned in my latest Sunday Rundown, I’ve been rewatching episodes from Series 4 of Dr Who. I came to the realisation that, whilst Donna is my all time favourite companion, it is probably series 3 that is the season that I love the most. That’s because it contains a large number of the best and most memorable episodes in the series. There are only a few dull moments and even those aren’t dull in the same way that most of the Steven Moffat era Who series have been. I mean even the fairly awful “Smith and Jones” opener is nowhere near as bad as the fucking pirate episode. And no matter how awful the series finale may be in comparison to the previous ones it is way more memorable than the first finale of Matt Smith’s Doctor. I mean who can even remember what happened in “The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang”? Whatever you may think about Russell T’s writing style in comparison to Moffat’s (even I can’t pretend that Moffat doesn’t come out on top), the former clearly has more understanding of how a series should come together as a whole. Now amidst this soul-searching I couldn’t help but start mentally compiling my top 10 list of Modern Day Who episodes. Just in time for April’s post. Wasn’t that convenient?


    Ten: “The Girl in the Fireplace” (Series 2 Episode 4)

This episode, more than any of the previous Tennat episodes, showed us who he was as the Doctor. His romance with Rose was dull and got a little annoying but his short connection to Madame de Pompadour. It is sweet, poignant and heartbreaking at its conclusion. This episode shows us the Doctor’s need to be understood by someone else and how difficult that it. It shows us his connection to history and his flair for the dramatic. Both David Tennant and Sophia Myles are fantastic in the episode and the clockwork androids are a fabulous villain. This is an episode that really sums up the early days of modern Who and is a triumph of the Russell T. era. Plus, there’s a fucking horse on a spaceship. Who can ignore that?


     Nine: “Amy’s Choice” (Series 5 Episode 7)


If I’m being honest, there aren’t many episodes of series 5 that I would call good. It’s one of my least favourite and least remembered series. The first Matt Smith series and, more importantly in terms of quality, the first that Moffat was running the show. Still there are one or two glimmers of hope within the deluge of shit. It came down to “Vincent and the Doctor” or this one. It was a close call but I felt that “Vincent and the Doctor” worked so well as an appreciation of art and an exploration of depression. However, as a Dr Who episode, “Amy’s Choice” is just astonishing. Not necessarily in terms of direction or production but in terms of storyline. It is one of the most engaging stories of the series as Amy must finally decide who means the most to her: her fiancée or the Doctor. Add that to the superb performance by Tody Jones and you have a winner.

     Eight: “The Doctor’s Wife” (Series 6 Episode 4)

With a script written by Neil Gaiman there was no doubt that this was going to be one of the greater episodes of Dr Who. Gaiman wanted to set the episode that centred on the TARDIS itself which was, up to that point, something not done in the show’s history. After many rewrites, he came up with the idea of the TARDIS’ mind being implanted into the body of a woman and being replaced with the consciousness of an evil, sentient asteroid played by Michael Sheen. This means Rory and Amy have to find their way around a TARDIS that’s trying to kill them whilst the Doctor comes face-to-face with the only companion that has survived his every regeneration. It is a great episode that is both frightening and lovely. Matt Smith and Suranne Jones, playing the TARDIS, are both fantastic and the interaction between the Doctor and his ship is just wonderful. It’s certainly not a perfect episode but it is one you can’t help but love.

     Seven: “The Fires of Pompeii” (Series 4 Episode 2)

After the, frankly, kind of ridiculous opener for Tate’s first series as fully fledged companion, “The Fires of Pompeii” shows us what she will really be like during her time in the TARDIS. It is an emotional story and watching Donna have to accept that she can’t save the people of Pompeii from their inevitable fate. This episode really sets out the kind of relationship the pair will have. Donna is more than willing to argue with him about morality and, at the dramatic conclusion of this story, she stands by him as he makes the most difficult decision one could ever make. She is there for him but also reminds him that not everybody needs to die. She shows him that saving one person is sometimes enough. Yes, the writing is pretty shitty but this episode has me in tears every single time.

     Six: “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” (Series 3 Episodes 8 and 9)

 

This two-parter is one of the greatest things about series 3 and gives David Tennant another chance to show how great he is in the role. There are some great moments in the first episode and the scarecrow warriors are memorable. I also have to say that Harry Lloyd is magnificent as one of the Family of Blood. He’s amazing and terrifying in the role. Although, what makes this double episode so good is the final moments of John Smith’s life. When he starts to realise that he has to give up everything he has in order to save the world. When he has to face the fact that he isn’t an ordinary man and must sacrifice his happiness for a life of death and loneliness. It’s devastating and Tennant is just sublime.


     Five: “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” (Series 1 Episodes 9 and 10)

“Are you my mummy?” Even more than 10 years on, this question can still strike fear into most fans of Dr Who. This was the first Steven Moffat episode and it made us all realise just how great he could be for the series. Up until this point there had been a lot of silliness in the new series of Who. It was being pushed towards families so was family friendly. There were fart jokes a plenty and the monsters weren’t that scary. Then there was the kid with a gas mask face. The central storyline was amazing and the end result was as satisfyingly emotionally fraught as it needed to be. Although, there was enough light-heartedness to ensure we still have fun along the way. And lest we forget, it is the episode that introduced us to the astounding Captain Jack Harkness. I’ll be forever grateful.

     Four: “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End” (Series 4 Episodes 12 and 13)

How could I not include this double parter on the list? The finale of series 4 is the episode of Dr Who that has emotionally scarred me the most. Even reading the title can manage to bring tears to my eyes. As we should all be aware by now, Donna Noble is my number 1 companion and her departure from the series was the most devastating in the modern series’ history. It is for that reason that this episode is the greatest. Without giving us a moment to celebrate the culmination of Donna’s journey allowing her to successfully stop Davros and saving the universe the writers take all that development away. Add to that the fantastic acting from David Tennant and Bernard Cribbins and I’m in bits every time I think about it. This is still one of the most powerful episodes of modern Who in my opinion. Plus, there’s some shit with Doctor and Rose that kind of happens. Oh and Mickey and Jack come back. It’s quite fun up until the awful final moments.


     Three: “The Day of the Doctor” (50th Anniversary Special)

I could bang on about how great this episode is but I already have once. We all know how great this is. It’s a celebration of everything we love and have always loved about Dr Who with an amazing cast and a great story.

     Two: “Blink” (Series 3 Episode 10)


“Blink” is one of those episodes that has become synonymous with the quality of Dr Who. It is an episode that is beloved by all fans and is appreciated by people who don’t always get the show. With the way I’ve been feeling about Steven Moffat lately it’s always good to revisit an episode like “Blink”; this is Moffat at his best. The writing is fantastic and the it is there is so much going on in a single episode. Even the fact that the Weeping Angels have been overused to the point that they don’t really register any more, this episode is genuinely terrifying. Carey Mulligan is amazing and there is so much emotion and fear on offer that you can’t help but love it. Just take the tiny but incredibly powerful failed romance of Sally Sparrow and Billy Shipton. Argh, so many feels. It so often appears on the top of all best episodes lists and, I have to admit, “Blink” was certainly my favourite episode of modern Who until exactly one series later…

     One: “Midnight” (Series 4 Episode 10)

“Midnight” is one of those overlooked episodes of Who because it is so self-contained and unremarkable. The entire run takes place in a small space and the villain remains unseen and unnamed. I can see why people forget about it but I think it’s an incredible episode of television. Whilst Catherine Tate was off filing “Turn Left” David Tennant was left to his own devices and given the chance to take a trip to the planet Midnight. Along the way the ship is boarded by an invisible foe who takes over the body of one of the passengers. The tension in the episode builds slowly but leads to an incredibly dramatic showdown.  This single episode of Dr Who is more exciting, frightening and tells us more about humanity than the majority of the following seasons combined.

Top 5 Most Devastating Dr Who Companion Departures (Spoilers… duh)

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We’ve known for a while that Clara Oswald was set to leave Doctor Who. So we’ve spent all of the current series waiting for it to happen. Clara has increasingly put herself in dangerous situations and has managed to get herself close to death more times than I can count. It’s getting a tad annoying but I’m actually going to miss Clara. After a few series of hating her, she has really come into her own this series. She and Peter Capaldi make an excellent team. So it got me thinking about the other companions and how much emotional impact their departures has on me. So I present to you, my top 5 most devastating Dr Who companion exits.

          5. Amy Pond/ Rory Williams
I have to admit that Amy and Rory are two of my least favourite companions. I just got bored by the endless love triangle thing. Amy and Rory were the least interesting and stupidest of the modern day companions. Rory became a farcical character who died every fucking week and Karen Gillan is just a shitty actress. She comes from the Keira Knightley school of beauty before talent. I couldn’t wait for them to leave.

So imagine my shock when they eventually departed and I was left weeping for hours. Having spent the entire series going through fake deaths to keep us on our toes, the actual moment was such a shock that you couldn’t help but fall apart. Having successfully created a paradox to stop the Angels, Rory is caught off guard and sent back to the 1930s. Watching Amy decide to follow the love of her life is brilliant but seeing Matt Smith’s Doctor come to terms with that is utterly heartbreaking. Damn you, Moffat!

          4. Rose Tyler
I know that plenty of people will be super pissed off to see Rose’s first departure so far down the list. Quite frankly though, Rose isn’t that great a companion. She was just the first… of the new series anyway. To be fair to her, Rose does go through a journey during her time in the TARDIS and she becomes much stronger and confident than she first was. The problem was the romance. It was getting fucking boring. I want to watch Dr Who because of the dangerous aliens. I don’t want to watch a rom-com set in outer space.

It was getting to the point where the Doctor and Rose either had to get it on or just get away from each other. I’m super glad it was the latter. Still, their final exchange at Bad Wolf Bay is pretty heart-wrenching even for someone as cynical as me. The whole spectacle of it all adds to the occasion: burning up a star just to see her again. It’s the stuff Tumblr dreams were made of. Of course, the fact that Rose has know had more comebacks than a fucking boomerang has meant her first ‘death’ is becoming less powerful.

          3. Danny Pink
Those Rose fans out there may argue that Danny Pink isn’t enough of a companion to count on this list but I disagree. Yes, he and the Doctor didn’t get on but he played a big part in the Twelfth Doctor’s first series. So it fucking counts. Plus, bonus points for the additional Brigadier death. It was about time we got to say goodbye and it was heartbreaking.

The main issue with Danny Pink’s departure is that is keeps getting worse. He first dies a totally unexpected and human death. It’s fucking awful. Start of the episode and BOOM! run over by a car. Devastating. Then he comes back as a cyberman/human hybrid. Double devastating. Then his love of Clara prevents him from succumbing and he sacrifices himself to save the world. Triple devastating. In terms of drama, someone giving their life to save someone else is always going to create the most tears. I’m still crying about this one.

          2. Clara Oswald
So, this has literally only just happened and we definitely haven’t seen the last of Clara. Even if Clara isn’t really dead (and I think it would be a terrible decision for her to come back) this death is still fucking awful. It was so final, unexpected and horrible. She’d been in incredibly dangerous situations and survived. Now she was dying in such an unspectacular way. So many emotions. Up until this series Clara was on my list of most irritating companions. Then she suddenly became a fully fledged character with some real growth. She was fantastic… and she causes major wardrobe envy.

Then she has to go and play fucking games with death. This death is so devastating because of the relationship between the Doctor and Clara. There may have been hints of romance in the early days but the predominant tone was that of friendship. They were BBFs and having to watch your BBF suffer (either through death or through grief) is fucking awful. The final exchange between the pair was beautifully played out by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. If I ever watch it again, please, “let me be brave”.

          1. Donna Noble
Donna Noble is, without a doubt, my favourite Dr Who companion of all time. I know that’ll be a controversial statement for many but it’s fucking true. Yes, her first appearance was pretty shit but her series as fully-fledged co-star is still one of the best. Finally moving on from romance and puppy-dog eyed lust, Russell T. was on more solid ground with the Doctor/Donna friendship. They had great banter and really cared for each other.

Donna is also the companion to go through the biggest change. She was a self-centred individual who was doing nothing with her life and she knew it. Then she met the Doctor again and became the most important person in the Universe. Even writing this is making me emotional because Donna had so much potential by the end. She became better and happier. Then it was all taken away from her. It’s not fair. The end of that episode is fucking gut-wrenching. David Tennant and Bernard Cribbin’s are so wonderful at displaying their own devastation at Donna’s situation. No matter what happens in the Doctor’s future, nothing will ever be as awful as this. I’ll never get over this moment.