Season nine of the latest incarnation of Doctor Who, or “New Who” as fans call it, just wrapped. And by all accounts it was another strong series for everyone’s favorite Time Lord. This continues a positive trend for Doctor Who, which has been riding high since the long-running BBC show was brought back from the dead and revitalized a decade ago. And with the new series now preparing to enter its 10th season, we look back at the 10 best episodes of Doctor Who since the show was resurrected in 2005.
10. “The Day of the Doctor” (2013)
This was the big episode that marked the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, which first aired on the BBC way back in 1963. An epic, feature-length special, “The Day of the Doctor” gave the series the anniversary special it deserved. Producers of the show skillfully brought together three generations of the Doctor in actors Matt Smith and David Tennant (two of the actors who most recently played Doctor Who), as well the character known as “War Doctor,” played by British thespian John Hurt. Set during the infamous Time War, viewers of this episode learned the War Doctor’s dark secret as he prepared to destroy Gallifrey to stop an invasion of the dreaded (and most popular villains) Daleks. But, with the help of the multiple Doctors, the War Doctor manages to rewrite his own timeline and hide Gallifrey in another dimension of time and space. A great event episode.
9. “Dalek” (2005)
Speaking of the timeless and ever-popular Daleks, we have to acknowledge the episode from 2005 that brought this penultimate baddie back to TV screens around the world. This was the episode that die hard Doctor Who fans had wanted to see since the series went back into production with actor Christopher Eccleston in the lead role as Doctor Who. In the appropriately titled episode “Dalek,” the TARDIS (that time traveling phone booth) arrives in an underground facility owned by a billionaire named Henry van Statten, whose hobby is collecting alien artefacts. One of these collectibles is being referred to as a “Metaltron,” but Doctor Who realizes quickly that it is, in fact, a Dalek that managed to escape the Time War. Accidentally revived by the Doctor’s companion Rose, the Dalek goes on a rampage, leaving it up to the good Doctor to stop it. However, the Dalek has also absorbed some of Rose’s humanity. And, realizing that it is no longer a pure Dalek, it commits suicide. Awesome.
8. “The Runaway Bride” (2006)
This terrific episode of Doctor Who has the distinction of also being a Christmas special, which makes it even more fun. Surprisingly, there have been very few Doctor Who Christmas specials over the years. But in this episode, the Doctor (played by actor David Tennant) is grieving over the loss of his companion Rose, when new companion Donna suddenly teleports into the TARDIS wearing a wedding dress. The teleportation into the Tardis was an escape plan that became necessary when the wedding of Donna became overrun by evil robot Santas. This episode is fun, festive and contains plenty of action. It also introduces Donna as a new and fun companion for Doctor Who. And how can you go wrong with robot Santas?
7. “The Beast Below” (2010)
One of the first episodes to feature actor Matt Smith as Doctor Who, “The Beast Below” is not only an extremely well-written episode, but it is also one of the more truly scary episodes of Doctor Who—ever! Set hundreds of years into the future, this episode is about Earth’s last remaining inhabitants who are forced to live aboard a massive spaceship after a catastrophic event on their home planet. However, citizens of the ship manage to disappear if they run afoul of the sinister doll-like Smilers who rule the space craft. The Smilers are one of the creepiest villains in Doctor Who lore, and they generally terrify audiences. They look like ventriloquist dolls come to life, and make the toy clown from the movie Poltergeist look like a cuddly teddy bear. This is a great episode, but not for anyone who has a fear of clowns or ventriloquist dummies. Of course, the Doctor wins in the end against the Smilers, but it is touch and go there for a while.
6. “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” (2008)
An awesome two-part episode, “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” sees Doctor Who take then-companion Donna to the greatest library in the universe. Situated in the 51st century, the library is literally the size of an entire planet. Yet, to the Doctor’s surprise, there are no people at the usually inhabited library. Donna and the Doctor eventually meet up with a team of archaeologists who are investigating why the library closed and sealed itself up over 100 years earlier. What they learn is that the library was overrun by the Vashta Nerada, a microscopic creature that lurks in shadows. The Vashta Nerada felt that the library was theirs to take over, as the books in it are made from the forests of their home planet. An interesting story told very well, this two-part episode has the added bonus of introducing the character River Song, who was the person that summoned the Doctor to the library through the Doctor’s psychic papers. River Song knows the Doctor, but the Doctor doesn’t know her, and their future meetings will take place in River Song’s past. Don’t ask. It’s a Time Lord thing.
5. “Midnight” (2008)
This episode divides fans, as many people feel that the viewer never really learns what happens. Yet for atmosphere and creepiness, it is hard to top the episode “Midnight.” Again starring David Tennant as the Doctor, this episode sees him take a leisure trip on an alien shuttle that travels to the mysterious planet called “Midnight” when the ship’s engines suddenly and inexplicably fail. Shortly after this occurrence, one of the passengers aboard the ship starts acting very strangely. Is the odd-acting woman possessed? We never really find out. But the way the episode is constructed and develops suspense and terror is really great. The scene where the disturbed passenger (played by actress Lesley Sharp) predicts what the Doctor is going to say next is awesome. And while many people find this episode frustrating, die hard fans of the show often cite it as the very best episode of Doctor Who ever.
4. “Vincent and the Doctor” (2010)
One of the more quirky Doctor Who episodes, this one deserves mention for being unique in that it focuses on human emotions and the power of artistic expression. With actor Matt Smith as Doctor Who, the episode “Vincent and the Doctor” is about what happens when Doctor Who becomes fixated on a figure in a Van Gogh painting. Intrigued, the Doctor takes his companion Amy back in time to visit the tortured artist Vincent van Gogh, who is, at that time, being plagued by an alien called Krafayis. The story still feels like science fiction while also dealing deftly with the issue of mental illness. There are many psychological and emotional elements to this particular episode that fans won’t find in any other Doctor Who story. And actor Tony Curran is seriously good as Vincent Van Gogh. The conclusion of the episode, where Doctor Who takes Vincent Van Gogh into the future to show him how his work will be remembered, is a tear-jerker.
3. “Rose” (2005)
Props to the first episode of the rebooted Doctor Who series. Ten years ago, when it was announced that Doctor Who was being brought back from the dust bin of science fiction history and given a new modern program, viewers and television critics alike had no idea what to expect. Many people wondered if it would be possible to breathe new life into a show that was pretty well exhausted when it ended its original run in the late 1980s, and which failed with a brief revival attempted in 1996. But from the opening moments of “Rose,” the first episode to air in 2005, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. The first shot of the new series looked like a scene from Coronation Street or East Enders. But this episode quickly took off with the Doctor encountering his companion Rose for the first time. This story was fast-paced, quirky and fun, as well as unpredictable and surprising, and it set the tone for the “New Who” that we’ve all been enjoying for the past nine years—with more to come.
2. “Doomsday” (2006)
Doctor Who is not given to many emotions. Certainly not l-o-v-e. But the terrific episode “Doomsday” changed the rules for the Doctor, as well as the relationship he has long had with his time traveling companion. In this story, the ultra evil villains, the Cybermen, go head-to-head with the Daleks in all-out battle. And it is the companion of Doctor Who, Rose, who suffers the consequences. She ends up transported to a parallel universe, where she remains for the next two years (seasons) of the series. And, uncharacteristically, our hero Time Lord is full of grief at the loss, suggesting that the Doctor was in love with Rose. The great thing is that the writers of Doctor Who stuck with the situation created from this episode and the impact it had moving forward. They did not just use this episode to get rid of Rose and replace her with a new companion. The whole thing is handled brilliantly and adds a new dimension to the Doctor’s inner life.
1. “Blink” (2007)
Often cited as the best episode in the entire Doctor Who cannon, the 2007 show “Blink” is about the terrifying Weeping Angels, which are evil statues that stand still while you look at them, but if you look away, or blink, they attack. Another of the more terrifying episodes, “Blink” features a great guest star turn by acclaimed actress Carey Mulligan as the character Sally Sparrow, who first discovers the Weeping Angels in a spooky abandoned house while looking for photographic ideas. When one of her friends disappears in the house, Sally Sparrow reports it to the local police, who investigate and go missing themselves. Through a set of DVDs, Sally discovers a messages from Doctor Who saying that the statues in the house are Weeping Angels who have transported him back to the past and want his Tardis to use for their own evil ends. The Doctor tells Sally not to blink when Angels are around, but she suddenly realizes that there is an Angel in the room with her at that very moment. Scary! Like the best Doctor Who episodes, this one contains top notch writing, creativity and stellar acting across the board. Not to be missed.