My Favourite New Who Episodes [Part 1]

Okay, with the recent announcement that Jodie Whittaker will be portraying The Thirteenth Doctor I’ve felt quite off with the show (for reasons I’ve explained over the course of TWO articles) and so I really needed a means to rekindle my spirits. And after channel surfing through YouTube I found some inspiration for new Doctor Who content for the site.

Now, I don’t wish to turn An Unearthly Critic into a Doctor Who dumping ground but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my favourite television programme (or, at least, it would remain that way if the show manages to find some consistency after Steven Moffat‘s departure [so please Chris Chibnall don’t fuck me over with any ideas of gimmicks or agendas, make Whittaker the best DAMN Doctor you possibly can and everything will be alright]).

So naturally I’ll inevitably talk about it a lot and I just think now’s the best time to get some buzz back into my system through creating some fun little pieces (along with some SPECIAL REVIEWS that will follow shortly afterwards).

As the title of this article suggests I will be going through my FAVOURITE New Series episodes. But this will be done rather differently because I’m fucking terrible at placing things within a list and justly arranging them within a order of preference. It’s far too difficult, especially when the product varies, thus comparing the tones, characters, and structures becomes too challenging. And so I chucked all that annoying bollocks out of the equation in order to produce this list of episodes like so…

Basically they won’t be in a ranking order and rather their release order. I may on occasion talk about how much I personally love a specific story (just to give you a rough idea where I rank it against the other episodes on this list) but beyond that it will simply be a case of me looking through each series of the New Series and plucking out my favourite story from that particular run and then moving on.

I also need to stress that THIS IS MY PERSONAL PICKING OF EPISODES and you are free to have your OWN personal pick, to which I encourage you to share them within the comment section below. Feel free to take up the challenge, thus starting the discussion as to which episodes are our personal favourites and why (but remember to stay civil at all times).

Make sense? Good! Let’s get started…

SERIES 1 [2005]: “Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”

dw_bad-wolf_doctor-is-mad

It might seem random to start this list with a regeneration narrative but I can’t think of a better episode from Christopher Eccleston‘s run of stories. Not that I wanted him gone or everything (in fact, I was mortified when he departed from the show [I generally didn’t want him to leave, making my first relative regeneration actually very painful and personal]).

To paraphrase The Tenth Doctor’s infamous quote, “I didn’t want him to go!” But undoubtedly Eccleston got a great send-off (made even more saddening that he wasn’t originally meant to leave and it was brought on by his disagreements with the BBC executives and how they run things [fuck!]). I feel “Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways” delivered a great culmination to the Bad Wolf arc, which had plagued us with intrigue since “The End of the World” where the phrase was first uttered.

Then it made a random appearance throughout the series, until finally The Ninth Doctor acknowledged this fact within “Boom Town”, before simply brushing it off (the trolling bastard), but come the finale the shit hit the fan as not only did The Ninth Doctor find himself back on Satellite Five (to which he first visited in “The Long Game”) but the corporation in-charge of the sinister game-shows trying to kill them was also called “Bad Wolf”. Creepy!

Things only become more serious (and personal) after its revealed that the fucked-up future displayed in front of them was caused by The Ninth Doctor’s previous meddling, ultimately allowing “the long game” plaguing the station to become easier to play-out. The revelation was perfect in raising the stakes (as well as paying-off the mystery in the best possible way) through the return of the Daleks. Now there was an armada of the psychotic pepper-pots and things have never seemed so bleak.

What is also great is how the narrative brings The Ninth Doctor’s damaged character full-circle, allowing him to finally realise that despite his past mistakes, i.e. committing genocide TWICE in order to end The Last Great Time War, he was still able to BE The Doctor. Redemption is perfectly crafted into the story to grant The Ninth Doctor this moment of clarity, to which he isn’t willing to make the same mistake twice and literally surrenders his one and only chance to kill the Daleks in order to remain A GOOD MAN.

The moment before his regeneration only further shows his transformation as he finally looks at himself with positivity as opposed to shame, thus he becomes proud with himself and his final act which paves the way for his next incarnation to continue his good work.

SERIES 2 [2006]: “School Reunion”

DW-SCHOOL-REUNION-SARAH-JANE

This episode was a true delight. It had the return of Classic companion Sarah Jane Smith, granting the wonderful Elizabeth Sladen [RIP] to come back and be a part of the modernised show.

This developed a nice call-back to the Classic Series as The Tenth Doctor came into contact with his past, to which conflicted his present (particularly with Rose Tyler, who is now aware that The Doctor doesn’t keep his pets around forever and eventually either flogs them, straight-up abandons them, or lets them die [thus killing any romantic ideas of them being together FOREVER because Sarah Jane certainly didn’t get that privilege – and they were an ITEM]).

It was interesting seeing both The Tenth Doctor and Sarah Jane having to deal with the consequences of being left behind, to which Sarah Jane wasn’t sure what to do with herself after being left behind, as well as being unsure whether The Doctor would come back for her.

On the other-hand, The Tenth Doctor accurately details the saddening truth that he’s an ancient being amongst the stars, with infinite lives, to which clearly outlives a human life span, resulting in him being forced to watch his closest friends whither away and die (hence why he ditches them [as much as he doesn’t want to] in order to spare him the pain).

Plus, we get the return of K-9 and I love me some K-9. Too bad he hasn’t made a proper return to Doctor Who as it would be truly awesome if he was by The Doctor’s side once more aboard the TARDIS. I always imagined if he travelled with The Eleventh Doctor he would’ve dressed him up with fez’s and bow-ties.

Also, the Krillitane are a terrific adversary for The Tenth Doctor to face, with Anthony Head portraying one of the BEST villains within Doctor Who‘s long history. I state this because he actually is extremely close to winning The Doctor over, promising him control over reality itself, and thus the ability to bring The Time Lords back, but Sarah Jane manages to convince him otherwise (making her return all the more special).

I always find the conclusion to this narrative is really emotional through the death of K-9, the second departure of Sarah Jane (which is made so beautiful by The Tenth Doctor giving her a massive hug [cementing their great friendship and Sarah Jane’s importance to him] along with Murray Gold‘s emotional score). It’s made even more poetic through K-9 returning and Sarah Jane no longer being on her own, finally optimistic about moving on from The Doctor and starting her own adventures on Earth.

SERIES 3 [2007]: “Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords”

doctor-who-the-sound-of-drums

I know some people consider “Utopia” to be a separate narrative but I’m a firm believer that these episodes form a trilogy and need to be counted as a continuous story. Which makes a lot of sense due to how much impact “Utopia” has on the latter stories, particularly when it comes to The Toclafane.

For the most part “Utopia” is a rather standard episode which is mostly remembered for its event moments, such as the return of Captain Jack Harkness and The Master. But looking beyond that it is a brilliant tale, and quite grim really, especially with the depiction of humanity at the end of their rope desperately trying to find salvation at the end of everything.

And The Master’s reveal is so damn perfect! This is why I can honestly say that Series 3 is the BEST series from the New Series simply because it doesn’t have ONE bad episode, and the story-arc is truly fulfilling, adding in all the right seeds (which are all eye-catching) and they ultimately pay-off perfectly in this climatic “What the fuck?” moment. Upon seeing Professor Yana holding the fob-watch your mind explodes as you instantly realise what is about to happen.

What makes it tenser is The Tenth Doctor’s reaction, to which he’s shitting his pants. It’s a shame we only got Sir Derek Jacobi playing The Master for a fleeting moment but (honestly) that’s all we needed because he was so fucking amazing in the role (plus Big Finish Productions are bringing him back for his own boxset [so, you know]).

And of course John Simm‘s energy is immediately released (instantly making him one of [if not] my favourite incarnations of The Master), made even more brilliant by the fact that his first act is actually defeating The Tenth Doctor, stealing his TARDIS and leaving him and his companions stranded at the end of the universe. What I like about this finale is the fact that The Tenth Doctor never feels totally in control. Sure it’s later revealed that he had a plan that actually foiled The Master’s plan from the very start, but up until that point everything appears bleak, and I really liked this approach (it doesn’t happen enough).

I loved the fact that The Master was in control through being the Prime Minister, granting him all the authority, and without a TARDIS or any strong allies, The Tenth Doctor had to make-do with what he had (which wasn’t much). And when The Master does eventually takeover the Earth it feels genuine, especially because The Tenth Doctor was rendered powerless, leaving Martha Jones the only person that could turn things around.

SERIES 4 [2008]: “Midnight”

Doctor Who Midnight

Like with my previous entry, “Midnight” is another rare occasion where The Doctor is rendered powerless, making this narrative one of the most tense and terrifying experiences within Doctor Who‘s 53 year-long history. Forget “Blink” and The Weeping Angels. Here, we have no fucking idea what The Tenth Doctor is confronted with, and things are just made more unsettling because of this.

Plus, the whole copying of every single words that the characters spoke made this claustrophobic story completely unnerving, like we were watching a Horror film. But the real danger doesn’t lie with the unknown creature (which is now possessing one of the passengers, Sky Silvestry) but with the people The Tenth Doctor was desperately trying to save. Russell T Davies masterfully played on the idea of fear and thus created a scenario that even The Doctor couldn’t control.

As fear took control they began turning on each other, and eventually The Tenth Doctor, thus making him the MOST scared passenger aboard the craft. His word of reasoning and knowledge could no longer be heard, and this was both frightening to him and us (the viewer). In the end he was left susceptible to the creature’s control and this left him completely helpless (with things becoming even more frightening when the creature [now with a conscious of its own after stealing The Tenth Doctor’s voice] nearly convinced the scared humans to throw The Tenth Doctor off the craft).

The Specials [2008-2010]: “The Waters of Mars” & “The End of Time”

Doctor Who The Water of Mars

Okay, so this is my first pick that I had to (sort of) cheat because I found it hard to choose a definitive winner for The Specials [2008-10]. Obviously “The Waters of Mars” had to be on this list because of its powerful impact. Again, like my last two picks, The Tenth Doctor is rendered rather powerless (somewhat of a running theme within my pickings [perhaps I really am just MORBID]), but in a way that’s slightly different because he was forced to observe and not interfere.

We’d seen this to a degree within Series 4’s “The Fires of Pompeii” (another episode I really love [but couldn’t fit onto this list]) to which The Tenth Doctor is faced with a fixed point in time and can do nothing to stop the event from happening. This happens once again here after he realises the date he’s arrived on Mars is the very day the first human colonists perish in a terrible incident. What’s interesting is seeing his emotional state change throughout the narrative, especially when he comes to understand what causes this tragic event to happen.

Further credit has to go to Lindsay Duncan who plays a very strong, independent one-off companion in the form of Adelaide Brooke, to the point where she denies The Tenth Doctor his moment of glory, thus preventing him from tampering with time. Also, The Flood were a great concept and acted as a chilling extension to the depressing tragedy, with each colonist succumbing to the water’s possession and becoming terrifying looking creatures without conscious.

Of course this narrative perfectly prepares The Tenth Doctor for his end, pushing him to the point where he went too far due to his ego getting the better of him, which acted as a very powerful moment, making us question him as a hero.

the-Master-and-the-Doctor-in-The-End-of-Time-Part-2

And, obviously I had to pick “The End of Time” because (despite not being overwhelming received by the fandom) I really like this tale, feeling it to be a fitting end to The Tenth Doctor and his respective era. One of the winning aspects (for me personally) is the return of Simm’s Master (who I thought did an outstanding job in the Series 3 finale) and how T Davies went about to expand his character and relationship with The Doctor. It became very personal, and I liked this approach.

I really felt like they were two battered old friends that had been through an eternity of conflicts together, hating each other’s guts along the way, but ultimately held respect for one another. What made this story even more poetic is the fact that The Master finally realises that the “drumbeat” in his head isn’t an extension of his madness, thus granting him a new purpose in life as he desperately tries to find the source.

Things escalate when The Master imprints himself onto everybody on Earth, thus (once again) making The Tenth Doctor powerless. The narrative holds a rather depressing (and extremely emotional) tone throughout as The Tenth Doctor is aware that death approaches, clinging onto a prophecy he was foretold back in “Planet of the Dead”, with Wilfred Mott (played by the wonderful Bernard Cribbins) accompanying him for the journey.

This is a perfect match and elevates the emotional depth of David Tennant‘s final outing through the delightful chemistry the two characters have together, even to the point where The Tenth Doctor considers him as a fatherly-figure. The emotion just keeps on coming towards the end as The Time Lords come into play, making President Rassilon become one of the biggest DICKS in all of Doctor Who‘s 53 year-long history (to which Timothy Dalton fits perfectly into the role) after its revealed that he caused The Master to become insane in the first place just to become a bridge to free them from The Last Great Time War.

I never fail to cry at this regeneration story because of how T Davies perfectly crafted the narrative to pluck at your heart strings. Firstly, the amazing moment where The Master sacrifices himself to save The Tenth Doctor from Rassilon. Then you have the powerful moment where the prophecy is revealed and it’s Wilfred that causes The Tenth Doctor’s death (and to this day it stands as one of the GREATEST revelations [of all times!]), sending the Time Lord into an emotional state as he goes through the various stages of acceptance, before finally facing his fate with pride in order to save Wilfred.

And of course his farewell tour before he was finally forced to “go” always acts a slow, painful goodbye which is incredibly hard to sit through because you just DON’T want him to go. Also, who can forget about Gold’s fantastic score, which to this day holds some of my favourite tracks (despite how sad they make me feel [but then again that’s the whole point, and Gold perfectly knows how to grab your heart and deliver the correct emotional response]).

SERIES 5 [2010]: “A Christmas Carol”

Doctor Who A Christmas Carol

Technically, this is another cheat as this Christmas Special isn’t even connected to Series 5 but FUCK IT! I just had to include “A Christmas Carol” on this list as it stands as one of (if not) my favourite Christmas Special (which is saying a lot considering I absolutely hated the premise of this story during its build-up).

It felt really annoying that Moffat would waste his creativity for his VERY first Christmas Special by doing an adaption of Charles DickensA Christmas Carol, but upon its arrival I was blown away by just how creative Moffat got with the idea and how he used time-travel accordingly. Instead of having different characters appear as the three variant Ghosts of Christmas Moffat utilised time to become the very aspect that changed our Scrooge-like character, i.e. Kazran Sardick (played to a tee by the legendary Sir Michael Gambon), into a better person.

By re-writing his very history The Eleventh Doctor tried desperately to make him “a GOOD man” just in time for Christmas, ultimately saving his friends Amy Pond and Rory Williams from his cruel decision to prevent them safe landing through the Cloud-Belt. Of course this Special plays to Matt Smith‘s strengths by giving him some hilarious material to work with in order to unleash his bouncy, fun self, whilst also granting him some reall serious moments to which he perfectly delivered the ancient wisdom, and fury, of the Time Lord. Plus, his chemistry with Kazran is outstanding.

His final trick to use Young Kazran against present-day Kazran, thus finally showing him through his OWN EYES just how much he’s become his wicked father, is utterly brilliant. Kudos to Moffat for bringing us this wonderful episode. It’s truly magical, and heart-warming, and has so many brilliantly crafted layers, granting it a lot of depth and meaning, as well as being a terrific character piece filled with so many delightful characters and engaging plotlines that all build-up to deliver an emotional conclusion that’s filled with heart and imagination.

And Katherine Jenkins‘ voice is like an Angels, allowing her contribution to add even more flavour to an already amazing narrative.

Honourable Mentions:

  • “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”
  • “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit”
  • “Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks”
  • “The Fires of Pompeii”
  • “Planet of the Dead”
  • “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone”

And that’s it for this PART. Join me for PART 2 where I’ll be continuing to discuss my FAVOURITE New Who episodes from Series 6 all the way up to the recently released Series 10. Feel free to join me in my countdown (of sorts) by sharing your PERSONAL favourite episodes and why you LIKE them so much!

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