After the Paul McGann “Doctor Who” movie failed to capture audiences in 1996, the series lay dormant for nearly a decade. In 2005, writer Russell T. Davies brought the show back in 2005 with the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, and companion Rose Tyler, Billie Piper. The show immediately captivated audiences with it’s dark Doctor, new and old enemies, brilliant new writing, and eventual stunning special effects.
Ten years and three more Doctors later, the show still captivates returning and new fans. During this time, the series did brand new things to the franchise including breaking Guinness World Records, having theatrical releases, introducing a line of video games, and touring the world before season premieres.
Clearly, “New Who” as fans have dubbed it, has made a huge impact on modern geek culture. Although fans argue over who is the best Doctor, or what is the the best companion, they all can find something they like in each of the Doctor’s incarnations, and all of the chosen few who ride the TARDIS. When it comes to the best episodes, fans are torn even more. Some fans hate every single episode featuring Matt Smith, while others believe the show had its best run during the Matt Smith era. With that being said, I have decided to take a look at each episode to determine what are the 10 best adventures of “New Who.” For this list, I have decided to combine multiple part episodes into a single entry, or else a single arc could dominate this list.
10) “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon”
Starting off this list are the first two episodes from Season 6 of “New Who.” The first episode begins with Amy and Rory meeting the Doctor in Utah after being apart from him for an extended period of time. After meeting up with River Song, the group eats a picnic lunch along the shoreline of a lake. As the group reminisces, a mysterious astronaut emerges from the lake. When the Doctor approaches the astronaut, he is shot dead before he can regenerate. Boom. Right there, the stage is set for the rest of the season. Fans everywhere screamed when it was confirmed that the person shot was the Doctor, and that he was dead. The rest of the season deals with a younger Doctor who tries to find out why he is being murdered, and if he can stop it. However, the opening scene was far from the only thing this adventure had to offer.
First introduced in this adventure were the Silence, terrifying alien-like creatures who you forget about as soon as you look away from them, giving them the opportunity to zap you into oblivion. The creepy nature and look of the Silence made them fan favorites of the series, and fans demanded more appearances by the monsters that we loved to forget.
9) “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances”
Coming in at the Number 9 spot is an adventure staring the 9th Doctor. Being both of the favorites of hardcore “Doctor Who” fans, as well as one of the most controversial Doctors on the show, Eccleston gives his A-game in this adventure that takes place during the London Blitz. In the first episode, a little boy wearing a gas mask is out looking for his mother. However, every person he comes in contact with gets transformed into a gas mask creature who can only ask where their mother is. This character was not only one of the creepiest monsters in the series, but also one of that made people sympathetic. This monster was a little boy who had died in a bombing, and now all he wants is the comfort of his mother. Not only was this one of the sadder stories in the series, but also one of the darkest. However, it’s the ending that everyone remembers.
Once the Doctor discovers that a young woman posing as the boy’s sister is actually his mother, he realizes that the nanobots that made the boy a monster, can also bring him and all the infected back to life (it’s “Doctor Who” so it makes sense). Once all the people are saved, the Doctor dances and cheers while saying “Just this once, everybody lives.” Having lost his home planet, this was one of the first times when the fans saw the Doctor in a truly euphoric state.
Including the first appearance of the immortal Captain Jack Harkness, this adventure gave fans a dark, funny, and badass episode that won’t soon be forgotten.
8) “The Doctor’s Wife”
He is definitely a madman with a box.
Since the first episode aired in 1964, the Doctor has always been accompanied by his TARDIS. There have been a few hints to the Doctor’s history with the TARDIS. What we know is that he stole the TARDIS from Gallifrey when he was young, and that the TARDIS is a living creature rather than a machine. However, it wasn’t until “The Doctor’s Wife” that audience’s truly saw the love the Doctor holds for the blue box.
A piece of Gallifrean distress mail comes to the TARDIS, causing the Doctor to fly outside the universe to try and find what might be another Timelord. However, he encounters a planet inhabited by the House who baits Timelords into journeying to the planet so he can feed on their TARDIS, and so the mutants can steal their body parts. After the Doctor is duped, the House takes over the TARDIS, but he puts its soul inside a woman on the planet, giving the Doctor the opportunity to finally verbally communicate with it.
Suranne Jones plays the human TARDIS, and unfortunately she has not done many noteworthy roles other than this one. Jones and Smith work off each other incredibly. When the two speak with each other, it feels like the Doctor is talking with his TARDIS rather than a person. The humor and tragedy in the episode keeps the audience glued to the screen. This is definitely one of the more clever episodes of the entire series because it is the only episode about a relationship that has always existed, but that has never been addressed in a full-length episode. “The Doctor’s Wife” has everything that fans want to see in a great episode, and does not leave a single eye dry.
Don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink and you’re dead.
Ironically, one of the best episodes of “New Who” hardly features the Doctor. In this episode, a young woman named Sally Sparrow investigates an old abandoned house with her friend. However, her friend mysteriously vanishes, but she gets a letter from a man claiming to be her grandson. She then finds a message from 1969 telling her to beware the Weeping Angels. When she investigates further, she discovers that the Weeping Angels are statues that come to life when they are not being watched, and if they catch you, that can send you to anywhere in time or space, or they can kill you. The angels are after the TARDIS because they can feed off its energy forever. They sent the Doctor and Martha back in time, making it so Sally is the only one able to save the day.
When “Doctor Who” returned, it relied more on previous villains from the classic series like Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, and the Master rather than trying to create new villains. Attempts were made, but the first villain to truly stick was the Weeping Angel (the Ood don’t count because they are basically good). An angel statue is creepy on its own, but an angel statue that charges you when you are not looking is absolutely terrifying.
The creativity of the angels mixed with the epic storyline make “Blink” a wild ride, and deserving of the number seven spot.
6) “Silence in the Library”/ “Forest of the Dead”
Since the Doctor spends his life traveling in time, it was only a matter of time before he encountered someone who met him before he met them. In this case it was the sassy and saucy archaeologist, Dr. River Song. Throughout this adventure, Dr. Song tries to talk with the Doctor about where they are in their timeline. A confused Doctor tells her that he has no idea who she is, which breaks her heart. Being the first time that fans met River Song, this scene was not a heartbreak at first, but after returning to this episode after viewing newer episodes featuring River, this scene makes the heart sink.
The Doctor, River, and Donna Noble find themselves in this episode navigating through the largest library in the universe while trying to escape the Vashda Nerada, small creatures hiding in darkness that can strip flesh from the bone in a matter of seconds. As members of River’s archaeological team start to drop one by one, the Doctor finds himself more and more desperate to save the last that remain. During all of this, River tries her best to get the Doctor to trust her, but nothing she does strikes a chord until she does the unthinkable. River leans into the Doctor’s ear, and whispers something that changes the Doctor’s face altogether. When it is revealed at the end of the episode that she whispered the Doctor’s name, fans everywhere gasped. For the most part, this was a new concept. Most fans just accepted that his name was “The Doctor,” but when it was revealed that he not only had a true name, but it was also a colossal secret that he could only tell someone of great importance, River immediately turned into a beloved character.
Unfortunately, the love for River only puts fans in tears as she heroically sacrifices herself at the end to save the Doctor. The final scene between them is one of the most tragic, yet beautiful scenes in entire the series. Of course, the Doctor ends up saving River, but only to a sentient hard drive where she can live out her life with her friends. “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” make up two of the most tragic yet poetic episodes in the series.
5) “The Day of the Doctor”
When the 50 year anniversary of “Doctor Who” came around, rumors everywhere were started about what Steven Moffet was going to do to honor the series. Leading up to the special, very little was known. Finally, when “The Name of the Doctor” aired, fans learned about the existence of another incarnation of the Doctor, that he does not like talking about. This was the Doctor that fought during the Time War, and that killed all the Timelords and Daleks.
Played by John Hurt, the 8 1/2th Doctor (more commonly known as the War Doctor) finds himself torn over what he should do to end the Time War. He finds a weapon called the Moment that is a sentient that takes the form of someone from his timeline. The Moment takes the form of the Bad Wolf, played by Billie Piper. Before agreeing to kill the Timelords and Daleks, the Moment sends the Doctor to meet his future selves, so he can see if he is okay with his future. War Doctor encounters both the 10th and 11th Doctor in Elizabethan England where Zygons have planned to take over the world. The three Doctors foil their plans, and War Doctor decides to end the Time War because in order for himself to become a great man, he must forge himself in the fire of the war. However, before he can end the war, the 10th and 11th Doctor show up, and come up with a plan to save Gallifrey, and end the war. With the help of the rest of the incarnations of the Doctor (including Peter Capaldi’s first appearance as the 12th Doctor), Gallifrey is sent to an alternate universe, and the Daleks are defeated.
Obviously, seeing David Tennant and Billie Piper on screen again was an absolute treat. Having a mainstream actor like John Hurt play a dark character for the show was also a joy. Tennant and Smith bounce off each other’s character brilliantly. The humorous scenes are on point, and they get a roaring laugh. Many feel that saving Gallifrey went against the darker tone “New Who” was trying to achieve, but it was also an inevitability. If Gallifrey was going to return, the 50th anniversary special makes the most sense.
However, this was the special that gave the series more attention. The special broke the Guinness World Record for the largest simulcast of a television drama since it aired in 94 countries and six continents. The episode was also the first one to have modern special effects, and a theatrical release. Call “The Day of the Doctor” a fan service if you’d like, but it was also a reward to all the fans who love the show.
4) “The Waters of Mars”
Why haven’t we see these monsters again?
In “The Waters of Mars,” The 10th Doctor finds himself on the planet Mars where he finds the very first human colony to attempt life on the red planet. During this time, the Doctor knows that his life may soon come to an end because of a warning given to him by the Ood. He is also depressed because he had to send Donna home, and erase her memory because of an accident involving a biological metacrisis, Daleks, and a severed hand (It’s “Doctor Who,” so it makes sense).
After spending time with the members of the colony, the Doctor remembers that all of them are going to die in a tragic accident that will affect the rest of human history. Knowing that he cannot change time, he departs the colony, and begins to walk back to the TARDIS. The colony is under attack by their own crew, who is being controlled by the water on Mars. If even a single drop touches you, you become a monster that appears to be constantly drowning.
Captain of the colony is Adelaide Brooke, played by Lindsay Duncan. She finds herself trying to both bargain with the Doctor to save their lives, as well as be the calm leader who saves keeps her crew in line. Duncan works off Tennant to a point where it seems as though they have worked with each other for years. In one scene, the Doctor is in an escape hatch, but Brooke has the option to open the hatch, or keep him inside with her. She knows that if she keeps him inside, he might attempt to save his own life, and save them in the process. However, the Doctor tells her the impact the tragedy has, including her granddaughter following in her footsteps, and revolutionizing space travel. As tears flow down her cheek, Brooke releases the Doctor, and accepts her fate.
However, what gives this episode the Number 4 spot on this list, is when the Doctor changes his mind. Throughout his life, the Doctor has followed the rules of time travel that the Timelords instilled. However, they have left him wandering the universe alone, and depressed. The Doctor decides he has had enough as he rushes back to save the crew. This scene is where Tennant is at his best, as he denounces the rules the Timelords created, and declares himself the Timelord victorious. The Doctor ends up saving several members of the crew including Brooke. However, Brooke is not grateful due to the fact that the Doctor could have decided to save all of them from the beginning, and that he should not feel he has the power to change history whenever he feels like it. The Doctor walks away feeling as though he made a decision that will change his life, and benefit the universe. However, as he enters the TARDIS, he hears Brooke’s gun sound off, and history changes back to her tragically dying. After realizing Brooke is now dead, he then spots an Ood staring at him from across the road. At this point, the Doctor realizes that he is at the mercy of time rather than time being at his mercy, and that he cannot change the world as he pleases. Very rarely does the Doctor ever learn anything in an episode, but here not only does the Doctor realize that he can’t escape destiny, but he is also belittled.
“The Waters of Mars” set the tone for Tennant’s finale, and for all future incarnations of the Doctor that were yet to come.
Whenever the subject of the Ninth Doctor’s best adventure comes up, it is usually between “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” and “Bad Wolf”/”The Parting of Ways/” Sadly, “Dalek” does not get near the credit it deserves.
In “Dalek,” the Ninth Doctor and Rose receive a distress signal from an alien being held captive in Utah. They journey to Utah only to find a museum of alien technology. The Doctor is invited to speak with the alien because its captors cannot get it to speak. Upon meeting the alien, the Doctor discovers that it is a Dalek, his greatest foe. However, the Dalek is gravely injured, and cannot fight back. The Doctor begs the captors to kill the Dalek, and rid it from the universe. The Doctor is taken into questioning, as Rose goes to question the Dalek. Not knowing of the murderous rage of the Daleks, Rose sympathizes with the creature. When she places her hand on it, the Dalek uses her cells to fix itself, and break from its bonds. As soldiers burst in to try and kill the Dalek, they find that their guns are ineffective as the Dalek kills them all.
Once the Dalek kills almost all of its captors, the Doctor is released from his bonds, and is asked to stop it. All fans of the show know that the Doctor does not carry guns, and he always wants to save rather than kill. However, the Doctor breaks his rule as he searches for weapons to kill the Dalek. In the end, the Doctor holds a gun up to the Dalek, as Rose stands in between them. The Dalek is depressed with the knowledge that he no longer has purpose in its life, and because the cells given to it by Rose gave it emotions. The Doctor feels guilty after wanting to kill an already defeated enemy, and drops his gun.
Not only is “Dalek” both Eccleston and Piper’s best episode, but it is also the episode that defines “New Who.” This was the episode that showed that the Doctor was different. He was no longer the happy-go-lucky time traveler who finds himself getting into mishaps. He was now a tired soldier forged in the blood of war. The final confrontation with the Dalek is one of the best shot scenes in the entire series. The Doctor tells Rose to step out of the way so he can shoot the Dalek, but as soon as he sees his already defeated enemy and the gun in his hands, he drops the gun, and begins to sob. This scene contains no music, and relies solely on the expressions on the character’s faces.
If I were to continue talking about “Dalek,” this list would be 20 pages long. The scarier thing is that there are still two more entries on this list.
2) “The End of Time Part I and II”
Whereas “Dalek” defined the series, “The End of Time Part I and II” defined the Doctor.
Knowing that his life is coming to an end soon, the Tenth Doctor discovers that the Master has returned, and that he is planning to resurrect the Timelords. Upon hearing this information, most fans would find themselves confused because the Doctor always speaks highly of his people, so their return should be something to be celebrated.
In order to stop the Master, the Doctor joins forces with his former companion Donna’s grandfather Wilfred. The Doctor also teams up with cactus people, fires asteroid lasers at the hundreds of nuclear missiles aimed at him, and saves Barack Obama from being transformed into a Timelord (It’s “Doctor Who” so it makes… Oh you get it by now).
Trying to explain the story and mechanics of this episode would be like trying to teach Russian to a kindergarten student. However, it is in the acting where this episode really takes hold. John Simm returns as the Master, but this time his actions are understood more as he has become desperate. Although resurrected, his life will leave him soon, so he is trying to find a way to live, as well as find the meaning behind the never ending drum beat that has plagued him since he was a child. The Doctor suspects that it is the Master who will kill him, as the drum beat matches the prophesy that of four knocks leading up to his death. However, the Doctor does not want to kill the Master because he is not a killer, and because he does consider the Master to be a friend. However, the Doctor’s meaner changes as soon as he finds out that the Timelords are returning.
The Doctor struggles with deciding what is the right thing to do. He is not a killer, but the Master’s plans will destroy the Earth, and the Timelord’s plans will destroy the universe. In one of the final scenes, Tennant has a gun with which he can either shoot the Master, or the president of Gallifrey, Rassilon played by Timothy Dalton. The Doctor takes an option that was not on the table, and shoots a control panel that sends the Timelords back to Gallifrey, and saves the human race.
“The End of Time Part I and II” was not only Tennant’s last adventure, but also head writer Russell T. Davies’s. Tennant steals the show in every scene of this adventure. His monologues with Wilfred and the Master add character development to a character appearing in ironically his last episode (or so we thought). After saving Wilfred, resulting in imminent regeneration, the Doctor goes to get his reward. The Doctor then visits each of his past companions, and helps them each in a unique way whether it be saving their life, or giving them a winning lottery ticket. Although they were just small cameos, seeing past “Doctor Who” companions one last time was the perfect way to bid farewell to the series millions of fans grew to love.
1) “Vincent and the Doctor”
When the show first appeared in 1964, it was went to be an educational show for children. After the series became popular when Tom Baker took over as the Fourth Doctor, the series became to embrace its sci-fi nature much more than before. When the series returned in 2005, it targeted a more adult audience who could handle darker story. “Vincent and the Doctor” is the perfect adventure in “Doctor Who” because it is the best at combining all three of these characteristics.
The episode begins with the Doctor and Amy visiting a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit at a museum. When the Doctor sees an evil looking creature in one of Van Gogh’s paintings, him and Amy journey back in time to track down the creature as it might have affected Van Gogh’s death.
The two meet Van Gogh at a bar where he is attempting to sell one of his paintings for a drink. Tony Curran plays Van Gogh. The sad thing about sci-fi television is that it is often overlooked by the Emmys and Golden Globes. Curran’s portray of Van Gogh is phenomenal to say the least. The fact that he was not nominated for an Emmy for guest performance is nothing short of a travesty. Curran walks the line of madness and brilliance like that of Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal Lector. At one point he is trapped in his work, illustrating beautiful landscapes, and at another point he is weeping over the torment of his life. Rather than giving a Wikipedia list of aspects about Van Gogh, the show instead tries its best to show the artist for who he truly was.
The Doctor discovers that the monster is a lost alien, trying to find a safe place to live. However, for some reason only Van Gogh can see him. When they finally track down the alien, it is Van Gogh who accidentally kills it. The relationship between Van Gogh and the alien was brilliantly written. Both feel lost in the world, are invisible to the world, and are merely trying to survive. However, their true similarity becomes clear at the end of the episode.