Doctor Who is my favourite story world; it’s influence on my writing is probably pretty obvious. Hey, all the BEST most HANDSOME writers steal, okay?!
In this article, I’m going to pick out the two must-sees from each season of modern Who. Plus some more tossed in on top. You might not agree with my choices. If so, YOU WOULD BE WRONG, DUMB-DUMB!
I mean, let me know your own faves. Or something.
The glorious return of Doctor Who! Many thought that nobody would be interested, that no one would watch, perhaps forgetting that the McGann TV movie pulled in a large audience when it was shown. Yes, okay, I was one of those worried that no one would watch, apart from you sad nerds, and me. STILL a super strong run. Sure, we had the Slitheen and burping bins to contend with, but it’s still one of the most satisfying seasons of new Who. And oh by gosh, how thrilling would it have been if they’d been able to keep that regeneration under wraps?
POW!! As I may have mentioned elsewhere (I totes did), ‘Dalek’ was the first ten out of ten episode of new Who for me. I’d enjoyed all the eps before it, to a greater or lesser degree, but this was the first one to really blow me away. The fact the writer has not since worked on the show is a bloomin’ tragedy. How on Earth did the make those pepper pots a credible enemy?! By taking them seriously, and trusting the original design.
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
“Are you my Mummy?” The Grand Moff, smashing it for six first time out to bat. Before the series aired, I had serious doubts about Mr Moff being involved, but he proved me wrong immediately. Straight away he gave us something creepy that seeped into the public consciousness. Oh, and I like to think I have a strong stomach, but when Victor Meldrew began his transformation? My goodness but did it disturb.
And so Tennant swaggers in, helping to stamp the shows place into many new viewers hearts. In retrospect, this season now feels a little like a slight wobble. It’s certainly the season that would sit at the bottom of any list of new Who seasons I were to make. That’s not to say it’s ‘bad’, or doesn’t contain its fair share of cracking episodes, but it feels slightly lesser compared to Eccs year, and fails to reach the highs we would get in the next two Tennant seasons.
The Girl in the Fireplace
Moffat’s first bit of ‘timey-wimey’. Clever, scary, and full of emotion (b-b-but Moffat doesn’t do emotion, RTD does!), this is a bit of a cracker and shows so much of what Who can do squeezed into one episode.
The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
“The Beast and his armies will rise from the pit to make war against God”. Genuinely unnerving at times. A real sense of stepping into a terrifying place that must not be uncovered. Even the bloody Ood are great, in their first story. One of a very few stories that actually has the power to scare grown adults. Wonderful.
This season is probably notable for three main things, that the show would go on without Billie Piper just fine, the first appearance of the modern series defining new monster, The Weeping Angels, and the introduction, to new series fans, of the Doctor’s arch nemesis, The Master. AND OH MY GOD THAT MOMENT IN UTOPIA! THE WATCH! YANA! GAAAAHHHHHH!! Yes.
Human Nature/Family of Blood
Adapted by Paul Cornell from his own Virgin New Adventures novel, this is amazing, scary, emotional stuff. And boy, was Baines a terrific, creepy baddie. And that ending! The Doctor’s cruel punishments. Yes plz. Why has Cornell not been back since?!
“Don’t even blink.” The Weeping Angels take to the stage for the first time. Some quite like this one, so I’ve heard.
Tennant’s last season, and the return of Donna. This was my fave 10th Doc/Companion combination, and a nice freshening up of the relationship after the love story of the Doc and Rose, and the unrequited love of Martha. Two mates, travelling through time & space, fighting monsters.
Silence in the Library
“Spoilers”. I recall thinking the Donna season was ‘fine’ up to this point. Oh, I was enjoying things, and loved the Doctor/Donna partnership, but this story really took things to a whole other level.
Boy, a real belter this from RTD, delving deep into the ugly side of human nature and the pack mentality. And who knew a woman repeating what you were saying could be so shiver-some? I really like many of RTDs episodes, but it would have been great to see him dip into this well a few more times.
THE SPECIALS YEAR:
Waters of Mars
The specials year is not the shows finest hour, but out of the sorry looking lot, this is the one to go for. Even if it does really set up the dickish display we get from Tennant when he realises he’s going to have to help Wilfred out and so seal his own fate in his final story. DUDE-you’ll regenerate, Wilfred will FULLY DIE. Stop being a jerk about it. ANYWAY, yes, this one is a goodie.
CHEAT TIME – This one gets three in recognition of it being THE BEST MODERN SEASON OF WHO.
I AM CORRECT.
What a glorious year for Doctor Who. This is when things could have gone completely tits up. RTD and Tennant had left the building. Would the show be able to survive? Uh, OF COURSE. And so we got that Doctor, with those companions, the tone, the new Showrunner unleashed from single stories to run riot on a whole season; and it all rests upon the shoulders of three titanic stories:
The Eleventh Hour
It’s just beautiful. And the finest introduction story for a new Doctor ever. It just fills me with a giddy joy. The stakes were high with this one, new Doctor, new head writer, new producers, new companion, new, new, new. The opportunity for this to be ‘the great stumble’ were sky-high. Of course, they bloody nailed it. Amazingly so.
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
The best Weeping Angels story so far.
YOU: “Wait..! The best?! Wuh-Wuh-What about ‘Blink?!” *Puffs on asthma inhaler*
ME: “What can I say, I’m a sexy, handsome rebel.” *Puts on shades and revs motorcycle*
Yes, obvs, ‘Blink’ is amazing, but you know what..? I liked their second appearance even more. No, it doesn’t lessen the Angels. Hush now. It’s Moffat off the leash again, and I love it.
The Pandorica Open/The Big Bang
“We’re all stories, in the end.” STILL the best season finale we’ve had, this. God, but it’s thrilling, big, confident stuff. And I love how we go from the big, noisy, colourful Pandorica and its epic series of giant cliffhangers, to something that feels much smaller. And the Doctor, crumpled, by young Amelia Pond’s bed. Beautiful.
And to think that mixed in among these episodes were the likes of The Lodger, The Beast Below, and Vincent & the Doctor. Incredible stuff.
Alright everyone, hows about you layoff season six, yes?! We cool?! This season comes in for some serious stick, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not, I would argue, because there are loads of dud episodes contained within, no, it’s entirely down to the heavy arc nature of the run. This is the risk you take if you have a heavy arc season. If the arc, for whatever reason, doesn’t quite satisfy, or doesn’t seem to stick the landing, the whole season is tainted by association. Because let’s be real and funky-fresh for a second: there is LOTS of very good Doctor Who in season six. Don’t let the squashed ending or lack of satisfying emotional follow through on the River revelation blind you to that.
But which are the two stand outs?
The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
Remember when you watched the first episode of season 6 for the first time? BLOODY HELL! I was astonished, surprised and thrilled and had to watch it all over again as soon as it was finished. No one but Moffat can write Who like this.
The Doctor’s Wife
Neil FREAKIN’ Gaiman, yo. Good lord. This is a beautiful story. My fave moment? The end, the Doctor happily twirling around the console. THE FEELS. To have a talent such as Gaiman working on our little, daft show is incredible (and, uh, proof positive with his next story that even the greats can stumble and fall into a fresh, moist pile of bottom droppings).
Season seven. Bit of an odd fish. Despite the Clara mystery kicking off right from episode one, it really does feel like two separate seasons. The Pond farewell tour, and The Impossible Girl series. And sandwiched in between, a Christmas special..! This can make season seven feel bitty, not a satisfying whole. Despite this lack of unity, there are lots of good episodes lurking within.
Yeah, the happy sappy ending is a little disappointing (just let a scary-ass monster be a scary-ass monster already!), but otherwise this is a lovely, spooky thing. And those scene’s in the forest with the Crooked Man are creep-tastic.
The Name of the Doctor
That pre-credits sequence alone is worthy of a round of applause. The Doctor catching River’s hand, another round. That Hurt reveal, my hands are now starting to ache from all this clapping. It’s just good stuff, and sets us up wonderfully for:
The Night of the Doctor/Day of The Doctor/Time of the Doctor
There was so much room for disappointment with this one. Really, the chances of ‘failure’ were exceptionally high, Moffat must have felt immense pressure. And then he only went and pulled it off. (read what I had to say about ‘Night’ here) A glorious trio of treats. Yeah, I know some of you aren’t keen on ‘Time of’, but you’re wrong, dog-food face!
Season eight is remarkable. It’s remarkable because, eight full seasons in, it delivers perhaps the most consistent seasons since the shows return. And it’s also remarkable because it feels so different to the Matt Smith years, but is helmed by the same head writer. Somehow, with the introduction of a new Doctor, Moffat was able to shake up his game and deliver something fresh. Something with the flash and bang of his own run, combined with the focus on character and emotion that characterised much of RTDs run. Well I suppose this must have pleased many of those who loved RTDs run but constantly yak on about Moffat being the Devil who should be sacked immediately because fan entitlement, right? Ha-ha-ha-ha, no. Of course not. Because those people are nuts.
Capaldi’s first episode and he’s immediately different, funny, surprising and magnetic. It’s clear right away that this Doc and Clara are a special pairing.
IT’S AMAZING. Some people don’t agree. These people are clearly Koo-Koo. I love this story. It’s scary, exciting, beautiful, and more besides. In any list of my favourite Who stories, it would make a strong case for being number one. Go HERE to read me gush some more.
WOAH. I thought Moff-Who had got back into the swing of things with season 8, but 9 blew it out of the water. And CAPALDI! He totally came into his own as the Doctor. Still sharp, awkward, oblivious, but now with more fun and wildness plopped into the mixture.
The Magicians Apprentice/The Witches Familiar
Okay, Moffat has been writing Who stories for ten years now; so how in the heck is he still able to pull out stories like this as if it ain’t no thang? The Doctor entering an arena, atop a tank, shredding on an electric guitar, shades in place; Moffat must have laughed for a week after he thought up that entrance.
The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
A Harness/Moffat joint. This was one of the stories I was least looking forward to for some reason, but boy did it deliver! The Doc’s anti-war speech in episode two…cor blimey, yes indeedy. Capaldi, for not the first (or last) time shows why he’s probably the finest actor to ever take on the role.
Yes! Season 9 also gets THREE stories; it was just THAT GOOD. This is just incredible Who. A whole episode resting on a single actors shoulders (more or less), this is audacious, brave, bold stuff. And when you realise what he’s doing near the end, well, it’s difficult not to stand up and applaud. Heaven Sent stands tall alongside Blink, Listen, The Eleventh Hour, Day of, and, and…well…all the many, many classics Moffat has given us over the years.
No, why don’t YOU just marry Moffat already?!
There have been LOADS of awesome Who episodes. Far too many to make it onto this list. Oh, and that it’s quite clear I’m a shameless Moff fan-girl. SHAMELESS!
So these are the correct answers, but what would you put on your (probably (definitely) wrong) lists?
Argue with Matthew about Doctor Who here: @doctorwhothing
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