Doctor Who’s best speeches | 3-1

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3. Eleventh Doctor, The Big Bang

The Eleventh Doctor says farewell to Amelia Pond in this beautiful, pathos-laden little speech before he steps into the cracks in time and disappears from the universe. This is some of the best acting I’ve seen from Matt Smith, I think. He truly, convincingly conveys the impression of the weary, jaded old man as he rambles affectionately at Amy’s bedside, no mean feat for an actor of Matt’s age. It’s a simple, nice little scene but it’s so powerful and emotive and iconic that I think it deserves its place near the top of my list.

2a. Twelfth Doctor, The Zygon Inversion

Come on now. This is the reason we don’t deserve Peter Capaldi. This is the reason Peter Capaldi has rightly been called the best actor ever to play the Doctor. Peter is channelling passion and theatrical genius into every syllable, and that’s what makes this speech the widely acclaimed piece of television that it is. The writers, Steven Moffat and Jamie Mathieson, knew they could give Peter Capaldi an extended, soliloquising monologue like this and that he would pull it off outstandingly. Only an actor of Peter Capaldi’s calibre. Twelve’s words themselves are incredibly moving expression of the Doctor’s visceral abhorrence of war, and, when it comes to his feelings about war and his experiences in the Time War, I think the Doctor bears his soul more in this speech than we’ve ever seen from him before.

2b. Eleventh Doctor, The Time of the Doctor

Why are there two speeches tied for second place, you ask? It’s because I ONLY JUST REMEMBERED THIS SPEECH BEFORE I STARTED THIS POST OH MY GOD HOW DID I FORGET ABOUT THIS ONE I’M SO SORRY. This is the speech you watch on repeat if ever you’re feeling particularly masochistic. It absolutely killed me at the time, and I still find it incredibly gutting to watch, especially so because Matt was my Doctor, and saying goodbye was hard. It’s just a sublimely executed trainwreck of emotions. Matt’s speech is so beautiful, and then “I will always remember when the Doctor was me,” and then, goddamn it, he has a hallucination of Amy, “Raggedy man, goodnight,” and JFC JUST SPARE ME ALREADY. You get the picture. It makes me feel things.

1. Eleventh Doctor, The Rings of Akhaten

Some of the speeches in this list I chose for their emotive quality, some for their narrative or character significance, some for the pure captivating drama and theatrics. I chose Eleven’s acclaimed speech in The Rings of Akhaten because, in a way, it’s a combination of all of these things, and, above all, it’s just a sublime, consummately written, produced and acted segment of television. More so than any of the other speeches on this list, it’s pure art, pure literary flair and brilliance. It doesn’t really serve a critical purpose in the story, which I think is a fairly average episode in general, it’s just the writer, Neil Cross’s, and Matt Smith’s, and, not least, Murray Gold’s, creative talents unleashed, and the result is a sequence of utterly spellbinding, emotional, invigorating television. Matt Smith, of course, is the star of this sequence, and it’s his impassioned, candid performance here that makes this speech—in my opinion some of his absolute best acting during his time in the role.

So that’s my twelve thirteen picks*. Now this is the part where you tell me your twelve 😀

So, to recap

My twelve picks were:

  1. Eleventh Doctor, The Rings of Akhaten
  2. Twelfth Doctor, The Zygon Inversion / Eleventh Doctor, The Time of the Doctor
  3. Eleventh Doctor, The Big Bang
  4. Tenth Doctor, The End of Time
  5. Amy Pond, The Big Bang
  6. Eleventh Doctor, The Pandorica Opens
  7. Eleventh Doctor, The Eleventh Hour
  8. Twelfth Doctor, Flatline
  9. Clara Oswald, Listen
  10. River Song, The Forest of the Dead
  11. Ninth Doctor, Rose
  12. Tenth Doctor, The Christmas Invasion

Honourable mentions

I’m giving honourable mentions to speeches that I probably would have included somewhere on this list if I had actually remembered them in time (lmao I’ve messed this up I’m so sorry 😂😂).


What do you think? Which speeches do you like the most? Do you agree/disagree with my list? Wanna fight about it? Comments are open!

Doctor Who’s best speeches | 6-4

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6. Eleventh Doctor, The Pandorica Opens

Eleven’s epic speech in the first half of the Series 5 finale was pure bombastic speechifying. He’s swaggering and grandstanding against the assembled malevolent hordes of the universe, and it’s awesome. It’s the archetype of an epic Doctor speech — it’s even recited at conventions by former Doctors to audiences of squeeing fans (no one can quite top Matt, though, although Sylvester McCoy gave it a very impressive crack). It’s ironic because this speech is actually exactly the opposite of what it looks like—it’s so ridiculously over-the-top (but still completely awesome), which is actually the whole point: the alliance of the Doctor’s enemies set this whole thing up as a bluff to distract the Doctor from what was really going on here. That sort of diminishes the significance of this speech—but who cares, really? It’s still amazing, and I love watching it.

5. Amy Pond, The Big Bang

In my opinion, this is one of the most iconic moments of Doctor Who, certainly of the modern series. Try to remember what it felt like watching this for the first time. On first viewing, even on a rewatch, what’s happening here is absolutely spellbinding. It’s a consummately written and produced scene that, for me, stands as one of the single most memorable moments of this show. It’s simply magical. I love the way symbolic images conjure back Amy’s memory of the Doctor, I love Amy’s passion as she’s practically hectoring the Doctor back into existence, I particularly love the way the imagery of the Tardis is used like a magical incantation conjuring the Doctor into being. Most of all I love Karen Gillan’s transfixing performance, which, more than anything, makes this scene.

4. Tenth Doctor, The End of Time

Oh, the feels are strong in this one. Ten’s anguish and frustration at realising he’s being made effectively to end his own life is wonderfully moving and heartbreaking. For me, it’s one of the most emotional sequences of the entire show. David Tennant’s performance is so sublime, so incredibly powerful and gutting. Nearing his final moments as the Doctor, David Tennant delivered some of his greatest acting in the role, and that’s why this scene is remembered by every fan, that’s why it remains just as intensely powerful on the umpteenth rewatch. Words can only do it so much justice. Just watch it. Feel it.

Doctor Who’s best speeches | 9-7

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9. Clara Oswald, Listen

Watching this again just now gave me goosebumps. It always does. It’s a wonderfully haunting little sequence about the power and the virtue of being afraid, overlaid by this beautiful monologue of Clara’s. The controversy about Clara’s agency in “making” the Doctor aside, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who would deny that the sequence in itself is very powerful and moving, perhaps the best moment in what is already a standout episode. It’s a beautifully rousing message, and it’s articulated so perfectly by Clara in this sequence — I’m just frustrated I couldn’t put this one any higher, but it’s contending with some very stiff competition.

8. Twelfth Doctor, Flatline

You might think this speech of the Twelfth Doctor’s in Flatline is not really a very important speech, that it’s just standard Doctorish flamboyance and bombast, but I think it’s actually hugely significant for the Twelfth Doctor as a milestone in his character arc over Series 8, which is the reason I love it and always get chills watching it. Remember that the Twelfth Doctor began his life agonising over whether he was a “good man”, unsure of his identity and his purpose. Slowly over the course of Series 8 he came to remember who he, the Doctor, was and what his purpose was, culminating in the “I’m an idiot!” speech in Death in Heaven. This speech is an important milestone along the way, being the moment the Doctor comes to terms with and embraces the role he has found himself in, though he might not understand why he has been put in it, as “the man who stops the monsters”. His cold, triumphal fury as he’s banishing the Boneless is enough to tell you all you need to know.

7. Eleventh Doctor, The Eleventh Hour

No explanation needed here, really. This is what I like to call Eleven’s “I am the Doctor” moment (literally), just as Ten’s speech at the end of The Christmas Invasion was his, and Twelve’s speech in Flatline, I believe, was his — the moment the new Doctor casts off the shadow of the previous actor and establishes himself emphatically in the eyes of the audience as the Doctor. It usually actually involves the words “I am the Doctor”, as here. This speech was shorter and punchier than Ten’s speech, but just as, if not more, powerful. The moment Matt Smith walks through a montage of all ten previous Doctors and declares “Hello. I’m the Doctor,” is amazing, chills-inducing stuff.

Doctor Who’s best speeches | 12-10

The speeches and monologues in this show make up some of Doctor Who’s most memorable moments. The writers love to show their flair by giving the Doctor or his companions and friends rousing monologues to perform, whether they’re extended soliloquies or short and punchy passages. They’re the centrepieces of the best episodes, and we consider a Doctor or a companion short-changed if they haven’t been given a sufficient selection of meaty, memorable monologues to perform. Over the next four days I’m counting down what, in my opinion, are Doctor Who’s 12 best speeches and monologues.

I’ve restricted myself to New Who because, while I know there are plenty of brilliant monologues in Classic Who, it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen those episodes so I don’t want to miss out any worthy speeches just because I’ve forgotten about them!

So, without further ado, here goes…

12. Tenth Doctor, The Christmas Invasion

After being practically absent for the entirety of his first episode up to this point, wasn’t it just so, so sweet when Ten strutted out of the Tardis, bathrobe and all, and proceeded to lay down the law? It was the big payoff to this episode, seeing our new Doctor for the first time — for real — and seeing him wrest control of the situation in such a familiar flamboyant Doctor-ish style. And it worked. It established, within a matter of minutes, this unfamiliar new face as undeniably the Doctor in the eyes of an audience which could easily have failed to take to the new actor after the beloved Christopher Eccleston’s departure. I don’t think it holds up as well with time as it does on first viewing — some of the cornier lines and gestures make me cringe now, and Ten’s character is still relatively unhewn here — but it’s still undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments of New Who.

11. Ninth Doctor, Rose

In the first episode of the revived series, the Ninth Doctor expresses powerfully and mysteriously to Rose who the Doctor is. Although the Doctor is a beloved and iconic figure for viewers, part of the secret of the popular fascination and appeal of the character is the element of mystery and mystique which surrounds him, most obviously in the fact that the Doctor never reveals his name. In rebooting the character and the show, Rose did a fantastic job of establishing the Doctor in the minds of the audience as an interesting and endearing character, but also whetted the curiosity of the audience by casting a shade of mystery and mystique over him. In doing so it captured the essence of the Doctor perfectly, to my mind.

10. River Song, The Forest of the Dead

Just when you thought this majestic two-parter was going to end on the morose, poignant note of River Song’s sacrifice, it takes a complete u-turn and delivers one final, thrilling coup de grâce as the Doctor races against the clock in pursuit of one, final, lingering chance of saving River. It’s an uplifting, exhilarating, emotional short sequence set to River’s haunting monologue about the Doctor. It all captures who the Doctor is so rousingly and perfectly. I find it incredibly stirring and it never fails to make me emotional every time I see it.

Steven Moffat’s Top 10 (Part 2)

A few days ago I began counting down my top 10 Doctor Who stories written by Steven Moffat (Part 1 here). Because I wanted to build up suspense and anticipation, and because I’m too lazy to do the whole list at once, I cleverly and conveniently split the list into two separate parts.

So, here it is: my definitive ranking of Steven Moffat’s five best Doctor Who stories.

5. The Eleventh Hour

You really can’t beat The Eleventh Hour as a new Doctor (and companion) introductory episode. There is really no understatement in saying that the first episode of Matt Smith’s run, and of the Moffat era as a whole, is the prototype against which all other introductory episodes will be measured. It does everything it’s supposed to do—introducing the new Doctor and companion, ushering in the new era, and serving as a concise and engaging introduction to the show in general—exemplarily. Sure, the plot itself, about the Atraxi, is a bit insubstantial and generic, but the focus of this episode is, emphatically, not on the plot but on the elements I’ve just mentioned, in particular the introduction of the new leads, which it does sublimely. Its most important moments, therefore, are not the scenes dealing with the Atraxi threat, but the scenes in which we get to learn who our new leads, the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond, are, such as that magical, timeless scene between the newly-regenerated Eleventh Doctor and little Amelia Pond.

4. Heaven Sent

It’s been over two months since Heaven Sent aired as the penultimate episode of Series 9, and I’m still reeling from how utterly amazing it is, as an entire package—a piece of writing, production, acting, directing, even music—but especially as an outstanding work of screenwriting. As a one-hander featuring (for all intents and purposes) only one speaking character, the Doctor himself, it is possibly the most experimental and avant garde episode of televised Doctor Who, and certainly on Moffat’s resume. You’d have to go back to the most surreal years of Hartnell and McCoy to find something as remotely experimental as Heaven Sent. The gamble undoubtedly paid off, though, as Heaven Sent is a masterpiece of writing and, indeed, in every department. It’s simply a mesmerising 55 minutes of television, a constellation of screenwriting genius with the equally impressive talents of Peter Capaldi, Rachel Talalay, Murray Gold and others. It proves that, even nearing the end of his Doctor Who writing career, Steven Moffat is capable of creating breathtaking and artistic stories.

3. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

There was a time when Moffat was known as the master of terror, a sadist among the Doctor Who writers who delighted in terrifying children. The reputation probably stemmed from this skin-crawling pair of episodes in Series 1, which live up to Moffat’s caricature. These episodes traumatised a generation of pre-adolescents, including myself: I saw these episodes when they first aired when I was 10, and they frightened me so much that I was put off Doctor Who for years, and also caused me contract an irrational fear of gas masks (I’m still a bit uneasy around them). They contain some of the creepiest and most unsettling scenes in the show’s history, and it’s clear, watching them, that Moffat is a master of fright and freaky at work. Apart from the fear factor, though, this story is just exceptionally well-written: never mind great Doctor Who, it’s great television, full stop. It’s a totally absorbing and atmospheric story, and features fantastic instances of characterisation, unarguably deserving of a place among the best Doctor Who stories ever made.

2. Blink

If anyone you know is in doubt of Moffat’s abilities as a television writer, just show them Blink. Justly acclaimed as one of, if not the, best Doctor Who story ever made, it’s a timeless classic whose veneration among fans has not diminished with time by one iota. Nearly a decade later and it’s still as chilling and exhilarating as ever. It’s another perfect exemplar of great Doctor Who as great television in general, a fantastic screenplay and a fantastic piece of sci-fi writing. Blink, of course, introduced Moffat’s ingenious creation, the very creepy Weeping Angels, the most successful and popular Doctor Who monsters since the Daleks, and which, at one point, looked like they might even pip the Daleks for the status of Doctor Who’s signature monsters. Somewhat ironically for one of Doctor Who’s most popular episodes, Blink is Doctor-lite, but instead we get the brilliant character Sally Sparrow, one of the show’s great could-have-been companions. In fact, the conspicuous absence of the Doctor’s presence lends the story exactly the atmosphere of claustrophobia and intolerable suspense that makes Blink such a successful episode. It’s an outstanding credit to Moffat’s creative genius.

1. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

Why Silence in the Library over Blink (or any of the other episodes)? Good question. I agonised over this choice, trying to weigh the episodes’ respective attributes and consider the varied factors that would play into a choice of what makes “the best” Moffat episode. But I always came back to the fact that whatever my choice, it would always be completely arbitrary and subjective, and there is no objective way of choosing a definitive “best” episode. So, in the end, I just went with my favourite.

Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead is a testament Moffat’s ability to take an idea for a fairly standard base-under-siege story (shadow monsters in a giant library) and develop it into as bold, moody, surreal and emotional a masterpiece as this. Silence in the Library is a perfect showcase of the many tropes of Moffat’s Doctor Who writing that have by now become quite familiar to us. There’s a freaky new monster, the Vashta Nerada, whose fear factor lies in a clever psychological gimmick; intricate and intelligent plotting that ends up blindsiding the audience with a well-executed twist; bold, creative narrative experimentation, including some truly surreal sequences while Donna is stuck inside CAL’s virtual hard drive; and involving and emotional character drama, including the first (and best, at least until THORS) appearance of Moffat’s signature character, River Song, and the beginning of the legendary onscreen relationship between the Doctor and River Song. It all comes together in a thrilling narrative symphony, making for, I believe, the very best of Steven Moffat.

So, in summary…

My ten picks were:

  1. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
  2. Blink
  3. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
  4. Heaven Sent
  5. The Eleventh Hour
  6. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
  7. The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
  8. A Christmas Carol
  9. The Day of the Doctor
  10. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

How does your list compare to mine? Wanna fight about it? If so, leave a comment below.

Steven Moffat’s Top 10 (Part 1)

Having digested the news that our Dear Leader, Steven Moffat, is to retire as Doctor Who showrunner, I have decided to look back on what this remarkable writer has contributed in his career to this remarkable show. I’m counting down my picks for Steven Moffat’s ten best scripts for Doctor Who — although I hope, of course, careful not to be premature about this, that Moffat, in his final series, will deliver yet more astounding writing and that I can say in a little over a year’s time that this list is redundant.

This list is obviously subjective, based on my own opinions and estimations, as there is no objective way to compile a “Definitive Top 10” of anything that can’t be measured. So don’t take this list too seriously if you happen to disagree (as you may) with my picks.

Anyway, without further ado…

10. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

In his first series as showrunner, Moffat brought back his acclaimed creations, the terrifying Weeping Angels, and stuck the Doctor and Amy in a spaceship teeming with them. It’s an exhilarating and dramatic base-under-siege with enemies that were practically made for this format. The suspense and the adrenaline never lets up: it’s a tight and absorbing pair of episodes that do justice to the Weeping Angels’ second ever outing, after their introduction in the sensational Blink. It also has Steven Moffat’s signature flair for engaging character writing, as Eleven, Amy and River Song (and their respective actors, of course) are all at their luminous best. Notable scenes include Amy stuck in a trailer with a Weeping Angel materialising out of a video recording, and Amy stumbling, blind, through the forest while surrounded by Angels.

9. The Day of the Doctor

Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special was an extravagant, uplifting homage to the show and its fans, indulging shamelessly in the show’s heritage and featuring not just one, but three (four? thirteen?) Doctors. I can’t remember laughing more at an episode of Doctor Who than I did watching Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt perform the hilarious dialogue with each other in this episode. The brilliance of The Day of the Doctor owes much to the novelty of seeing Matt Smith and David Tennant, along with John Hurt, together onscreen as leads, but it’s also an exceptional story in general. It isn’t a sophisticated, artistic work of writing as many of Moffat’s other most acclaimed scripts are, but it’s a jubilant, well-put together and emotionally satisfying celebration of Doctor Who that only a writer with a deep love and reverence for this show could have written. I adore it.

8. A Christmas Carol

Still the best Christmas special by a good length, and, in my opinion, one of the best things Moffat has written for the show. A Christmas Carol isn’t often mentioned among lists of “Moffat’s best”, because, well, it’s a Christmas special and aren’t Christmas specials just light, insubstantial seasonal fluff? Not “real” Doctor Who? Well, yes, generally, but Christmas specials can still be fantastic pieces of writing and production, as I believe A Christmas Carol is, perhaps ironically for the most overtly “Christmassy” of Doctor Who’s Christmas specials. It was an absorbing, heartwarming and very emotional story, a recreation of the eponymous Charles Dickens tale with the unique Doctor Who twist of time travel. It’s filled with enchanting moments, such as all the adventures the Doctor has with young Kazran and Abigail, whose blossoming relationship is beautiful, but also very poignant moments such as elderly Kazran’s emotional catharsis when confronted with his younger self. It’s a perfect Christmas tale.

7. The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

It’s hard not to love this one, the bold, explosive two-part opener to Series 6. Like The Magician’s Apprentice, this extravagant opener begun Series 6 with a story pretty much the of the scale and atmosphere of a finale, although in fact it set up the various arc threads which would weave their way throughout Series 6 and culminate in the timey-wimey finale. This story introduced the Silence, probably my favourite monster in Doctor Who, in my opinion one of the more menacing and genuinely scary creatures in the show. Like the Weeping Angels, Moffat’s other notable creature creation, they’re very creepy monsters based on a neat psychological trick, their ability to cause the observer to forget them after looking away. In the episodes this made for many creepy scenes, like Amy being confronted by the Silent in the White House bathroom, and Amy in the Silence-infested orphanage. The plot constructed around the threat of the Silence to human civilisation was also great, suspenseful and claustrophobic drama, and the aesthetic of Americana lends the story an irresistible mood and swagger.

6. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

The two-part Series 5 finale remains, to my mind, the best finale of the revival. It’s a superlative script that oozes Moffat’s style and voice all over. It’s a delightfully clever script that deceptively wrong-foots the viewer and then radically changes course halfway through. In many ways it’s the archetypal Moffat finale: it’s an expansive, high-stakes plot with a thrilling concept at its core, involving a very timey-wimey threat in an exploding Tardis that threatens to cause the implosion of the whole universe; but it also carries a profound emotional and character-centred quality, punctuated by touching character moments such as Rory’s pledging himself to stand guard over Amy for 2,000 years, and the Doctor’s pathetic goodbye to little Amelia in her bedroom as he fades from the universe. This story embodies those two staples of Moffat’s style: a penchant for clever and intricate storytelling and especially imaginative exploitation of the narrative possibilities of time travel; and a firm anchoring, from a storytelling perspective, in characters and their relationships.


Stay tuned for my top 5 Moffat stories! Please?

Ranking the finales (Part 2)

I began counting down the best finales since 2005 here. Here’s my final four.


4. The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords (Series 3)

I suppose your opinion of the two-part Series 3 finale depends to a large extent on your opinion of John Simm’s interpretation of the Master. Those who dislike Simm’s Master see the character as over-the-top, manic, comical and pantomime. But that’s just why I love him. There are a number of things in this finale that make me cringe, but I think it all pales in comparison to John Simm’s mesmerising performance as the Master. Truly, it’s genuinely impressive that Simm managed to make the character at the same time hilarious and freaking awesome, but also intensely menacing and unsettling—something, by the way, I feel Michelle Gomez has emphatically succeeded in replicating.

Apart from my view that the Toclafane, while a disturbing and gruesome concept, were far too comical (those voices… ugh) to constitute a convincing threat, I thought the script itself was very well crafted. It was thrilling to see the Doctor defeated for once, and to be defeated so completely. I think that doesn’t happen often enough, and in this finale it made the Doctor’s eventual victory all the more satisfying and emotionally powerful. Moreover, the Doctor’s defeat at the hands of the Master shifted the onus onto Martha, who, in her last adventure with the Doctor, proved what a truly extraordinary person she is by essentially single-handedly saving the world. She proved that she’s made of very stern stuff indeed, and how much, to be honest, the Doctor didn’t deserve her. I’ve always had a soft spot for Martha, and slightly resented the Doctor for the way he treated her during her time, and thought her departure, while understated, was fitting for her character, leaving on her own terms after saving the world.

Full review here.

3. The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End (Series 4)

There’s a great deal of nonsense in the Series 4 finale, but somehow, through the impressive writing abilities of Russell T Davies, the finale managed to bring together all that nonsense to form an epic, absorbing, breathtaking coup de grâce to Series 4 and, to an extent, to the Russell T Davies era as a whole. It feels like everything, kitchen sink and all, was thrown into this finale—every companion of the preceding four years, Rose, the Torchwood and Sarah-Jane Adventures crews, bazillions of Daleks, Davros, and two (three?) Doctors—the scale of the thing was epic, and understandably so: this was a big, extravagant celebration of everything Russell T Davies had created. At the same time, it never feels like it’s overblown or over-the-top or over-saturated. It’s a commensurate, dazzling script, and a fantastic way to finish the last regular series of Doctor Who under that team.

The Series 4 finale gave us so many amazing, memorable moments. I’ll pick out a few of my favourites. Some malign the DoctorDonna deus ex machina resolution, but I totally adore it. To be honest, it gives me the chills every time, and Catherine Tate, essentially just doing what she’s loved for—being gobby and witty—is a captivating presence in that scene. Exemplary instance of playing to your actors’ strengths. The dialogue between the Doctor and Davros was electric, goosebump-inducing stuff. The scene where the Doctor and all his friends pilot the Tardis together, towing the Earth home was just wonderfully ecstatic and jubilant, an ode to friendship and companionship. Finally, Donna’s exit, in my opinion, was the most heartwrenching of all the companion exits. It was pure, piercing tragedy, one of the most genuinely uplifting character developments the show has carried out completely, horrifyingly reversed—it never fails to move me.

Full review here.

2. Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways (Series 1)

The phenomenal two-part finale to the first series of Doctor Who, back from the grave, still stands as the archetype of how a modern Doctor Who series finale should be done: big, expansive, high-stakes, emotional and featuring some iconic enemy at their fearsome best. Ten years on, I still think only one subsequent series finale has bested Series 1, and even then it’s a close call. Although the Daleks (Dalek) first returned earlier in the series in DalekBad Wolf was our first story featuring the Daleks as they’ve traditionally appeared — en masse. To me it’s still the Daleks’ best appearance in modern Doctor Who, which is in no small part due to the script’s understanding that the Daleks, always in danger of verging on the comical, are most effectively menacing when they’re shown to be lurking in the shadows, manipulating events behind the scenes. Moreover, I think you’d be hard-pressed to point to a story, apart from Dalek, which has more chillingly portrayed the Daleks’ cold ruthlessness.

But more than the superb use of the Daleks, it was just an exceptional script altogether. The way it moved from its fairly innocuous initial setting in a futuristic Big Brother House, revealing more and more of the threat and the stakes until the malignant presence of the Daleks was uncovered, duly building up the suspense, was an ingenious device, echoing the frequent use of the same narrative device in many early 1960s serials. No less part of the success of this story was the foregrounding of the emotional plot in the second half, exploring how far Rose’s and the Doctor’s respective character developments have brought them both, culminating in Rose’s returning to the Game Station, possessed with the time vortex, disintegrating the Dalek fleet and saving the world. And of course, this was the finale that gave us the first regeneration of the revival—the most understated, to be sure, but still just as memorable, emotional and effective as Ten’s and Eleven’s.

Full review here.

1. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (Series 5)

And the winner is… the sensational Series 5 finale, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang. It was the first finale of the fresh, brand new era of Doctor Who under a new showrunner and a new Doctor and remains, in my opinion, not only the best finale penned by Steven Moffat, but also the best finale since the show returned in 2005. Maybe sentiment has a lot to do with my choice, as I’m an unabashed Moffat and Matt Smith (and Amy Pond) partisan, but I think few would dispute that Pandorica is a superlative finale.

I think part of the genius of this finale is that, for its first half, it pretends to be one thing, throwing a giant red herring our way about a a big scary monster escaping from its box, but at the halfway point, in an agonising cliffhanger, turns the story on its head and morphs into something entirely different, and so much bigger. Steven Moffat really lets his penchant for the timey-wimey run wild with a riveting story about all of time and space imploding because of an exploding Tardis. I mean, this finale could be described as “Steven Moffat with the stabilisers off” — which is no criticism, by any means.

It also carries a profound emotional quality, and manages to be unusually character-centred for a narrative of such scale and intricacy. It’s punctuated by touching moments like Amy finally remembering her fiancé, Rory pledging himself to stand guard over Amy for 2,000 years, the Doctor’s pathetic goodbye to little Amelia in her bedroom, and, of course, Amy, at her wedding, conjuring the Doctor back into reality in the thrilling coda to the finale. That last scene always gives me goosebumps, surely ranking up there as one of the more chilling, powerful Doctor Who moments.

How else can I explain my choice? I guess, to me, it’s a masterpiece. It’ll be a while before Moffat, or, indeed, anyone, matches the quality of Pandorica in a series finale again.

Full review here.

So to recap…

My choices were:

  1. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
  2. Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways
  3. The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End
  4. The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords
  5. The Wedding of River Song
  6. Hell Bent
  7. Dark Water/Death in Heaven
  8. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
  9. The Name of the Doctor

What do you think of my choices? What’s your favourite finale? Am I raving mad to think The Wedding of River Song worth watching? Share your thoughts below.

Ranking the finales (Part 1)

Have you recovered yet? Are you ready to come out? Have you come to terms with last Saturday’s gut-wrenching end to the beloved onscreen partnership of the last two years? Are you able to hear Clara’s name spoken without breaking down in tears yet?

Or, alternatively, have you chewed away all your frustration and exasperation? Have you stopped muttering “f*cking Moffat” under your breath every thirty seconds?

Yes, it’s been almost a week since Series 9’s grand finale, Hell Bent, aired, and has reliably left the fandom in as dazed and sucker-punched a state as always. Perhaps by now we’ve processed the dizzying blows of Hell Bent and are ready to articulate our thoughts in something approaching coherent form.

So how does Hell Bent measure up against all the other finales of the revival? I’ve decided to set out, definitively, how the finales stack up against each other. This post will detail my assessment of the ninth to fifth-ranked finales. Tomorrow (probably) I’ll post the final four.

So without further ado…


9. The Name of the Doctor (Series 7)

I don’t dislike any of the finales so far, but The Name of the Doctor works for me the least. To be sure, I think it’s a good episode. At the time, I was really impressed; it had one of the best pretitles sequences in the show’s history, and I thought the idea that Clara had entered the Doctor’s timestream, broken herself into a million echoes scattered across the Doctor’s timeline to save him from the devices of the Great Intelligence was nothing short of awesome. I thought that was a spectacular resolution to the Impossible Girl arc, and seeing that montage of Clara manifesting herself in scenes from the Doctor’s adventures was exhilarating. I love that this finale bound together the Doctor and Clara on a cosmic level, so important had Clara become to the Doctor. I love the emotional “goodbye” between the Eleventh Doctor and River Song, and I love the wonderfully enigmatic introduction of the War Doctor, leading into the 50th Anniversary.

No, what leaves me somewhat unsatisfied about this episode, as a series finale, was that not all that much actually happened. It was very much an episode about an idea (Clara = the girl who was born to save the Doctor) rather than a substantive story, and most of the episode was written as material leading up to the big, flashy montage at the end. The stakes in the episode were just as high as any other finale (the end of the universe, as usual), but it did feel a lot like it was mostly style over substance, or a really cool idea over a proper, satisfying story. I don’t know, I guess I just want something meatier to sink my teeth into in a series finale.

Full review here.

8. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday (Series 2)

Okay, let’s be honest here. The only thing the Series 2 finale is ever remembered for is Rose’s farewell. Rightly so, it’s the best thing about this finale, arguably the most heartbreaking and memorable companion exit of all, a traumatising parting of the ways that never fails to move me. The acting of David Tennant and Billie Piper in those moments is some of their best in their respective terms, both of them mustering up everything they’ve got to eke out as much emotion and pain from the audience as possible. It’s justly considered one of the show’s most memorable ever scenes.

But there’s a lot more to this finale than Ten and Rose’s breakup, and it’s that that brings this finale down for me. It’s not a bad finale, by any means, but it all feels a bit sloppy. The Daleks versus the Cybermen was one of those ideas we could all fantasise about, but which we knew would never work onscreen. And this finale doesn’t really do justice to the idea — there’s some amusing banter between the Daleks and the Cybermen, but the actual battle scenes were never going to be as good as the idea of a Dalek-Cyberman standoff merited. No, apart from the emotional goodbye between the Doctor and Rose, and Tennant and Piper’s fantastic performances throughout the finale generally, this is a pretty nondescript finale for me.

Full review here.

7. Dark Water/Death in Heaven (Series 8)

Maybe I’m still smarting from the wholly underwhelming letdown that was the second half of last year’s finale, but I can’t bring myself to rank the Series 8 finale any higher. My enduring impression of Dark Water/Death in Heaven is that it was a big two-part finale that set itself up so well — my first viewing of Dark Water is one of my most treasured memories watching this show — but failed so thoroughly to follow through on the great work of its first half. Death in Heaven was a disappointing letdown if there ever was one. I find it really hard to forgive that, probably more difficult than if it were just rubbish from start to finish.

What I really do like this finale for, though, is its willingness to delve into very dark and grown-up themes, that is to say: death and the afterlife. Dark Water got Doctor Who into a bit of trouble for the whole “Don’t cremate me!” thing, and, to be sure, it was very disturbing. But, at the same time, that was easily one of the best moments of the episode. Dark Doctor Who is always absorbing Doctor Who. I also loved Missy — I felt the Cybermen were, again, portrayed poorly, but Michelle Gomez as Missy was just mesmerising. In addition, I found very satisfying and gratifying the way the Twelfth Doctor’s character arc over the series was resolved in Death in Heaven, with the Doctor coming to the realisation that, no, he’s not a good man, but he tries to be, and helps out where he can, which is what matters. It was really uplifting, in the finale’s denouement, to see Capaldi’s Doctor finally assured of his own identity after a series of a self-doubting, brooding new Doctor.

Full review here.

6. Hell Bent (Series 9)

The recent Series 9 finale improves every time I watch it. As a character piece centring on the Doctor’s attachment to Clara Oswald, showing how far the Doctor was prepared to go for Clara’s sake, it was incredibly powerful and affecting. We were all expecting, I think, an epic, blockbusting Doctor v. Time Lords standoff, the Doctor’s historic return to Gallifrey for the first time since the Time War, filled to the brim with mythology development and revelations about mysterious hybrids. That would, I admit, have been awesome, and I’m a tiny bit disappointed that that’s not what we got—but in the end, Hell Bent was a far more, intimate, emotional and character-driven piece about the extent of the Doctor’s love for Clara, his grief over her fate, and his anger at the Time Lords.

There were many wonderful, powerful and emotional moments in there, such as the scene between the Doctor and Clara in the Cloisters, the face-off with Rassilon, and, of course, the final, tear-jerking goodbye between the Doctor and Clara. Whatever you thought about Clara’s death being reversed, or “qualified”, surely we would all agree that the Doctor forgetting Clara, one of his closest and most beloved ever companions, was utterly heartbreaking. What brings it down, for me, is that it did feel a bit messy and busy, as though there was too much going on, and it took a few attempts to cut through it all and discern what this finale was actually about. I think that was due to the decision to feature the return of Gallifrey and the emotional, character-focussed narrative in the same script. They both, to an extent, rather crowd each other out.

Full review here.

5. The Wedding of River Song (Series 6)

The Series 6 finale is often spoken about in a tone of exasperation and derision by fans. I think the popular view of The Wedding of River Song among the fandom is that it’s a somewhat incoherent ejaculation of arc-resolution, mostly incomprehensible and inaccessible if you’re not intimately acquainted with the multifarious and confusing Series 6 arc. I think there’s some truth in that, but that’s never been my impression. True enough, you need fairly good prior knowledge of the Series 6 arc to understand The Wedding of River Song, but, equally, the series finale is not there to appeal to the casual viewers who tune in and out when it suits them—it’s to reward the committed viewers who’ve come back and followed the show week-to-week. That’s always been the nature of Doctor Who’s series finales, and, at least in the modern show, it couldn’t really be otherwise.

With the requisite background knowledge of the Series 6 arc, then, The Wedding of River Song, I’ve found, is a really rewarding, engaging and satisfying culmination of Series 6. It’s unusually arc-dependent, even for a series finale, but I don’t think the arc material is dealt with in a way that inhibits the telling of a genuinely engaging and beautiful story about two fated lovers, the Doctor and River Song, and how one’s love for the other nearly ripped all of time apart. There are scenes, like those between the Doctor and River, especially the actual “wedding” of the Doctor and River, that are properly chilling, and constitute the actual heart, the essence, of this finale, when you cut through all the arc and timey-wimey stuff. It’s similar to Hell Bent in a way, in that Moffat has made a conflict of sweeping, all-consuming scale out of something profoundly personal and intimate: it’s River’s love for the Doctor that threatens all of time. I think that’s beautiful, and it’s a beautiful story.

Full review here.


Make sure to check back tomorrow for my top 4!

My top 5 Tardis teams

Now that Clara’s snuffed it, and the Doctor-Companion team of the last two years has come to a tragic end, I feel like I ought to assess where Twelve and Clara figure in my personal game of Doctor-Companion top trumps.

Here are my five favourite Doctor-Companion teams of the last 52 years.


5. Four and Romana

Technically this is two Tardis teams, but I really couldn’t choose between the two Romanas here. Romana (both of them) is probably my favourite classic companion, and I thought they both had superb, highly watchable dynamics with Tom Baker’s aloof, alien Doctor. To be honest, Tom Baker’s extraordinary and mesmerising Doctor makes any Doctor-Companion team he’s part of delightfully engaging to watch, but I adored most of all watching him with Romana.

His relationship with the first Romana, played by the beautiful Mary Tamm, was brilliant because it seemed like the Doctor had finally met his match in a companion. Unlike the succession of dim humans he’d taken to travelling with, who awed at his intelligence and obediently did as they were told, Romana considered herself his equal, if not his superior: she was just as intelligent as he was, if not more, and made a point of reminding him of her superior academic accomplishments. She rarely took orders from him without argument and was generally something entirely new to the Doctor. It was brilliant. Nevertheless, they had a great friendship and, despite their prickly moments, were a joy to watch together.

The Fourth Doctor with the second Romana, played by Lalla Ward, was a warmer and more intimate relationship, Romana less icy and prickly towards the Doctor, more fond of him and more appreciative of his experience. Four and Romana II had a more traditional Doctor-Companion relationship of uncomplicated friendship and mutual love of adventure, but the team of two Time Lords still made for a very unconventional and distinctive dynamic. Romana was still, in many ways, the Doctor’s equal, and, accordingly, her relationship with Tom Baker’s Doctor was nothing like that of Sarah-Jane or Leela. It was intellectual and clever and very alien. I loved that. It also helped that there was romance between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward offscreen, manifesting itself onscreen in wonderful chemistry between the Doctor and companion.

I think my favourite Four-Romana moment might have been the Doctor and Romana gadding about Paris in City of Death. They were too cute, and Romana looked just lovely in her schoolgirl outfit.

4. Ten and Donna

Ten and Donna were surely the definitive Doctor-Companion pairing of the Tenth Doctor’s era. Ten and Rose were sweet, but Ten and Donna were genuinely fun. Like Twelve and Clara, Ten and Donna were just two best friends romping around time and space, having the time of their lives together. They were just great mates, and that was their irresistible charm. It helped that Catherine Tate was hilarious, and that Tate and David Tennant had positively electric chemistry together. The banter was — literally — out of this world.

We all remember Ten and Donna fondly for the banter and the comedy and the great friendship between the two, but one of the most memorable and significant Ten-Donna moments was surely Donna’s pleading with the Doctor in The Fires of Pompeii to save Caecilius and his family. It showed how important Donna was to the Doctor personally, that she was more than just a good friend to him. To an extent I don’t think Rose or Martha would have been able to stand up to the Doctor like Donna did in that episode and cut down the Doctor’s Time Lord pretensions the way she did.

3. One, Susan, Ian and Barbara

The original Tardis team. These four were a quirky and eclectic mix of characters, but they were the most endearing and lovable group you could find. There was the tetchy, spiky First Doctor, who nevertheless exuded a certain magic and twinkle that made you love him, and who mellowed over time, under the influence of his companions, into the whimsical, charming, compassionate figure we now recognise as the Doctor. There was Susan, the Doctor’s sweet teenage granddaughter, a rather helpless figure at first, but who eventually came into her own, and eventually left in Doctor Who’s first ever heartbreaking companion exit, the beginning of a beloved tradition. Ian and Barbara, Susan’s abducted schoolteachers, were the most lovely pair, bringing a human groundedness to the first years of the show that could easily otherwise have been very alien. Together they were like a family, albeit a very odd family, all were written so well that you couldn’t help feeling a strong connection to them.

Part of the charm of their unique dynamic was that they were all stuck together, thrown together under unfortunate circumstances (the Tardis was malfunctioning), traipsing across time and space together trying to find a way out of their situation. None of them, except perhaps Susan, was particularly enamoured with the situation they had all found themselves in together at first, but they all grew so close and fond of each other over time. Even the Doctor, who was positively antagonistic towards Ian and Barbara at first, became very fond of them, and came to appreciate the little family he had found himself with, and, when Ian and Barbara eventually found a way to return to Earth, he was very upset and saddened to see them leave.

2. Twelve and Clara

twelveclara2

Now that I’ve seen two series of Twelve and Clara, I can say confidently that I love them more than any other Tardis team save for Eleven, Amy and Rory. Clara herself is kind of a middling companion for me — I like her, and she’s grown on me immensely in Series 9 — but she isn’t among my favourites. That said, though, I think Twelve and Clara are nothing short of perfect together. They’re an odd couple, the old man and the pretty young woman, but it works so well. These too are as close as any Doctor and companion can be; they’re not lovers, like Ten and Rose, but just best friends, inseparable friends, who are each other’s entire universes, enjoying each other’s company while they explore the universe together. They’re, frankly, adorable to watch together, and I’m going to miss them so much now that Clara’s gone.

Basically any scene where Twelve and Clara are having fun and enjoying themselves together is vintage Twelve-Clara. Take your pick. A particular favourite of mine was Twelve lecturing Clara on the use of the word “space” before things in Sleep No More. But also the final moments of Last Christmas were terrific, Clara and the Doctor gazing fiercely, almost lovingly, into each other’s eyes, the spirit of adventure taken hold of them both, their connection stronger than it’s ever been.

1. Eleven, Amy and Rory

What can I say? Eleven is my favourite Doctor and Amy is my favourite companion. Eleven’s era is my favourite era of the show, in no small part because of the wonderful characters of the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, and her long-suffering husband, Rory Pond Williams. Amy and Rory were just the most adorable, romantic couple, and their relationship with the zany, wacky Eleventh Doctor made them an irresistible Tardis team, and a positive joy to watch together.

I have a sentimental attachment to these three, because, having only started watching the show in earnest during Eleven’s era, they were my “first” Tardis team, the first Doctor and companion team I followed week-to-week. I think they might have been a major part of the reason I became a fan of this show, because I adored these three wonderful characters so much.

Some of my favourite moments with these three include their reunion in The Pandorica Opens — the Doctor’s hilarious reunion with Roman Rory, and Rory’s touching attempts to get through to Amy. Also, just watching these three muck about was magical, as in episodes like The Power of Three, otherwise a fairly unremarkable script.


What are your favourite Doctor-Companion teams?

My New Who Top 20

Here’s a celebratory photo of Matt Smith

Readers of Doctor Who TV have, over the past several weeks, engaged in a torturous exercise in determining the best stories of the Doctor Who revival to mark the revival’s 10-year anniversary. The results, aggregated from tens of thousands of votes, can be found here, with The Day of the Doctor claiming first place. The thing is, they’re wrong. I’ve taken the liberty of compiling the correct top 20 stories of the last ten years for the fandom’s benefit, since Doctor Who TV readers obviously can’t be trusted to get it right.

20. The Girl in the Fireplace — A commentary on the nature of time travel, this historical about the Madame de Pompadour with a creepy sci-fi twist is an emotional roller coaster, to be sure. 18th Century France is magnificently brought to life, while the repair droids were genuinely frightening. It is a perfectly-constructed story with one of the most poignant, heartstring-tugging endings Doctor Who has ever done. I’m disappointed I can’t rank it higher, but Doctor Who has me spoilt for choice!

19. Dalek — A brilliant introduction to the Daleks for a whole new audience. The complex and highly-charged relationship between the Doctor and the Daleks is explored in a compelling way, as is the effect on the Doctor of the mysterious Time War.

18. Planet of the Ood — Disturbing at times, but with a great, uplifting ending. The Ood are a really well-conceived alien species, and this episode is just a genuinely good story. This is one of my personal favourites from the revival, a dark and poetic exposition on weighty themes.

17. The Day of the Doctor — The 50th Anniversary special was a great, enjoyable romp saturated with fanservice (which is all much appreciated), but in many ways doesn’t make it to the status of a genuinely great story. There were certain problems with plotting and continuity issues, which can be overlooked in taking DOTD for what it was (a celebratory anniversary special), but which ultimately prevent it from rising to the level of the out-and-out greats, in my estimation. Which, of course, do not detract from the fact that DOTD is immensely enjoyable in its own right.

16. The Doctor’s Wife — I’ve always thought this was an excellent episode, but yet somewhat overrated, as I don’t gush over this one the way others do. The concept of the Doctor meeting the TARDIS in human form is nothing short of inspired, but I think the episode was perhaps a bit light on the actual interaction between the Doctor and the TARDIS/Sexy. The conflict with House was interesting, but I think it detracted from the screentime which ought to have been given to the Doctor and TARDIS. Nevertheless, a greatly enjoyable, top quality episode.

15. The Eleventh Hour — This is probably the best introductory episode the show has done in its 50-year history. This is an episode focussed on introducing the new leads, the Eleventh Doctor and Amy, and, to a lesser extent, Rory, with the alien threat playing something a subordinate role. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan cemented themselves in their new roles exceptionally; they certainly won me over completely. The story itself is gripping and brilliantly-paced, with the Doctor luminous in his new body.

14. The God Complex — One of the best stories from Series 6, and unjustifiably underrated. It’s creepy, claustrophobic, and has suspense in buckets. In addition, it boasts a cast of wonderful characters, including one of the notable could-have-been companions, Rita. I just love this episode for the way has me on the edge of my seat, wanting to look away but unable to tear my eyes away from the screen. It’s one of the best times Doctor Who has delved into the horror genre.

13. Midnight — For such a simple premise, this episode works exceptionally well. Actually, it works so well because of its simplicity. The episode consists of a group of people talking to each other inside a room for 40 minutes, a setting that facilitates focussing intensely upon those people and their psychology. What happens when you lock a group of people in a room with a monster they can’t see? That is the positively inspired premise of this episode, an idea that is explored mercilessly as a discussion of human psychology and behaviour. Who was the real monster in this story? This episode improves every time I watch it, and I can’t rate it high enough.

12. The Waters of Mars — This thrilling episode from the specials year starts off as a creepy but otherwise undistinguished monster story, but soon becomes something much more exciting as it is revealed that the Doctor has come to a group of people he knows to be doomed, and whom he knows he cannot save. The commentary on the nature of time, the burden of the time traveller, and of the Time Lord, is intelligent and wonderfully played out onscreen, especially due to the superlative acting on the part of David Tennant. Tennant’s “Time Lord Victorious” moment is one of the most arresting moments in Doctor Who history, perhaps the single moment in 51 years’ of Who (and counting…) in which we truly question the Doctor. We have always known there is more to this man than it seems, and here he is, in all his glory, Time Lord Victorious. It is an absolute triumph of writing.

11. The End of Time — David Tennant’s two-part swan song has its faults, but it is nonetheless a hugely enjoyable epic. It is full to the brim with great, memorable scenes (I love “I don’t want to go”, by the way), with great acting from all involved. John Simm as the Master is as much the star of this feature as David Tennant is. I love John Simm’s incarnation of the Master, and he is at his manic, deranged best in The End of Time. David Tennant truly digs deep to give his all here, one last hurrah before he departs the role for good, and, indeed, The End of Time is a fitting superb farewell to the Tenth Doctor (the beautiful Vale Decem sequence always gets me).

10. Vincent and the DoctorVincent has grown on me enormously since I first saw it. I was 15 or 16 when I first saw this episode and didn’t pick up on the underlying theme of depression, and “Vincent van Gogh versus the Giant Invisible Chicken” seemed like a bit of a lame story. I see now the genius behind Vincent, a bold discussion of the topic of mental illness. Vincent truly is perhaps the most beautiful story Doctor Who has ever done, although I agree with those who say that it might have worked better as a pure historical, without the big alien chicken.

9. Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead — This is another one that has grown on me after repeated rewatches. Another Moffat triumph, I think this two-parter is a masterpiece entirely deserving of the praise it gets. Beautifully composed, superbly acted from a cast of memorable, endearing characters, it’s another contribution of Moffat to the legacy of Who classics. The only thing wrong with this story were the props of the corpses in the space suits, which, rather than looking menacing, actually looked slightly comical. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mar the fact that this is an outstanding, highly-rewatchable story, especially given that much worse crimes were committed in Classic Who.

8. The Girl Who Waited — For a long time I wasn’t sure if I liked this one or not. There are others where have I come away with the same impression, like Vincent. I’ve come to realise that, whenever this happens, it’s usually a good indication that I’ve just witnessed a genuinely great story. Stories that are an emotional rollercoaster, like this one and Vincent, are difficult to digest, and hard to rewatch without having put plenty of space between the last watch. The Girl Who Waited, for someone really emotionally invested in the characters of Amy and Rory, like I had become by then, is an emotional rollercoaster, difficult to rewatch. It’s a really beautiful, tragic story that pushes all the right emotional buttons. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

7. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang — Through much of the nonsense in the Series 5 finale, we have a series finale remarkably different, and in many ways much more ambitious, than anything Russell T. Davies had done before in his finales. Although I rate the Series 1 finale higher, Pandorica is my favourite finale of the revival. It employs the utterly ludicrous (yet utterly awesome) timey-wimey plot devices that Steven Moffat revels in to create an amazing, gripping finale that clearly distinguishes the Moffat style from Russell T. Davies’ more predictable formula. I loved the way the Doctor brought about his own salvation through Amy; that scene in which the Doctor sits by sleeping little Amy’s bedside is beautiful, and the scene in which Amy brings back the Doctor at her wedding wonderfully ebullient. Very Moffat.

6. The Impossible Astronaut/The Day of the Moon — This one is, I think, my favourite Doctor Who story of the revival, if not of all. The setting is wonderful, the cinematography is outstanding, the plot is captivating, the villains (the Silence) are terrifying, the cliffhanger was torturous (in a good way), the genre aspects were well-executed and effective. Matt Smith continues in top form as the Doctor. I particularly love the scene in which the Doctor and River Song confront the Silence in their hideout thingy — another one of those fist-pumping “Doctor moments” that make the spine shiver. Just awesome in every way, this story is an ambitious, wonderfully enjoyable epic opener to Series 6 which set up the rest of that excellent series perfectly.

5. Mummy on the Orient Express — Easily the best story from Series 8, it is, unfortunately, the only Capaldi story to make it into my top 20 (although Flatline came close). You’ll notice the top end of this list disproportionately features two-part stories; that’s because I generally think the two-part format works much better than 45 minute single episodes, with a few exceptions. However, Mummy is a superb self-contained episode that works perfectly in the 45 minute time frame. It bears many similarities to The Chimes of Midnight — both involve the Doctor having to solve a deadly mystery in a race against the clock, where there is clearly some supernatural force at work. Both are amazingly effective in executing their concepts, and the production brings Mummy to life spectacularly. Needless to say, Jamie Mathieson is shaping up to be Moffat’s Moffat with gems like Mummy and Flatline.

4. Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways — Although Pandorica is my favourite finale of the revival, I rate Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways highest. Bad Wolf is so well composed; it does something no finale since has arguably been able to do, which is to execute a plot of epic magnitude (as suitable for a series finale) without losing something along the way — the Series 1 finale is basically flawless without being formulaic and predictable. It’s a perfect finale. It pulls the trick favoured in a lot of the early Classic serials in Hartnell’s, Troughton’s and, to an extent, Pertwee’s eras of putting the characters in a seemingly unremarkable setting before gradually revealing more and more, until all becomes clear, and the stakes are truly revealed. Eccleston’s regeneration was brilliant, if a bit awkwardly shoehorned on.

3. Human Nature/The Family of Blood — This two-parter is a masterpiece of storytelling and production. The best Doctor Who stories are the ones that can be appreciated as spectacular drama in their own right and beyond the confines of the Doctor Who franchise. This story is certainly one such story, as are the other two stories in my top 3. Human Nature is not just magnificent Doctor Who, it’s magnificent drama, and magnificent television, even. Apart from being a great piece of drama, it’s also a great work of art, one of the few times New Who has been as experimental and creative as the Hartnell and McCoy eras — and did so excellently.

2. Blink — Could anyone who doesn’t think Blink is amazing please stand up? No? No one? Okay, Blink has an exalted reputation, something that generally tends to lead to the subject of said reputation becoming overrated (see The Caves of Androzani) — but not in this case. Blink really is an outstanding, perfectly-crafted piece of television. I’ll admit it isn’t as good after several dozen rewatches, but, even then, it’s far and away better than the vast majority of the entire run of Doctor Who, from An Unearthly Child to Last Christmas. The secret of its success is its brilliantly-conceived monsters, the Weeping Angels, but the story and the characters that are built around the Angels are what raise it above the common run of Doctor Who stories and into the ether of classicdom.

1. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances — Perhaps a controversial choice, but I know I’m right. My earliest memory of Doctor Who, at age 10, was of shaking in terror at those frightening gasmask-wearing zombies, but yet unable to tear my eyes away from the screen. I didn’t sleep that night, and I contracted a lifelong fear of gas masks. That was exactly the effect the producers were going for in creating this terrifying two-parter, and I’m living proof that they succeeded with billowing colours (as were a generation of similarly scarred pre-adolescents). Everything about this story is perfectly carried out, from the cinematography, to the plot, to the pacing, to the villain, to the characterisation (this story also gave us Captain Jack Harkness, after all). It was New Who’s first and finest contribution to the halls of Doctor Who classics, proof to the sceptical devotees of the original series that these new kids with their new-fangled CGI and their proper budget could create genuinely good Doctor Who on par with Genesis of the Daleks, The Caves of Androzani, City of Death, or anything from the plinths of the Classic Who pantheon. Justly revered.