A few weeks ago, I read a post by Vickster51Corner listing his (her?) “dream season” of Doctor Who. This is apparently a concept started by the Doctor Who TV website, in which you construct your ideal season of episodes by comparing all of the episodes in the same slot and select your favorite. For example, you look at the first episode of each season, select your favorite, and that’s the first episode of your dream season. Then you do it again except select the worst episode in each slot, and that creates your nightmare season. I thought this would be a fun exercise, and it would show me a little bit about how the showrunners plan seasons out, so I did it myself.
As is usual with things I do, I added a bit of complexity. These are the rules I created for myself.
- In addition to episodes in each slot, I also created slots for “Doctor introduction episode,” “Doctor regeneration episode,” “Christmas special,” and “Non-Christmas special.”
- No episode can exist in two different categories. For example, I put “Rose” into the “Doctor introduction episode” category, so it’s not listed in the “Episode #1” category.
- If I select one part of a two-parter, then I must select the other part, too. After all, it wouldn’t be a dream season if the story is cut off. This made things a bit difficult and caused at least one unusual selection.
So, here’s my dream season of Doctor Who, and my nightmare season will follow soon. If you’re interested in constructing your own dream/nightmare season, here’s the list of categories that I used. Have fun!
Doctor Introduction Episode: All of them.
I honestly couldn’t choose. All three episodes were excellent. “Rose” had the double duty of introducing the audience to the Doctor Who universe while establishing who the Doctor was, and it did so admirably. Both “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Eleventh Hour” demonstrated to us in no uncertain terms exactly who these new Doctors were and what their personalities were like. All three of them were wonderfully written and are great stories on their own. I’d be happy to have any of them in my dream season.
This episode by itself was a fun adventure, but it gave us Donna, managing to demonstrate in forty-five minutes that this woman who seems flighty and ignorant on the outside is a brilliant individual with great heart and compassion. She manages to start healing the Doctor, who was fresh from his last contact with Rose, something that doesn’t truly start happening again until she returns. Honorable mention to “The Next Doctor.”
Episode 1: “Partners in Crime”
This was a difficult choice: both this and “Smith and Jones” are great adventure episodes, with lots of fun while learning about the new companions. It really came down to preferring Donna over Martha. “Asylum of the Daleks” was a close third.
Episode 2: “The Fires of Pompeii”
No contest here. Donna begins to learn that travelling with the Doctor sometimes includes moral quandaries that the Doctor must make a judgment on, and he has to live with the consequences of his choices; however, her very presence helps him do the right thing and not punish himself too harshly for what he must do.
Episode 3: “School Reunion”
The reunion of the Doctor with Sarah Jane Smith was enough to make this episode great, but it also dealt with Rose’s jealousy and inability to really understand the Doctor as a nearly-immortal being and the corrupting influence of ultimate power. The only issue I have with this episode is that it handled the children oddly (did they or did they not like being school?).
This was a tough choice, between this and “The Girl in the Fireplace,” and it came down to the superior characterization and dialogue in “The Doctor’s Wife”: all of the characters in the later episode were employed well, while Mickey and Rose could been trapped in a closet for the entire earlier episode and we wouldn’t have noticed. The relationship between Idris and the Doctor was superbly constructed, making you wish that Idris could be around all the time.
Episode 5/6: “Rise of the Cybermen” / “The Age of Steel”
This is where it got difficult for me. Episode 5 mostly consists of two-parters, and since I chose a single-episode for Episode 4, I got stuck having to choose either “The Angels Take Manhattan,” which I don’t like enough, or a two-parter for both Episodes 5 and 6. Thus, my choice. This isn’t a fantastic episode, but it’s fun enough. If I had been able to, I would have had “Dalek” in Episode 6, one of the best Dalek episodes ever, and the best Ninth Doctor episode.
I know this isn’t a popular choice, but I like this episode a lot. The pacing is great, keeping the pressure on as the minutes until solar impact drain away, and while the personalities on the ship are not as well-defined as they were in “The Robots of Death,” you still get a good view of the personal dynamic of the crew. The Doctor’s desperation and fear of annihilating everyone chills me every time.
Episode 8/9: “Human Nature” / “Family of Blood”
No surprise here. This is my absolute favorite Doctor Who story and nothing can compare with it, in my opinion. The closest episode that can come to it in this list is “Silence in the Library” / “Forest of the Dead.”
This is the most chilling, most horrific episode, because you have no idea what the Midnight entity wants or can do, and because the humans in this story are just as horrible as the alien. Worse yet, it’s real horror: the humans are the only monsters in Doctor Who who could actually threaten you in real life, just by their terror in the face of the unknown. Honorable mention to “Blink” because of its excellent storyline and superb camerawork, but the implausibility of its alien (it can’t move when anything looks at it? Really?) requires suspension of disbelief and ruins it just enough for me.
Episode 11: “Turn Left”
What would the world be like without the Doctor? “Turn Left” shows us just that. Donna is completely powerless to stop the rolling disaster that one tiny little decision heaps upon the planet, but she does her best. And its her strength, her willingness to sacrifice herself, that turns everything back around. A wonderful episode.
Episode 12/13: “The Sound of Drums” / “Last of the Time Lords”
This was a hard decision. I love the two-parters for Series 1, 3, 4, and 5, but each of them had at least one flaw and I had to decide which one had the smallest flaw. I decided that I could ignore the gnome Doctor enough to give “The Sound of Drums” / “Last of the Time Lords” the nod. (Why did they have to make him a gnome? Was Mr. Tennant just not convincing enough as a 500-year old Time Lord or something?) The other possibility was “The Pandorica Opens” / “The Big Bang,” but I decided that since, after seeing that set four times, I still don’t really get how they stopped the TARDIS from exploding, it’s a bit too hand-wavy for me to choose it as my favorite season closer.
No contest here. “The Day of the Doctor” was designed to be an anniversary special and a cinematic spectacular, and as such, the other specials, which were just episodes, could not compete. “The Waters of Mars” is fantastic, but it’s not in the same league.
Regeneration Episode: “The End of Time”
“The End of Time” combined a good story with returning Time Lords, the Doctor dealing with his own mortality, and the over-the-top schemes of the Master. “The Parting of the Ways” was good, but just not on the same level, and “The Time of the Doctor” was, well, it was just an incoherent mess. “The End of Time” is no “Caves of Androzani”, but it’s still a fine episode and a splendid send-off for the Tenth Doctor.
So, there’s my dream season. Someday maybe I’ll try watching them in this order. All in one day. That sounds totally awesome.