Today is the Eve of the Day of the Doctor! I pretty much have to stay off the Internet for the next three days to avoid being spoiled before the theatrical release. I actually considered having cable installed just for this month so that we could see “The Day of the Doctor” with everyone else, but I couldn’t quite justify that expense.
Everyone has been posting their lists of the best Doctor Who episodes, so I’m doing my list, though mine are my favorite episodes, not necessarily the best episodes. For example, I think “The Ark in Space” is one of the best episodes I’ve seen, but I wouldn’t rate it in my favorites. This list is very much entrenched in the new series, because I haven’t seen a whole bunch of the old series yet.
These are the episodes that I like to re-watch the most. I couldn’t pare it down to ten.
15. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
This episode has three great things about it. First, Rory and his incredible devotion. Second, the time travel loops in the second half that end up saving the day. Third, the Pandorica speech. It’s one of the greatest monologues in the entire show. It’s too bad that the aliens leaving was just a bluff.
Favorite scene: The Pandorica speech. “Let someone else try first.”
14. The Eleventh Hour
I love regeneration episodes. Well, ok, “Time and the Rani” was terrible. But still. This one introduces the Eleventh Doctor, in all his quirky, chaotic glory. It’s a fun romp, and ends with him walking through a montage of the ten previous Doctors.
Favorite scene: Um, the Doctor walking through the montage of the ten previous Doctors. “Hello. I’m the Doctor. Basically, run.”
13. The End of Time
I also love direct references to the history of Doctor Who. This show has an incredibly intricate universe, so let’s see more of it! This episode has the Master, the Time Lords, Gallifrey, and Rassilon, maddened by the Time War. Oh, Rassilon, how far you have fallen!
I tried to be honest about how much I rewatch these episodes, so this one is rated low on the list simply because it makes me cry every time and I often refuse to watch it because I’ll be crying for the rest of the day.
Favorite scene: The showdown between the Doctor, the Master, and Rassilon. “The link is broken. Back into the Time War, Rassilon. Back into hell.“
12. Vincent and the Doctor
And I love historical episodes. Poor Vincent. Amy and the Doctor really changed his life, even if they couldn’t change his destiny.
Favorite scene: Anything that references Van Gogh’s life and paintings. The re-creation of the bedroom at Arles was fantastic. (This is much like the insertion of Agatha Christie novel titles into the dialogue of “The Unicorn and the Wasp.”)
Christopher Eccleston introducing himself as the Ninth Doctor in a spectacular way.
Favorite scene: Rose enters the TARDIS for the first time and finds out about the Doctor. Rose: “Are you an alien?” The Doctor: “Yes.”
10. The Five Doctors
“The Five Doctors” is not a great episode; the plot is actually pretty terrible. But seeing the four Doctors (First, Second, Third, and Fifth – Tom Baker chose to not participate in this special) interact with each other is priceless, and makes this episode a whole lot of fun.
Favorite scene: The first three Doctors examine the inscription and try to show up each other. Second Doctor: “It’s Old High Gallifreyan, the ancient language of the Time Lords. Not many people understand it these days.” All three of the Doctors: “Fortunately, I do.”
9. Voyage of the Damned
A great adventure episode, and the look on Ten’s face when he sees where the Titanic is going to land is priceless.
Favorite scene: The Doctor promises to save everyone. “I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m nine hundred and three years old and I’m the man who’s going to save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below.”
8. The Lodger
Ever imagined what life would be like if Eleven moved into your house? This is it. Hold onto your hat.
Favorite scene: While there are tons of great Eleven scenes here, I love watching him play football.
7. The Doctor’s Wife
Written by Neil Gaiman, this episode has a great plot and sparkling dialogue, which is what Neil Gaiman always delivers. And it cements the relationship between the Doctor and the companion he’s been with the longest.
Favorite scene: The Doctor finds out who Idris really is. “Ah, it’s my thief.”
6. The Girl in the Fireplace
This episode touched me so much that I actually wrote a fanfic about it – my one and only fanfic ever, probably. The development of Ten’s relationship with Reinette is beautiful, and so sad.
Favorite scene: The Doctor returns to the bedroom to find that Reinette has grown up. “It is customary, I think, to have an imaginary friend only during one’s childhood. You are to be congratulated on your persistence.”
5. School Reunion
I could watch the scenes of John Smith’s introduction to Sarah Jane and Sarah Jane’s finding the TARDIS and the Doctor over and over again.
Favorite scene: Sarah identifies John Smith as the Doctor. “It’s you!”
4. The Christmas Invasion
This episode is excellent for so many reasons. It demonstrates very clearly how lost planet Earth is if the aliens arrive and the Doctor is not there to help. It deals with Rose realizing that the Doctor is far more alien than she imagined, and helps her accept this new person she thought she knew. And it lets the Doctor be the undisputed hero at the end, demonstrating all of the salient points of his character, so that we know exactly who he is when the season preview starts rolling.
Favorite scene: The Doctor’s monologue, up until challenging the Sycorax leader. “Or are you just a kalak pel gahsa kree salvak?” (Yes, I typed that without having to look it up.)
3. Smith and Jones
This is one of my favorite “sit back and hang out” episodes. It’s full of action, great dialogue, and the type of eccentric comedy that Doctor Who excels at. When I just want a quick injection of insanity, this is my go-to episode.
Favorite scene: The Doctor in bed, being examined by the medical students. “Perhaps a visit from psychiatric.”
2. The Next Doctor
Jackson Lake’s story is so tragic and yet so wonderful, I feel compelled to watch this episode over and over again, at least once a week. David Morrissey would have been a fantastic Doctor. Perhaps he will be, in the future sometime.
Favorite scene: The reveal of the new Doctor’s identity.
1. Human Nature/Family of Blood
There are so many reasons I watch this episode so often. One is Mr. Tennant’s amazing performance as both the Doctor and the completely human, 1910s teacher John Smith. Another is Harry Lloyd’s performance as creepy Jeremy Baines/Son of Mine. And, of course, the story of John Smith, his beautiful life, and his sacrifice to save his village, his school, and the universe.
Favorite scene: The Doctor returning to ask Nurse Redfern to travel with him. This is the first time Mr. Tennant is playing the Doctor, rather than John Smith, and the Doctor’s alien nature is palpable, almost jarring and repulsive.
Honorable Mention 1. Time Crash
“Time Crash” is easily my most watched episode, though I couldn’t include it in the above list because it’s only a mini-episode. Beyond the fact that Ten and Five are my favorite Doctors, the dialogue and comedy are just fantastic. I’ll pop open YouTube any time and watch this really quick.
Honorable Mention 2. Doctor Who Children in Need (2005)
Another mini-episode, this adds a lot to the story, between Nine’s regeneration into Ten and the beginning of “The Christmas Invasion.” Rose doesn’t just accept that Ten is the Doctor: he has to convince her.
Honorable Mention 3. Midnight
I include this as an honorable mention because I love this episode but don’t watch it often because it is simply too intense. On my list of best episodes, it’s easily in the top three, but I can’t put it on a list of favorites because I can’t make myself watch it very often.
Honorable Mention 4. Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways
I’ve actually not watched these two episodes in their entirety more than a couple of times, but I watch Nine’s farewell to Rose all the time.
Honorable Mention 5. Enlightenment
“Enlightenment” is a very surreal episode from the Fifth Doctor’s period, and while it’s pretty good, it’s not great. However, it has this one scene in it that cracks me up every time. The Fifth Doctor and Tegan are attending a reception held by the Eternals, and one of the Eternals is talking to Tegan while Five is standing nearby. He spots a bowl of celery on the buffet table and spends the rest of the scene in the background, covetously inspecting the stalks of celery and eventually selecting one to replace the one on his lapel. I’ll pop in the DVD just to watch this, and even though I’ve seen this scene multiple times, I still don’t know what the Eternal and Tegan were talking about.