Introducing the Doctor

Come on, now: if you’re even reading this post, you know full well that the Twelfth Doctor will grace our TV screens in full glory on Saturday, or, if you don’t have TV service like me, you’ll have to wait until Monday to see the series 8 season opener, “Deep Breath,” in the theater. It’s been a long eight months to wait for the new season of Doctor Who, but the true excitement is in meeting the new Doctor, seeing what he’s like, and finally getting to see Peter Capaldi playing the role that he obsessed about when he was a kid. This is a scary time, though, because we don’t know what to expect. Will we like this Doctor? Will he capture our hearts like <insert your favorite Doctor here>? We don’t know, and this episode might not even answer the question: I know that it took me a number of episodes to warm up to the Eleventh Doctor, and anyone who’s seen “Time of the Rani” knows that a premiere episode could be really bad (not to mention, the Doctor can really change and develop after the first episode). Historically, though, the modern show’s Doctor introduction episodes have been fantastic, concentrating on showing us just what we’re in for.

The first episode of the modern Doctor Who had a hell of a lot to accomplish in just 45 minutes. First, it was the premiere episode of the reboot of a beloved TV show, one that was deeply rooted in British culture, and it needed to captivate that audience again. It needed to establish the feel of the show so that its audience would know what to expect and feel compelled to return the next week. However, it also needed to communicate the personality of the new Doctor, so that he felt like an extension of the classic show’s Doctor but still appealed to modern audiences, as well as give him a companion that felt like she belonged with him, without establishing them as a romantic couple. And lastly, it needed to show that it was keeping the whole history of the show in mind while not confusing or alienating viewers who had never seen it before.

doctorwhoroseHow do you do all that? How do you introduce an established, beloved character to new viewers while keeping him relevant to old fans? How do you throw back to 40 years of backstory and lore without losing the audience who knows nothing about it? You do it by telling the story from the viewpoint of the ordinary girl who’s meeting the Doctor for the first time, asking the questions that the audience has about him.  You throw them into a deadly situation where the Doctor gets to show his cleverness, quirkiness, knowledge, and non-violence, but have him get into a state where the girl has to help him win, to show that he’s not infallible. You give him an adversary that he’s met before, so that the audience knows that he has a history, but one that’s simple enough to understand without prior knowledge. And, to tantalize both old and new audiences, you give that adversary a reason for invading the Earth that mentions a war that the Doctor obviously had a big part in – enough to hint at a complete backstory for the Doctor, but not enough to derail the current story. “Rose” established the modern show and Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor brilliantly.

At the end of the season, the Doctor regenerated and David Tennant burst out of the golden glow, eager to fly Rose to Barcelona, but “The Parting of the Ways” ended, leaving the introduction of the new Doctor to “The Christmas Invasion.” This episode did not need to do nearly as much as “Rose” did, as the show was already established as a hit, but it had to convince us that anyone could possibly replace the superb Mr. Eccleston. The episode took a huge risk in hiding the Doctor away in bed for two-thirds of the episode, centering the story on Rose being worried about the Doctor and UNIT trying to deal with the Sycorax invasion. Then the Doctor woke up and stole the entire show.

172Mr. Tennant was the sole focus of the last twenty minutes of the episode, and he established the Tenth Doctor completely. An incarnation with a gob, he had machine-gun dialogue, was knowledgeable about galactic events and species, and very observant, with restless energy. While he wasn’t particularly skilled at physical combat, he made up for it with bravado and incredible dexterity. He avoided killing his opponent and gave him the choice of resolution, but not a second chance. Then, with Harriet Jones, he demonstrated his belief that his judgment is superior, the fury that he often would have trouble controlling, and his capacity for cruelty, foreshadowing his eventual downfall. And, at the end of the episode, he establishes this incarnation’s particular fascination with exploration and seeing new things. This was everything you needed to know about the Tenth Doctor, in twenty minutes.

rory-in-the-eleventh-hour-rory-williams-33471022-944-531Then, a little over three years later, Matt Smith emerged as the Eleventh Doctor, and “The Eleventh Hour” had to do exactly the same thing: introduce us to the new Doctor coming off of Mr. Tennant’s enormously popular run. And it did. This time, we had a new companion to see the Doctor through, a little girl named Amelia, and even she was rather appalled at his childish antics and insistent personality. Then she grew up and encountered him again, and she was unable to relate to him because of his alien mindset, until she trapped his tie in a car door and made him pay attention. But then, under threat of world annihilation, she watched him as he took charge of the situation, analyzing the data before him with mechanical precision, and dazzling the world leaders with his charm to effect the solution. Then, in order to warn the Atraxi off, he confronted them in what would see later was his signature style: a bombastic speech at the center of attention. Again, here was the Eleventh Doctor, spectacularly defined and laid bare for us to see.

And that’s what I’m hoping for from “Deep Breath.” For all that it’s a new season of Doctor Who and we’re all excited for new adventures and companions and universe-threatening situations, what I want from that episode is to walk away from it knowing exactly who the new Doctor is.

Favorite scenes: Ninth Doctor

Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor

Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor

I was compiling a list of favorite scenes from the new Doctor Who, but the list started to get pretty long and after an hour of typing, I decided to break it up into three posts, one for each of the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors. I had noticed that some of my favorite scenes are often not what people point to as “the best of,” so I’ve included a little description of what I liked about the scene. Without further ado, here are my favorite scenes from the Ninth Doctor’s episodes – I’m sad there’s so few because there were so few episodes to choose from.

“Dalek” – The Doctor encounters the Dalek in the lab: The Doctor’s rage at finding a Dalek survivor of the Time War transforms him from the confident, almost happy-go-lucky hero into a homicidal maniac. He then faces the consequences of his actions in the Last Great Time War for the first time on screen. He’s got good reason for all of his reactions, but it’s still horrifying, and the Mr. Eccleston’s performance was brilliant.

“The Doctor Dances” – “Everybody lives!”: The Doctor gets that very rare complete win, where he’s able to save everyone. Again, Mr. Eccleston shows us a side of the Doctor we rarely get to see.

“Boom Town” – Dinner with the Doctor and Blon: I love this scene, first because of the way the Doctor shuts down Blon’s attempts to escape and then because of the discussion of the morality of what the Doctor is doing. The Doctor, because he’s the Doctor, gets to decide what’s right and wrong, but such things are rarely black and white.

“The Parting of the Ways” – Regeneration: The best regeneration sequence in the new series so far, it very succinctly summarizes the relationship between Rose and the Doctor as well as gives this incarnation a beautiful farewell. I feel like a traitor to the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration scene for choosing this one instead, but his whole farewell is a lot longer and made up of multiple scenes and in total, isn’t as good as this one.

Learning to hear

One thing that Doctor Who has helped me with is understanding British accents. There’s this guy in my office who’s from Britain and I could never really understand what he was saying. Now that I’ve been watching Doctor Who (and SherlockAll Creatures Great and SmallDownton Abbey, and Broadchurch), it’s gotten much easier. I talked with him for a while last week, and I understood him a lot better. It turns out that he actually does swallow his words a lot, so he specifically is difficult to understand, but grokking the accent was the first step. I’ve noticed the same thing happening within the shows themselves. All Creatures Great and Small, set in Yorkshire, has a lot of characters with very thick accents, and after listening to them, the Ninth Doctor is far clearer to me. Similarly, listening to David Tennant in Broadchurch has taught me to understand the Scottish accent, which used to be completely obtuse to me. His accent is far thicker than Karen Gillan’s, who I had no trouble understanding when she was playing Amy. I’m really hoping that this will all help me not be a complete dumbo American when I visit England later this year.

Manchester accent, Estuary English, and... Southern England? Not sure about that last one.

Manchester accent, Estuary English, and… Southern England? Not sure about that last one.

I’m also starting to be able to identify regional accents. For example, after listening to Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara for a little bit, I could tell that she came from north of London, with a similar accent to Christopher Eccleston’s. I find it fascinating how much variation there is in accent, given how small the UK is compared to just the state of California. The state I live in has some regional difference in accent, but it’s due to a geographical barrier (read: big honkin’ mountain range dividing the two halves). There aren’t any major geographical divides in the UK to cause such differences.

Another interesting side effect of watching British television is that when I watch American television, I can hear how diluted the accents of British characters are. My husband and I are watching the first season Grimm (which, by the way, we’re enjoying a lot), and there have been a couple of British guest characters whose accents were so slight, they often disappeared from scene to scene. I wonder if they’re told to water down the accents they use, to make sure that the American audience can understand them? We happen to also be watching series 3 of Doctor Who, one episode a night, and we’re on “Daleks in Manhattan,” and the actors speak with perfect American accents. In fact, Frank spoke with a thick Southern accent, so it seems that the British don’t mind heavy American accents in their TV shows.

 

Expectations, part 2

We started watching “Revelation of the Daleks” last night, but didn’t get to see more than the first part of it. So far, the plot is extremely complicated and we haven’t really been able to figure what’s going on yet. The weirdest thing though is that every so often, this DJ comes on and talks. He’s watching the events of the episode on video screens and commenting on them cryptically using an American accent, usually in some stereotyped style (one of his costumes is Elvis). He’s extremely annoying and his appearances completely ruin the atmosphere of the story. I hope he turns out to be something important, because otherwise he’s terrible.

I was browsing back to old posts and I saw my list of expectations for “The Day of the Doctor,” and I thought it might be fun to see how well I predicted what we might see. So, here we go.

I want to find out the War Doctor’s history.

Check!

I would have liked to see at least one scene in which the War Doctor was actually a warrior, fighting the Daleks, as in carrying a gun like a soldier and shooting them, something no other Doctor would do. No, crashing the TARDIS through the platoon of Daleks doesn’t count.

I want to see the War Doctor fire the Moment.

Check!

Ok, so technically he didn’t fire the Moment, but that was the whole point of the story. The Moment was there and he was going to fire it if they didn’t change their mind. Close enough.

I don’t want to see the Nightmare Child, the Skaro Degradations, the Would-Be King and his army of Mean-whiles and Never-weres, and other previously-mentioned denizens of the Time War.

Check!

On the other hand, I felt the depiction of the Time War was pretty weak: just a bunch of Daleks shooting at civilians. Where was the “war turned into hell?”  I suppose that Doctor Who has never been a truly violent show, but I would have expected Moffat to have come up with some scenes of terror, not just pathos.

I want the Tenth Doctor to have one really good, energetic, Tenth Doctor moment.

Bzzt!

The Tenth Doctor  had three focused moments – accusing Elizabeth I of being a Zygon, threatening the rabbit, and questioning who he thought was the Zygon commander – and he failed in all three of them; they were all simply comedy. In fact, most of the Tenth Doctor’s appearance in the show was only for comic relief. Disappointing.

I want the Eleventh Doctor to remain the focus of the show.

Check!

Perfect and well-done.

I want to see the War Doctor regenerate into the Ninth Doctor.

Bzzt!

Yes, he started to regenerate, and yes, his features started to change, but this is how it really should have been.

Actually, I had been hoping that they wouldn’t show the regeneration and then released a video like “The Name of the Doctor” which showed the full regeneration. I had hoped that while Mr. Eccleston had declined participating in “The Day of the Doctor,” he would have done a small video, like Mr. McGann had done. Oh well.

So there you have it, I got 4 out of 6. Not bad!

The evening of the Doctor

The day finally came and went: we went to see “The Day of the Doctor” in 3D in the movie theater! It was a long wait, and it was completely worth it.

Warning: Spoilers! Don’t read more if you don’t want to get spoiled.

I went in costume as the Fifth Doctor; my husband unfortunately was unable to wear his Fourth Doctor costume, and I think he now regrets it in hindsight. We arrived at the theater an hour early, and had to wait in line, as the theater didn’t let us in until half an hour before the start. There weren’t too many cosplayers there, and most of them were dressed as the Eleventh Doctor: there was one Tenth Doctor, one TARDIS (completely with a light on her head), a couple of the dolls from Night Terrors, and a few people with partial costumes (for example, Tenth Doctor-like suit jacket over a Doctor Who t-shirt). The only classic Doctor was me, and it was quite gratifying to hear people saying to each other, “Oh, look, it’s Peter Davison!!” I did get in on a group picture with the TARDIS, the Tenth Doctor, and one of the Eleventh Doctors, and one of the picture-takers promised to email me a copy.

Probably one of the coolest things about the entire night, though, was simply watching “The Day of the Doctor” on the big screen in a group of fans. The energy in the atmosphere was tangible, and there is nothing like a room of 300 people who share your interests and are laughing and clapping together. The applause that broke out when the Ninth Doctor appeared on the screen was exhilirating. I wish that Mr. Eccleston could have seen it, so that he would know how much we loved his Doctor and wish that he would ever return for events like these. The appearance of the Twelfth Doctor also caused an eruption of applause and screams. The Christmas special can’t come soon enough.

But, to the show itself. It was brilliant. Steven Moffat managed to pull together all the things that an anniversary special needs to have: a coherent plot that isn’t too convoluted, more than one popular Doctor, great interaction between the principals, references and in-jokes for the fans, and a resolution that depends on the current Doctor (rather than on one of the guest Doctors, as it happened in “The Five Doctors”). The show was fun and exciting. Added to this was a taste of things to come, the intimation that the Doctor now has a quest, which pulls the show into the future.

We all knew, going into the episode, that it was going to be dealing with some pretty serious stuff. Eleven, in the previous episode, “The Name of the Doctor,” did not want to face the memory of the War Doctor, and certainly seemed to have succeeded in forgetting about him again by the beginning of the special. However, right after the wonderful black-and-white opening and the school sign with Ian Chesterton’s name boldly displayed, the atmosphere is set: this is still a Doctor Who episode and we know it will sparkle with humor and clever dialogue. The tormented War Doctor is introduced, and the Moment, and then a fez falls at their feet. Where did that come from? We’re shown where, because it’s all a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey film-making. The three Doctors together get into scrapes and find solutions in typical Doctor fashion – leaps of logic and manipulation of time. Just that much would make a good regular episode.

And then the main conflict: can the War Doctor do what he needs to do to end the Time War? He does, but not how you expect it to happen, as Clara inspires the Doctors to find another solution, a solution that requires assistance from all of the Doctor’s incarnations, and the thirteen of them (yes, thirteen!) appear to enact the plan, and Gallifrey stands.

There are a few bits of the episode that didn’t work for me, but I’m not going to nitpick them here, and anyway, in any story, there are things to nitpick, but they don’t necessarily ruin it. “The Day of the Doctor” succeeded in all of the things that make Doctor Who fantastic, and enjoying it on the big screen with a crowd of fellow fans was definitely the way to go.

Happy 50th, Doctor Who! Thanks for everything!

Nine more hours, clever boys and girls, and the Fish Doctor!

I’ve held out. “The Day of the Doctor” came and went two days ago, and even though I have been able to download the episode (on BBC iPlayer using a VPN spoofing my IP address as one from the UK), I have stoically refused to watch it. I will be watching it for the first time tonight, at the local theater, in my Fifth Doctor costume. I’ve stayed off the internet, not even visiting my own Facebook page, to avoid spoilers. I’ve rewatched the original trailer (but not the second one) and The Night of the Doctor but otherwise stayed away from the teaser clips and other material. I just have to survive for nine more hours.

It’s actually been pretty easy. We re-watched “Nightmare in Silver” and “The Name of the Doctor” to get back into the right timestream (ha, see what I did there?). But otherwise, it’s pretty much been a stress-free weekend. I’ve spent my time reading a music theory textbook (it’s actually really good, if you’re into that kind of stuff on a beginner level), fixed up bits of my Fifth Doctor costume, including coming up with a way of getting my fake decorative vegetable to lie flat instead of flopping around on my lapel, and worked a little on a fanfic that I’m trying to write and will probably scrap because it’s not coming together.

I also rewatched “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead” for the first time since finishing all of the Eleventh Doctor’s episodes, and it was very cool to see how well they seeded River Song’s story in that episode. Beyond the obvious line of the Doctor and River meeting each other in backwards order to each other, River mentions the crash of the Byzantium. They also make sure that you know that Ten sees her one more time before he regenerates, which explains why she recognizes him.

There was one other very interesting parallel to this episode, one that I am absolutely amazed was planned out this far in advance (this episode was aired in 2008, and its parallel did not appear until 2013). We all know that Clara Oswald is “the Impossible Girl,” and that her tagline is, “Run, you clever boy, and remember.” At the end of “Forest of the Dead,” when River arrives in CAL’s world, the following exchange takes place.

CAL: It’s okay, you’re safe. You’ll always be safe here. The Doctor fixed the data core. This is a good place now. But I was worried you might be lonely, so I brought you some friends. Aren’t I a clever girl?
EVANGELISTA: Aren’t we all?
RIVER: Oh, for heaven’s sake. He just can’t do it, can he? That man. That impossible man. He just can’t give in.

The clever girl.

The clever girl.

The roles are switched. The Doctor is “impossible” and CAL, the computer who has saved River to her memory banks, is the “clever girl” who must continue running and continue to remember. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but look at the dialogue. The mention of the clever girl and the impossible man don’t need to be there, and the first really doesn’t fit with what we know of CAL’s personality – she was never self-referential. I choose to believe that Mr. Moffat put this in intentionally, a seed that germinated into the storyline of the Doctor and Clara.

One thing about the 50th anniversary that I did find, watch, and highly enjoy was The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Apparently for about two weeks before “The Day of the Doctor,” Peter Davison was tweeting hints about this mini-episode from the account dayoftheFishDr, and it was released on Saturday. I’ve watched it three times in the last day, and I hope that “The Day of the Doctor” is anywhere near as good. I also hope that it will be included on “The Day of the Doctor” blu-ray release (but I highly doubt it).

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, hereafter referred to as FDR (which is what the Fish Doctor calls it) was written and directed by Peter Davison (and produced by Georgia Moffett under her married name, Georgia Tennant), and is a tale of Mr. Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy trying to become part of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. The title refers back to the 20th anniversary episode, “The Five Doctors” (which I wrote about here), in which the First Doctor (played by Richard Hurndall), the Second Doctor, and the Third Doctor join the Fifth Doctor in an adventure. This episode is “Five(ish)” because Tom Baker got stuck in a time eddy again and Paul McGann wanted to go with the other three to get onto the show, but he had too many scripts to read and shows to shoot.

(There’s an awesome symmetry between “The Five Doctors” and FDR, in that the first has the Doctors up through Mr. Davison, and the second has (almost) all the actors from Mr. Davison forward. Still sadly no appearance from Mr. Eccleston.)

The Doctor surrounded by Cybermen.

FDR spoofs Doctor Who while also underlining the difficulties actors have in getting parts they want. It’s filled with Doctors and companions, behind-the-scenes people (including both Steven Moffat and Russell T. Davies), actors we know and love and their families, and references, both overt and subtle, to this wonderful show. Sylvester McCoy carries with him a umbrella at all times. Mr. Moffat has a dream very much like the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration hallucination (and it ends with a hilarious line from Matthew Waterhouse). Also, when he erases all of the voicemail from Five, Six, and Seven, his phone says, in a Cyberman voice, “The Doctors have been deleted.” My favorite is a quiet reference to “The Five Doctors”: Mr. Davison, just before running away from someone, says, “Sorry, must dash.”

Perhaps one of the coolest touches in the script was from the two classic Doctors who don’t chase after the 50th anniversary special: Mr. McGann, who wants to join the chase but can’t because he’s got a show to shoot, and Tom Baker, who only appears in footage from “Shada.” And now we know why they didn’t: The Eighth Doctor was shooting his own mini-episode, and Mr. Baker didn’t have to search for a part in the special. (Yes, I got slightly spoiled on that. Oh well.)

I’m not much of a film buff and couldn’t tell you if Mr. Davison’s directing was any good, but the script was marvelous. It’s a treat for fans and I laughed aloud a number of times. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Mr. Davison – Five is my second favorite Doctor, “Time Crash” is one of the best episodes ever, and I am currently highly enjoying All Creatures Great and Small – and FDR is just raising him in my estimation. Thanks for the wonderful tribute to Doctor Who, Mr. Davison!

My fifteen favorite episodes

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.”)

11. Rose

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.