There was an article on io9 a few days ago ranking every Doctor Who story from best to worst which, being a Doctor Who fan, I disagreed with, naturally. So in the spirit of Fannish Ire and ‘omg how could you be so wrong’ ness, I have made the correct list. Ahem.
Couple of things beforehand:
1) Ranking over two hundred things in order is not quite as easy as it looks. I had to set a limit on the amount of time spent swapping stuff around or I’d be at it for years. So I’ve already changed my mind a wee bit, which is v annoying.
2) I’ve spend a ridiculous amount of time over the past two days staring at the screen thinking variations of “how the fuck should I know if Claws of Axos is better than Pirate Planet? Is it? IS IT? Omg, this is ridic. I can’t even decide which one I *like* more never mind attempting some semblance of fucking objectivity over which is bloody well better…why am I fucking doing this when I could be playing Star Wars…or working…I should probably be working. Dammit, Doctor Who.” I feel the need to share this as it somehow validates my choice of how to use my time.
3) There’s big difference between Best and Favourite. There are boatloads of stories I adore that aren’t all that great, there are stories I dislike that I can still recognise as being quality stuff. The Time Monster is not a great story, I do think it’s a good one though, but I can see why it would annoy the shit out of some viewers – the smug-o-meter is ticking pretty high for a start. Conversely I bloody loathe Tooth and Claw, mostly thanks to the smug score, and yet I know it’s not actually irredeemably bad. (Worse, if the first Doctor and Vicki had been flailing around grinning cause they’d found a werewolf, I’d totally be cheering them on.)
And in term of “best”, stuff does get a slight boost from being older. Why? Cause it’s stood the test of time. It’s telly made for another society, another audience, thirty or forty of fifty years in the past, before I was even born, and yet it still speaks to me. When that happens, it’s found something more universal in its appeal, and that tends to mean quality.
Anyway, here’s the *ahem* correct order:
Every Single Doctor Who Story (Correctly) Ranked From Best to Worst
1) The War Games – It’s nearly impossible to get across just how good The War Games is. It’s unique, brilliant, epic, inspired and we’ll have nothing like it in Who ever again. Ten episodes that never let up on the excitement or drama. Gorgeous character moments, fantastic set pieces and an utterly heart-rending conclusion. The twists and revelations may have lost some of their impact in the past forty years with the new mythology introduced here now old hat, but others, like the War Chief and the Doctor seeing each other for the first time, have lost none of their power. Troughton is, of course, magnificent. There’s no greater swansong for a Doctor, and no greater Doctor Who story.
2) City of Death – Near the top of most people’s list of great Who stories, and rightly so. Douglas Adams’ greatest contribution to the series and a sublime adventure laced with humour, style and an incredibly joie de vivre. The Doctor and Romana were never wittier, or more in love.
3) Genesis of the Daleks – Another popular story that rightfully deserves all the acclaim it gets. Yes, it’s a bloody obvious Nazi allegory, no, you shouldn’t give a fuck. It’s not subtle, but it is quality. Davros isn’t just a mad scientist, he’s a mad scientist saving his race in the only way he knows how. All the Kaleds and Thals have known is war, and genetic mutation is unavoidable, so he seeks to control that mutation. We know the horrors he’ll create, but here the why and how of it are made into epic, nail-biting drama. (There’s also a Giant Clam, which I was trying very hard not to mention in case I slipped into a speech about how awesome it is.)
4) The Power of the Daleks – Have the Daleks ever been scarier? No. Has the Doctor ever been more off-putting? …er, well there was that time he tried to brain a caveman…but he ain’t exactly the Trought we come to know and love by the time we were sobbing horribly at episode ten of The War Games. What this is is an Earth colony with its own politics, and a misguided scientist who’s got his hands on some Daleks and, gosh, the Daleks just want to help out! Isn’t that super? We know what’s going to happen, the Doctor knows what’s going to happen, but no-one will listen, not when they can have lovely tin can servants instead. The tension ratchets up across five episodes until it reaches its devastating conclusion in the finale.
5) The Aztecs – OH BABS. Babs, as you might know, is Doctor Who‘s greatest companion. In The Aztecs she’s at the height of her powers as she commits the same errors she condemns in the European invaders. Each of the four regulars contributes a layer as they explore, and survive, a thoughtful and complex presentation of Aztec society. Of course, Babs owns it. Contains one of Who’s greatest scenes as Babs insists over the Doctor’s objections that, yes, she will try to change time.
6) The Invasion – Epic Cybermen adventure. Easily the best Cybermen story, even though they aren’t in it very much, but when they are, you are basically wondering how the dickens they got saddled with so much tosh when , heh, they were once in something this awesome. Zoe saves the world with mathematics, and blows up a computer with mathematics, and godammit, do I love it when a companion does some quality world-saving. Tobias Vaughn is, rightly, regarded as one of the all-time great Who villains.
7) The Mind Robber – A delightfully bizarre story where our dudes escape a white void populated by robots only to see the TARDIS destroyed, and end up in a Land of Fiction. Gulliver, speaking only lines written for him by Swift, is inspired. The Doctor writes fanfic to try and save the day but it’s actually Zoe, abusing yet another computer, who gets them out of it.
8) Spearhead in Space – Season 7 is arguably the best season of Doctor Who. Four stories, each blindingly good, but though I might prefer one or two of the others, Spearhead has a certain classiness that puts it just ahead. Brilliantly introducing Liz Shaw, the new Doctor, and the Brig as regulars, while never letting up in the tension of the Autons’ menace. Channing is one of Who‘s most unnerving villains, and you never quite look at plastic in the same way again.
9) The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone – Yeah, that’s right, this is the greatest new series story. None of that Empty Child or Blink nonsense in the top ten on this list, ta very much. Fuck, is this a great story. I watch it and I keep pausing it every ten seconds because OMG SO GOOD. This is Doctor Who as a movie as it should be as a movie. A proper good space adventure. Exciting and fun and scary and making me want to hug the telly. (I have never hugged a telly.)
10) The Curse of Fenric – Still scares my sister, lols! This is one of those stories, I think, if you can’t find something to like about it, you may not get on entirely well with Doctor Who. This is a story about faith; in religion, in yourself, in a cause – about how to find it, and keep it, and lose it, and what that means. It’s about the horror of war, and how it destroys people. It’s about a young woman growing up. And the monsters are quite good too. And Fenric is bloody scary.
11) The Ambassadors of Death – Fuck, it’s hard to put Season 7 in any sort of order. Tomorrow this could easily be Silurians or Inferno. Ambassadors is probably my favourite from the season though. It does take it’s time, but that only adds to the drama. The reveals are marvellous. The Ambassadors are a terrific creation. There’s no real villain, just people fucking up, and I love it for that. Liz Shaw is at her very best.
12) Terror of the Autons – The Autons’ second outing isn’t so impressive for them, but this is a packed pulp action-adventure that introduces Jo Grant as a bit of a daft klutz and then spends the rest of the story showing off how great she is (she finds the Master first, rescues the Doctor, lockpicks her handcuffs, blithely jumps from a speeding bus…), while the Master gets to ruthlessly kill off half the cast in lolariously inventive ways. The Doctor/Master rivalry is fantastic.
13) The Mind of Evil – The Master has this alien in a box, right? And it’s evil. Also, he’s decided to be a scientist who becomes a pseudo-Mafia boss in a prison whilst popping off the odd ambassador at the local World Peace Conference and nicking a nuclear missile. NO, COME BACK. It’s great, dammit. It only sounds slightly implausible when I write it all down like that. But the execution! Flawless. Yeah, you heard me, flawless.
14) Marco Polo – Gorgeous stuff. The TARDIS team spend months travelling the Silk Road with Marco Polo. The way this thing meanders is practically hedonistic. It’s lush and vibrant, and it is bloody well going to take it’s time, and enjoy it. You couldn’t make television anything like this today.
15) The Evil of the Daleks – The Doctor absolutely, definitely kills every single Dalek this time. He even says so! It’s their final end, dammit! 1963 – 1967…ah, poor Daleks, we hardly knew ye. Then there’s the coolness of time travel with mirrors, the chilling fact that the introduction of humanity into their brains is what causes Daleks to start killing each other, and the Doctor and Jamie hanging out in a coffee shop listening to the Beatles.
16) Inferno – The Doctor gets zapped into an alternate universe where everyone is EVIL and WEARS EYEPATCHES. Okay, only the Brig wear an eye-patch. And they’re less evil and more there’s been a bit of a fascist revolution and they’ve all been shaped by a brutal, sadistic society to be very different people. It’s quality stuff.
17) Kinda – Wisdom is found in little boxes. A thoughtful, unsettling, truly remarkable story.
18) The Romans – Gorgeous historical that goes in for comedy lols. Sublime stuff with Ian and Babs, and the Doctor and Vicki are adorable (witness Vicki’ nonchalance at telling the Doctor she may have just poisoned someone). The only problem is Nero chasing Babs around is played for laughs.
19) The Ribos Operation – Romana’s introduction to the series is practically giddy with delicious snark. Doctor Who does a heist story! And very well too. It’s all terribly witty and there are some smashing hats.
20) The Time Meddler – Ah, Vicki and Steven, an underestimated team if ever there was one. Here, they’re basically a medieval crime-fighting duo investigating a highly suspicious monk regarding the disappearance of one Doctor. They even have matching cloaks of awesome. Hartwell is bloody good too, as is Peter Butterworth aka the Monk; between them they milk every lol there is from the script in a story that manages to make the past scary and complex while still being a bit of a romp.
21) The Enemy of the World – Ah, the newly returned to the archives story. And so high on the list too! I confess, it wasn’t before I saw it. World politics! Epicness! Spades and spades of Trought! A smashingly crisp adventure with one of the best guest characters of the show in Astrid Ferrier.
22) The Silurians – When reptiles hibernating beneath the Earth wake up, the Doctor and UNIT are presented with moral dilemma type things on what to do because those dudes want their planet back kind of a lot. It’s Season 7, and it’s another intelligent script asking complicated questions.
23) The Macra Terror – There’s no such thing as benevolent authority, so we’re told in this ridiculously fun story that extols the virtues of anarchy. Jamie escapes via highland dancing, the Doctor is appalled at shiny shoes, and Giant Crabs are in control. Peter Jeffrey’s in it too. Glorious stuff.
24) The Seeds of Doom – For some reason I always forget about this one, even though it’s top quality stuff. This is the Fourth Doctor and Sarah at their best. Chase is a terrific villain and the Krynoid (repainted Axons, heh) are right unnerving sods. There’s some really brutal stuff – the Doctor convincing a scientist he’s going to have to amputate his friend’s arm to save his life gives me shivers every time. Death is simple in Doctor Who, it’s quick, often pulpy, even cartoon-ish, but the amputation seems so real, and the fear and doubt of the characters really gets to me.
25) The Highlanders – SCOTLAND. If this weren’t great in so many other ways, I’d be well annoyed at the Jacobite rebellion being depicted as an English vs Scots conflict, but as it is, don’t care a jot. The brutal realities of the time are offset by the rather fun scrapes of Our Heroes: when the others are caught Polly gets her own companion , Kirsty, then traps an English officer in a pit and blackmails him. Then he falls in love with her. Then Polly and Kirsty pretend to be prostitutes. The Doctor gets to practice medicine, and by medicine I mean hitting someone’s head against a table until he cures their headache. Grey’s amorality is wonderful.
26) The Tomb of the Cybermen – Trought, Jamie and Victoria tag along with an archaeological team who’re off to dig up Cybermen. They’d have been stopped by the big locked door and forced to go home, but the Doctor’s keen on helping out so gets them inside the tomb to explore and die. It’s tense and exciting with Victoria getting a chance to show her courage.
27) Blink – I watched this again fairly recently, expecting all the HYPE to have taken the shine off, but no, it really is just ridiculously good story-telling. And I still try not to blink during the scary bits. Cheeringly though, I no longer scream at them.
28) The Crusade – A compelling historical with an excellent line in guest actors. In a handful of scenes Julian Glover and Jean Marsh steal the show from the regulars. Babs plays Scheherazade, Ian gets knighted and Vicki would like to stop wearing boys’ clothes please.
29) The Robots of Death – Due to the era it’s in, I do want to capslock OVERRATED about this one, but, um, dammit, it’s only a *little* overrated. Quality world-building, inspired not a little by Frank Herbert’s Dune, some wonderfully designed robots, and a delightfully witty script.
30) Ghost Light – Looks good, tastes better. It’s bloody frustrating to watch as a child, but I can appreciate it now for its ambition. A wonderfully creepy story that discusses evolution and the value and inevitability of change.
31) The Massacre – This isn’t a Doctor Who story, it’s a story from the lost series Steven Taylor: Space Adventurer! Peter Purves shows off how good he can be, carrying all four episodes. The slow build and sudden flood of horror as French Protestants are killed in their thousands leaves him disgusted with the Doctor, leading to one of the show’s most wonderful speeches as the Doctor reflects on how all his companions have left him.
32) The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances – While I’m not in love with this story, I do really like it, and it’s unarguably one of the high points of New Who. Watching it the first time was as magic. Scary, fun, and with one of the most heart-warmingly lovely closing scenes of any story. Could do without Britain being characterised as a tiny little island standing up to the evil Nazis when, in fact, Britain was a world superpower at the time and had a whacking great empire.
33) The Caves of Androzani – Oh, it’s good, okay. I know it’s good. Very good. But, man, is it dour. Dour and miserable. And if I want my sci-fi all GRITTY and EDGY and OH SO ADULT, I’ve a multitude of mediocre shows to choose from. That said, if Doctor Who is going to do this sort of thing on occasion, fine, and here’s I admit it’s done very , very well. The world-building’s top-notch, there’s a plethora of compelling characters and the first episode has one of the show’s greatest cliff-hangers. It also has a rubber bat monster thing. Which I’m mentioning cause it’s about as relevant to how good the story is as Flappy Bird Kronos is to the Time Monster. JUST SAYIN’. NOT BITTER OMG.
34) The Girl in the Fireplace – It’s so much of what Doctor Who is, and who the Doctor is wrapped up in forty-five intensely satisfying minutes. I adore Doctor Who for celebrating adventure and optimism and intellectual curiosity, but seeing the tragedy of the Doctor’s life explored here, the inevitability of losing all those he loves, I can appreciate the joy all the more for being punctuated by sadness.
35) Battlefield – Yeah, that’s right, Who people, Battlefield > Remembrance. ACCEPT IT. Damn, this story is fun. There are a handful of seriously daft bits, but you gotta get over them and enjoy Jean Marsh, interdimensional knights, spaceships with Excalibur on board, the two Brigs, an unlikely romance, and a resolution of sheer awesome as the Doctor convinces Morgaine that winning her battles by turning worlds into ashes is not what she wants to do.
36) The Eleventh Hour – Fighting it out with Power and Spearhead for best new Doctor intro story, The Eleventh Hour feels fresh and exciting and there is a SCOTTISH COMPANION. Amy, upon meeting her imaginary friends as a grown-up, decides to knock him out with a baseball bat, and handcuff him to a radiator before she dresses up as a police officer and puts on an English accent to question him. Those scenes are just divine, perfect character stuff for the new Doctor and companion.
37) Remembrance of the Daleks – This is a story that gives a fuck about stuff that matters. It’s also got pseudo-UNIT, continuity used marvellous well, a Quatermass joke, two of the show’s greatest cliffhangars and the special weapons Dalek. A right good un.
38) The Five Doctors – The fact that the actual story is paper-thin is both irrelevant and missing the point. There’re five-ish Doctors in this thing! And Yeti! A Dalek! Shiny Time Lord hats! A plot is not required. This is a story of joy, dammit, and joy is both great and good.
39) The Myth Makers – Lolarious! It’s smart, quality lols here, with Steven and Vicki, one of the most underrated TARDIS teams. IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HORSE?
40) The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang – Despite the sheer daftness of having all the Doctors’ enemies ever team up to make a giant cube they can stick him inside, this is still top-notch stuff. tPO has the scale, the spaceships, the whole universe being destroyed, while tBB has everything being saved by a handful of characters in a museum.
41) Warriors’ Gate – Set between our universe and the pocket uni the Doctor and co have been trapped in is Romana’s fabulously stylish leaving story. The imagery is gorgeous, and it makes time into some weird unsettling shit worthy of Sapphire and Steel.
42) The Deadly Assassin – Well, he’d be a pretty shit assassin if he wasn’t! Haha! Get it? …but, yes, despite taking gender disparity to exciting new highs in the seventies (four episodes, and exactly no female characters), I’d still give this one a pretty high rec. There’s a lot I’m not keen on – the rewriting of the Time Lords as kinda doddering and out of touch, I ain’t a fan of. And yet any one of the characters here is more interesting than any non-renegade Time Lord we’ve seen so far in the series (Bowler Hat Guy from Terror of the Autons a possible exception). The Master’s characterisation often gets praised, when it’s actually boring as fuck. The really good stuff though is the nightmare landscape of the Matrix, where the Doctor enters a virtual world, confronted by clowns, large needles, bombing runs, a dodgy railroad track and a dude who really, really wants him dead. Oh, and T Baker looks pretty hot running around in those boots and the poet shirt.
43) The Pirate Planet – Fun, and funny and clever, and monstrous. The Captain having his spaceship jump around the universe engulfing whole worlds and eating them, more or less, is one of the more horrific crimes committed by a Who villain, leading to one of Baker’s greatest scenes where the Doctor, furiously angry, demands to know what the fuck he’s doing it for. Mary Tamm is marvellous, nicking the Doctor’s jelly babies, charming locals and proving to be a crack shot with a laser gun. The story’s a delight and a fine condemnation of consumerism laced with jokes and a robot parrot.
44) Earthshock – Eighties Cybermen FTW! Yeah! Rock on, David Banks! After an absence of seven years the Cybermen make a nifty comeback with a proper exciting space adventure. There’s some neat horror in the first episode, a real feeling of dread and omg everyone is going to die, and I don’t know who Beryl Reid would’ve been to eighties viewers and I don’t care. I love her as the captain. And Tegan does a right Ripley.
45) Horror of Fang Rock – Douglas Camfield might be Who’s best director, but Horror of Fang Rock is, probably, Who’s best directed story, and by Paddy Russell, who is A WOMAN. It’s atmospheric as fuck, looks just brilliant, delightfully scary, and lets Louise Jamieson show off what a great character Leela is.
46) Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways – Okay, the TV bits have aged horrendously, and the way Rose talks to Mickey and Jackie makes me itch with the classism (it’s really easy to have a wonderful life when someone comes along with a time and space machine and no financial needs, y’know), but it’s not nearly enough to tarnish a great story. The Daleks are scary, Eccleston is awesome, and his final scene, his final words, still make me maybe, possibly cry a wee bit.
47) The Androids of Tara – Quality swashbuckling fun with zappy space swords and androids and feudalism and court intrigue and SWORDFIGHTING. Peter Jeffrey is sublime.
48) The Dalek Invasion of Earth – I feel like I should just have to say Babs gleefully runs down a Dalek in a stolen bus but, some might say, that probably isn’t enough to justly recommend six whole episodes of story. The genius of the story is the fact that it isn’t the Daleks invading future Earth – they’ve already done that, those civilisations are doomed –but we’re joining in at the point where if the resistance happen to have a beautifully characterised history teacher and a genius old man time traveller around, they might be able to win their planet back. It’s grim stuff, but it doesn’t feel that terrible. There’s still hope.
49) Enlightenment – It’s a good un! Which is very pleasing cause it’s the concluding part of the Black Guardian trilogy and Turlough’s Can’t Be Arsed To Kill The Doctor Even Though I Said I Would arc. Sailing ships in space! Magical. The Eternals are proper enigmatic, and Strickson serves up slices of prime ham. The climax with the Guardians and the crystal and the choice is well good.
50) The Faceless Ones – Proper old skool sci-fi: Doctor Who does Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and manages a good dollop of moral complexity while solidifying the relationship between the Doctor and Jamie. Polly and Ben are poorly served in their final outing, but there’s enough story for the six episodes and the aliens, in appearance, concept and motivation, are fab.
51) The Ark in Space – If you ignore the fact the Doctor and Harry spend episode one crawling around the floor (I mean, I think that’s lolarious and fun, but I am trying to go for a “best” list here, rather than “what entertains Liz most” list), this is quality sci-fi. A desperate future for humanity, a terrifying adversary that likes to use humans as hosts. It’s conformity versus individualism and you mention the bubblewrap disparagingly and so help me, I will throw tiny Sutekh at you.
52) The Doctor’s Wife – utterly charming. I feel like I shouldn’t love this as much as I do, due to twee, and yet…well, sod that, it delights me. This would have been so easy to foul up completely, but what it did was leave me more in love with the TARDIS.
53) Dalek – Ah, the introduction of the Daleks to the new series. A story that’s lost none of its power in eight years. That is still one scary Dalek. The action scenes still look great. And Eccleston panicking in the face of this one survivor before taunting it is, perhaps, the highlight of Series 1.
54) Vincent and the Doctor – Appalling affecting. The depiction of Vincent’s depression was, well, that’s how it often is for me. The hope and sorrow balance makes me go arg, and the Doctor’s wee speech at the end of the bad not cancelling out the good and the good not cancelling out the bad is something I wish I’d been told ten years ago.
55) The Mark of the Rani – An awesomely fun pseudo-historical. It looks fantastic, and the Rani is an inspired creation. Her snarking at the Doctor and Master is just magic. Peri gets stuff to do, yay!
56) The Gunfighters – A great comedy script. Dodo actually ghas a chance to shine, and everyone has splendid hats. Yes, there’s that bloody song, I know, but this is delightful dammit. The best Who story set in the US.
57) The Brain of Morbius – Woo, Hinchliffe era stuff what I love! The Sisterhood is an awesome creation, Sarah gets to show off what makes her great as a companion, the Time Lord mythology is fascinating and, oh, Philip Madoc, yer just sheer quality.
58) The Happiness Patrol – KANDYMAN. It has a right go at Thatcher in particular and right-wing politics in general and is magnificent for it.
59) Smith and Jones – Martha’s first story, and one of the best companion introduction stories there is. Every time I see this one, I appreciate how good it is a little more. It’s still well dodgy that Martha needed to pass a test before her trip, unlike Rose or Donna, but she does save half the world by reading the manual. And there are space rhinos.
60) The Curse of Peladon – Pertwee’s one great adventure off Earth. It’s got interstellar politics, a murder mystery, Jo getting to do diplomacy and romance, the Doctor messing up and Alpha Centauri. Oh, Alpha Centauri, why have they not made your action figure yet?
61) The Reign of Terror – Quality stuff. There’s no flinching about the unrelenting brutality of the French Revolution. The dialogue’s great – Robespierre is totally off his rocker – and the handful of lighter moments (Ian and Babs running a pub!) are delightful. The Doctor gets a magnificent hat.
62) Shada – SHAAAADAAA. Both versions are, of course, canon. The villain’s got an excellent plan – he doesn’t want to take over the universe, he wants the universe to be him. The shots we’ve got of Cambridge are lovely, and the chemistry between the Doctor and Romana is as magic. There are some very dull jokes but it’s mostly good fun.
63) Nightmare of Eden – Packed with gorgeous sci-fi concepts, and the Doctor and Romana being fabulous. There’s some neat ethical complexity going on, and the Mandrels are awesome monsters. Sadly, Romana gets a terrible outfit.
64) The Girl Who Waited – Karen Gillan shines as an older Amy who’s had to survive alone with a lot of killer robots for decades before the Doctor and Rory came back. IT HURTS. But in a good way.
65) Fury from the Deep – Ah, the quintessential base-under-siege story! How beautiful you are to mine eyes! Megan Jones is one of the best guest characters of the classic series, there’s a whole bunch of gorgeously frightening stuff and foam! And evil seaweed! Just to top it all off, the Doctor and co stick around for yonks at the end of the adventure leading to Victoria’s heart wrenching leaving scene.
66) The Stones of Blood – The Ogri are one of the great one-off Who monsters that totally deserve a return. They are STONES and the EAT YOUR BLOOD. Creepy as fuck. Vivien Fay and Amelia Rumford are trying to steal the show from the Doctor and Romana, and there’s an excellent scene concerning practical footwear. Even the trial’s quite good. Lawful neutral’s scary, dammit! Even when wee floaty glowing lights.
67) The Three Doctors – Exciting, entertaining, with fabulous monsters and a fascinating, if scientifically ridiculous concept. Troughton and Pertwee are just marvellous together in all their scenes.
68) A Good Man Goes to War/Let’s Kill Hitler – While AGMGtW is epic, with a delightful team put together by the Doctor, and space battles and swords and things blowing up, LKH is quieter, a duel between River and the Doctor. While the revelations aren’t exactly mind-blowing, the final scenes of AGMGtW are wonderfully played and in LKH, Rory stops feeling like he’s just tagging along, and he and Amy become A Team.
69) The Ultimate Foe – Surprisingly good. The first episode is damn near flawless. Witty, and bizarre, it’s a worthy Matrix successor to Deadly Assassin, and the Sixth Doctor gets in some quality companion-ish time with Glitz. The reveal of who the Valeyard really is wasn’t spoiled for me when I first watched, and it remains one of those truly magical moments of Who. The second episode tries, bless it, but isn’t all there. “Oh, I see; he humiliates you by throwing harpoons at me” cracks me up every time.
70) The Day of the Daleks – The classic series’ best use of time travel. The Daleks have invaded future Earth again, and rebels are sent back in time to prevent the invasion from happening. UNIT, after their excellent performance in The Mind of Evil where there were only one or two ambassadorial assassinations, are doing the security for another world peace conference. Future gun-toting rebels plus peace conference does not make for happy times. The reveal of how WWIII really started is another of those magic Who moments.
71) The Claws of Axos – Ah, the themes of Season 7 mixed up with the colourfulness of Season 8. This is quality UNIT stuff, with the best of all the interfering civil servants and a great turn from the Master acting as UNIT’s scientific advisor. Poor old Jo gets almost sod all to do, but at least we see her dealing with good ol’ sexism in her way: smiling sweetly and doing exactly what she wanted to do anyway.
72) Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – This is so difficult. For, you see, there are certain stories that I have an Awesome Love for and know aren’t terribly good. Then there are stories like this one, where the Love is Equally Awesome, but I’ve honestly no idea whether my critical faculties are working or not. I am *fairly* certain this is pretty good. Amy falls naturally into a leadership role, Nefertiti is a companion, the Indian Space Agency is saving the world…dinosaurs! I’m quite sure I wasn’t at all distracted by Rupert Graves in shirtsleeves. Ahem.
73) The Keeper of Traken – A sci-fi fairy tale, with one of the most convincingly realised alien civilisations in the classic series. A society of essentially decent people, slowly corrupted and destroyed by a force of evil. It should be twee really, but instead it’s all rather lyrical and haunting.
74) The Web of Fear – I have a weird guilt about not adoring this. That said, it is very good. Featuring a practically cinematic shoot-out between the British army and Yeti leading to the Brig…er, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart’s most heart-wrenching moment. Anne Travers is wonderfully biting and the direction is sublime. What’s missing, I think, is much of a sense of fun, though, y’know, given the situation, it would be a bit out of place.
75) The Leisure Hive – Stylishly eighties, and messing about with a bunch of science stuff that, if ye were a kid like me, sounds all cool and fascinating so you must instantly go and find out all about it.
76) The Savages – Proper good sci-fi. So little is left visually of the story that it has a sort of enigmatic quality. Dodo’s is deeply annoying, but Steven is on top form. There’s a definite eerieness to those dudes knowing so much about the Doctor. Steven’s leaving scene is wonderful.
77) An Unearthly Child – A tricky one, since the first episode is just brilliant, and the latter three rather less so. They aren’t too shabby though, and there’s a palpable feeling of danger that’s often lacking in later adventures.
78) The Sea Devils – The more exciting, less thoughtful version of The Silurians. That doesn’t mean it’s not some great Who though. Jo is especially good and the Doctor/Master stuff is divine.
79) The Green Death – Aka The One with the Maggots. The Doctor tells Jo he’s in love with her so she sods off to Wales to take up with a Welsh Noble Prize winner and save the world with mushroom bread. It’s a solid UNIT story lit up by Jo’s storyline and painfully emotional departure. BOSS wins the prize for Best Evil Computer in Who.
80) The Greatest Show in the Galaxy – This story breaks my heart a bit because the script is stupendous, and the performances are, at least, good enough dammit, but they so very, very much need just a *smidgen* more money. THEY TRY SO HARD. Despite severe budget limitations, it’s impossible to deny the quality and power of this surrealistic tale. The clowns are quite scary too.
81) The Daleks’ Master Plan (and Mission to the Unknown) – EPIC. Thirteen episodes of GALACTIC DALEK SHENANIGANS and the Doctor scarpering an awful lot. There’re some harrowing moments (Katarina’s shocking death the most notable), a stupendously good character in Sara Kingdom, and a jaw-droppingly good final episode. Unfortunately six of the episodes were written by Terry Nation. One of them is the lovely, LOVELY DAMMIT, Feast of Stephen. The other five are very Terry Nation.
82) Revelation of the Daleks – Twisted and kind of brilliant. Scared the shit out of me as a kid – the woman shooting her Dalek-mutated father as he’s yelling at her to kill him? Fucking hell. The Doctor gets a smashing cloak.
83) Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords – Right. Okay. I KNOW. Tinkerbell fairy Jesus Doctor. Now, just put that aside, and you are looking at one hell of a story. From Jacobi’s gentle performance to Simm’s calculated menace (in tSoD, anyway) to Martha enduring the greatest trial any companions’ had to face, to…tiny gnome Doctor in a cage. Okay, LotTL had problems. Many, many problems. But Utopia and Sound of Drums more than live up to the three classic episodes that preceded them.
84) The Edge of Destruction – When something goes wrong on the TARDIS, everyone goes a bit mad, and Susan looks terribly threatening with scissors. It’s claustrophobic paranoia all round, with a classic scene at the end where Babs loses it with the Doctor and demands he apologise to them all.
85) Terror of the Zygons – SCOTLAND! And, lo, even though it’s a Scotland packed with stereotypes, I am very forgiving because the Brig wears a kilt and Sarah mocks him for it. The Zygons themselves are a stunning design, one so good it’s basically unchanged for their appearance in the fiftieth. There’s some nice atmospheric direction and as a last hurrah for UNIT as semi-regulars (no, that one doesn’t count; neither does that) it’s a delight.
86) The Sun Makers – Confession: not a fan. Don’t know why, cause I can see it’s good, it just doesn’t make me want to put it high on a favourites list. But this is a best list, where I am – stop laughing – trying to be vaguely objective. This is satire, folks, on TAX and CORPORATIONS and FILTHY CAPITALISM (why do I not love this, wtf?)
87) Castrovalva – Peter Davison spends a great deal of his first three episodes in a coffin-like box. Which is okay because Tegan and Nyssa are there, and they do a rather smashing job of carrying the show. The Escher painting concept is delightful, and there’s lots of great stuff about free will.
88) Logopolis – There’s something majestic about Logopolis, despite the Master trying to blackmail the universe with a tape recorder. The ideas are magnificent, and fascinating. Entropy’s the only thing I really understood in Sixth Year Chemistry (or, as they should have called it, MATHS) and I blame this story.
89) Galaxy Four – Re-evaluated this one after the missing episode discovery which, among other things, features Vicki in a fight scene where she wrests a gun from her captor. The direction is awfully good, and it’s notable for being the first (only ? classic-wise it certainly seems likely) Who story where a majority of the cast are female. CHUMBLIES!
90) The Time Warrior – Enter, Sarah Jane Smith! The illustrious companion arrives in a light-hearted historical where she gets medieval lords on her side, leads raiding parties, and yells at the Doctor for suggesting she make tea. Linx, the first and best Sontaran, is a compelling antagonist, and the Doctor pretends he is Errol Flynn quite a lot. Lovely stuff.
91) The End of the World – There’re a few daft bits (lolariously placed fan), but mostly this is beautiful. Everything ends, and that’s okay. And Rose talks to a pot plant.
92) The Daleks – Pacifism being shit might be a weird way to go nowadays, but this was 1963, when most people watching remembered the War, and many fought in it. Babs wears some wonderful trousers. There’s lots of exciting stuff at the start and then…I *like* padding, especially the sixties stuff, but I’m willing to admit that taking four hundred hours to cross a chasm may not be the most exciting telly ever.
93) The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit – This is actually my favourite story of Series 2. Despite a couple of misfire moments (our heroes going in for some smug laughter in the opener, and Rose’s suicide attempt) this stands out as one of the new series’ great adventure stories. There is wonder here, and a wonderful cast, and a gorgeous score.
94) The Smugglers – A lovely wee story and Ben and Polly’s first TARDIS outing. There’s some marvellous swashbuckling, showing that Doctor Who can do pirates, but only if they’re not space ones, and Polly comes up with her first ridiculous plan that she pulls off with aplomb.
95) The Sontaran Experiment – A splendid little two-parter. They’re on a MOOR! It makes a lovely change and really does look smashing. This is a post-apocalyptic burnt Earth – humanity had to evacuate and now the planet’s cooled down again, greenery is flourishing, and people would quite like to come back. It’s a quietly optimistic future that’s in stark contrast to Styre’s cruel experiments on a few of humanity’s remnants. And Harry gets to fall down a big pit but also save the day. Yay, Harry!
96) Full Circle – Delightful. Looks bloody good, the spiders are awesome and it whooshes along at a splendid pace. The only thing you could really complain about is that it introduces Adric, and while he’s at least tolerable here, it doesn’t last.
97) The Power of Three – A gorgeous character piece take that showcases all that is shiny and good and fabulous fun about the Ponds and the Doctor. The silly denouement can’t ruin it, and every moment with Kate Stewart is bliss.
98) Gridlock – Quietly gorgeous. Who’d have thought you’d get a great story by writing about a really big traffic jam? Martha and the Doctor’s final scenes make me do quite a lot of flail at how wonderful they are.
99) The Snowmen – Maybe I’m still all aglow from last Christmas, maybe it really is as good as I think it is. I dunno. Just sit still for five years and then ask me again, yes? I shouldn’t think this is as good as I do really. The Doctor’s miserable and moans a bit and I don’t approve of that sort of thing. But Team!Vastra is back and they are better than Most Things. And Governess!Clara, still my favourite Clara, is keen on investigating stuff and kicking at the class system in her own small way.
100) Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead – Okay, I haven’t seen this one for aaaaages. Mainly cause I imagine I’ll have a bit of a strong emotional reaction to it given that we now know River quite well. The Vashta Nerada are a great creation, River Song is just fabulous and Catherine Tate gets to show off her fantastic range. Yelling at your enemy to look you up in a book and then having them run away…yes, well, that’s certainly one way to resolve the story. One very silly way. River saving not just the Doctor’s life, but her own, her history and everything she’s done make her death scene…dammit, I’ve teared up. Onwards!
101) The Ice Warriors – Some wonderful ideas and the Ice Warriors themselves are superb. It does faff around a wee bit, but it looks great, and Victoria knows how to make stink bombs *and* has a smashing costume.
102) Human Nature/Family of Blood – A tour de force of just how awesome Martha is, featuring ‘bones of the hand’ and her keen grasp of conflict resolution in the cliffhanger. Tennant’s best performance.
103) The Lodger – Oh, this is just fun. The Doctor moves in with a dude and pretends to be human and Matt Smith shows off how good he is at football. Suffers from a distinct lack of Amy, but mostly a very huggable story.
104) The Time Monster – When asked what my favourite Doctor Who story is, I say The Time Monster. I love it, but recognise it is somewhat flawed. Jo saves the universe, btw, cause the Doctor cops out.
106) The Seeds of Death – It does take it’s time a bit, yes, but this is fascinating stuff. A future Earth where all solar exploration has been given up and transport is all done by teleportation controlled via the Moon. Suddenly, we need a rocket to save the world! Hurrah! Rockets! The Ice Warriors look great, there’s a lovely sense of doooooom and there is foam. Deadly foam.
107) The Crimson Horror – A really splendid story that delights by having Team!Vastra on a case and exploring the truly fucked up relationship between Mrs Gillyflower (Diana Rigg, omg!) and her daughter. There is also a magic cupboard. OF SCIENCE.
108) Image of the Fendahl – Frightfully unnerving and with some tremendous writing. One of Who‘s darkest moments when the Doctor leaves Max with a gun so he can shoot himself.
109) Pyramid of Mars – OVERRATED. I’m also feeling grudgey because I’ve got an Osiran War Rocket from the action figure set cluttering up my floor because it’s too big for the shelves. Wandering around garden paths instead of corridors isn’t clever. And the last episode perplexed me as a child because wtf, I learned the answer to that security system thingie from Labyrinth! Now I know it’s just dodgy writing. Sarah shines though. T Baker is rocking, as is Sutekh, who is a proper scary villain, and the scene where they go to the alternate 1980 still gives me shivers.
110) The Shakespeare Code – A lovely period piece, where Shakespeare is a Renaissance rock star and Martha save by having read Harry Potter. It’s awfully good fun, marred a wee bit by the unpleasant scene where it was thought a good idea to make the new companion feel unwanted.
111) Frontios – Ugh. One of those stories I can see is actually Quite Good and all, but ye gods, is it dreary. Humanity has but a single colony and they’re all going to die! Hurrah! No, the Doctor doesn’t save them from that, he saves them from the immediate threat of underground beetle people, who are actually quite scary cause they put a guy’s head in a machine and I still can’t watch that bit without shivers.
112) Amy’s Choice – The life of time-travelling adventure, or the life of domesticity on Earth? Amy thinks she has to choose and, in the end, she makes the same choice she always does: Rory. And, as we know, choosing Rory doesn’t mean she has to give up the adventure. A great character piece that sets up one of the series’ great moments: Amy and Rory just married and running away together with the Doctor and TARDIS.
113) Frontier in Space – Fairly glorious. The main problem is Jo and the Doctor really do spend an awful lot of time getting locked up and escaping again. But it feels like the Master’s on to a properly epic plan at last and the interstellar politics is as satisfying as the half-decent attempt to depict social change.
114) Survival – A great script in desperate need of a wee bit more money. That said, the Cheetah people look great, as does their planet. Ace putting on the Doctor’s hat to take up his mantle when she thinks he’s dead is just perfect.
115) The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon – A fantastic TARDIS team made even better by Canton. It’s glossy and exciting. River and the Doctor are fabness. The resolution is partly clever and partly oh dear me srsly? I try and ignore that, since it spoils an otherwise smashing adventure.
116) Destiny of the Daleks – Four and Romana are on fine form, and there’s lovely banter galore. The regeneration scene is rocking and the Movellans are surely the seventies coolest looking aliens. The story, especially when Davros turns up, does leave you going “oh,Terry Nation” as you gently hit your head against the wall.
117) Robot – Does Harry get the best companion intro scene ever? POSSIBLY. Baker is just THERE being all marvellous and stuff, but the Brig’s character is suffering. Thank goodness Sarah is there to guide us through. It is awfully fun though.
118) The Vampires of Venice – A terribly decent adventure livened up immeasurably by the sublime presence of Helen McCrory.
119) The Next Doctor – Oh, pity the New Series Cybermen, they are not very good. Mercy Hartigan is though, smashing dress too. And Morrissey is on fine form. The character stuff is lovely and it all looks rather splendid, but the plot is just silly, and not in the fun way.
120) Boom Town – A refreshing pause in Series 1 of New Who where we get tons of smashing character stuff. It’s a bit yarg when writing seems to agree with the Doctor’s guilt, that he, in fighting and killing to defend himself and others, is just as bad as aggressive warmongering or, y’know turning a planet to ash for profit, but it’s mostly a lot of smashing talky scenes.
121) The Wedding of River Song – I love this one, but I can see it’s a smidgen flawed. River is being a tad ridic with telling the universe the Doctor is dying and all those spaceships. But Amy and Rory are rocking. Time being smooshed together is exactly what time should look like being smooshed together, at least in Doctor Who. And there is a pace and verve and energy to the thing that’s quite splendid.
122) The Angels Take Manhattan – There’s a lot to love about the Ponds’ swansong, between the time-travel shenanigans, the Ponds jump to break the paradox, and River and the Doctor’s relationship at its twisted, wonderful, broken best, but it’s just a bit too doom-laden and piling on the emo to be a right classic. The explanation for why the Doctor can’t go see them is daft as anything, but the Statue of Liberty gets a big thumbs up.
123) The Horns of Nimon – Daft as a pocketful of frogs, it’s good because it’s entertaining as fuck, and Romana gets to show off marvellously. There’s glorious overacting, sublime scenery chewing, and the sort of quotable dialogue that can only come from having giant space Minotaurs mucking about with black holes.
124) School Reunion – So much to love here. Tennant is at, perhaps, his best playing opposite Elisabeth Sladen. Sladen is sublime. The emotional beats break my heart rather a lot, though I do have to believe Sarah is basically twisting the knife in revenge for being dumped in Aberdeen re not having any life after the Doctor.
125) The Creature from the Pit – HILARIOUS, DAMMIT. There are some well daft goings on (a distinctly Earth-like planet without metal? Does that work?) and some oh dear me, what were they thinking (the Doctor’s, um, initial interaction with the Ambassador) but mostly it’s just very funny.
126) Planet of the Ood – When the Doctor asks Donna who made her clothes, pointing out the exploitation on Earth, she says that’s not fair, and he accepts that. The discussion is ended. But, dammit, it is fair: she benefits from the exploitation of others. Anyway, at least the point was raised. This is a solid enough story, good world-building, goodness knows I care about the theme, and there is a Giant Brain.
127) The Moonbase – Saved by the Trought and Polly. It should be a lot duller than it is, but there are enough bits with those two to brighten up the whole thing. The scenes of the Cybermen walking on the moon are wonderful. The scenes of them getting blown off the moon, lolarious.
128) The Dominators – Doctor Who as B-movie sci-fi flick. If you go in with your serious hat on, you are going to have a terrible time. This is overblown and fairly daft, but endearingly so. The regulars are great, showing off why the Trought, Jamie and Zoe are such a great TARDIS team.
129) The Name of the Doctor – A cunning exercise in style over substance and style over plot. Practically nothing happens, but nothing happens terribly well. There’s a lot of talking and nostalgia. It’s self-indulgent, but rather lovely.
130) The Underwater Menace – Packed with imagination and Troughton on top form, it’s glorious. Atlantis! Fish people! Metamorphoses! Oh, it’s a genius who wants to blow up the world, but look at the Doctor interacting with him. Troughton’s face is amazing. And Polly pretends to be a god, as you do.
131) The Beast Below – Peter Pan in Space! Flawed, but rather wonderful. Amy delights, and the whole thing looks bizarrely fabulous. Two thumbs up for Queen Sophie Okenedo.
132) The God Complex – There’s *almost* a Nimon in this. But there isn’t. So it isn’t as good as it could have been. Amira Kahn gives a brilliant performance, and it’s all a bit scary, scary enough that the Ponds have had enough.
133) The Two Doctors – There are a whole bunch of misjudged moments – mostly horrid stuff happening just for the sake of it – but it’s still entertaining, engaging stuff. Seeing the Trought and Jamie again is a delight, and Colin Baker is almost dashing.
134) The Unquiet Dead – It looks bloody brilliant, and Rose gets a fantastic costume. A marvellous performance from Simon Callow, and some great scary moments.
135) The Fires of Pompeii – Capaldi’s in this! You knew? Whatev, dude, whatev. It’s a decent story here, raised by a number of quality scenes. The prophecy is delightfully unsettling, and the moment Donna puts her hands on the lever so that she shares responsibility for the destruction of Pompeii with the Doctor is heartbreakingly good.
136) The Chase – I do love it something rotten, but, yeah, a better story probably wouldn’t have *quite* those episodes in the middle. That said, the first one’s a cracker with super character stuff and the final…omg, the final episode is just beautiful, from the Movellans, to Hi-Fi, to Babs and Ian talking about leaving, telling the Doctor they’re leaving and, omg, making it home. It’s a tear-jerking happy ending of sheer delight.
137) Dragonfire – Fans tend to agree that Season 24 has one really great story, but they can never agree which one. For me, it’s Dragonfire. A splendid combo of imagination (the Ice Planet as Kane’s prison and the dragon and its treasure combined with mundanity of the spaceport with its annoyed mothers and ice-cream throwing waitresses) and character. Mel and Ace are a great team and I’m sad this is their only outing together. Kane is frightening as fuck.
138) The Abominable Snowmen – Wales is the Himalayas! Wales! It’s marvellous. And it works, by which I mean I didn’t notice for years. The Great Intelligence gets lots of points for being both scary and awesome enough to send ROBOT YETI to do its dirty work. The ending is just lovely – we get a quick peek at the *real* Yeti; shy, retiring creatures who hide from humans.
139) State of Decay – A neat vampire tale with plenty of decent horror moments and plenty of lovely Doctor and Romana stuff.
140) The War Machines – A story set in the modern day at the time, now almost fifty years in the past. There’s a freshness to it that’s very appealing and Hartnell is great. He gets a fantastic scene where he’s just standing there, staring down the enemy while soldiers scatter around him. The War Machines are not terribly exciting though, and poor Dodo gets the worst companion exit.
141) Aliens of London/World War III – The Slitheen are daft aliens, but that’s hardly a crime, especially in Doctor Who. Their threat is real enough, and that’s what matters. Eccleston is on great form. The Doctor returning Rose home a year later really was bizarrely exciting at the time and remains a fab bit. Mickey and Jackie are well-served by the script and Harriet Jones is just smashing.
142) The Rings of Akhaten – Has there ever been a more divisive Who story? I’ve only seen people either love it or hate it, generally with a passion. I’m in the love it camp, but fuck know why; I should be calling it twee, sentimental crap. For whatever reason a wee girl singing to keep a god asleep really works for me though. There’s a terrible, terrible speech from the Doctor, but that’s not nearly enough to ruin it.
143) Resurrection of the Daleks – MELTING FACES. Such things disturb me greatly. Thunderbirds outfit for the space crew aside, the plot might be all over the place, but it’s carried along by all the energy, dammit. Stuff blows up! Zappy space guns! Daleks everywhere! It’s all tense and exciting and, no, don’t think, don’t analyse, that sort of thing is for OTHER STORIES.
144) Black Orchid – Charming two-parter. Tegan teaches Nyssa how to Charleston and Davison wanders around in a dressing gown.
145) Revenge of the Cybermen – Ah, the one where the Cybermen are utter shit. WHATEV. They may not be eighties Cybermen, but once I get used to the funny voices, I can tots get on board with their cunning plan and head mounted guns. The plague is nicely scary. The location filming looks great. There are Cybermats, dammit. Benefits hugely from one of the best TARDIS teams in Four, Sarah and Harry.
146) Partners in Crime – The actual story’s tissue-thin, but the whole thing’s immeasurably improved by Catherine Tate, one of the best companion actor’s the show’s ever had. Tennant really seems to raise his game opposite her and they play off each other wonderfully. Ms. Foster is a quality villain.
147) Terminus – It might be the childhood nostalgia talking, but there’s a feeling of claustrophobia and Inescapable Doom to this one that really makes it work. I’m scared for the TARDIS crew cause they are clearly all going to die horribly. They don’t, course, and Nyssa gets a truly excellent exit, and a final hug from Tegan that possibly makes me tear up. Sutton and Fielding didn’t always get a lot of interaction, but the friendship they developed between their characters is one of the best things about Season 19.
148) The Krotons – I mean there’s a certain goodness there cause it’s hard to really fuck up with any of Trought’s teams, but the story is just there, being all medicore and so-so. Worth watching to see the Doctor and Zoe get competitive over who’s smarter. Zoe saves the day again, btw…well, she goes halfers with the Doctor in this one.
149) Meglos – aka The One Where the Villain is a Talking Cactus. Basically it’s saved by being fun, and having Jacqueline Hill in it.
150) The Power of Kroll – There’s some nice location work, a fantastic monster and Romana gets a smashing outfit, but the really decent thing about Kroll is it gives a good stab at having a more nuanced discussion about colonialism than one might expect.
151) Hide – Had the potential to be one of the scariest Who‘s ever. Blew it in the final act. Still a quality piece though, with a great guest turn from Dougray Scott, and more than its fair share of frightening moments.
152) Delta and the Bannermen – FUN, DAMMIT. Mel’s best story, the Doctor dances, lots of people have Welsh accents and aren’t there for the comedy value. The green alien make-up looks fairly daft and they clearly don’t have enough money, but it’s a decent enough story.
153) Midnight – Arg, this one tears me. On the one hand, awesome sci-fi. On the other, oh the misery, emo, misery. On the third, makes a good point re Doctor and companions. I dunno. It’s good, but while RTD is at his best on a tight budget and this is quality work, the more than a touch of nihilism re human nature leaves me going hrrm.
154) The Unicorn and the Wasp – Tate and Tennant light up the screen and there is a Giant Wasp involved. A decent bit of fun.
155) The TV Movie – A plot that really makes no sense (and goodness knows I’ve tried) and veritable flood of disposable continuity are overcome by the three leads. Eric Roberts is lolarious, camping it up something rotten, while McGann and Ashbrook manage to establish their characters and develop them and their relationship into something meaningful in little more than an hour.
156) Time and the Rani – Fuck, this one looks good. In a total eighties way, yeah, but look at the costumes! The half-decent alien make-up! That skeleton! Those bubbles! The Rani’s not as good as she was on her first outing, and she’s clearly developed a particularly bizarre sense of humour, but this is a fun story that gets a right bad rep for being about as far away from Hinchcliffe pseudo-Hammer horror as it’s possible to be. HURRAH. I mean, there are women in it! Plural! And a Giant Brain. Always a plus.
157) The Lazarus Experiment – It’s a B-movie sci-fi flick. Decent enough. It’s let down by the godawful CGI, but Martha shines with ingenuity and courage and she’s wearing a smashing dress.
158) Timelash – Fuck, yeah! Timelash is awesome! I mean, not actually awesome, but it’s entertaining, dammit. And that’s part of what makes a great story. Now this isn’t a great story. It’s almost textbook mediocre, but gets a great boost from Paul Darrow camping it up as a right dodgy Richard III, and loses points for having Peri tied up and screaming for an absurd amount of time. The Borad make-up still looks damn good.
159) Mawdryn Undead – There wasn’t a lot of mucking about with time in the classic series, surprisingly, but when they did do it, they did it well. The Brig’s here in two time zones and he’s gonna accidently kill a bunch of immortals who’ve found out immortality sucks.
160) Invasion of the Dinosaurs – It’s so ambitious, and it wears its theme in bright neon capitals on its sleeve, good old Malcolm Hulke. It doesn’t sparkle like many earlier UNIT stories, but it ain’t half-bad. I do get terribly distressed by the Brig’s hair though.
161) The Keys of Marinus – It ain’t a great one, but I do love it so. Bored? Worry not, in twenty minutes, there’ll be a whole new story! It’s nice the Doctor finally decides that he doesn’t want the Conscience to control everyone’s minds. Lots of lovely Babs and Ian stuff.
162) The Ark – It’s sort of worthy but dull. There’re ideas there, sure, but Dodo is…oh, she’s annoying, sorry Dodo, you get better. And the guest cast are sort of…there. It’s just not engaging. There is an elephant though. Not stock footage, an actual elephant in the studio. They poke it and everything.
163) The Tenth Planet – Hartnell deserved a much better final story. There’s nothing really awful about it, but it does plod so. And I don’t care how cool the concept of these original Cybermen might be, by gum, if I can’t make out what you’re saying, I am judging you hard. There’s a black space pilot on board the spaceship though, a nod to social progress.
164) Asylum of the Daleks – There’s some daft character stuff in this, with Amy and Rory’s break-up, mitigated by decent scares (people growing into Daleks!) and awesome weirdness (the ballet Dalek).
165) Father’s Day – Like being bashed over the head with an anvil labelled FEEL FEELINGS FEEL FEELINGS NOW. Plus it’s tots okay for Rose to have accidently destroyed everything ever, because she’s sorry. That said, it’s still all right. The Reapers, and the idea of the Reapers, are awesome, and the Doctor opening the doors to the vanished TARDIS is a top-notch moment.
166) New Earth – There’s a lot of daftness, but it does combine a fair bit of fun with some unpleasant (in the good way!) ideas. “Can the means justify end?” ain’t exactly ground-breaking stuff, but, whatever. When you’re retreading it with Cat Nuns and zombies, I’m all for it. Possibly the most absurd conclusion to any Doctor Who story ever (Medicine: where people with every illness ever are healed by MIXING ALL THE CURES TOGETHER AND SHOWERING THEM IN THE RESULT.) Having the hospital symbol be a green crescent moon is a lovely touch.
167) The Armageddon Factor – I WANT TO LOVE THIS. I like lovely endings and I want so much to love the end to the Key to Time saga. Alas, no. It’s not awful, or anything. It’s just…lacklustre. Plenty of good stuff, at least, with Romana prepared to die for the mission, and Drax the half-assed Time Lord, and the insanity of the Marshall, and the Shadow…well, he’s atmospheric but with no sense of humour and a single dimension. The final scenes with the Doctor and Romana in the TARDIS are keen as anything though.
168) The Hand of Fear – Sarah’s final story in the classic series see her taken over. Again. Oh good. The story’s alright, lifted by the first Eldrad being bloody good, and the message left for him by his extinct race. Sadly it all goes a bit headdesk when not!BrianBlessed turns up and is defeated by tripping over the Doctor’s scarf. That said, the final scenes between the Doctor and Sarah are beautiful.
169) The Bells of St. John – It’s not bad, there’s just nothing awfully good about it either. I quite like the pre-credits stuff with the Doctor hanging out in a monastery, and getting uploaded is pretty scary, but Clara suffers from being a less interesting character than Victorian!Clara.
170) The Masque of Mandragora – It looks awfully good, and it’s nice to see an alien menace have a go at Earth not just outside the Home Counties, but outside the UK altogether. Italy, folks, Italy! It’s just not that memorable.
171) Planet of Evil – A competent enough tale made terribly depressing by the lack of women and Sarah constantly being referred to as “the girl”. Goodness sake, people, she has a name! Nice jungle though.
172) Closing Time – The Lodger’s sequel is more lovely lolarity. It’s not quite as good, and it does have an ending daft enough to compete with New Earth (preventing Cyberisation through love of your child!) but it’s quite cheering nonetheless.
173) The Runaway Bride – Not too shabby at all. Tate is awesome. It just suffers a bit when acting as a eulogy for a character who isn’t actually dead. Sarah Parish is kind of wasted though.
174) The Face of Evil – Oh, it’s fine. Louise Jamieson is superb, being arguably the best actor to have played a companion, and there’s a giant Doctor’s face on a wall. As evil computers go though, this one’s no BOSS.
175) Nightmare in Silver – I honestly can’t tell if this is any good or not. I don’t even know if I liked the Doctor vs Cyber-Controller thing, it was bizarre and…sort of grew on me? The Cybermen were pretty scary though, so points there.
176) The Daemons – Pertwee at his most unlikeable. The Doctor and Master don’t meet till the final episode, meaning very little entertaining banter between them. The Brig just hangs around a lot. Have I mentioned how unpleasant the Doctor is in this? Jo saves the Earth. And the Doctor is kind of a git. I like Bok though. And it’s quite cosy and fun. But still.
177) The Wheel in Space – It’s not often I’ll say a six-parter is too long, but it’s pretty hard to deny it here. The Cybermen are decent enough, Zoe gets a wonderful introduction and the Doctor spends some time in shirtsleeves. Gemma Corwyn’s death is suitably shocking – she’s a fantastic character and most female guest stars survive the sixties. But, yeah, not the most exciting story ever.
178) A Christmas Carol – Oh, it’s there and it’s pleasant enough, though I do cringe at the literally fridged woman and that there’s no mention of the morality of interfering in Kazran’s timeline, though it is being done to save hundreds of lives. There is a space shark though, and some smashing Amy and Rory moments.
179) The Talons of Weng-Chiang – Tedious and racist. I’ve often fallen asleep during episode three. There’s a lot of witty dialogue and the Doctor is dressed as Sherlock Holmes. And there’s a Giant Rat. I like the rat.
180) The Space Museum – It really is a very good first episode. Proper mysterious goings on and all that. And while I might very much enjoy the remainder, it’s difficult to argue positively for a story when the highpoint is the Doctor giggling like a loon after he hides in a Dalek’s casing.
181) Terror of the Vervoids – HELLO HONOR BLACKMAN. It’s the most dreadful companion intro story even though Mel is quite good in it, and as a murder mystery, who really cares about anyone except Honor Blackman?
182) The Christmas Invasion – An intensely frustrating story. Seeing Harriet Jones back is fantastic, seeing the Doctor bring down a democratically elected Prime Minister because he doesn’t like one of her decisions, not so much. Seeing Rose trying to take on the role of the Doctor, great stuff; seeing her sobbing about him being dead after his regeneration, not so much.
183) Snakedance – I feel like I should watch it again because people what I think have generally decent views love this one, but my feeling is one of rather a lot boredom. And being distracted by Martin Clunes’ eye-make up, and Nyssa’s horrid dress.
184) The End of Time – Yearg, okay, so Tennant’s final scene, and the goodbye tour are cringeworthy, and let’s just not talk about the Master’s master plan, but there’s still some decent stuff in here. The Doctor & Master scenes are excellent. Gallifrey looks damn good. Timothy Dalton is chewing up the scenery, spitting it out and demanding more, and…well, Cribbins can act, even though I don’t enjoy Wilf very much.
185) Tooth and Claw – SCOTLAND. There’s one overwhelming problem with this story: the utterly unlikeable leads. If the Doctor and Rose were absent, I could totally get behind the whole werewolves and ninja monks in Scotland thing.
186) The Rescue – It’s nice enough, it just doesn’t have anything terribly interesting about it. Does the job it needs to do by introducing the new companion.
187) Planet of Giants – It’s an awful lot of running around with very little going on, but the effects are quite decent. If it was a lesser TARDIS team, I suspect I would be considerably harsher.
188) The King’s Daemons – Daft and pointless, but it does look nicely medieval. And there’s a swordfight.
189) Attack of the Cybermen – For all the complaints about continuity (at least they know how to spell Foreman), the references are just window-dressing to a straightforward Cyber-plan of Wanting To Blow Earth Up. The weird shit is that they want to blow up their own planet too. Why? Science, apparently. Stratton and Bates are quite funny though, as are Lytton and Griffiths. There’s a lot of waving around energetically to distract from all the daft things, but it’s entertaining waving.
190) The Doctor, the Widow and the Warddobe – There’s some lovely atmospheric stuff and a great guest performance from Claire Skinner. Then there’s some weird stuff with Madge being a mother and therefore strong enough to carry the lifeforce thingie, and there is arguably the most cringeworthy moment in the Eleventh Doctor era – “humaney-wumaney” – but the Doctor going to have Christmas dinner with the Ponds at the end is just perfect.
191) Cold War – It ticks a lot of boxes but it lacks…something. Heart? Clara doesn’t feel like she’s Clara so much as any old companion. The Ice Warrior looks great, and there’s a bunch of quality actors in it, but it fails to really delight.
192) The Mysterious Planet – There’s nothing horrendously wrong with it, it’s just not very engaging. A few fine moments, notably Peri discovering which planet she’s really on, don’t make up for being bored most of the time. I do like the Trial bits though.
193) The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End – The stunning part one where, okay, very little happens, just a massive amount of set-up, but what great set-up! I had FEELINGS watching this. It was epic! And so lovely to everyone, so no matter which character you loved or identified with, they got their moment. Then came JE. Bloody hell. What a mess.
194) The Waters of Mars – Ugh. I want so much to really like this because the sci-fi elements are awesome. I love the idea of going to the first Mars colony, I love the crew, I love the creepy-as-get-out zombie water and I really love Lindsay Duncan, but the character development of the Doctor reaches an all-time low and I’m forced to crawl under the sofa to hide in shame. My lovely hero convinces a woman that suicide is her best option. Horrific. And not in a deep and meaningful way. One of the very few episodes I wouldn’t show to kids (by kids, I’m gonna say I mean under-twelves.)
195) Fear Her – Mostly inoffensive but dull. A handful of decent moments (most notably Rose taking a swing at the concrete with a pickaxe and right grin on her face) don’t make up for the cheap look and a climax that, I suspect, makes me feel like how a lot of older Who fans felt/feel about certain eighties stories.
196) Rose – Ooh, this one’s aged badly. Noticeably more so than any other Series 1 story. It’s…sort of there. Not awful or anything, but other than introducing the fundamental concepts of the series and a neat line about the north, there’s not much to recommend it. Inoffensive.
197) The Doctor’s Daughter – It’s entertaining enough for most of the story, and Georgia Moffet is a terribly charismatic actor, but the climax of the Doctor waving a gun around declaring how he never would …shoot? Kill? (apart from all those times he did, obviously) is embarrassing.
198) Night Terrors – There are a few good scares but this is basically fluff and it comes at the wrong place in the season. Decent enough, but forgettable.
199) Colony in Space – I’m *fairly* certain this is quite dull, but if this was a Favourites list, it’d be about much, much higher, cause I do love it. The Master doesn’t turn up till episode four, and that’s when it gets much more fun, but the real clanger is the truly wtf attitude to the planet’s native people, who nobody (except for the Master!) spares a thought for.
200) Warriors of the Deep – I don’t really mind that it’s horrendously overlit. What is annoying is the cheap characterisation of the Silurians and Sea Devils.
201) Army of Ghosts/Doomsday – Daleks vs Cybermen is not an interesting idea, dammit. We know who’ll win, and if it’s not the Daleks, it’s wrong. The ending’s got all the emotional subtlety of a hammer to the face. I do like Yvonne Hartman though, and Mickey’s return is spiffy.
202) Planet of the Dead – Sort of blandly entertaining. I rather like Christina, but the plot is almost painfully by the numbers. Nothing the least bit unexpected happens.
203) The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky – A misfire in lots of ways: UNIT, the Sontarans, the bloody annoying kid. Thank goodness for Catherine Tate. I love Martha, but it’s really Tate who’s holding this whole thing together.
204) The Invasion of Time – Oh, Sontarans, how you have fallen. It’s a nice conceit, having the Doctor all villainous and not letting the audience in on what’s going on for a bit, but Gallifrey’s fairly dull, and Leela gets that daft exit.
205) The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People – The most bizarre of two-parters: the second part is substantially better than the first. HOW BIZARRE. The ideas are there and they are good, but the execution is lacking. I’m supposed to care about these people! I *want* to care about these people! But you’re just not letting me, dammit. The stuff with two Doctors is great though.
206) The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood – Oh, there’s a lot of good bits, and Meera Syal is a delight as pseudo-companion Nasreen, but it’s not nearly enough to let me pretend it’s quality stuff.
207) The Web Planet – Another one that would rate much higher on a favourites list. Oh, Babs, she is wonderful in this, as she decides she’ll be general of the bees and takes down their archenemy. The story is certainly ambitious, the alien landscape does look rather splendid and we get some fantastic character stuff in the TARDIS, but it’s very difficult to deny that it is, essentially, rather plodding.
208) The Twin Dilemma – Colin Baker is smashing in this, apart from that one awful bit. Really smashing. And so is Maurice Denham, and there are GIANT SLUGS. The problem is there are the godawful twins and the Doctor tries to strangle Peri.
209) Silver Nemesis – Another one I like but is actually not all that great. Eighties Cybermen though! And Lady Peintforte is awesome, but it really is the same plot as Remembrance and the Nazis are impossibly silly.
210) The Visitation – Worthy but so dull. The TARDIS team of Season 19 comes in for a lot of flak and in this story they do everything they can to prove such detractions correct. Five hundred years are spent filming Nyssa move boxes about.
211) The Invisible Enemy – Well, there is a Giant Shrimp, and there are some interesting ideas, I suppose, maybe. It’s entertaining enough, but nothing standout.
212) Planet of Fire – There’s a lot of Mark Strickson in this, which I heartily approve of, and Peri gets off to a good start, but the actual story and all the guest characters leave me cold. The Master is particularly uninteresting.
213) 42 – The relationship between the Doctor and Martha is utterly lovely and there is a splendid spaceship, but, by gum, what a lot of guest characters I don’t give a toss about.
214) A Town Called Mercy – Bleh. Everything it has to say has been said before, and better. And its entertainment level drops like a stone after Crichton cops it. It does look very good though.
215) Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS – I do like this one, but it’s hard to argue it’s any good. There are some lovely moments, but it’s pretty much nonsense.
216) Victory of the Daleks – Oh, Churchill, you racist, sexist old rascal, you! Yeesh. (And, no, it wasn’t The Time, even at The Time, people noticed how racist he was.) I like this way more than I should, due to Matt Smith, Amy, and all the nods to Power and Evil, but, yeah, not good.
217) Carnival of Monsters – OVERRATED. Or maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve bought it three times and don’t exactly love it. Pertwee without UNIT, Liz Shaw or the Master is just not very interesting or fun. Stop wandering around a ship being boring. Stop saying the chickens might be aliens, you’re not funny, omg. There are Drashigs though. They’re v good.
218) Paradise Towers – Tbf, this is one of the Doctor Who stories I’ve seen the least, and that’s not for a while. But I’m trying to think of anything good about it and all that happens is a sort gurgling noise in my head. The old ladies, I guess. They’re quite fun.
219) The Sensorites – The first episode’s pretty gripping and there is a nice twist towards the end, but the bit in-between is not very easy to recommend.
220) The Mutants – More tedium from the Pertwee era. Why do they let him off the planet? Geoffrey Palmer’s good, but he’s killed off before the end of the first episode.
221) Love and Monsters – Fairly decent and rather charming, right until the end, when it’s offensive enough to wipe out all the good work. Good job!
222) Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks – Well, Martha gets to do some science and fry some pig people, and there’re a fair number of moments to point to and say “that’s quite good”, but it just doesn’t hold together.
223) Mindwarp – This is fairly blearg. There’s nothing truly terrible, but it’s all so-so-ness that leaves a very unpleasant taste. I’m glad they gave Nicola Bryant some good scenes, but I don’t just not know if Peri’s alive or dead, I don’t care. Brian Blessed makes some of it better.
224) Turn Left- A tedious alternate universe story where without the Doctor to save us British society deteriorates into brutality, fascism and nuclear explosions. There’s also a healthy dose of Oriental racism which I’d overlook in a sixties story, but here just pisses me off something rotten. Donna and Rose get some good stuff though.
225) Arc of Infinity – Ugh, the dullest of dull Time Lords. Not even their shiny hats can save them. Thank goodness Colin Baker turns up to liven things up. Nyssa’s got some great characterisation and Omega’s final five minutes of life are fascinating and wonderful, but most of it is trying desperately to put you to sleep. FOREVER.
226) Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel – Well, the Cybermen are quite scary, and there are zeppelins. I like zeppelins. Mostly it’s dull though, and the Doctor and Rose are mean to Mickey for no particular reason.
227) Vengeance on Varos – Often cited as the Colin Baker classic. Sod that, and sod its deep and meaningful prediction of reality telly, it’s boring. Martin Jarvis is quite good though.
228) Death to the Daleks – Yes, let’s make the Daleks utterly useless and give them a comedy soundtrack. What a plan! Not good, not good at all.
229) Time Flight – I quite like it, but it is a terrible, terrible story by practically any objective measure. Um…the acting’s all right? And there’s a nice bit of UNIT continuity.
230) The Awakening – Possibly the most forgettable Doctor Who story ever. Inoffensive, but pointless. There’s a nice bit about tea.
231) The Space Pirates – Trought’s in this. That’s all I’m saying. But he can’t save it. Goodness knows I try and convince myself it’s any good at all, but no. Tis a lie. Doctor Who is shit at space pirates. Unless they have a giant planet killing spaceship.
232) Four to Doomsday – A terrible mess that manages to make its four regulars either boring or deeply annoying. The spaceship can’t save this one.
233) Underworld – I recently discovered there are fans who like Underworld. BLESS THEIR COTTON SOCKS. This is dull, pointless, and should come with a caption at the start saying “we’ve v sorry but the money ran out.” People who complain about Doctor Who‘s special effects/wobbly sets/cheapness should be made to watch Underworld on repeat for several years, so they get what No Money actually looks like.
234) The Long Game – The nadir of New Who’s first series. The plot is ho-hum but it’s the lack of compassion towards Adam that really hammers the nails in.
235) The Android Invasion – Mostly I pretend this doesn’t exist. There’s a robot Sarah whose face falls off. That’s the good bit. The rest…yeesh.
236) The Curse of the Black Spot – HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? So dull, so stupid, so pointless. Its one redeeming feature is that Amy doesn’t decide to grab a sword and rescue her friends, she decides to grab a sword and put on a pirate outfit and *then* rescue her friends. Other than that, just dire.
237) Planet of the Daleks – Terry Nation writes his one story, again. Sadly this time it’s with Pertwee and so it’s no longer any fun at all.
238) Planet of the Spiders – Oh, this is so bad. Pertwee’s final scene is quite lovely, as is his fear, but by gum is there a whole lot of tedious nothing, making a complete mockery of UNIT and pointless, dull chases going on. Painfully dull stuff.
239) The Idiot’s Lantern – It’s nice that Rose has such a good costume in this. It means I can say something positive about it. Tennant overacts, and Rose advises a kid to make up with their abusive father. GREAT PLAN. And it’s dull. Terribly, terribly dull.
240) The Monster of Peladon – Tedious and stupid. There’re a handful of decent bits, and a whole lot of oh dear me I am actually literally truly going to die of boredom and how awful this is. The Queen’s an idiot – how has she not been overthrown? And the metaphor sucks (miner strikes in the EEC…what’s the EEC anyone under twenty-five asks, probably) and nobody cares.
241) The Celestial Toymaker – Steven and Dodo have excellent costumes and there’s the odd moment where the writers actually deign to write the Doctor in that ain’t bad but OH DEAR GOD it’s mostly awful and worse, dull. And there’s a lot I’ll put up with re sixties telly and racist/sexist bullshit, but going for the racist version of ‘catch a tiger by the toe’? Fuck off.
242) Voyage of the Damned – Arguably the most boring Doctor Who story ever made. Kylie is depressingly uncharismatic, and the Doctor is lifted up by robot angels. Wonderful. By which I mean I melted in a puddle of omg the awful. Only white men survive, which is lamp shaded, so that makes it totally edgy and deep and stuff, apparently.