On many levels, I am completely and utterly obsessed with Doctor Who. I read the books, re-watch the show and delve deep into anything Whovian… on a daily basis. It’ll usually span an odd ten minutes out of a full day, or hours depending on what’s available, but Doctor Who is unlike any other show I’ve encountered in my life. It’s clever, it’s brilliant, it’s for children and it has a mad man in a blue box running around the whole of space and time. The potential here is unlimited and it’s all tapped into, so with the new series underway, I decided to post three or four blogs on the subject.
I’m going to get this straight out of the way: I’ll be discussing New Who more than Old Who given I’m still diving into that piece of history. I do plan in the future of perhaps writing a series documenting my experience with Old Who, but for now, we’re talking Eccleston, Tennant and Smith era of the show. This means 2005 – 2011, NewWho and NewNewWho.
I’ve decided, for my first blog, to get the ball straight rolling and go through each of the series episode by episode and giving some brief thoughts. At the end of it all I’ll rank the series because putting metrics on subjective works is a fun thing to do.
Series One: Eccleston and Piper
At some point, I’ll detail why, but Eccleston is my favourite Doctor. He has the best series, the best TARDIS, the best companion and some of the greatest acting I’ve ever seen in a televised series. I won’t go in deep on the Doctor, but I will on the series.
I loved this opener, I loved the way we don’t start with the Doctor but with the audience’s vessel of interaction with the Doctor. The Autons appearing first struck me as odd, but it was quite funny seeing Eccleston march about the place with a plastic man trying to flirt with Rose Tyler. This was my first ever episode of Who and it left me utterly speechless, I was ten years old and was ready for more.
The End of the World
A somewhat emotional and scary second episode. I like that they put this one so early in the run as it seemed to juxtapose against absolutely every single Earth scene in the series to come. No matter how hard the Doctor tries, he has to realize at some point that nothing last forever, like Gallifrey. I like to come back to this episode not for the awful humour but for those heartfelt scenes and the ‘fish and chip’ banter at the end.
The Unquiet Dead
CHARLES DICKENS AND GHOSTS.
Aliens of London/ World War Three
This was when my belief in Who shattered into a million pieces and even watching this as a child I knew it was a horrible work of fiction. Farting monsters, some horribly shoved-in governmental talk and some other bits make this a promising yet absolute failure of a two-parter. It was my first two-parter too, so when I read about the Moffat episodes I was a little worried. Thankfully, this damn thing just leapt from my memory… for a while.
It’s up there in my ten favourite episodes of new Who, will share the top three at some point, it’s chilling and frightening to see this old icon rise from the grave and seamlessly bind itself to new blood. Beautifully written, beautifully paced and that ending always has me teary-eyed. It’s the first time I was genuinely moved by television in my whole life and would probably haunt me for the rest of Doctor Who.
The Long Game
Simon Pegg cameos, some poor CGI also cameos and it’s generally a plodded and awful episode that’s rushed together at the last minute. I don’t like it, but there’s a cult based around this episode and the setting returns later and turns into some damn good television.
This is my second favourite Who episode of all time. It’s the first Who episode to make me cry, the first one to make me feel oh so saddened and the first to touch me in a personal way. My father left me when I was young, didn’t die he just left, but the relationship between Rose and her (dead) father is written so beautifully and the sci-fi elements and poor CGI don’t get in the way of making this a tremendous drama. When the thing happens to the Doctor, it’s so utterly hopeless and it’s so wondrous when it’s all made okay.
The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances
Moffat’s first episodes had me scared and bewildered. This was when Captain Jack first showed up, when the gas mask people started being scary and when I finally realized the brilliance of Who. There’s a real sense of urgency when the episodes start going and the World War II backdrop is beautifully realized and, once again, poor CGI can’t even distract from this lovely piece of work. Too bad Moffat had to go and… oh.
The aliens from the horrible World War Three two-parter return and talk to the Doctor for 45 minutes. It’s alright I guess, I love me a tense dialogue scene but only when it’s made interesting in some sense. The episode generally goes nowhere but shows how wordy that Who could be.
Bad Wolf/ The Parting of the Ways
Probably stands as one of the best finales in Who, it’s simple in its premise “A few thousand Daleks versus the Doctor” and Eccleston really shines here. The revelation is a little bit cheap and the regeneration had me appallingly sad when Tennant just appeared out of thin air. It’s when they dropped off Captain Jack too which was a little sad, it’s too bad Eccleston didn’t get on board the other series due to ‘creative differences’. Hopefully he’ll be back for the 50th anniversary.
All in all: 9/13 episodes for me are great, with Boom Town being alright and the rest being abysmal in some form.
Series Two: Tennant and Piper
The Christmas Invasion
My favourite Christmas special to date and really showed off what a great Doctor that Tennant could be. All those memories of Eccleston faded away and I was ready to embrace some new fella. I was really looking forward to what he could do after this. I loved the reference to Empire Strikes Back and how it fit into future stories.
Tooth and Claw
I remember seeing Sarah Jane pop up and wondering who she was, then it turned out she had come back into one of the most laughably horribly episodes. THERE’S A CODE TO THE UNIVERSE AND THEY’RE USING CHILDREN TO FIND IT OUT OH LOOK THERE’S K-9 he’s alright.
The Girl in the Fireplace
Damn, what an episode. It’s less sci-fi, less CGI heavy and more of the heartfelt variety. I like my Who hearty and clever, not full of poor visuals and less thoughtful messes. The ending had me realise how human the Doctor really is and the dramatic irony at the very end had me kinda sad. It’s a great episode from Moffat who then went on to… oh.
Rise of the Cybermen/ Age of Steel
The Idiot’s Lantern
Just look at that hair.
Mark Gatiss did so well with Unquiet Dead and from then on he would be a horrid writer. That is until he did the Sherlock series with Moffat.
The Impossible Planet/ The Satan Pit
Finally! We get something substantially dramatic, something that really goes to the heart of the science-fiction of Who and something that is genuinely terrifying! This two-parter had me shocked and on the edge by the mid-cliffhanger, it had me wondering whether the Doctor was an atheist and had me just scared. After so much horrid business we finally get a damn good story, just damn damn bloody damn good.
Love and Monsters
Army of Ghosts/ Doomsday
I like how after so much horribly plotted and absolute messes of television, we get the greatest finale that the screen has ever scene. It’s a heavily emotional, heavily dramatic and moving piece of television. I cried. When the music and choir pick up towards “That scene” it all really gets to you. It’s too bad that it was all ruined by the Series Four finale, when the certain character came back.
All in all: 6/13 – A really damn good effort but just utterly fails in all the important aspects.
Series Three: Tennant and Agyeman
One of the best series, worst companion in a nutshell.
It’s alright I guess.
Smith and Jones
I really like this opener, it’s one of the strongest, it’s a post-Rose Doctor who’s trying to deal with loss and try and find solace somewhere. The Judoon are great and Tennant really shines here.
Daleks in Manhattan/ Evolution of the Daleks
Laughably bad and you could see how how annoyed Tennant was getting after coming off some quality episodes.
The Lazarus Experiment
IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE IT’S A DOUGLAS ADAMS REFERENCE WE ARE SO CLEVER AREN’T I CLEVER YES- good effort of an episode actually.
Human Nature/ The Family of Blood
Really, really dig this. It’s by the same writer of Father’s Day, Paul Cornell, and it’s a genuinely moving piece in a similar way to The Girl in the Fireplace, the Doctor is shown to be literally human and we see how he walks that fine line. Freema finally gets some acting chops for once and the little subtle racism commentary was really quite brave of the production time. Good show boys.
My favourite Doctor Who episode of all time, holds the biggest scares and some of the biggest brain-twisters I’ve encountered. It’s wonderfully dramatic, wonderfully science-fiction and the ironic thing is that it holds as little of The Doctor as possible. He gets around three minutes of screen time, yet this episode holds the most frightening villains. They play with time a lot, like they play with human life. It was oh so brave to have the policeman’s last moments with Sally be oh so quiet, a character with five minute screentime manages to be so convincingly meaningful. A work of pure art.
Utopia/The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords
The revelation about ‘Yana’ had me screaming “No!” at my television, the way they led it into a THREE PARTER and how they played with all the elements was oh so wonderful. It’s a truly spell-bounding expedition into The Doctor’s relationship with The Master. The ‘reset button’ plot device and other elements have me shaking my head but when the Doctor holds a dying enemy in his arms, who wins bydying, it’s hard not to be spellbound. A magical work of fiction.
All in all: 7 and a half/13 – a damn good bloody good series.
Part Two tomorrow: Series Four, Specials, Series Five.