At it’s peak, Doctor Who was one of the prime Sci-Fi shows on television, and I’m sure it has a strong claim at being the best Sci-Fi show of all time. The genius of the show is the ability to reinvent itself and evolve from season to season, but sometimes you can’t get it completely right.
I haven’t seen any Classic Who, so don’t expect any of those seasons. I explain my ranking system in this list:
With that out of the way, it’s time to allons-y / geronimo our way into the rankings, starting with…
12 – Season 11
Awful, completely and utterly awful.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of a female Doctor, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was intrigued. How would the show fundamentally change with the new lead? Would it get better or worse?
The answer, it turned out, was soooooo much worse. Almost every episode was either boring, badly written rubbish or both. “Arachnids in the UK” and “The Tsuranga Conundrum” have to be two of the worst episodes in the show’s history, and “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” is a terrible season finale. It doesn’t help that classic villains and two-parters were nowhere to be seen.
There were some OK moments – “Rosa” was an interesting episode (even if it was poorly executed), “Kerblam!” was a thought-provoking insight into capitalism (even if it was poorly executed), and “Demons of the Punjab” was the only decent episode of the bunch. This new era is a dark time for the show.
- Best Episode – Demons of the Punjab
- Worst Episode – Arachnids in the UK
11 – Season 12
My expectations were extremely low for the most recent season, so maybe that’s why I thought it was better than season 11 (but only slightly).
Some of the actual stories this season weren’t half bad – “Spyfall: Part 1” was a great opening (even if part 2 was a bit disappointing), “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” sets up the finale quite nicely, and “Fugitive of the Judoon” was so mind-bending and confusing that I actually quite enjoyed the mystery … until I found out the answers to all my questions by the end of the season.
But when this season bombs, it bombs HARD. “Orphan 55” is probably THE worst episode in the show’s history, “Can You Hear Me?” had potential but was ruined by lazy writing (and an uncharacteristically insensitive Doctor), and “The Timeless Children” essentially burned 57 years of history to the ground. Shame on you Chibnall.
Unpopular opinion incoming, but I think the show should be cancelled after this. Chibnall writes the Doctor so badly that she’s hardly the Doctor anymore, and just in general the writing has gone off a cliff. Maybe in a few years time the show can come back stronger than ever, but for now the longer it stays on air the worse it will get. Even more shame on you Chibnall.
- Best Episode – Fugitive of the Judoon
- Worst Episode – Orphan 55
10 – Season 7
Up until recently I didn’t think Doctor Who could get worse than this.
The first half of the season with the Ponds is actually quite good, even if the two Chibnall (oh look, it’s him again) episodes are poor. It’s the second half with Clara that makes this one of the show’s worst seasons.
I’m not really too fond of Clara as a companion, and stories like “The Rings of Akhaten” and “The Crimson Horror” don’t help her case. The second half of the season makes for painful rewatching, so this could only ever end up in the “bad” category.
- Best Episode – A Town Called Mercy
- Worst Episode – The Rings of Akhaten
9 – Season 8
This season isn’t bad by any means, but it is forgettable.
When I first watched this season I hated it – I was used to the young Doctors of Tennant and Smith, and to have an old grumpy guy piloting the TARDIS was incredibly jarring. Upon a rewatch, Capaldi is fantastic in the title role, and there’s plenty of good fun to be had.
Stories like “Listen” and “Kill the Moon” have their detractors, but I find them to be nonsensical fun. Other episodes such as “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline” are unequivocally good pieces of television. The finale is a bit hit-or-miss, but overall not a terrible season.
- Best Episode – Mummy on the Orient Express
- Worst Episode – In the Forest of the Night
8 – Season 9
This season has a mix of great episodes and terrible ones.
Capaldi completely dominates the screen in episodes like “The Zygon Inversion” (what a speech) and the masterpiece that is “Heaven Sent”. Episodes like those should indicate a fantastic season, right?
Sadly, the bad ones are really bad. The two-parter with Maisie Williams is unbelievably boring, “Hell Bent” is an underwhelming finale (a lot of old-time fans of the show hate this one, and I can kind of see why), but the worst offender is the disgrace of television that is “Sleep No More”. This season could have been so much more … SO MUCH MORE!
- Best Episode – Heaven Sent
- Worst Episode – Sleep No More
7 – Season 2
Tennant completely saves this season, otherwise it could have ended up in “meh” or even “bad”.
There are a lot of classics in this – “Girl in the Fireplace” is an emotional Moffat joyride, the Ood two-parter is probably the best of the season, and the finale will leave anyone emotionally scarred.
There are also some absolute stinkers this season. “The Idiot’s Lantern” is Gatiss providing yet another bad episode, “Fear Her” is widely hated (but probably not as terrible as people say), and “Love and Monsters” is up there as the worst episode EVER. Good thing Tennant is my favourite Doctor, otherwise some of these stories would have been unbearable.
- Best Episodes – The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit
- Worst Episode – Love and Monsters
6 – Season 10
I didn’t expect much from Capaldi’s last season (seeing as I wasn’t a huge fan of his first two), but season 10 was a pleasant surprise.
Bill is a very down-to-Earth companion that wins you over straight away (even if her contract says she has to mention her sexuality twice every episode), and Capaldi’s performance elevates some of the material he’s given to work with (why did they have to kick you out Capaldi, you were soooo gooooooood).
Most episodes this season aren’t stand-out and mainly play it safe. The finale, however, is an explosive two-parter that you can’t help but get excited for. The volume of average episodes is why this can’t be classified as a “good” season.
- Best Episodes – World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls
- Worst Episode – The Eaters of Light
5 – Season 6
This was probably the biggest surprise when I rewatched the show. Episodes like “Curse of the Black Spot” should be a disaster, but it’s really just a bit of fun, and you can tell the cast are having a laugh as well.
This series has one of the strongest openers with “The Impossible Astronaut” / “The Day of the Moon”, and you get some solid episodes after that (except “The Rebel Flesh” two-parter, that was terrible).
The biggest let-down for this season has to be the finale “The Wedding of River Song”, which is just a mess of an episode. Plot points don’t have satisfying conclusions, and the Silence are completely wasted. That being said, this season is a bag of fun throughout.
- Best Episode – A Good Man Goes to War
- Worst Episodes – The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People
4 – Season 1
If you skip nine, I skip you.
Christopher Ecclestone brings the Doctor back to our screens in a way no one could have expected. It was a stroke of genius from Russell T Davies to come up with “The Time War”, a war which results in the Doctor being the last of his species. Ecclestone shines with this dynamic, and Billie Piper does an excellent job as Rose.
Seeing as the show was still finding its footing in a new era, it’s not surprising some of the episodes don’t hit the mark. “The Unquiet Dead” and “The Long Game” are entirely forgettable, and the two-parter with the Slitheen can be good at times but the fart jokes haven’t aged well.
But when this season shines, it shines brightly. “Dalek” is an unbelievable introduction to one of the show’s most well-known villains, the finale is emotional and explosive, but “The Empty Child” / “The Doctor Dances” has to take the cake. The gas mask people are horrifying, and the world was introduced to Captain Jack. Overall, this season was mostly … FANTASTIC! (sorry)
- Best Episodes – The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances
- Worst Episode – The Long Game
3 – Season 3
I’m sure people will have their reasons as to why this season shouldn’t be this high, but those people don’t love the 10th Doctor as much as I do.
Tennant really cements himself as the best Doctor ever in this season – his performance in “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood” instantly makes it the best episodes of the series. “Blink” is another obvious contender, and “Utopia” is an incredible set-up to a finale (even if the actual finale wasn’t as good).
Couple of duds stop this season from getting any higher, like “42” (Chibnall strikes again) and “The Lazarus Experiment” (Mark Gatiss leaves his mark). The last episode “The Last of the Time Lords” can also be a bit weird at times, but not in a good way. This is a season I would gladly watch on a rainy day.
- Best Episodes – Human Nature / The Family of Blood
- Worst Episode – The Lazarus Experiment
2 – Season 5
What an unbelievable first outing for Matt Smith and Steven Moffat.
There simply isn’t a bad episode this season. A couple of not-so-good ones maybe like “Victory of the Daleks” (Gatiss, shocker) and the Chibnall two-parter (pretends to be even more shocked), but the rest of the episodes are golden.
“Eleventh Hour” is the best Doctor introduction we’re ever going to get, the angels two-parter is great, “Amy’s Choice” is highly underrated, and the two part finale packs an explosive punch. The true standout for me is “Vincent and the Doctor”, a brilliantly directed piece of television with a heart-felt ending. Bravo to everyone involved.
- Best Episode – Vincent and the Doctor
- Worst Episode – Victory of the Daleks
1 – Season 4
Ermagurd David Tennant please come back as the Doctor.
As a Tennant fanboy, nothing was ever going to top this season. Add to that Catherine Tate as a companion and you get one of the best Sci-Fi seasons of television of all time.
“Partners in Crime” is a great companion introduction (even if we saw Donna in a Christmas special), “The Fires of Pompeii” is a strange rewatch knowing what Capaldi becomes, and “Planet of the Ood” is a great stand-alone story.
The true kicker of this season is the last 6 episodes. The Moffat two-parter in the library is unbelievable television, “Midnight” is one of the best bottle episodes ever, “Turn Left” is a freaky Doctor-lite adventure, and the two part finale is the best ending to a season that Doctor Who has ever done. “The Doctor’s Daughter” can be a bit tedious, but other than that its a flawless season.
- Best Episodes – Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead
- Worst Episode – The Doctor’s Daughter
I didn’t include the Tennant specials on this list (they don’t really count as a season, more of a stand-alone thing), but if I did they would probably come in the “OK” section behind season 2 (in 8th place). “Waters of Mars” is my favourite episode ever, but other than that it’s not particularly good.
And that’s it. Check out my other season ranking list for “FRIENDS” below. Or don’t. I’m not going to force you.