I’ve been through the Best Possible Season of Doctor Who, so I think it’s only fair that Whittaker and Chibnall get some representation as well. Be warned – there are some absolute stinkers ahead.
I’ve linked some of my other Doctor Who lists below:
Episode 1 – The Woman who Fell to Earth
Dishonourable Mention: New Earth
I was definitely skeptical when Whittaker’s Doctor was announced, but I didn’t let that put me off – historically I’ve disliked every new Doctor, but ended up loving them usually by the end of their first season if not earlier. Unfortunately, Whittaker’s first episode is the worst season opener we’ve had, and I still haven’t warmed to the new Doctor and companions even after 2 seasons.
The only other episode that comes close is “New Earth”, the season 2 opener and Tennant’s first proper outing as the Doctor. It’s the actual plot that lets the episode down, but even then Tennant’s immediate presence in the role makes it a fun re-watch.
That’s basically all the bad episode 1’s, even “Spyfall: Part 1” in Season 12 was a fun time with a great twist at the end, even if the episode itself has its problems.
Episode 2 – The Ghost Monument
Dishonourable Mention: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
You’ll notice that a lot of the episodes in this list will be Whittaker ones, and as much as it seems I’m going on a personal vendetta against Jodie and Chibnall their episodes are legitimately some of the worst we’ve had.
The episode following “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” wasn’t much better, and there were a lot of things that really pissed me off: Ryan’s Call of Duty moment was excessively cringey, the deadly water is never mentioned again (great writing Chibbs), and the new TARDIS was too dark to get a good view of it (to be fair we’ve had a better look at it since and it’s a decent design, but the fact we couldn’t see it properly after a whole episode of build-up really annoyed me).
“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” was actually the first (and only) episode I forced my family to watch with me, as I was at the peak of Who-fever by Season 7. I felt so embarrassed by how stupid the whole thing was, and even though it’s meant to just be a fun kiddy episode (nothing necessarily wrong with that) I’ll never forget the pain it put me through.
Other than those, “The Beast Below” was a huge step down from the Season 5 opener and Moffat has apologised for it since, “End of the World” is iconic being the first futuristic episode of New-Who but it’s never been a personal favourite, and finally “Into The Dalek” was a strange adventure for the new 12th Doctor to undertake.
Episode 3 – Orphan 55
Dishonourable Mention: Victory of the Daleks
It’s not often that an episode of Who comes out that has a strong claim to being the worst episode of television ever, but “Orphan 55” is a disgrace and I’m amazed it got greenlit. There are way too many plot holes to mention, the monsters look unbelievably dumb, and the environmental message at the end was so forced it became laughable.
I think the honourable mention should go to “Victory of the Daleks”, which is a shame because the first half of it is great. The Dalek’s plan is ambiguous for most of the episode, and that makes the whole thing quite intense. I’m not too fond of the multi-coloured Dalek designs, but I don’t hate them as much as some other people. It’s the ending where love saves the day and disarms the bomb that really grinds my gears, and it wouldn’t be the first time love saved the day in the Moffat era.
A lot of the other episode 3’s aren’t bad per se, just underwhelming / boring. “The Unquiet Dead” is a boring Gatiss story, “Robot of Sherwood” is too childish for my taste (which I can’t really complain about since Doctor Who is a kids TV show), and “Rosa” wasn’t as good as most people said – it didn’t even have a proper villain! Unless racism was the monster of the week?
Episode 4 – Arachnids in the UK
Dishonourable Mention: The Power of Three
Season 11 had some absolute stinkers, but the first 3 episodes were only subjectively bad. “Arachnids in the UK” on the other hand is undeniably awful, from it’s nauseating Trump impersonator to the insulting decisions Whittaker’s Doctor makes.
I find “The Power of Three” to be quite a love / hate episode, since the bits where the Doctor, Amy and Rory mess around is actually quite fun. It’s the quick, swipe under the rug ending of this one that offends me the most.
I’m also probably in a minority when I say I don’t care for the “Aliens of London” two-parter in Season 1 – the fart jokes aren’t funny and happen way too often, even for a kids show. Also “Daleks in Manhattan” is an OK episode up until the Dalek / human hybrid ruined it.
Episode 5 – The Tsuranga Conundrum
Dishonourable Mention: The Rebel Flesh
In Season 11 we were treated to the one-two punch of horrendous Who episodes, with both “Arachnids in the UK” and “The Tsuranga Conundrum” being strong contenders for worst episode ever. The alien Pting is one of the dumbest ideas ever put to screen, and the story is frustratingly lacking of any substance.
“The Rebel Flesh” from Season 6 is also one of my least favourite two-parters of Who, I hate the bland cinematography and lifeless villains. The worst part is the wasted potential, since movies like “The Thing” show how to do the “imposter among us” trope much better.
Mid-season of Who is when the filler episodes start to show their ugly faces: “World War Three” is just what you’d expect from the farting two-parter in Season 1, “Evolution of the Daleks” is not awful but not a great Dalek story, and “The Girl Who Died” is a boring filler that wastes it’s guest actress Maisie Williams.
Episode 6 – The Lazarus Experiment
Dishonourable Mention: The Almost People
Episode 6’s don’t have a good track record at all, and I can count 6 or 7 out of the 12 seasons having bad stories at this point. I’d say the worst offender of the bunch is the Gatiss episode “The Lazarus Experiment” – the CGI looks terrible now (understandable for an episode 13 years old), and I’ve seen this like 4 or 5 times and can barely remember what happens other than the anticlimactic finale in the Church.
Once again the “Rebel Flesh / The Almost People” two parter takes the Dishonourable mention because it’s just that bad.
I’ll rattle through some of the other contenders since there’s quite a few: “The Bells of Saint John” was an early indication that Clara wasn’t going to be a very good companion, “The Caretaker” is boring as hell, “The Woman Who Lived” once again wastes Maisie Williams in a filler episode, “Praxeus” was quite bad in the recent Season 12, and finally “The Doctor’s Daughter” is the black sheep of an otherwise flawless Season 4 (but to be fair it’s not bad, just a little boring).
Episode 7 – Can You Hear Me?
Dishonourable Mention: The Rings of Akhaten
There was so much potential in the story of “Can You Hear Me?”, and the nightmare dynamic could have made this one of the best stories of the season. Chalk this one down to extremely wasted potential, and the handling of mental health was all over the place – Yaz had a great story, but Graham’s concerns are uncharacteristically shunned by the Doctor.
Also, “The Rings of Akhaten” should have been a nice story with an incredible speech, but it devolved into a story with no plot, too much singing and an incredible speech (the speech is enough to make it slightly better than “Can You Hear Me?”).
A lot of episode 7’s are just boring: “The Long Game” is one of the blandest episodes of Who I’ve ever seen, “The Idiot’s Lantern” isn’t Gatiss’s worst but it’s far from perfect, and “Kill The Moon” is decent until it’s twist ending nearly ruins it.
Episode 8 – The Witchfinders
Dishonourable Mention: Let’s Kill Hitler
It’s amazing how bad Season 11 actually was – I knew it was bad but I didn’t expect so many of it’s episodes to be some of the worst ever. “The Witchfinders” just seemed like an average Season 11 episode at the time, but the more I think about it the more I loathe it.
On the other hand, “Let’s Kill Hitler” was just a strange idea for an episode to begin with. After the fantastic “Good Man Goes To War” mid-season finale, I wasn’t expecting this. This completely muddled the River Song timeline, and started to turn her character arc into a bit of a joke.
Not many terrible ones other than those mentioned above, but there are a few that aren’t particular favourites of mine. “Cold War” should of been good, but it comes off feeling kind of empty and lifeless. Also, “The Lie of the Land” was a weak ending to the otherwise decent Monk Trilogy.
Episode 9 – Sleep No More
Dishonourable Mention: It Takes You Away
No episode 9 was going to come close to “Sleep No More”. This Gatiss story might be his worst, and for a man with a track record as terrible as his, that is truly an achievement. This should have stayed on the cutting room floor, and the camera perspective gimmick is executed so poorly it became laughable.
The 13th Doctor doesn’t catch a break though (episode 6 is the only slot where a Whittaker Episode isn’t the worst or second worst). “It Takes You Away” had potential to be an actually quite good episode in the otherwise trash Season 11, but it got too weird by the end.
I’ve also always hated “Night Terrors” from Season 6. This Gatiss episode is probably not actually that bad, but for some reason it sticks out for me in all the wrong ways. Also, “Ascension of the Cybermen” was a bit meh when it first aired, but paired with the Season 12 finale it’s definitely one of the weakest two-parter openings we’ve had.
Episode 10 – Love & Monsters
Dishonourable Mention: The Timeless Children
“The Timeless Children” should count its lucky charms that it has to compete with the single worst episode of modern Who. “Love & Monsters” should have been a simple, childish Doctor-lite episode, but my God I hate everything about it. The Abzorbaloff (great name writers) is atrocious and a waste of Peter Kay’s talents, the part where the Doctor and Rose run in and out of doors make me want to puke, and the story of the guy trying to find the Doctor is sooooo booooring. I’m not sure this will ever be topped, and that’s a good thing.
I’m not letting “The Timeless Children” get away that easily though. I won’t get into too much detail, but this episode was the most insulting, degrading, plot-hole ridden mess I’ve ever had the misfortune of watching. This episode has pretty much single handedly killed my love of the show, and I’m not sure if I’ll watch it from now on. Not the worst episode in the show’s run, but pretty darn close to it.
I’m afraid some of the other dumpster fires don’t get any better: “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” was a huge waste of time, and was easily the least meaningful finale in the show’s history (Chibnall’s finales are 0/2 so far, maybe even -2/2). Also, “In the Forest of the Night” was a pointless filler that didn’t need to exist and had some cringey child acting in it. Finally “The Eaters of Light” wasn’t bad necessarily, but it was easily the worst episode in the otherwise fairly solid Season 10.
Episode 11 – The Crimson Horror
Dishonourable Mention: Fear Her
Good news! Season 11 and 12 didn’t go past Episode 10, so we don’t have to worry about them anymore. Luckily for Whittaker and Chibnall, there are some other pretty terrible episodes of Who near the end of seasons, and “The Crimson Horror” is no exception. A weak plot with a terrible villain, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the worst offender for Episode 11.
There’s only one other episode I would consider bad (or close to it), and that’s “Fear Her”. I’ve never disliked this episode as much as some people (mainly because Tennant’s Doctor is lots of fun in this story), but I can’t overlook the poor child acting and the unimaginative scribble monster. Still, I would gladly watch this if I had to.
Episode 12 – Hell Bent
Dishonourable Mention: Closing Time
In Capaldi’s run, Episode 12 marked the season finale. “Hell Bent” is definitely the worst of his finales, and it outraged a lot of people when it was first broadcast. In retrospect I don’t think it was as insulting as “The Timeless Children”, but having the Doctor go on the warpath to save Clara seemed particularly out of character, and undermined the previous two episodes “Face the Raven” and “Heaven Sent” – the latter of which is one of the best episodes of television ever.
I actually really like the James Corden episode “The Lodger” in Season 5, but “Closing Time” feels like a charmless rehash of the original. It’s less funny than its predecessor, and “the power of love saves the day!” feels cheaper than before. I also hate how “Death in Heaven” wastes a good concept, as “Dark Water” was actually an intriguing introduction to the story. Luckily Capaldi got “World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls”, otherwise his finales would have been particularly bad.
Episode 13 – The Wedding of River Song
Dishonourable Mention: The Name of the Doctor
Now that Capaldi’s seasons have dropped out, we’re only left with the Season 1-7 finales. The worst of these is undeniably “The Wedding of River Song”, a mess of a finale and an early indication that maybe Moffat wasn’t as good at finales as we thought.
A couple of the other finales were just a bit underwhelming – “The Name of the Doctor” isn’t that bad, but for a story as important as that I would have liked a stronger episode. Also, “The Last of the Time Lords” sticks out as the only sub-par finale from Seasons 1 to 5, and is definitely Davies / Tennant’s worst. Still, the Doctor / Master showdown was a blast, and the ending was unbelievably emotional.
Special – The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
Dishonourable Mention: The Snowmen
I knew the Christmas specials were bad, but I didn’t realise how many were bad. Before I list all the bad ones, let’s talk about the worst offender – “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a cheap story that tries to capitalise on the emotional success of “A Christmas Carol”, but fails spectacularly.
I also really dislike “The Snowmen” for wasting Clara’s character. I would have really liked a Victorian Clara travelling with the Doctor, but (spoilers) Moffat kills her off and we were stuck with the modern day, more standard version of the character.
Now I’ll try and quickly list off the bad ones. First of all let’s talk about the other Moffat Christmas specials: “Last Christmas”, “The Husbands of River Song” and “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” were all poo. The Chibnall New Year’s Special “Resolution” was better than most of Season 11, but it was still sub-par. Finally, and it slightly pains me to say this, but a couple of the 2009 Tennant specials weren’t so good: “Planet of the Dead” is easily the worst special because of how boring and uninteresting it is, and “The Next Doctor” isn’t too bad but the final confrontation with mega cyberman thingy was a bit too far fetched, even for Doctor Who.
Aaaaand that’s my list. This was a tough one to make, since I felt bad for ripping on the 13th Doctor so much. Oh wait no I didn’t. Check out some of my other blog posts below:
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