You’d have to be absolutely insane to rank every single Doctor Who episode of the modern series, and the person who tries to attempt it must have waaaay too much time on their hands.
So … I’m going to rank every single Doctor Who episode of the modern series, up to and including Season 12 (I stopped watching after that … and this list was already far too big anyway).
I’ll be grouping all of the multi-part stories together as one “episode”, as that is almost certainly what the showrunners / writers intended anyway. Also, a quick disclaimer – this list is very subjective (obviously), and there might be a few SPOILERS thrown around here and there.
If this list is too daunting for you (believe me, I can relate) you can check out some of my other similar blog posts below:
I hope to never watch these episodes ever again, and I steer clear of them every time I do a re-watch of the series. They fail on every possible level imaginable, both as a Doctor Who Sci-Fi story and as an entertaining television episode.
136 – Love & Monsters (2-10)
Before Season 2 of Doctor Who went into production, the BBC ran a competition among kids of the UK for a creature design contest – and the Abzorbaloff won. I don’t know where that kid is now, and I have no idea if he’s still proud of his creation, but I think it’s the worst monster we’ve ever had.
It doesn’t help that the rest of the episode is Doctor-lite, a concept they’d do muuuch better in Season 3, and when the Tenth Doctor does turn up it’s cartoonishly bad. Maybe it isn’t the actual worst episode, but it’s certainly the one that scarred me the most as a child for all the wrong reasons.
135 – Orphan 55 (12-3)
Pretty much the joint-worst episode in Who history along with “Love & Monsters”, except this is arguably worse since it was all the idea of a professional writer rather than a child.
The monsters are awful, the writing is atrocious, and a laundry list of memes spawned from the ridiculous scenarios and dialogue. Me and a mate, who’s also a Whovian, spent hours after it finished airing ripping into it – and that was waaaay more fun than the actual episode was.
134 – Arachnids in the UK (11-4)
An episode with a stupid premise, a ridiculous ending and contradictory morals. Why is the Doctor suddenly okay with killing thousands of baby spiders by suffocation, when shooting one as a mercy kill crossed the line?
The companions are particularly bad in this one, and the Trump stand-in they use as the secondary villain is one of the worst characters in any television show I’ve ever seen.
133 – Ascension of the Cybermen / The Timeless Children (12-9/10)
The first part – “Ascension of the Cybermen” – is pretty “Meh”, and they waste the Lone Cyberman completely, but the season finale – “The Timeless Children” – is what dragged the whole two-parter down into the depths of this tier.
I’d be here forever if I listed everything wrong with the most abysmal piece of writing I’ve ever seen, so I’ll quickly summarise it by saying it effectively ruined Doctor Who for me. All of the reveals damaged the previous 11 seasons, and even Classic Who as well, and I couldn’t bring myself to watch another episode of Doctor Who for about two years after it aired.
It was the final episode of Chibnall’s era that I watched – the nail in the coffin, if you will (or the straw that broke the camel’s back?).
132 – The Tsuranga Conundrum (11-5)
We really got a one-two punch with “Arachnids in the UK” and “The Tsuranga Conundrum” back when Season 11 was airing, and it blows my mind that both episodes were greenlit AND were televised back-to-back.
The Doctor and friends – or should I say “fam” – run around a spaceship for 40 minutes, chasing a pathetic excuse for monster of the week … and that’s it. Who even came up with the “P’ting” anyway? Did they just drop a frying pan down the stairs and record the first thing they heard?
131 – Sleep No More (9-9)
I can appreciate the huge creative risk they took with the security camera footage format, but it falls flat to the point where it’s almost hilariously bad.
Mark Gatiss has written some stinkers in his time, but evil sand monsters that spawn from the sleep dust on the side of your eye? Gimme a break …
These episodes were all colossal missteps, and I’m quite likely to skip them if I ever re-watch the series. They either have stupid plots, are particularly boring, or both.
130 – The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos (11-10)
While “The Timeless Children” may be the official worst finale of the bunch due to its controversial plot, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” would be my pick for worst season closer purely for how rubbish it concludes the story (or lack thereof) of the season.
Tim Shaw makes his lacklustre return, and he’s about as menacing as a new-born puppy in a bed of pillows. Once again, the Doctor is like “No killing, fam!” only to then say “Oh, you trapped him forever in a horrific stasis that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies? Fine by me!” … Nice one, Chibs.
Season 11 is the only season without a real story arc, and it painfully shows in this finale. It doesn’t feel earned or worthwhile at all, and the story it does tell is just really boring and unsatisfying.
129 – The Witchfinders (11-8)
I’m surprised we had to wait 8 episodes until we got a female-centric issue in a Jodie Whittaker-led episode, but I’m not surprised in the slightest than Chibnall and co. failed to pull it off.
It’s a really terrible plot with awful dialogue, and once again the three companions are all totally useless. If it wasn’t for Alan Cummings being the saving grace, it would have plummeted into the “Terrible” tier.
128 – Can You Hear Me? (12-7)
Easily the episode with the biggest waste of a premise, I thought “Can You Hear Me?” had potential for the first half of the episode. The Gods were a neat idea, and delving into people’s backstories could have provided the companions with depth for once.
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Chibnall mucks it up and completely undersells and undermines the mental health issues prevalent in the episode. Yaz gets a halfway serviceable scene, but everyone else gets thrown under the bus … not to mention the Timeless Child (urgh) reveal is teased properly for the first time.
One of the worst scenes in Who history was when Graham approached The Doctor with a genuine concern of his cancer, only for her to say “I’m socially awkward, I’ll just smile and leave!” or something like that. It’s a complete character assassination, not to mention being so clumsily written, and I’m not surprised the BBC received thousands of complaints when it first aired.
127 – Fear Her (2-11)
I completely forgot just how bad this episode was … probably because it comes right after “Love & Monsters”, and anything is TV gold compared to that atrocity.
The plot is paper-thin, the scribble monster is ridiculous, and the child acting is some of the worst in the series. I used to think the ending with the Doctor saving the Olympics was uplifting (if a little cheesy), but in hindsight it’s just plain bizarre.
126 – The Rings of Akhaten (7-7)
Maybe I’m being too harsh on this one … but a Doctor Who singing episode isn’t what I signed up for.
It’s 40 minutes of filler followed by a quick speech … which is admittedly awesome, but it doesn’t salvage just how boring the rest of the runtime was.
125 – The Lazarus Experiment (3-6)
A complete CGI mess, why bother relying so much on a computer-generated monster if you know it’s going to turn out this bad?
The rest of the episode isn’t awful, but the fact the main attraction is an ugly eye-sore means I have no desire to re-watch it.
124 – In the Forest of the Night (8-10)
I don’t think there’s a more mundane, inconsequential, inherently annoying episode of Doctor Who than “In the Forest of the Night”.
It’s complete filler, in the worst sense of the word, and to say nothing happens would still be an understatement. On top of that you have an annoying cast of child actors, and it makes this episode entirely unwatchable.
What’s hilarious to me is that the Doctor didn’t even need to be in this story – the planet was always going to save itself anyway, so all the Twelfth Doctor did was sulk around a forest and ask meaningless questions!
123 – Victory of the Daleks (5-3)
An awesome premise ruined by a terrible execution, Dalek episodes don’t get much worse than this.
There’s a decent level of intrigue at the start (why are the Daleks going undercover in the first place?) but it turns into a generic “We’re going to destroy the world!” at the mid-way point. To make matters worse, they save the day with the power of love … that’s a writing cardinal sin in my books.
122 – The Wedding of River Song (6-13)
Moffat walked so that Chibnall could run. At the time, I didn’t think season finales could get much worse than this … but we all know Chibnall’s got some tricks up his sleeve.
It’s a really bad finale, hastily put together without providing any meaningful answers. It’s hard to keep track of the mess unfolding before your eyes, and the solution to “How does the Doctor die, yet survive?” is a complete cop-out.
121 – The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People (6-5/6)
I don’t think many people loathe this two-parter as much as I do, but there’s something bad about this story that I can’t explain.
Perhaps it’s the disgusting yet stale creature designs, or perhaps it’s the fact they do so little with the Doppelganger potential, but I left these episodes feeling cold.
120 – The Caretaker (8-6)
Look, I get that Doctor Who is primarily a kids show, but that’s no excuse for mindless, childish romps like “The Caretaker”.
Seeing the Doctor as the titular caretaker was kinda fun I guess, and it was interesting to return to Clara’s school where she works, but the overarching plot and forgettable villain make this episode entirely skippable.
119 – Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (7-2)
The only Doctor Who episode I ever forced my family to watch with me … and I wasn’t surprised when they never wanted to watch another one ever again.
Like “The Caretaker”, it’s stupidly childish without giving anything of substance. You can tell this is a Chibnall-penned episode since the villains are awful, the characters have wooden dialogue and motivations, and the ending is quickly wrapped up and unsatisfying.
I can kinda respect what these episodes were trying to achieve, but they fell flat for me. More often than not, these episodes were just incredibly one-note and unremarkable.
118 – The Crimson Horror (7-11)
This episode didn’t feel like a Doctor Who episode at all, and the overall plot and villainous scheme was too weird for my tastes.
It has a fairly unique Victorian aesthetic that bumps it out of the “Bad” tier, but “The Crimson Horror” is still not great.
117 – The Return of Doctor Mysterio
One of the most childish, cheesy, mind-numbing episodes of television I’ve ever seen … but I’ll give it a slight pass since it is a Christmas episode, meant to delight children around the world rather than tell a compelling story.
It’s definitely the weakest of the Doctor Who Christmas adventures though, and even the Doctor / Nardole combo – one of Season 10’s most underrated aspects – isn’t quite at its best yet.
116 – The Woman Who Fell to Earth (11-1)
I, like many other Whovians, timidly tuned in for the first episode of the Chibnall / Whittaker era, unsure of what to expect. Even though I had my reservations, I was still willing to give “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” a chance.
Somehow, against all odds, it managed to be even worse than I imagined. The Thirteenth Doctor and her companions fail to make a positive impression, and Tim Shaw is a laughably bad villain. It’s the worst season opener we’ve had, and easily the worst Doctor introduction episode.
115 – The Unquiet Dead (1-3)
As much as I love Doctor Who, and as much as I think Season 1 does an excellent job of kickstarting the whole series again, even I have to admit that the first half of the season is a little lacklustre.
The worst offender is a Mark Gatiss episode (no surprise there) “The Unquiet Dead”, a boring historical episode that you’re bound to forget within seconds of the credits.
114 – The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
Other than “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” was the only Christmas adventure that made me want to poke my eyes out.
It’s entirely bland and unoriginal, and the themes of “love saves the day!” are at their absolute worst. For whatever reason, Moffat could almost never get the Christmas special right – or at least not on the same level as the David Tennant days.
113 – The Ghost Monument (11-2)
Season 11 didn’t get off to the best start with its opener, and the follow up “The Ghost Monument” wasn’t much better either.
The gang being separated from the TARDIS and having to find it is a good premise, but the story surrounding it is terrible. Forgettable characters? Check. Immersion-breaking Ryan Call of Duty gun section? Check. Killer water that can shred anything it touches … and then is never mentioned or used again? That’s just amateur writing.
At least the production level is at an all-time high … so that’s something.
112 – The Girl Who Died / The Woman Who Lived (9-5/6)
I haven’t seen Game of Thrones like the other 99% of people on the planet (I’ll get round to it one day, if I can brace myself for the prospect of Season 8), so I don’t really get the hype surrounding Maisie William’s character.
It’s one of the most boring two-parters in Who history, and it’s quite remarkable that nothing of note happens across an hour and a half. I understand that it’s purpose is purely to set up plot points in the finale, but the less we talk about that the better.
111 – Night Terrors (6-9)
One of the scariest episodes I watched as a young lad, but watching it as an adult made me realise just how cliché the monsters are.
The stuff with the dad and son is typical Mark Gatiss “love saves the day!” nonsense, and the haunted house looks like the set from a C-Rate horror film.
110 – Praxeus (12-6)
For the first time in the Whittaker era, I was excited to see where the story would go after the bombshell they dropped in “Fugitive of the Judoon”. To my dismay, they dropped it completely until the two-part finale.
There’s never really any sense of urgency or threat in “Praxeus”, and the moral and themes of environmentalism are very surface-level (and also the second time they did it this season, but I don’t blame them for forgetting “Orphan 55” existed).
109 – The Eaters of Light (10-10)
It’s such a shame that “Eaters of Light” ended up being the most forgettable episode of Season 10, as one of the Classic Who writers came back just to pen this.
The titular villains are forgettable, and if it wasn’t for the Twelve / Nardole / Bill banter being on point as always this would have been unwatchable.
108 – Resolution
The Chibnall era scrapped the iconic Christmas specials in order to replace them with a New Year’s Day slot instead … but why? What does he have against Christmas? Is he trying to destroy everything I hold sacred about this show?
The Daleks make their return, facing off against the Thirteenth Doctor for the first time, and it’s as bland and forgettable as you’d expect. There are a couple of cool Dalek scenes where it exterminates (or utterly annihilates) a bunch of people, though, so that knocks it up a place or two.
107 – Planet of the Dead
I didn’t watch “Planet of the Dead” when it aired (I was a Doctor Who fan at the time, but didn’t realise it was currently airing on TV … I wasn’t the brightest kid), but I would have been mad if I saw it live.
For a 2009 Special, which they put all the extra time and money into, it’s one of the show’s most drawn-out and bum-numbing “adventures”. There are some cool visuals here and there, but nothing happens! Like, at all! Why bother filming on location in the desert if you’re just going to waste it on a bus instead for 40 minutes?
106 – Aliens of London / World War Three (1-4/5)
If someone sat down to watch Doctor Who for the first time, and bailed when they came across this two-parter … well, I wouldn’t blame them in all honesty.
It’s such a bad advert for the show, and it comes in the first half of the debut season as well. Farting monsters? Are you having a laugh?
It’s a shame really, as the political intrigue inside the story is pretty interesting, and the Slitheen are well-designed monsters, but the fart jokes are just too much for me to handle.
105 – The Idiot’s Lantern (2-7)
Some Doctor Who fans think this episode is terrible, but I actually think it’s one of Gatiss’s best contributions to the series. It’s still not great.
The TV monster that sucks people’s faces is a neat idea, but her constant whining of “FEEED MEEEE!!! HUNGRYYYY!!” just gets on your nerves after a while.
104 – The Doctor’s Daughter (4-6)
An episode more notable for the fact that David Tennant’s future wife is the titular character, but otherwise “The Doctor’s Daughter” is a complete snooze-fest in the middle of the otherwise explosive Season 4.
They somehow managed to waste both Donna and Martha at the same time, and Tennant gets barely anything to do other than be angry and almost shoot a guy … which he was clearly never going to do anyway.
103 – The Power of Three (7-4)
Surprisingly, the first half of this Chibnall episode is actually quite good – shocking, I know. Seeing the Ponds and the Doctor just simply mess around was a nice change of pace, and the mystery of the countdown cubes was admittedly an intriguing one.
It all comes crashing down in the final act, and I don’t know if it was due to budgetary constraints or bad writing (or both), but the ending is one of the most laughably bad conclusions to a story ever. The Doctor waves his screwdriver, and the problem is solved. What a waste of my time.
102 – Let’s Kill Hitler (6-8)
After the mid-season finale “A Good Man Goes to War”, I was interested to see where the rest of the season would take us. Somehow, this was the best Moffat could come up with during the hiatus.
It’s fun in places, I’ll give it that, but it’s meant to be a children’s show for goodness sake – why would you make a fun romp about assassinating Hitler?!? It’s a bizarre choice, and the answers for the Melody Pond story aren’t very satisfying.
101 – Kill the Moon (8-7)
This episode is one of the most controversial Doctor Who stories ever, but I’m sitting more on the “overrated” side of the fence.
The intense ending is kinda interesting I guess, but it’s a bit random for the Doctor to just abandon Clara completely. Once the moon is revealed to be an egg, I’ve given up with the episode.
100 – 42 (3-7)
I used to not mind this episode, as David Tennant’s performance is so good, but nowadays I realise he carries the entire 40 minutes on his back.
It’s a paper-thin plot, with very cliché “killer on the loose in a space station” elements. There’s a couple of romances on the go to, but I wasn’t invested in any of them. Chibnall strikes again!
99 – Kerblam! (11-7)
One of Season 11’s most engaging stories … but it still isn’t that great.
Lee Mack’s character gets completely wasted within five minutes, the “Amazon bad” analogy is both over-explained and underdeveloped, and the ending once again proves that the Thirteenth Doctor hates killing except when she’s the one killing someone in her way.
98 – The Beast Below (5-2)
Moffat has actually since apologised for this episode, mainly due to its controversial ending with questionable morals.
I don’t mind it too much, but I still don’t think the episode is particularly good – especially as a follow-up to “The Eleventh Hour”. The turny-face monsters are pretty dope though.
97 – The Snowmen
This Christmas special spends most of its time building up Victorian Clara as a good character, only to kill her at the end and replace her with a more one-note companion again.
Even if it didn’t have that disappointing aspect, the titular snowmen monsters are pretty lazy even by Doctor Who standards. At least Richard E. Grant was in it, being his usual awesome self.
These episodes were fine, but I’d hardly recommend them to anyone new to the series. Either a particular thing didn’t quite work out within the story, or it failed to fully capture my imagination.
96 – The Long Game (1-7)
Adam is one of the worst travelling companions we’ve ever seen, and Simon Pegg gets wasted a little bit, but otherwise it’s alright.
I like how the space station comes back again in the finale, it makes the whole season feel a little bit more connected.
95 – It Takes You Away (11-9)
“It Takes You Away” is certainly an ambitious episode, I’ll give it that.
It has an almost psychedelic / ethereal quality, in that none of it really makes sense. The bits that do make a bit of sense aren’t particularly interesting though.
94 – The Husbands of River Song
A silly Christmas episode, with a heartfelt scene at the end.
That last scene gets even better when you realise River mentioned it in her first appearance in “Forest of the Dead”.
93 – The End of the World (1-2)
After a decent pilot episode, we really needed to sink our teeth into a juicy futuristic episode to see what the show was about.
“The End of the World” is hardly top-tier Who, but I have a slight soft spot for it since it is the first real adventure in time and space. Not the best though.
92 – Closing Time (6-12)
While it was a good idea on paper to bring back the great Matt Smith / James Corden combo from Season 5, it didn’t quite have the same spark to it the second time around.
The story is nowhere near as funny or endearing as the first, and the “power of love!” ending always annoys me.
91 – The Bells of Saint John (7-6)
It’s important for a companion introduction to wow us right out of the gate, but unfortunately Clara’s first real episode is very mid-tier … reflective of the companion herself, you might say.
The plot is a little funky and doesn’t quite work, and Eleven and Clara don’t have nearly the same chemistry as their Victorian counterparts from “The Snowmen”.
90 – Rosa (11-3)
Some Doctor Who fans, mainly Thirteenth Doctor enthusiasts, thought “Rosa” was the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t share that sentiment.
The things I liked about it were its production value, the great acting by historical characters, and the fact it didn’t shy away from the darker themes of racism. The bad things, however, were pretty bad – a space racist as the main villain? Really? And that final bus scene didn’t need a random pop song playing to make it more impactful, and it broke my immersion completely.
89 – The Next Doctor
If I had watched this episode when it first aired, I would have been fuming. It completely baits the reveal of the next doctor for views, and the finale with the massive cyberman was waaaaay too much.
I can’t knock it too much, though, as Tennant has such good chemistry with Morrissey throughout the whole thing, and the cybermen are used to great effect … mostly.
88 – Smile (10-2)
The set design on “Smile” is pretty fantastic, but the story is as by-the-books as you can get for a Doctor Who story – they even have a convenient reset button at the end.
Points deducted for basing an entire episode on emojis, it comes off like an old man who just discovered the internet.
87 – Robot of Sherwood (8-3)
I’m a little on the fence about “Robot of Sherwood”, as while it’s a really silly story it’s also unabashedly fun.
The spite and pettiness between Twelve and Robin Hood is pretty great, and a lot of the silly humour lands. The villain was a bit iffy though.
86 – Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks (3-4/5)
In all honesty, I still don’t know why people were so mad at this two-parter. Sure, it’s a little weird having a human-Dalek hybrid that can feel emotions, but it hardly breaks the canon in any significant way.
My only gripe is that I feel it could have been done so much better, and the pig people aspect was just plain weird. It even has a starring role for an up-and-coming Andrew Garfield, so that’s pretty neat.
85 – Empress of Mars (10-9)
Fun fact – Mark Gatiss was originally going to write a sequel to “Sleep No More” but instead opted for “Empress of Mars” … and the entire Who fandom collectively said “Thank f*ck!“.
It’s one of his better efforts, and it comes across like a Classic episode of Who rather than a modern one. I’m not complaining about it’s traditional values, though, just that it’s a bit boring.
84 – The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood (5-8/9)
Chibnall provided one of his better efforts in this Season 5 two-parter, and the Silurians are a decently intimidating foe for the gang to face off against.
Some of the exchanges can be really intense, but it all falls apart a little bit at the end with a typical Chibnall arbitrary countdown. Not bad, but I wanted more – and it limply filled up two slots rather than one, so points deducted for that.
83 – Hide (7-9)
It’s rare to get a pure horror episode in Who, but “Hide” isn’t one of the memorable ones. Entirely skippable, if not for a great Matt Smith performance.
82 – Last Christmas
Nick Frost is always a delight in everything that he does, and him as Santa Claus is perfect casting.
The rest of the episode is fine, albeit a bit too similar to “Alien” for my liking, but it’s a passable Christmas adventure.
81 – Demons of the Punjab (11-6)
Easily the best episode of Season 11, but even then it’s not that great. There are some funny jokes where the Doctor (finally) addresses the gender swap, and the ending is fairly impactful for what it is.
Like with all of Season 11, however, the monsters are pretty bad – they turn out not to be villains at all by the end! The Doctor could have probably done nothing, and the story would still be the same.
80 – Knock Knock (10-4)
I really liked David Suchet’s creepy old man antagonist, but his relationship to his wooden daughter was a weird direction to take it.
I would have been a lot more lenient on this story if the unlucky teens had stayed dead, but against all odds they managed to re-constitute them out of bugs and everyone lives at the end – one of my biggest gripes from the Moffat era is his aversion to finality.
79 – New Earth (2-1)
David Tennant’s first real episode (“The Christmas Invasion” has him bed-ridden for most of the runtime), and it’s fine.
I like the ambitious concept, and the body-swapping jokes are very funny with Tennant and Piper at the helm, but it’s not a particularly special way to kickstart the season of a new Doctor.
78 – Cold War (7-8)
I didn’t even realise this was a Mark Gatiss episode when I was compiling this list, so that makes this his best episode of the lot! And we’re still in the bottom half of the ranking!
Some of the Ice Warrior scenes can be really intense, and the creature design is pretty cool. The rest of the episode is pretty standard though.
77 – Hell Bent (9-12)
The most controversial episode of Doctor Who of all time … until a few years later when Chibnall pumped them out every week.
I don’t hate this episode as much as other people, but I definitely see why so many fans dislike it. The Doctor goes a little overboard (or a lot overboard when he kills one of his own), the ending with Clara is very cheesy, and it followed up one of the best episodes of all time in a limp way.
I think my least favourite aspect of “Hell Bent” is that it effectively ruins the best companion departure / death of the series, and once the time-stopping shenanigans start it completely undermines the emotional climax of “Face The Raven”.
76 – Spyfall: Part One & Two (12-1/2)
What could have been a really stupid concept for Chibnall to mess up actually turned out alright in the end, but Part One is miles better than Part Two.
The reveal of the Master is easily in the top 2 moments of the Chibnall era, but the story doesn’t really go anywhere after it happens. There’s even a point where the Doctor uses the Master’s own race against him to get the Nazis to capture him … so yeah, Thirteen’s morals are all over the place like usual.
75 – Into the Dalek (8-2)
“Hey, what if we do another Dalek episode?” “You know what would be really cool? Going inside a Dalek! The story basically writes itself!”
That’s how I imagine the writers room meeting went when they came up with the idea for “Into the Dalek”, as there isn’t really much substance beyond the initial premise. Neat premise though.
74 – Extremis / Pyramid at the End of the World / The Lie of the Land (10-6/7/8)
There had only ever been one three-parter in modern Who up until this point, and when another was announced for Season 10 I was excited to see what would unfold.
“Extremis” is an excellent start to the story, and it picks up with the Doctor’s blindness from “Oxygen” to create an entirely unique Who adventure. The stuff with everyone chanting the same number was pretty stupid (how did nobody figure that out before?), but otherwise it was fine.
Unfortunately, the next two parts fall very flat. “Pyramid at the End of the World” is wholly unremarkable, with a stupid resolution to blind Doctor storyline, and “The Lie of the Land” is the worst of the three with its cliché finale.
73 – Dark Water / Death in Heaven (8-11/12)
“Dark Water” is an excellent way to set up the two-part finale, and the reveals of both Missy and the Cybermen were some peak-level Who storytelling.
It all crumbles apart slightly in “Death in Heaven”, a mid-tier Cybermen romp with some story directions that I found either baffling or unremarkable. It’s such a shame too, as if they’d nailed the final episode it could have charted way up there as one of the show’s best finales.
Now we (finally) reach the tier of episodes that I enjoyed watching. While these ones didn’t completely blow my socks off, I still had a fun time with them.
The fact that this is roughly the halfway point of the list is pretty fitting I think, as it’s usually a 50/50 chance each week to get a good episode – but I’d say that’s what gives this show its charm.
72 – Boom Town (1-11)
It’s rare to get a pure follow-up episode to a story, and “Boom Town” acts as the sort of sequel to “Aliens of London / World War Three” within the same season of television! It almost makes up for that atrocity … almost.
The fart jokes and silly monster designs are way less prevalent this time around, and it becomes a sort of cat-and-mouse chase between the Doctor and a runaway Slitheen. Not ground-breaking, but I thought it was fun.
71 – The Curse of the Black Spot (6-3)
Yeah, this episode is pretty stupid, and the plot is ridiculous and childish … but I have to admit it was still quite a bit of fun.
You can tell the cast are having the time of their life acting as pirates, and that enthusiasm is infectious. I can’t rank it too highly for stupid fun alone, but it certainly earns it some bonus points.
70 – Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (7-10)
The second half of Season 7 is pretty mediocre on the whole, but it did give us one of the sickest concepts in Who history. Exploring the TARDIS? Why didn’t anyone think of that before!
The premise alone is enough to skyrocket this one to the “Good” Tier, and some of the timey-whimey twists and turns work really well. Clara still isn’t great, and the ending could have been better, but it still kept me hooked.
69 – The Pilot (10-1)
I was interested to see what the new Doctor / companion relationship would be like, and Bill made a great first impression – but not only that, Crazy Hair Twelve (the best version of Twelve) joins the party too!
The whole arc with the Doctor as a professor is an excellent concept, and a great way to link him up with a new companion. The stuff with the mystery box is quite intriguing too, and if the actual threat of the episode was better it could have been a great story.
68 – Rose (1-1)
Coming in at the exact halfway point of the ranking is the first episode of the modern series – and I think that’s quite appropriate. It’s not mind-blowing, but it does a good job of getting us started.
Rose makes a great first impression, and Christopher Ecclestone does an outstanding job of re-introducing us to the titular Time Lord once again. Some of the CGI is awful, and the finale looks a bit cheap, but it hooked a whole new generation of fans.
67 – The Vampires of Venice (5-6)
A little bit out there as far as concepts go, but the execution was good. The titular vampires are quite a menacing threat on the whole, and Helen McCrory gives a great performance as the main antagonist.
Having Rory tag along for the first time also gives “The Vampires of Venice” a nice change of pace with some comedic moments, even if the humour is downright petty and childish at times.
66 – Thin Ice (10-3)
One of the better historicals in Who history, and having it relate to Bill’s ethnicity could have been pandering but actually comes off quite well.
The main villains of the episode are a huge river creature and capitalism … so yeah, nothing too crazy. Bonus points for the Doctor lamping a racist in the face.
65 – Tooth and Claw (2-2)
The Doctor Who episodes that rely on CGI almost never age well (especially ones from the Russell T Davies era), and the werewolf in “Tooth and Claw” isn’t great.
It’s a fun Scottish romp though, and David Tennant already hits the ground running. I also like the little tease of Torchwood at the end – another bit of proof that Davies was the best at creating season arcs.
64 – The Christmas Invasion
The first half of the episode is a little underwhelming – David Tennant spends almost the whole runtime bedridden, and killer Christmas trees are a little bit over-the-top.
The ending is what knocks this one up in my ranking, as David Tennant’s monologue and subsequent heroism kickstarts his era with a bang.
63 – Time Heist (8-5)
I’m surprised it took so long for Doctor Who to do a heist episode, and the time travel shenanigans are also a bonus.
I can’t remember the main monster’s name, but it certainly looked cool while it was melting people’s brains. The ending twist is also satisfying enough, albeit a little obvious in places.
62 – Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror (12-4)
I was on the brink of despair after “Orphan 55”, but luckily they followed that abomination up with a well-made, well-thought out adventure about Nikola Tesla.
The actors for Edison and Tesla are some of the best we’ve had in recent Who, and even if the villains were complete rip-offs of the Racnoss (yes, I know they’re cousins or some nonsense like that, but it comes off as lazy), the story kept me engaged throughout … which is better than almost every other Thirteenth Doctor adventure.
61 – The Shakespeare Code (3-2)
One of the episodes that terrified me the most as a kid due to the scary witches, but it was actually a lot funnier than I remembered on a re-watch.
The set design for Elizabethan England is pretty good for the time and budget, and David Tennant is as charismatic as ever. If there were any doubts of his GOAT status in Season 2, he comes out swinging in Season 3.
60 – The Lodger (5-11)
Some consider James Corden to be hugely overrated, especially now that he has a prime-time talk show, but his first appearance on Who was pretty magical.
His chemistry with Matt Smith is electric, and the pure whimsy of the story is nothing if not fun. The ending has a little bit of that “love conquers all” rubbish that I dislike, but otherwise it’s a really solid episode.
59 – The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky (4-4/5)
It’s great to have Martha Jones back for this two-parter, and her chemistry with Ten and Donna is as good as ever.
There are some really funny lines here and there, but the rest of the story lacks an oomph – especially when compared to the dizzying heights of Season 4.
58 – The Name of the Doctor (7-13)
All of Season 7 was leading to this finale … and it’s decent.
Trenzalore is a great location for a final battle, and those freaky eye-less creatures are some of the scariest monsters of Matt Smith’s era. I don’t particularly like the “Impossible Girl” development, but the War Doctor reveal (to tease the 50th anniversary special) more than made up for it.
57 – Oxygen (10-5)
Zombies. In space. Space-Zombies. What’s not to love?
It’s just a really solid episode, and even if the Space-Zombies aren’t that creative they’re still intimidating enough to keep me hooked. Bonus points for actually keeping the Doctor’s blindness at the end – I didn’t expect Moffat to have the balls to do something permanent like that.
56 – The Unicorn and the Wasp (4-7)
I always remembered “The Unicorn and the Wasp” as being the weak link of Season 4, but it’s actually pretty entertaining in hindsight.
The whole Agatha Christie murder-plot is great with your typical twists and turns, and the scene where the Doctor gets poisoned and needs an antidote is probably the funniest scene in Who history.
Points deducted for having a massive wasp as the monster – Daleks are scary and all, but that was the thing that made me hide behind the sofa as a kid.
55 – Nightmare in Silver (7-12)
Neil Gaiman had written a great episode before this one – “The Doctor’s Wife” – so I was hyped for his take on a Cyberman adventure. Sadly, it isn’t quite as outstanding as it should have been.
The stuff with the Doctor vs. his evil self is fantastic, and the general threat of the evolved Cybermen adds all the tension I’d ever need, but child acting and the rushed ending let it down. Should’ve been a two-parter.
54 – The Haunting of Villa Diodati (12-8)
The only episode of the Chibnall / Whittaker era that actually felt like a normal episode of Doctor Who, “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” gets a lot right.
The general whimsy of messing around with Byron and co. was great to see, and the Lone Cyberman is one of the best one-time villains in recent Who history. I was hyped to see how they’d resolve it in the finale … but a part of me knew that Chibnall was always going to mess it up.
53 – Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel (2-5/6)
Look at that – three Cybermen stories in a row in my ranking! A complete coincidence, I promise, but a neat one at that.
This is just a really solid adventure, with some fun set-ups to the parallel universe that’ll come back in the finale. I guess my only gripe is that Doctor Who never did much with this parallel universe again, give or take a few cameo appearances.
52 – Twice Upon a Time
Any regeneration episode is always going to rank highly for the sheer emotional weight of the story, but Twelve’s is my least favourite (so far).
It’s a pretty generic story on the whole, but it was good to have the First Doctor back in some capacity. Capaldi’s speech during the regeneration is breath-taking, and he gives one of the most emotive performances I’ve ever seen when his moment to shine comes.
51 – The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion (9-7/8)
I don’t think we’ve ever had such a large-scale invasion story in Doctor Who, and both parts tell a compelling side of the conflict.
“Invasion” gives the threat-level the scope it deserves, and “Inversion” provides Capaldi’s best speech – and arguably the best monologue in Who history. The Zygon stuff never gets quite as good as I’d like, but I was still entertained.
50 – Planet of the Ood (4-3)
Another story that should have probably been a two-parter, but I can forgive it since we’d already had an Ood double-bill in Season 2.
I really like any episode where the Ood are used, and this is no exception – we even get some nice lore tid-bits for the Ood’s anatomy. The CGI claw chasing Ten is a bit janky, but I loved every moment.
49 – Under the Lake / Before the Flood (9-3/4)
A very weird story, but that actually works in this two-parter’s favour this time around.
The little aside of Capaldi talking about the Bootstrap paradox is one of my favourite Twelve moment, and the resolution to this classic base-under-siege story hits all the right notes.
I really liked all of these episodes, and they each told a compelling story that gripped me from start to finish. If you’re only going to watch some of the Doctor Who episodes, they should be from this tier onwards.
48 – A Christmas Carol
All of the Moffat Christmas specials were a bit lacking compared to the Davies era – except the very first one, “A Christmas Carol”.
It mimics the Dickens novel of the same name to great effect, and Michael Gambon gives an excellent performance to really ground the whole thing.
47 – The God Complex (6-11)
A bit of a sleeper hit near the end of Season 6, I was surprised how well “The God Complex” managed to convey its themes of morality and superiority.
The hotel with all the worst nightmares is creepy as hell, and it’s great to actually see a character confront the Doctor about his titular God complex. It even ends with the Doctor parting ways with the Ponds – a twist I didn’t see coming.
46 – Listen (8-4)
A little bit like “Kill the Moon” later in the same season, “Listen” will either be a great episode or a mediocre one depending on whether you connect with the story it’s trying to tell.
It’s more of a personal story, with the Doctor wrestling with the monsters within himself rather than any tangible foes, and the rest of the Sci-Fi goodness kept me invested.
45 – Fugitive of the Judoon (12-5)
I’ve been nothing but critical of the Chibnall / Whittaker era, but the one episode that made me forget all of my gripes due to the sheer awesomeness of the story was “Fugitive of the Judoon”.
The entire episode takes a turn once the Fugitive Doctor is revealed, and it was the first time in years that my mind got properly blown by an episode of Who.
Obviously the Fugitive Doctor storyline didn’t quite work out for me in the end, but I can’t mark this episode down for the faults of the finale.
44 – The Angels Take Manhattan (7-5)
I’m a little bit mixed on the way the series keeps coming back to the Weeping Angels as the monster of the week, as I think they get less scary the more they are shown, but this story in particular has an emotional weight attached to it that makes it stand out.
The Ponds’ farewell is one of the most heart-breaking scenes in all of Who, and the acting sells it completely. They were two of my favourite companions ever, and while I was sad to see them go I couldn’t have asked for a better send-off.
43 – Utopia / The Sound of Drums / The Last of the Time Lords (3-11/12/13)
For the first time in modern Who, we got a three-parter – and it was to close out the season, no less. Sadly, this story is a case of diminishing returns.
“Utopia” is extraordinary, and “The Sound of Drums” sets up the finale brilliantly, but “The Last of the Time Lords” lets the whole thing down. The stuff with the Master gets really drawn out, and the reset button at the end was a cheap way to conclude the story. Still, two of the three episodes were absolute zingers.
42 – The Girl Who Waited (6-10)
Bonus points for the clever title that both teases the plot of the episode and hits you like a ton of bricks after you’ve finished watching.
Timey-whimey episodes are always some of my favourites, and “The Girl Who Waited” utilises the Sci-Fi concepts to great effect. That ending is the best possible way this story could have ended, as it was tragically the only way for the Doctor to close the time loop.
41 – The Runaway Bride
I love me some Donna Noble, and while she isn’t quite at her hilarious best just yet it’s still great in retrospect to see her first adventure.
I may be wrong, but I think this was also the first time we got to see the ultra-dark “Time Lord Victorious” version of Ten, and any episode with that plot point in immediately gets bumped up twenty places.
40 – Deep Breath (8-1)
Capaldi’s first episode is a really good introduction to the character, and the question “Am I A Good Man?” is posed really early on in his run.
The initial stuff with the dinosaur and the Paternoster gang is a bit hit or miss, but the Clockwork Robot-people make for a great foe in Twelve’s first adventure.
39 – Father’s Day (1-8)
The second half of Season 1 is leagues ahead of the first, mainly due to great stand-alone episodes like “Father’s Day”.
I love how the show delves into the butterfly effect aspect of time travel really early on, and what would happen if Rose’s father had actually survived his untimely death. The ending where the Doctor vanishes and Rose has to set things right is also the perfect way to cap off the themes of the story.
Points deducted for introducing the time-paradox-monsters, only to never bring them back again. Points added for never bringing them back again, as the CGI didn’t look great.
38 – Asylum of the Daleks (7-1)
A great way to kick off Season 7, and there are some nice teases for the future companion Clara as well.
I don’t think this is the Daleks at their very best, but “Asylum of the Daleks” still has enough tension in its storytelling to keep me on the edge of my seat at points.
37 – The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar (9-1/2)
Davros is one of my favourite villains in Who history, so I was shocked to see he needed the Doctor’s help – I should have known it was part of his evil plan all along!
Some of the stuff with Missy and Clara doesn’t quite work for me, but Twelve is fantastic throughout both parts of the story – his mid-life crisis playing guitar on a tank is one of the most ridiculous yet entertaining things I’ve ever seen.
36 – Smith and Jones (3-1)
Straight away, David Tennant feels waaay more comfortable in the role in the Season 3 opener, and he tears up the screen whenever he’s on it.
Martha Jones gets a great introduction, and we also get to meet the mighty Judoon! Lots of firsts in this one, and it all works really well.
35 – Flatline (8-9)
One of the most underrated episodes of the Capaldi era, “Flatline” is just a really solid Doctor Who story with an excellent one-time monster.
I’m surprised nobody had thought to mess with the TARDIS’s exterior size up until this episode, and they executed it perfectly here.
34 – The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (6-1/2)
When I first watched the two-part opening to Season 6 I wasn’t too impressed, but on a re-watch it holds up extraordinarily well.
There’s never a dull moment, from the insane Doctor death twist to the titular mysterious astronaut, and the Silence are some of this era’s most iconic villains.
33 – A Town Called Mercy (7-3)
I completely forgot just how great “A Town Called Mercy” was, and you can tell they upped the production budget massively between seasons.
The Gunslinger is an excellent, intimidating foe, and it was refreshing to see the Doctor make questionable choices for once in the face of an insurmountable danger. An underrated gem.
32 – Partners in Crime (4-1)
I love me some Donna Noble (yes, I know I already said that exact thing, but it’s true), and any gripes I had with her character from “The Runaway Bride” are almost non-existent when she returns for this Season 4 opener.
Catherine Tate’s chemistry with Tennant is already electric, and this episode has some really funny moments of physical comedy between them. The Adipose monsters are a little weird, but I can look past it.
31 – Gridlock (3-3)
What seems like a boring “stuck in traffic” episode on the surface actually delves into some interesting themes of class and politics.
I also really appreciate the way they set up the reveal in “Utopia” so early on in the season, and the Face of Boe is one of my favourite side characters from Tennant’s run.
Points deducted for quite literally being an episode about traffic though.
30 – The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone (5-4/5)
I’ve already complained about how repeated use of the Weeping Angels leads to diminishing returns, but their second outing was actually pretty great.
River Song’s return is fantastic, and the Angels are as scary and sadistic as ever. The only things I’m not 100% on are the lore additions – having an image of an Angel actually be an Angel complicates things unnecessarily, and seeing them move was a big no-no.
29 – Voyage of the Damned
The best Christmas special, “Voyage of the Damned” was the kind of show-stopping television that made Tennant’s run the Golden Age of Doctor Who.
Kylie Minogue is surprisingly quite good in the role (I didn’t realize she was an actress before a pop star), and her demise at the end has a decent amount of emotional weight.
Bonus points for Ten’s badass speech to rally his doubters – it never fails to give me goosebumps.
28 – Face the Raven (9-10)
Season 6 dealt with the God Complex of the Doctor, but I always wondered what would happen if the companions also got carried away.
That’s exactly what happened in “Face the Raven”, where Clara’s unwavering belief in the Doctor led to her devastating end (not counting “Hell Bent”). If that had truly been her death, it would have been the saddest companion send-off of them all.
27 – A Good Man Goes to War (6-7)
The mid-season finale of Season 6 is climactic enough to be the real finale, and the action throughout is sublime.
The Doctor goes full beast-mode trying to save Amy’s daughter, and it’s shocking when they suddenly fail. That sudden failure is immediately surpassed by a moment of triumph, and River’s reveal that she is Melody Pond is a top 5 moment in the Moffat era.
26 – Turn Left (4-11)
There are really only two “Doctor-lite” episode that have ever worked, and “Turn Left” is one of them.
The “What If?” scenario of if the Doctor had died was a great one to explore, and Catherine Tate really holds her own throughout the whole episode. Once Rose appears, and the finale is set up, the real excitement can begin.
25 – The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (5-12/13)
In all honesty, this was the only finale of the Moffat era that really wowed me – every other season’s conclusion was either mixed out outright bad, but they really nailed it the first time in Season 5.
The Pandorica itself is such a cool plot point, and the timey-whimey nature of the plot encourages repeat viewing. I’m not entirely sure the crack in the wall storyline is resolved in a satisfying way, but otherwise I had a … blast .
24 – School Reunion (2-3)
The first couple of episodes in Season 2 were a warm-up for the real main attraction – the return of Sarah Jane. She and Ten have great chemistry, and K9 even makes a triumphant return!
One of the most underrated aspects of “School Reunion” is the evil headmaster played by Anthony Head – he tears up the screen whenever he appears, and he even rivals David Tennant at times.
23 – The Time of the Doctor
Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor gets a fitting send-off in “The Time of the Doctor”, an action-packed romp that sees us return to the battlegrounds of Trenzalore.
It’s a little bit of a cop-out how they explain the “maximum limit of thirteen regenerations has been extended!” plot point, but the final moments of Eleven more than make up for it.
22 – The Fires of Pompeii (4-2)
A simple second episode, usually a generic historical meant to introduce the new companion to time travel, had no right to be this good.
Tennant and Tate are fantastic as the TARDIS duo, and both Peter Capaldi and Karen Gillan even make premature appearances! The ending where the Doctor saves Caecilius and his family is one of the best moments of the Russell T. Davies era, and a defining point in the Doctor’s “Time Lord Victorious” arc.
These episodes blew me away with their unbelievable quality of storytelling, and I keep coming back to them again and again. They’re Sci-Fi television at it’s very best.
21 – The Doctor’s Wife (6-4)
Neil Gaiman provided the screenplay for this Season 6 adventure, and you can tell he’d been cooking this one up for some time.
We finally get to see the personification of the TARDIS, the Doctor’s oldest friend, and their interactions are priceless. The whole story surrounding it is great too, with a tearjerker ending to cap it all off.
20 – Dalek (1-6)
Season 1 is fine for the first five episodes, but things really take a turn in “Dalek” – it’s a lot darker than any of the previous episodes, and it reintroduces the Doctor’s greatest foe in arguably their best appearance ever.
Some of the CGI doesn’t quite hold up, and the American villain guy is a little one-note, but the brutal story more than makes up for it, and the ending was a bittersweet conclusion to a great story. It’s only a shame that Adam decided to stick around for one more episode after this.
19 – Army of Ghosts / Doomsday (2-12/13)
The Dalek vs. Cybermen conflict provided all I could have ever asked for, and the dialogue between the Doctor and the two alien races was some of the best writing I’ve seen in the series.
It’s hard to talk about this two-part finale without mentioning the ending – Rose’s departure is absolutely soul-crushing, and it stuck with me ever since I was a kid. You could tell the Tenth Doctor was never going to be the same.
18 – The End of Time: Part One & Two
Speaking of soul-crushing …
While “The End of Time” can certainly get a bit far-fetched at times, it’s high-stakes Who at its very best. David Tennant knows it’s his last story, and gives every scene 110% as a result.
And his regeneration … man, it still makes me tear up to this day. It’s the rawest, most powerful regeneration in the show’s history, and that final line “I don’t wanna go!” kills me every time.
17 – Mummy on the Orient Express (8-8)
Probably more so than any other Doctor, Capaldi hit the ground running in his first season, and “Mummy on the Orient Express” is one of his best performances early on in his run.
He demands attention, both of the viewers and the other characters, and any doubts in my mind about his capability in the lead role were squashed by his commanding screen presence. The titular Mummy is also one of the best one-time villains of Twelve’s era, and the resolution ties it all in a neat little bow.
16 – The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (2-8/9)
The Ood are such fantastic villains straight off the bat, and they’re only one of the three terrifying monsters running rampant!
Some people don’t like how the literal Devil is the main antagonist, but I love his showdown with Ten so much. It’s one of Who’s most intense base-under-siege episodes, and I’m glad the Ood have become iconic since.
15 – World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls (10-11/12)
The Season 10 finale was fantastic, and both parts shocked and wowed me for different reasons.
“World Enough and Time” had all of the twists and shocking reveals to rival Who at its prime, with a crazy cliffhanger ending, and “The Doctor Falls” ups the ante splendidly for one of Who’s best battles.
Points deducted for not having the Doctor’s regeneration be at the end of “The Doctor Falls” – it would have made for a perfect send-off for Capaldi.
14 – Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways (1-12/13)
Season 1’s finale still holds up to this day as one of the best Who adventures, and the Daleks are at their very best.
Loads of plot threads from the previous episodes come back, like Captain Jack and the space station from “The Long Game”, and the final confrontation is awesome.
It seems odd to have a regeneration in something other than a Christmas special, but that’s exactly what happened when Ecclestone shockingly departed after one season. While it was sad to see him go, having a regeneration this early on paved the way for Who’s superstardom – I don’t think viewers would have been as hooked otherwise. Overall, a fantastic episode.
13 – The Girl in the Fireplace (2-4)
It’s pretty crazy that Moffat, the showrunner after Davies left, wrote four absolutely incredible stories over the first four seasons – and his “worst” is still only in 13th place overall.
“The Girl in the Fireplace” is equal parts hilarious, tragic and uproarious, and Moffat balances all of those tones brilliantly. David Tennant was always the most romantic of Doctors, and “The Girl in the Fireplace” was a pertinent reminder that a time traveller could never truly find love.
12 – Amy’s Choice (5-7)
An absolute gem in the middle of Season 5’s run, I think people forget just how outstanding “Amy’s Choice” is.
The Dream Lord is a fantastic equal to the Doctor’s intellect, and the swapping back and forth between dreams was some of the best Sci-Fi writing in the modern series. There’s also a couple of heartfelt moments, as well as a few funny jokes, so this episode has it all really.
11 – Vincent and the Doctor (5-10)
People tend to appreciate this episode a little more nowadays, but at the time nobody could expect a random filler episode so pack such a punch.
Van Gogh’s depression is handled exceptionally well, and you really feel for the man as he struggles with his inner demons … and the personification of his struggles as well – a literal invisible demon running amok.
It all culminates in one of the most emotional moments in the show, when van Gogh gets to see how his art inspires the future generations. The acting and writing is sublime throughout, and I wish more historicals were as impactful as this.
Not only do I think these ten episodes are amazing, I think they rival some of the greatest television episodes of all time – Sci-Fi or otherwise.
10 – Midnight (4-10)
A complete “bottle episode” (where they try to conserve the budget by limiting the action to one room), but it’s the best darn bottle episode I’ve ever seen.
The creature that possesses the poor woman is one of the scariest we’ve seen – she’s freaky as hell when she repeats stuff at the same time, we never find out what she actually was, and she actually beats the Doctor!
I also really like how, for the first time in the series, the Doctor cannot get control of the people in the carriage. Usually he can calm people down, but whatever tricks he uses to turn them to his side ends up making matters worse – and their mob mentality is arguably the scariest part of the whole episode.
9 – The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (1-9/10)
Moffat’s first contribution to the show, and he absolutely annihilated the competition on the first try. It’s leagues above the other stories in Season 1, and it almost puts the other writers to shame.
Every kid growing up in the 2000’s remembers the gas-mask zombies being the freakiest creatures ever, and the gas-mask transformation scene in “The Empty Child” was nightmare inducing (even if the CGI is a little laughable nowadays).
Ecclestone is on peak form as the Doctor, and the addition of Captain Jack adds some great comedic moments to an otherwise terrifying episode. While the “Everybody lives!” trope got frustrating as the show went on, this was the story that did it the best.
8 – The Eleventh Hour (5-1)
First the first (and only) time so far in the modern series, the Doctor’s first episode doesn’t have him bed-ridden and almost immobile – and I’m stunned that “The Eleventh Hour” is the only story to do the new Doctor’s introduction justice.
Matt Smith makes his mark straight away, and Amy (and Rory, to a lesser extent) fits right in as the companion. While the stuff with the crack in the wall didn’t really go anywhere in the end, it’s first use here is its most mysterious and gripping.
There’s also a small part for future Oscar winner Olivia Coleman, so that’s something to look out for on a re-watch.
7 – The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End (4-12/13)
Doctor Who did the “Infinity War crossover event” a decade before it was cool, and this Season 4 finale really feels like the culmination of four years of storytelling.
Davros is the most over-the-top villain ever, and he couldn’t be more appropriate as the evil head of the Dalek empire. The story builds really nicely in the background as well, with all of the companions rallying together to save the Earth.
My only complaint is that Donna saves that day far too easily in the end – she clicks a few buttons and the whole Dalek fleet explodes … not exactly the most satisfying solution to the problem they could have thought of, I’m sure.
6 – The Day of the Doctor
I was a little cautious going into the 50th anniversary, as I wasn’t entirely sure whether Moffat would end up messing it up or not – but everyone involved knocked it out of the park.
While it’s a shame Ecclestone didn’t want to return, John Hurt’s War Doctor was a great addition to the canon, and having an actor as esteemed as him galivanting around alongside the two best Doctors felt like magic.
It’s a really well-constructed story, with a fresh plot while still harkening back to the old days with fun cameos and Easter Eggs, and I don’t think it could have been done any better. For the first time in years, I felt proud to be a fan of the show.
5 – Blink (3-10)
I think I’m in the minority of Who fans by not putting “Blink” in the top 3, but I still really love this episode – the first time “Doctor-lite” had ever worked, as the lack of the Doctor makes it even scarier.
The Weeping Angels are the best monsters to spawn from the modern series of Who, and they’re so terrifying in their first appearance. The acting, editing and direction are all perfect, and together they construct the scariest possible episode.
That scene of Sally Sparrow communicating with the TV screen is up there with my favourite scenes in all of Who – when Moffat gets the chance to write a one-off episode under another showrunner, he’s an absolute genius.
4 – Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead (4-8/9)
When Moffat was announced as the new showrunner before Season 4 aired, people were always going to scrutinise his next episode closely – luckily for him, he crafted the best story he’s ever done.
The library is such a fantastic backdrop to the horrors of the Vashta Nerada, one of modern Who’s scariest ever monsters, and the sub-plot with Donna’s fake family adds an ethereal terror as well. Add to that an early cameo by an energetic River Song and you get the best episode(s) in the best season of the show.
3 – Heaven Sent (9-11)
With Clara gone, we got a rare companion-less episode – and it’s fantastic. Capaldi provides one of the top 2 performances in Who history, and the allegory for grief is beautiful.
The story is so clever too, as I love the way it’s all one big time loop. Somewhat unbelievably, the first draft of the episode had Clara tagging along for the ride … thank goodness Moffat decided to let Capaldi’s masterful acting speak for itself, otherwise “Heaven Sent” wouldn’t have been anywhere near as perfect.
2 – Human Nature / The Family of Blood (3-8/9)
Speaking of greatest acting performances in a Who episode, Tennant absolutely knocks it out of the park in my favourite two-parter – his switch from Time Lord to human and back again is captivating and tragic.
The villainous scarecrows are excellent, and they complement the pre-war English boarding school perfectly – this is one of the freakiest episodes of Who, and nearly every aspect is either terrifying or unsettling.
In one of my favourite moments in the series, the Time Lord Victorious takes centre stage – we had never seen such subdued rage from the Doctor before, and Tennant is fantastic as the imposing anti-hero. It kickstarted my favourite arc of the show, and it sent chills down my spine.
1 – The Waters of Mars
I think I’m the only person that considers “The Waters of Mars”, a random special episode from 2009, as the best Doctor Who episode ever. It’s very unconnected to the overarching plot (other than the brief “knock four times” mention at the end) and there’s no companion, but that just makes it better in my eyes.
First of all, the monsters in this base-under-siege episode are the scariest ever – The Flood are absolutely terrifying, and they still give me nightmares whenever I re-watch it.
I also really love how dark the plot can get at times – this is really the culmination of my beloved “Time Lord Victorious” arc, and Tennant gives one of his best performances in the role. Once Adelaide Brooke tragically commits suicide to correct the Doctor’s wrongs, you know he’s gone too far.
It perfectly sets up Tennant’s last episode and subsequent regeneration as well, and it’s everything I could ever want from an individual episode of Who – that’s why it’s my pick for best story of the bunch.
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