With the image of John Simm’s Master reapplying his eyeliner still ringing in my… eyes, I thought now was a really decent time to write a few words about my favourite episode from each of NuWho’s 10 seasons. It’s a personal list, based on gut feeling and all the feels, so here’s Part 1, covering Russell T Davies’s whole era, and awkwardly dipping a toe into Steven Moffat’s…
Series 1 – The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
I’d never watched an episode of Doctor Who before Rose, but I knew it was going to be my show. I could tell. A proper gritty actor and a pop star, and sci fi, and nostalgia, and jokes, and action. And I was right, I was instantly captivated, instantly involved – you had me at “Run for your life”. It changes periodically, but Christopher Eccleston is, at heart(s), my Doctor.
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is still up there as one of my very favourite NuWho stories. We’re introduced to Captain Jack, everybody lives, and the moment when the Doctor points out that the tape recording of the Empty Child has stopped is child-appropriate horror at its absolute peak. It was the story that showed me, a new fan, everything Doctor Who could be.
Close second: Dalek
Other faves: The Unquiet Dead, Parting of the Ways
Series 2 – Doomsday
By the time Doomsday rolled around, I was pretty used to balling my eyes out on a Saturday night during Doctor Who ‘term time’ – a tradition that continues to this day. But man, Doomsday turned the volume right up to 11. The separation scene is the still an emotional high water mark for the show – after the apocalyptic tumult of the episode, it is quietly devastating. Tooth and Claw and The Girl in the Fireplace might be better episodes all round, but sometimes a single moment is enough to seal an episode’s place in this list. And in fact, Doomsday has three of them; not just the separation, but the Bad Wolf Bay conversation too, and the “oh RTD you beauty” reveal of the Genesis Ark as a Time Lord prison ship.
Close second: The Girl in the Fireplace
Other faves: Tooth and Claw, School Reunion
Series 3 – Smith and Jones
Tough one, this. Blink is an astonishing piece of television. Human Nature and The Family of Blood are smart and thoughtful. Utopia has the greatest cliffhanger of the NuWho era. The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords have John Simm. But there’s a sense of fun, a lightness of touch about this story of the Judoon on the moon that I just love. Martha instantly becomes our awesome, capable new best friend, and the villain is a little old lady who drinks blood through a straw. It’s an episode I go back to to make me smile, and that’s more than enough to warrant its place on this list.
Close second: Utopia
Other faves: Blink, Human Nature/The Family of Blood
Series 4 – Turn Left
From a fun, funny episode, to one of NuWho’s darkest, but one of my absolute favourites. If Christopher Eccleston is my Doctor on more days than not, then my companion equivalent is Donna – a woman who is funny, real, and who criminally underestimates her own worth. She’s front and centre in this Doctor-lite episode that reveals what Earth would have to endure without the Doctor’s protection, and it is about as bleak as Doctor Who gets. There are fewer TV moments that have hit me with the quite the same heft as Wilf realising that “it’s happening again”. It’s dreamlike and odd, and completely stands apart.
Close second: Journey’s End
Other faves: Midnight, Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead
Series 5 – The Eleventh Hour
This is an incredibly strong series – Amy’s Choice is hilariously bizarre, Vincent is gorgeous, The Beast Below inventive and creepy (can our new Doc bump into Liz 10 again please?) But without one particular episode that completely grabs at my heart – the criterion that usually wins out on this list – I could put several as my favourite. So, like Smith and Jones, it’s the freshness and joy, the sheer fish fingers-and-custard-ness of this story that clinches it. David Tennant should have been an impossible act to follow, but Matt Smith is an astonishing Doctor and it’s all here, right from the beginning – awkward, physical, young but oddly grandfatherly.
Close second: The Beast Below
Other faves: Amy’s Choice, Vincent and the Doctor
Christmas Specials – The Christmas Invasion
Hey Anna, is this just a way of getting The Christmas Invasion onto this list? Why yes, it is.