This year, Doctor Who has been back on our screen ten whole years. It feels like yesterday that the TARDIS materialised once more; suitably, it also feels like forever.
So join us as we celebrate a decade with the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors. Let’s find out which serials are our favourites, and shine a light on the underrated ones too. Watch us run.
And then vote on your favourites. At the end of the year, we’ll find out which serials showcase our beloved show at the height of its game.
The Doctor has a new friend. Well, an old friend who he’s met again! He and Donna fight the flab, battle Sontarans, meet with Martha once more, and count the shadows. Then we’re afforded a brief glimpse of life without the Time Lord. That’s all before the Doctor must face his deadliest foes again – but this time, he’s joined by a lorry-load of friends…
James Lomond: Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead
Nestled amongst the rest of Series 4 like a glistening steak-frites in a sea of marmite, this two-parter was Doctor Who heaven. It’s dark (pointedly so), moody, and, other than Miss Evangelista, was lacking the pantomime performances that deflate so much of this era in NuWho. And she got away with it because of the point being made with the contrasting digital post-mortem version of her character. Then there was one of the best child performances I’ve seen [phew!].
This had so many wonderful ideas: the ghosting consciousnesses and giving them a moment of silence (how mankind might introduce meaning and ceremony into new situations only possible with technology imagined by the writer); a little girl’s consciousness in a giant super-computer saving a planet of people by digitally *saving* them; the Vashta Nerada; the way the Vashta Nerada communicated…
This was FILLED with brain-tingling awesomeness while packing in top-rate jeopardy and introducing one of the most compelling -if controversial – characters in the show’s history. Then there was the scene between Tennant and Kingston where she sacrifices herself for a life with him that he hasn’t lived yet. While the married-couple stuff got out of hand in the Smith era, this was sheer poetry. It was Moffat with bells on. On ice. In space. With gravy. Thank you for this one!
James Whittington: Midnight
Ah, Midnight, the crowning moment of a rather pedestrian season. David Tennant was in full shouty mode and Catherine Tate was just as shouty and irritating. The season drifted through tired adventures until it came to the Donna-lite adventure known as Midnight.
Written with confidence by RTD with more than a nod to Agatha Christie, the story is set in one main location where a small ensemble is slowly possessed by some unknown entity.
A superb cast accompany Tennant here, most notably David Troughton and Lesley Sharp, helping to add to the breathlessness and claustrophobic feeling the adventure drips in. The moment the Doctor himself becomes possessed is a classic piece of tension building plus a knock-out ending which leaves a distinct shiver in the viewer’s spine. The sparse minimalistic set design mirrors the plot theme; only the most crucial things are included. There’s not a wasted sentence here, everything adds to the story which builds and builds with the dialogue between the cast sparkling as much as the landscape.
The season dropped in quality after this but to be fair following this story was always going to be a hard act to follow. A gem of an episode.
Drew Boynton: The Unicorn and the Wasp
Believe it or not, I’m going to go with The Unicorn and the Wasp as my favorite story of Series 4. Honestly, it is probably the episode I have watched the most from 2008’s series of Tenth Doctor-Donna Noble adventures. Other episodes are better (Turn Left, Midnight) or more exciting (Stolen Earth), but I have a soft spot for this tale of a giant extraterrestrial bee causing trouble for Agatha Christie in the 1920s (!).
Fenella Woolgar is pretty great as Christie -and speaking of great, Unicorn was directed by Who-stalwart Graeme Harper and written by one of my favorite NuWho writers, Gareth Roberts. Sure, the buzzing bee is cheesy (and not in a good way, Captain Jack!) and David Tennant overacts a bit (especially when the Doctor is poisoned), but the episode cruises by on the charming Tate-Tennant team and an interesting glimpse into the life of Agatha Christie, whom I had never really thought about in a personal way, even though she was the brilliant creator of omnipresent sleuths like Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.
And as we all know, Doctor Who is at its best when it’s not only entertaining, but educational as well!
Becky Crockett: Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead
You have a mystery that is thankfully given two episodes to develop, the introduction and death of one of the most important NuWho characters, and moments of terror, heartbreak, and joy all in one story.
Unlike a lot of storylines, with these episodes, you feel as if the characters are in actual jeopardy. There is a very real possibility that none of them will survive the Library and in the end, a number of them don’t – at least physically. Then there’s the reveal that this is all part of the consciousness of a little girl inside a massive, planet sized computer. How sci-fi can you get? Add to that, the Vashta Nerada are properly scary Who monsters even though you can’t even see them. Thanks Moff for making me afraid of my own shadows…wait. Why have I got two shadows? Wait. Why have I got two shadows? Wait. Why have I got…why have I got…why have I got…
Philip Bates: Midnight
It pains me to select a Donna-lite episode as I love Catherine Tate’s gobby-yet-believable companion, but this is Midnight we’re talking about here. How can I not go for Midnight?!
This is such a simple idea, but must’ve been incredibly difficult executing. Dave, Lesley, if you could just recount the square root of pi at virtually the same time, that’d be great, cheers. But they pulled it off! More than that, they delivered some stunning performances. There’s fear, and wonder, and excitement, and unadulterated dread. This was a true horror story, set in one tight space. It’s the sort of wild idea perfect for Doctor Who, riffing off similar notions toyed around with in The Edge of Destruction and that first episode of The Ark in Space. It really allowed David Tennant to shine as the Doctor.
And he was surrounded by such talent – not just in the cast, but also the crew. It gave me faith once more in Russell’s writing (faith which had got considerably knocked at the Series 3 finale), and reminded me what a great storyteller he can be. Plus, of course, Alice Troughton, who managed to make (essentially) a car seem downright terrifying.
So engrossed by it, I was initially quite convinced the Doctor would be thrown out. Because how could he not have been? For once, he was completely out of his depth! He knew nothing of this new creature, and hadn’t got a clue how to stop it. Oh, he’ll isolate it when they’re back ‘safe’ and sound. Yeah, okay, Doc – that’s not you buying for time at all.
Not everything goes the Doctor’s way. We need to know that. And the major spanner in the works? Human beings. We’ll just argue and back-stab and betray each other. In a crisis, we run. If we can’t run, we hide. If we can’t hide, we break down: we cry or we bully. How illuminatingly horrific.
And then just to underpin the awful events that went on, nobody knows the name of the person who saved them. A bit like the Doctor, she’s merely ‘the Hostess.’ Yowch.
Oh, and up crops Val: “I said it was her.” It’s all a repulsively engaging tale of terror, one that shines brighter than a diamond.
Jonathan Appleton: Midnight
The episode that gave me pangs of regret at the thought that RTD will never write for the programme again. One of those wonderfully simple ideas that leaves you wondering why it hadn’t been done before, elegantly executed with wonderful guest performances. A confined setting, characters cooped up together, hidden secrets coming to the surface… If JB Priestley had ever written for Doctor Who it would surely have looked like this. The moment when Lesley Sharp turns to face the other passengers, possessed by whatever the hell it was, has to go down as the top scare the modern show has given us.
Alasdair Shaw: Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead
Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead aren’t just my favourite episodes from Series 4. They’re quite possibly my favourites of the entire run of New Who and make my all time top three (Brain of Morbius and Battlefield in case you were wondering).
It just ticks all the right boxes. Creepy monsters? Check. Strong supporting cast you actually care about? Yup. Quotable lines? “When you run with the Doctor…” It also showcases the Doctor and Donna dynamic, perhaps the most convincing friendship since Jamie travelled in the TARDIS.
The whole affair is just so spot on that it didn’t need River Song’s first appearance to elevate it to classic status. It’s easy to forget just how much groundwork was put down using River’s first (and technically last) appearance and a new air of mystery was injected into the Doctor’s future for the first time since Merlin was mentioned in 1989. You could argue that subsequent reveals and plot points have weakened these episodes retrospectively, but I feel that’s somehow missing the point.
Oh. And do you think the Library has a copy of Lungbarrow?
Those are a few of our favourites from Series 4. Now it’s your turn! Vote below for your favourite, and we’ll find out the overall winner later this year…