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.
We’ve split Series 7 into two. There’s too big a tonal shift and so many new storylines to embrace. There’s a new face in the TARDIS. Well, actually, we’ve seen her before – and she died. Join us as we take in the adventures of the Eleventh Doctor and his Impossible Girl…
Drew Boynton: The Name of the Doctor
“What I did, I did without choice. In the name of peace and sanity.” That quote in that classic John Hurt voice topped off an already-good episode, and secured it as one of my favorite episodes ever.
We finally got to see glimpses (making use of old footage and stand-ins) of the other past Doctors – something that NuWho had pretty much avoided up until then. We also see River, The Paternosters, and Clara all team up to help save the Doctor from his final fate at Trenzalore, and all nearly get killed in the process. Clara also makes the supreme sacrifice of jumping into the Doctor’s time stream and having herself splintered throughout time and space.
But it’s the closing minutes that always give me goosebumps, as the mysterious, silhouetted man turns to the Eleventh Doctor and shows that he is “John Hurt as… the Doctor!” that make this into a great episode.
Andrew Reynolds: Hide
Hide has all the trappings of a classic ghost story: the stormy night on the moors, a spooky seemingly haunted manor and two intrepid scientists looking for answers from the unknown.
Taken as a straight-forward ghost story, Hide would still be an effective 45 mins of television; what elevates this episode is just how quickly it abandons its horror origins and embraces both the rational and the impossible.
Take Alec Palmer – a sort of stand-in Quartermass – and Emma Grayling: they both clearly know what they are doing and, in all likelihood, they would have come to some conclusion about the events at the mansion but without the Doctor working with them, as equals, they solve the mystery at the heart of this effective episode. And it’s because the Doctor isn’t saving us dumb apes from blundering our way into danger; that he is dealing with people at the limits of human understanding that brings extra electricity to the episode.
We also get a glimpse of something that I wish had been explored more with Clara – her fear of jumping head first into dangerous, mad situations. Her reluctance to explore what goes bump in the night gives weight to the gothic horror trappings. It also gives Matt Smith the room to act more alien than usual – which is always fun to see.
Both guest stars Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine make the most of a well-developed script – it’s not quite a character study, there are too many slightly underwritten elements and general Doctor Who nuttiness for it to be a simple three-header between the leads.
Raine in particular, who’s character doesn’t seem to even like the Doctor all that much, elevates the continued pain of her condition, letting you feel the burden she carries through the reading of others’ minds.
Her performance and Scott’s strong character work give the episode its strong emotional core; you could argue that, while the Doctor is necessary to the plot, he almost gets in the way of these two full formed characters coming to terms with their relationship together.
That’s not to say the Doctor doesn’t get a stand out moment – and even though you might plumb for Matt Smith’s genuine terror at being stranded with the monster, for me, it’s the moment where Clara forces him to adjust his cosmic, otherworldly view when she calls out his lack of concern as he watches the life cycle of Earth pass him by – it’s a great moment between the pair and indicative of the strong character work present in this gem of an episode.
Philip Bates: The Bells of St. John
I love Series 7. It’s fantastic. You won’t find that enthusiasm shared by many right now, and that’s a massive shame, but I think it’ll change in the future. It does, however, leave me with a dilemma. What’s my favourite Series 7B serial? I would happily go for The Rings of Akhaten, Cold War, Hide, or The Crimson Horror. The Name of the Doctor, too, because it’s just so, so exciting.
But right now, I’m going for The Bells of St. John because… Well, I have a bold statement to make. The Bells of St. John is the perfect example of Doctor Who.
It’s not perfect in itself, but it does display everything the show should be; not all the time, but consistently.
It’s thrilling, intriguing, clever, fast, nonetheless contemplative, mysterious, and utterly beautiful. It’s a great introduction to the show, and it doesn’t matter whether you explain to That Person Who’s Never Seen Doctor Who Before about previous version of Clara dying. This remains a rip-roaring, ecstatic adventure against the striking backdrop of London.
It’s new. This is now. It’s relevant and sinister, exposing the strange in the everyday, the deadly alien tucked away in a modern convenience.
Director, Colm McCarthy must be given a healthy dose of praise, as must Murray Gold, the composer who gives us an eccentric, soothing, and yet lively score. Steven Moffat takes fair credit, naturally, as this is his vision. It’s a show that grabs you by the lapels and won’t let go.
Yep, it zips along. But it’s thought-provoking and gentle too. Just look at one glorious sequence, from Clara’s waking up next to a plate of Jammy Dodgers to her and the Doctor sitting down for breakfast.
Matt Smith is wonderfully kind and Doctorly as he assures Clara that he’s watching over her. Then Jenna Coleman’s bright and cheerful as she speaks to the Time Lord outside. The lights of London turn off and an aeroplane is coming straight for them. So they jump in the Snog Box and the TARDIS materialises again on the actual plane. Clara’s still clutching her cuppa. And next: the blue box arrives by the Thames and off they go on a bike to have food in a cafe overlooking the city.
“It’s a time machine,” the Doctor says. “You never have to wait for breakfast.” Speaking as a kid whose nighttimes were a nightmare, that’s a magical sentence, encapsulating the wonder of the Doctor’s world. Simple. Effective. Compelling.
Celia Imrie is a wonderful villain – and her demise is cutting and chilling.
And that’s the scope of this story. Exciting, sad, breath-taking, lingering. Matt and Jenna are an ideal pairing, and this is where it begins. Page One.
That’s the most exhilarating thing of all.
Jonathan Appleton: The Crimson Horror
Like many people this didn’t feel to me like a classic run of Doctor Who. It was hard not to feel short-changed by only getting half a season in the anniversary year. Perhaps I was also expecting more of a celebratory feel to the series as it marked its half-century but I did enjoy this fun, camp episode.
There was plenty going on to keep us entertained: a good mystery to keep us intrigued; the anticipation generated by the Doctor’s absence for the first ten minutes or so; and some grizzly icky bits. Best of all we had a terrific mother and daughter pairing of Rachael Stirling and Diana Rigg, for whom Mark Gatiss wrote the parts of Ada and Mrs Gillyflower. Rigg must surely have recalled her time on The Avengers what with the plot to achieve world domination and the over the top climax (to say nothing of Jenny in a catsuit). The whole thing managed to stay just the right side of silliness, delivered with a good deal of style.
Joe Siegler: The Name of the Doctor
Series 7B, eh? Well, for me it’s all one series, but never mind…
Favorite is by far The Name of the Doctor. I will admit up front that I’m a sucker for any kind of story about the Doctor himself, and this was all about that – actually the first part of a trilogy which included the 50th anniversary, and the Christmas Special that year.
I was instantly suckered in by the pre-titles sequence, which featured all the previous Doctors and Clara. My wife will tell you I sat there and replayed that about 5 times before carrying on with the episode. Told her where all the clips came from (although Sixey was new). Much eye rolling from the wife on my geek out there.
It was another episode where the Doctor had a “gang”, which appeared to be a theme with Eleven. The Gang worked for me, and especially the way they were brought together. The concept of a “conference call” between them across time was one I was surprised nobody’s thought of before.
Speaking of the Gang, this had River Song in it, and I rather liked this appearance of her. I know for some, she’s grating, but this one worked for me.
We ended up at Trenzalore – the place that the Doctor finally dies, according to Moffat – and had a bunch of things relative to the Doctor’s own timeline which were a geekfest. Which for me, was enough to carry the episode. They could have had Matt Smith just sitting there staring at you for 45 minutes; so long as the other geeky stuff about his timeline was in there, I was sold. There was another part in here where you got to pick out tidbits from old episodes – sound bites from Classic Who.
Then we get John Hurt appearing at the end as the War Doctor. A heck of a cliffhanger for a heck of an episode. By far for me the best thing of Series 7 overall, and definitely of 7B.
Thomas Spychalski: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
I love a Doctor Who episode that shows off the interior of the TARDIS.
As a kid I was fascinated by the machine, to near obsession. From the console, the endless corridors and the gleaming white walls full of ’round things.’
I even recorded TARDIS sound effects onto audio cassettes straight from VHS copies of the classic episodes and made my own console out of Speak N’ Spells, old computer keyboards and a large cardboard tube as the central time rotor.
This was the reason I adored Time-Flight when so many others hated it: it had tons of scenes set in the TARDIS interior and also an abundance of different materialization and dematerialization sound effects to use in my own make believe adventures.
So I guess it might not come as a shock then that my favorite episode of series 7B was Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. This one was a jack pot for my inner fan child because there was very little of the episode that was not set inside this amazing machine.
Much like Time-Flight way back when, many have said the story is rather poor but to me it is perfectly set up to have a romp through the endless corridors of the TARDIS. We even get to take a gander at some of the places inside the TARDIS which had never been seen before such as the library and the TARDIS engine room as well as the TARDIS’ connection to its awesome power source, the Eye of Harmony.
Although I would have to wait till Day of the Doctor and even later Hell Bent to see those gleaming white roundel walls properly again, the TARDIS never looked better in modern times.
The plot surrounding the Van Baalen bros, intergalactic scrap scavengers was nice as well; it did give the episode a villain to work around in Gregor, who had tricked his younger brother into thinking he was an android after wiping his memory to take over the family business after the death of their father.
Gregor also got into a tiff with the TARDIS and it was nice to see her throwing her weight around again as well.
I thought the ‘future monsters’ were a bit much but that is a very minor complaint.
Although not the choice of many fans, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS quickly became my favorite of Series 7B and I hope we get another TARDIS centric based story too… but this time, more round things.
James Lomond: The Snowmen
Carriages, barmaids, Victorian London and snow… Even though the resolution was somehow suddenly about tears, rain and psychic links and stuff that appeared without much warning- this was a corker. I loved it for the Mary Poppins-esque cloud moments, the Doctor’s reintroduction as a bereaved, sulking loner, the re-appearance of Clara as the impossible girl and that line – that WONDERFUL line: “hello, I’m a lizard woman from the dawn of time and this is my wife.” Merry. Christmas. Indeed.
Though the titular Snowmen were barely used and even though the Great Intelligence was denied its lurching toilet-flush-roaring snowmen of the Himalayan variety, there was so much here to love. It was the introduction of a new TARDIS interior – one that harked back to the original series and design more than any of the NuWho sets we’ve had. Two doyens of stage and screen, Sir McKellen and Richard E Grant lent their talents to this Christmas jingle. And Clara. Clara was perfect – I was so excited about having a period companion, and one that could match any 21st Century teen for wit and intelligence. I remember being properly sad at losing Cockney Clara but Coleman showed us how someone from a different era could easily fill the role of foil for the Doctor and emotional link for the viewer.
This had all the atmosphere and fun we needed – a proper dollop of Christmas Who!
Those are a few of our favourites from Series 7B. Now it’s your turn! Vote below for your favourite, and we’ll find out the overall winner later this year…