One constant of Doctor Who is the companion. Designed as the audience surrogate, the companion has evolved into one of the essentials of the show. With a character as large and cosmic as the Doctor, a more grounded and relatable figure is vital to keep the show alive. Whether they’re savages, Time Lords, robots, from present day Earth, Time Agents or Highlanders, the Doctor Who companion is always a big deal. We’re getting three with the Thirteenth Doctor, so let’s look back at 54 years of companions and count down my absolute favourites. Let’s start with the ever loyal Last Centurion-
Over the past few weeks Twitch has been airing a giant Classic Doctor Who marathon, from An Unearthly Child to Survival, presumably to allow new fans to catch up on the old show before Jodie Whittaker makes her debut this October. It’s been a great time for me, as whilst I’ve seen the episodes before it’s great talking to other Whovians on Twitter and through Twitch chat and seeing new fans discover the joy that is the classic series. Ian Chesterton is a meme, Patrick Troughton has a legion of new followers and it’s great seeing Elizabeth Sladen’s legacy being continued even today through her stories. Today sees the Peter Davison era start with his first three stories airing today. His Doctor is generally well liked (particularly by a certain Whovian called David Tennant) but his era is often seen as the beginning of the end of Classic Who, with story quality dropping and the once large audience fading. Sound familiar? That’s because we’ve just seen this happen as new series fans, with Peter Capaldi. Annoying companions? Check. Reliance on the past? Check. Audiences leaving and viewing figures dropping? Check, check and double check. These two Doctors are about as different to each other as you can get, yet the eras have so much in common. What makes the weakest era in the classic series similar to the weakest era in the new series apart from the leading men being called Peter? Let’s find out.
Whocember continues as we dive into the past. Whilst I may have grown up with the new series beginning in 2005, I also love the original run of Doctor Who from 1963-1989. It has so many iconic monsters, scenes, stories and Doctors. With well over a hundred stories it was very hard to pick just ten but I have picked stories which I believe to be the best Classic Who has to offer. Let’s start with a Colin Baker story (naturally)…
10. Vengeance on Varos
I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and say that I actually like Colin Baker’s TV stories. His Big Finish is better and The Twin Dilemma and Timelash are terrible but I enjoy the rest. Vengeance on Varos is a highly original and complex adventure which sees the Doctor and Peri trapped in the Punishment Dome on Varos, where people are tortured and ridiculed to keep the people of Varos entertained and to allow the Governor to stay in power. The alien Mentor Sil finances the Dome in exchange for the rare Zeiton-7, which the Doctor needs to fix the TARDIS. It’s a fantastic satire on television, mass media and corruption, with fantastic characters such as the Governor and Sil, who is easily the best villain from 80’s Doctor Who. There are two characters presented throughout the story who serve as a Greek chorus and comment on events transpiring through watching the Dome on their television. They exist to examine culture on Varos and give another perspective on events. It’s insanely clever and the story just gets more and more relevant. It’s dark and quite shocking but it adds to the story and gives the whole adventure a real sense of danger.
9. Carnival of Monsters
Much like Vengeance on Varos, Carnival of Monsters is incredibly meta and almost fourth wall breaking. Here, the Third Doctor and Jo are trapped inside a Miniscope owned by a travelling performer called Vorg who captures different specimens from planets and shows them to the general public. The story takes place on Inter Minor, where the natives are planning a coup against their leader and the border control who are in charge of letting Vorg through are planning to use the creatures inside the Miniscope to overthrow the government. It may sound convoluted, but it’s really not. The Doctor and Jo spend most of the story caught in the Miniscope and wondering what is going on, as they find themselves on an Edwardian boat which is soon overrun by the awesome Drashigs, giant worms which devour everything. The genius of this story is the sheer bonkers nature of the events and how the events inside the Miniscope tie into the plot on Inter Minor. The Third Doctor is at his best here as he finds out what’s going on and helps move events forward. This story isn’t trying to say anything, it’s just sheer joy and the imagination throughout is brilliant.
8. Ghost Light
The Seventh Doctor is one of my favourite Doctors and this story demonstrates why. The Doctor and Ace find themselves in a Victorian manor house full of bizarre and offbeat people such as a Neanderthal butler and a mysterious creature in the cellar. It also has links to Ace’s past and contains an incredibly complex but brilliant main plot involving a mysterious alien called Light. The atmosphere in this story is superb and the mystery builds and builds and presents so many interesting ideas and concepts such as evolution, racism and colonialism. The story isn’t afraid to deal with very dark subject matter and the story truly dives into the Doctor and Ace’s relationship, which is one of the show’s best in my opinion. The dialogue is amazing (I can’t stand burnt toast. I loathe bus stations. Terrible places. Full of lost luggage and lost souls. And then there’s unrequited love. And tyranny. And cruelty. We all have a universe of our own terrors to face’) and the story rewards multiple viewings to unravel every detail. It’s probably the most mature Classic Who story and I love it.
7. The Daemons
The quintessential Master story. The Master originally appeared for all five stories of Season 8, with The Daemons serving as the finale of the series. In it, the Master leads a cult of demon worshippers to revive Azal, a powerful being who the Master wishes to control. The Doctor and UNIT are called in to investigate. This is just pure class from beginning to end, with great cinematography that gives the whole story a realistic feel to it and fantastic direction and visual effects. One of the best things about this story is how high budget it feels and how the story feels epic on a tiny budget. I always love it when the show deals with supernatural beings and creatures beyond the Doctor’s understanding and The Daemons serves as one of the best examples of bringing in unnatural and magical elements into the show. I love the Third Doctor and this is one of his finest outings, with great roles for all of UNIT and a true sense of scale and threat barely seen in the show.
6. The Mind Robber
This one is hard to explain. Essentially, the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe end up in a fantasy land called the Land of Fiction where things get bizarre. There’s Robinson Crusoe, Medusa, a unicorn, a superhero, Rapunzel and a minotaur. It may seem simple but the whole story just shows how offbeat and weird Doctor Who could get and the literally endless potential it has. The first episode in particular is probably the best episode ever in Doctor Who, with incredible atmosphere and a simple but genius mystery that gets more and more bizarre as it goes on. Like with Carnival of Monsters, this story isn’t trying to make a point- it’s just trying to entertain and it does that with some of the best imagery and ideas in the show. There’s a part where Jamie loses his face and the Doctor puts it together, only for him to get it wrong and Jamie has the wrong face for an episode. The revelation of what’s really happening is great and I would love to see a sequel to this awesome, awesome story.
5. Remembrance of the Daleks
How can I not have this story on the list? One of my favourite Doctors is caught up in a civil war between two rival factions of Daleks who are desperate to seize control of the Hand of Omega. This is top ten of all time for me, as everything I love in the show is present here. Instead of just being action, the story actually explores the Doctor’s psychology and dissects his nature from the very first episode. The Daleks are also examined as their rivalry caused by a tiny difference in genes mirrors the racial conflicts of the 60’s, where the story is set. The Seventh Doctor’s chessmaster attitude and his manipulations are brilliant and there are so many iconic scenes- the Daleks flying up the stairs, the clip above where the Doctor questions what the consequences of his choices are, Ace with a baseball bat, unlimited rice pudding, the Doctor talking the last Renegade Dalek into self destruction… the list goes on and on. The music is awesome, the action is great and everything just clicks.
4. Genesis of the Daleks
It’s an obvious choice, but it’s a classic for a reason. One of the most famous and iconic stories the show has ever done, this story is utterly brilliant in every way. The nature of war is examined on both sides as the Kaleds and the Thals both try to end their endless war by any means necessary and the story never holds back in showing the dark sides of both of them. The Doctor is never better than when he is contemplating whether to end the Daleks for good or when he is talking to Davros about the power to end all life. Behind the scarf and jelly babies, the Fourth Doctor was a really complex and very dark Doctor, at least in his early years. Sarah Jane and Harry (one of the most underrated companions may I add) have their best showings here too, with Sarah Jane acting as the moral compass to keep the Doctor in check. I haven’t even discussed Davros, who gets his absolute best story. Later stories tended to portray him as a ranting maniac, but in Genesis of the Daleks, Davros is cold, calculating and captivating to watch. This story is a masterpiece on every conceivable level.
On the whole, the Fifth Doctor is probably my least favourite Doctor. Peter Davison is awesome and the era still had good elements but I just didn’t get into his Doctor as much as the others, mainly due to the writing and the frequently annoying companions. That said, Kinda is a work of art and stands head over heels above the majority of stories. It’s about an entity called the Mara who takes over Tegan and seizes control of the Kinda, the native population of Deva Loka. The planet also has an expedition crew of humans led by the mentally unstable Hindle and Sanders. The stunning script discusses the nature of dreams, the different layers of human mentality and more obvious themes such as the pros and cons of colonialism. The Doctor is superb in this story and even though I don’t like Adric or Tegan both of them, especially Tegan, are fantastically characterised in the story. Well, Adric less so but at least he’s not ultra annoying in this one. The Mara is an awesome villain and I desperately want to see it return. I also adore the dynamic Five has with Todd and it was certainly an interesting pairing which I would have loved to see more of. All in all, an amazing story.
2. The War Games
A mindblowing end to one of the best Doctors. Ignoring the questionable Mexican stereotype towards the end, I can’t think of a single fault with this epic adventure. It starts off with the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe seemingly stuck in World War One before turning into the most bonkers adventure ever, with multiple wars being fought at the same time under the control of the mysterious War Lords. Sounds simple right? There’s a reason this story is ten parts long and it’s due to the complex dynamics at play between the hierarchy or villains (the War Lord, the War Chief and the Security Chief in descending order, not to mention Smythe and Von Weich) the vast array of characters, the thoroughly engaging mystery and plot and a magnificent sense of escalation. The Second Doctor proves why he is one of the best Doctors and his steadfast determination to save everyone is one of the noblest acts the character has done. The story gets even better when the Time Lords are introduced and the Doctor is presented as the outcast from Gallifrey that he is. Never again will the Time Lords be portrayed in this way again. When I did my 60’s Who retrospective last year I called this my favourite Classic story, but that was before I saw…
- Warriors of the Deep
What a perfect, perfect story. Where to begin with this one? Let’s start with…
Wait, hang on. My sarcasm mode on my keyboard has broken. Whoops. Whilst I fix things, let’s dive into some honourable mentions-
The Ambassadors of Death
The Curse of Peladon
Planet of the Spiders
The Seeds of Doom
The Deadly Assassin
Image of the Fendahl
City of Death
Revelation of the Daleks
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
The Curse of Fenric
And with that, let’s move onto my favourite story from the show’s original run…
Yeah, it was gonna be Pertwee. What else did you think it was going to be? I watched this story aware of its reputation as a classic so I was worried that I might be disappointed by the hype but it did not disappoint one bit. The final story from the perfect Season 7, Inferno is one of the most nail biting experiences a Whovian can have. From the very first frame the gritty camerawork and direction make this a very realistic and tense experience. The incidental music is replaced by the constant sound of drilling and the superbly layered characters have to constantly yell to be heard. The mere premise is genius, as a drilling project UNIT and the Doctor are investigating produces primeval slime that turns people into mutated monsters. This may not sound particularly original, but the story throws in a whole new parallel universe which the Doctor slips into- a universe further ahead in the drilling project and is about to tear itself apart with the lava spewing out of the Earth. It’s a race against time as the Doctor must escape back to his universe before the one he’s in is destroyed and warn his Earth of the impending disaster. Episode 6 is perfect, as the tension is racked up to the extreme and the cliffhanger is in my opinion the show’s finest, with a wall of lava engulfing the parallel Earth and the Doctor unable to help as he is pulled back to his universe. The parallel universe is very well detailed, with the British Republic as a facist regime being overseen by the awesome Brigade Leader. Despite the characters being from a facist regime, they are still sympathetic and their deaths have a strong impact on the Doctor. The characters in both universes are brilliantly fleshed out, the Doctor is at his absolute best and Liz is great. She is such an underrated companion. Everything about this story clicks to become one of the best stories the show’s produced, and my favourite story from the Classic era.
Whilst these are my ten favourites, there are so many strong episodes in the show’s original run. I haven’t even mentioned The Caves of Androzani, Pyramids of Mars, The Robots of Death, The Power of the Daleks or The Web of Fear. There’s just so much good in Classic Who. Up next in Whocember, the Christmas specials ranked.
My Doctor Who marathon has brought me to the end of Doctor Who in the 1960’s. Before this marathon, I had barely seen any Doctor Who from the 60’s. Now, I wish I had started earlier. In a year when the latest episode is still over three months away, Classic Who is my way of coping.
My favourite aspect of this era of Doctor Who is the sheer imagination at play. It puts the new series to shame. Most of 60’s Who is the definition of high concept sci fi, which is what I think is what the show should be. I don’t want convoluted plots, bland drama with no tension or lazy villains. I want science fiction. Stories like The Space Museum, The Ark, The Edge of Destruction, The Web Planet, The Enemy of the World and The Mind Robber are just so imaginative and clever. That’s not forgetting the awesome Cybermen stories. Sure, not all of them are great, but the imagination and storytelling is prevalent. Alien planets, messing about with time, detailed worlds and clever plots are all present in 60’s Who. Sure, they happen in the rest of the Classic Series and the New Series, but the black and white limitations of the 60’s means that they could go nuts with silly costumes and sets and it just felt so genuine.
A story entirely set in the TARDIS? Sure. A planet with giant ants? OK. A land where fictional characters come alive? Why not? A politician who looks like the Doctor tries to destroy the world with volcanoes and the Australian government try to stop him? See what I mean? The imagination and ambition is simply brilliant. Quite why the New Series can’t reach these heights is beyond me. I grew up with David Tennant and Matt Smith so obviously I love the New Series. It’s fantastic and in terms of emotion, character development and production values, it’s in some ways superior (not saying there wasn’t any in Classic Who). But I feel like the storytelling was more risky and brave in the Classic Series, especially the 60’s.
Now why the New Series don’t have the ambition baffles me. It’s not the budget problems, as the show has a big budget to create alien worlds and fascinating concepts. The audience is smart enough to have high concepts thrown at them. Examples of high concept storytelling in the new series include The Beast two-parter, 42, Silence in the Library, Midnight, Turn Left, The Beast Below, Amy’s Choice, The Doctor’s Wife, The Girl Who Waited (is it too late for me to have a complete change of heart over this story?), Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, Listen, Flatline, Before the Flood, Sleep No More and Heaven Sent. All these episodes either have imaginative premises, clever time travel or risky ideas. Whether they’re any good is a matter of opinion, but these are the type of episodes I’m looking for.
So anyway, back to 60’s Who. Watching the entire show from 1963-1969 is difficult because of the amount of lost stories, meaning many companions such as Ben (the companion with my name has two surviving stories- urgh), Polly and Steven barely have any stories, making it hard to judge them. Fortunately, the original companions Susan, Ian and Barbara are awesome. OK, mainly Ian, although Barbara did destroy Daleks with a truck. The missing stories are legendary in the Who fandom, and the discovery of the Enemy of the World and Web of Fear recently brings back hope that the 12 part epic The Dalek’s Master Plan (they could do an epic universe spanning threat in the 60’s, why can’t they do it now?) Fury from the Deep, Patrick Troughton’s first story The Power of the Daleks, The Evil of the Daleks and many more can be discovered.
So, what about the Doctor himself? Well, before watching all the remaining 60’s stories, neither Hartnell nor Troughton were particularly high on my favourite Doctors list because I hadn’t seen much of them. While William Hartnell still isn’t among my favourites, despite the fact he is an awesome Doctor for being THE Doctor, Patrick Troughton has risen to my favourite Doctors list alongside Matt Smith, Jon Pertwee, David Tennant and Sylvester McCoy. Watching the Second Doctor, it’s clear that most of the Doctors that followed took something from Patrick Troughton’s Doctor. He is easily the most important actor to play the Doctor, as without his performance the show would have struggled to continue after William Hartnell left due to his poor health. The Second Doctor’s mannerisms are shown in future incarnations. Tom Baker has the eccentric side, Peter Davison has the caring side, Sylvester McCoy has the cunning side, Paul McGann has the optimistic side. Matt Smith in particular took most of his Doctor from watching Tomb of the Cybermen, and it shows, as both the Second and Eleventh Doctors are like that really strange but cool uncle or imaginary friend.
Now I’m going to discuss my favourite stories from the First and Second Doctor eras. Some of the stories here have become some of my favourites-
- The Edge of Destruction- This story is one of the aforementioned high concept stories that I love. The basic story is that a mysterious force has taken over the Tardis and the Tardis crew are slowly losing their minds over it. This is a fascinating story as it is purely a character piece- except it’s a character piece done really, really well as their is no contrived monster or heavy handed plot. The character arcs from the past two stories come full circle here as the four Tardis members blame each other for the scenario. It also has one of my favourite monologues from the show-
- The Aztecs- This is my favourite William Hartnell story. It’s a pure historical, so it might put people off who are used to the semi historicals of the New Series where history is combined with an alien threat, but in the First Doctor’s era pure historicals were combined with high concept sci fi. The Aztecs establishes a rule that has stuck with history- time can’t be rewritten. The drama from this story comes from Barbara, a history teacher, trying to change the Aztec’s ruthless ways. There’s also some really good comedy in this one, like this brilliant moment-
- The Dalek Invasion of Earth- This is one of the most iconic Doctor Who stories of all time, thanks mainly to the promotional photo of Daleks on Westminister Bridge.
This was the first reappearance of the Daleks and the first story to be a classic Earth invasion type after the experimental nature of the earlier Hartnell stories. There’s a really epic feel to this story and while the plot is silly (the Daleks want to drill into the Earth to pilot it as a ship), the tone of the story and the threat of the Daleks make it worthwhile. There’s also the moment when Barbara rams into Daleks with a truck, which is so awesome it needs to be mentioned twice. This is also the first companion departure story, when the Doctor leaves his granddaughter Susan behind to live her own life in another one of the most famous scenes in the show’s history-
- The War Machines
Doctor Who has a trend of using London’s new and fancy buildings as alien hideouts, from the Shard to Canary Wharf. The first use of this trend was in the War Machines, which used the BT Tower, at the time the tallest building in London. This story was unique to the First Doctor in that it was set on modern Earth and featured the First Doctor in an action type role continued by his successor. It served as the prototype to the UNIT stories of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. I also really like the monsters in this one, the titular War Machines. Not much to say about this one really, it was just a really fun story.
- The Tomb of the Cybermen- The story that inspired Matt Smith’s Doctor and probably the most iconic Second Doctor story. The image of Cybermen emerging from their tombs is simply unmatched by any subsequent story and the atmosphere in this one is fantastic. This is the earliest complete Second Doctor story and it is a great starting point, as it defines this incarnation as a playful, jokey type who acts like a bumbling cosmic hobo to trick his enemies into falling into his traps. Despite the Cybermen being a powerful presence here, the main villains are merely humans who want to use the Cybermen, without realising the Cybermen are too powerful for them. There’s also a really great scene between the Doctor and Victoria which shows the Classic Series had just as much character and emotion as the New Series-
- The Enemy of the World
Whoever found this story deserves a whole wad of jelly babies. This was an amazing story partly due to its unique nature. There are no aliens or monsters here and it’s basically a James Bond movie with the Doctor. Patrick Troughton plays two roles here really well- the Doctor and Salamander, the ruthless politician who is set on his diabolical schemes. There is a very cinematic scale to the story, which is surprising given that it’s nearly 50 years old. My favourite part is when the Doctor pretends to be Salamander, so it’s basically Patrick Troughton playing the Doctor playing Salamander. This story was in Season 5, and every other story in this season was the “base under siege” type which I love, and this one broke bonds to be truly unique and to this day there is no other story quite like it.
- The Mind Robber
This is about as bonkers and high concept as Doctor Who gets. The Tardis finds itself in a strange reality where fictional characters such as Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels and Rapunzel are real. It’s not a particularly complex or thought provoking story but it’s so absurd and unique that it’s impossible to be bored. The amount of ideas here are fantastic and the Land of Fiction, despite being a world where there are no rules, is surprisingly well thought out. I would love to see a return to the Land of Fiction in the new series. The BBC have plenty of shows with their own versions of fictional characters such as Sherlock, and the setting of the Mind Robber allows for crossovers. Seriously, why hasn’t this happened?
- The Invasion
Another iconic story with the image of Cybermen walking down St Paul’s being easily their most famous moment. That doesn’t happen until Episode 6 however, but the rest of the story is just as good. Once again the scope is epic and grand for the 60’s and the threat of global domination is ever present. It starts low key, with a simple trip to Earth and a mystery surrounding missiles on the Moon before escalating into full on war against the Cybermen. The human villain, Tobias Vaughn, is fantastic. He’s so delightfully and obviously evil and the Doctor’s interactions with him are a major highlight. The Cybermen in the sewers of London are also a highlight, and this is probably my favourite Cyberman story, alongside Earthshock.
- The War Games
I’m just going to come out and say it- The War Games is my favourite story in the whole of Classic Who, and is my second favourite of all time just under The God Complex. It is over 4 hours long yet never feels boring or padded, which is a feat considering how many single part episodes of the new series feel padded. The plot is perfectly paced- what starts off as a simple trip to what appears to be World War One turns into a massive conspiracy involving mysterious aliens kidnapping Earth soldiers to recreate famous wars for nefarious purposes. There are so many good parts to this story. I adore the villains in this story- the War Lord, the War Chief and the Security Chief, all with their own goals and motivations. However, the true brilliance comes in the final episodes. As the situation spirals out of control, the Doctor is forced to call on his own people for help, and the Time Lords make their perfect debut. The Doctor knows asking the Time Lords for help will result in his capture and punishment for stealing the Tardis and interfering in time and space, but he does it because it’s the right thing to do. It speaks so much about this character and why he has endured for so long. All this and more makes the War Games my favourite story in the entire Classic Series.
And that was my love letter to the Doctor Who of the 60’s. I’m currently on Jon Pertwee’s first series and when I’m done with him (I started with Planet of the Spiders) I will have finished all of Classic Who in time (hopefully) for Series 10.
Two days ago was my birthday and to celebrate I’m going to reveal my personal favourite Doctor Who stories. Before I begin I just want to point out that I haven’t seen every Classic Series story (I’m working on it) and as a result some fan favourites will not be here (The Caves of Androzani, often considered the greatest story of all time, is unfortunatly not here). So, let’s begin…
12. Dark Water/Death in Heaven
“I am an idiot! With a box, and a screwdriver! Passing through, helping out, learning.”
It may seem strange to have a story which is less than a week old in the all-time greats, but I can’t help but love this story. This story works as it takes every element of the series and gives it a dark, action packed conclusion. It contains the development of the Twelfth Doctor (who has defined himself as THE Doctor) and gives the Missy mystery a masterful (hehe) resolution, which forces the characters to delve into ideas such as the afterlife, free will, love, trust and sanity. Everything in this story builds up to something, and the graveyard scene is one of my all time favourite Doctor Who scenes.
The Master makes a successful comeback and it is the most personal and character driven finale, with the psychotic Master pushing the Doctor to the brink and forcing himself to question his own character. The direction is superb, the Cybermen are chilling and the highlight of the whole story is an amazing sequence with the Doctor James Bonding his way out of a plane. I cannot praise this story enough.
11. Planet of the Spiders
“A tear, Sarah Jane? No, don’t cry. While there’s life there’s…”
The Third Doctor is one of my favourite Doctors, and it’s this story which solidified it. I will admit, I haven’t seen EVERY Third Doctor story, so this is bound to change to something more obvious soon (Inferno, The Silurians, The Daemons, Carnival of Monsters to name a few Pertwee stories I need to see). However, this story is my favourite Third Doctor and my favourite regeneration story because it represents everything which I love about the Doctor. Indeed, it is the Doctor’s own fault that the spiders (or Eight-Legs) come to Earth, as the crystal the spiders want is what the Doctor retrieved in a previous story (The Green Death).
This adds a personal scale to the whole story, and by the end of the story the Doctor has been captured and defeated by the villains in the story. But, being the Doctor, he pushes onwards and gives up his life to save the universe, where anyone else would have let someone take over. The regeneration itself is brilliant, and the action is great (in fact, an entire episode has the Doctor pursuing the crystal by car, helicopter, Whomobile and boat). It’s the Doctor’s story, and that is why it’s one of my favourites.
“I am alone in the universe. So are you.”
My favourite Ninth Doctor story has the Doctor pushed to the extreme, perhaps more than any other story. While the story itself is simple, it’s the Doctor/Dalek which raises this to fantastic (hehe) heights. This is the story which showed what the Doctor was truly capable of, as he is determined to kill a Dalek simply because it exists. This story could have only worked with the Ninth Doctor, as his hardened persona over the Time War has changed him in ways that surprise him. It portrays parallels between the Doctor and the Dalek, and both sides are painted as good and bad, but it’s not so simple. The Dalek kills because it has to, and the Doctor only kills if he absolutely has to.
It raises questions about the Doctor’s morality and wether or not he can truly recover from the Time War. The Dalek in this story is awesome, and it is filmed in a way which makes it seem epic. The standout scene for me is the conversation between the Doctor and the Dalek over the screen, as it brings the Doctor/Dalek to new heights. How different is the Doctor from the Daleks? This episode shows that it is frighteningly similar, and that’s great.
9. Remembrance of the Daleks
“Every great decision causes ripples, like a huge boulder in a lake”
One of the first stories I ever remember watching, Remembrance of the Daleks is non stop Dalek action, as two factions of Daleks seek to gain control of the Hand of Omega. Sounds simple, but like every great story it goes deeper than that, as the Doctor returns to 1963 to stop them? Why? Because he was the one who left the Hand there in the first place, and is the reason he visited 1963 to begin with. It’s a great throwback to the start of the show, but it uses the nostalgia to tell a story rather than just throwing it in for the sake of it.
It defines the Seventh Doctors personality of being manipulative and wary of the past, as well as using the time period to comment on racial and social issues which mirrors the war the Daleks are having. The first cliffhanger has the Daleks conquering stairs, the soundtrack is brilliant and it features the best Dalek ever- the Special Weapons Dalek. Despite the action, there is still a great story here which shows that a Dalek story doesn’t have to be just explosions.
8. School Reunion
“Pain and loss- they define us as much as happiness and love”
Another story which relies on the past, School Reunion brings back Sarah Jane and K9. This is a story which is very complex, as it explains why the Doctor leaves companions behind, as he will outlive them. I have appreciated this episode more due to the fact that I have seen Sarah Jane’s original adventures with the Doctor, and it’s obvious that they enjoyed each other’s company. The main theme through the story is letting go of the past and the consequence of power. It opens up strong ideas of immortality and uses the emotion from 1976 to continue a story which has the Doctor’s influence over others come into full force.
The Krillitanes are a strong villain, and the confrontation with the Doctor in the swimming pool shows how the Tenth Doctor deals with situations. Despite the dark themes, the story is also a lot of fun, with plenty of corridor running and awesome K9 action. It is a perfect example of using the show’s own traditions to tell a compelling story with plenty of great moments (the Doctor being a teacher is just brilliant).
“There’s always something to look at if you open your eyes”
This is my favourite Fifth Doctor story that I’ve seen, and it features a villain who needs to come back NOW! The Mara is a fascinating creature. Not only is it a giant snake, but it feeds off the subconscious minds of people and enters their dreams in an attempt to control them. This story features very dark imagery and scenes as the Mara tries to control Tegan, and it also delves into a fascinating alien world and addresses colonisation and delves deep into the dark side of humans. With the Fifth Doctor, the kindest and most understanding Doctor, the Mara has found a perfect match as the Doctor not only has to stop a rampaging entity in control of his friend, but deal with humans who seek to control the planet.
The story presents both sides of humans, with both good and bad people among them. There are some great dream sequences, the cliffhangers are memorable and the whole story is a deep study of humans and the parallels between them and the Doctor. The Christmas special this year is apparently about dreaming, so this is a perfect opportunity for the Mara to make its much-needed comeback.
6. The Waters of Mars
“It’s taken me all these years to realise the laws of time are mine, and they will obey me!”
This story is sooooo scary. As in proper, hide behind the sofa scary. I was terrified by this episode when it first aired and it still gives me the creeps. However, the scare factor is not the main reason this story works and why I love it. This story works because it personifies the Tenth Doctor, and it shows the dangerous effects of the Doctor travelling alone. The Tenth Doctor started his life happy, carefree and saving the world by making stuff up as he goes along. By the end, he is a power hungry man, and this story is the apex of that.
The events of Journey’s End has affected him by this point, and he is determined to break his own laws and break the laws of his people just to save one bunch of humans. Everything else about the story works, from its direction to its terrifying threat, and it all helps to make a story where the Doctor loses it, forcing the situation into his own hands. It’s one of the Doctor’s darkest moments and even though the world is saved, there is still a feeling of unease as the Doctor is painted as the villain. One of the darkest stories on this list, the Waters of Mars is truly spectacular.
5. City of Death
“I say, what a wonderful butler. He’s so violent!”
If the Waters of Mars showed the Doctor at his darkest, this story shows the Doctor at his most laid back. The Fourth Doctor in this story is 100% awesome, running around Paris with a huge grin on his face, as he takes part in an adventure where he reveals his dislike for being tortured by people with cold hands. This story is one of the funniest stories ever, with so many iconic lines and moments. It’s so funny and well written I can’t have a favourite line (though the above quote is probably the closest). The story itself is ingenious, featuring many twists and turns and with a prime example of wibbly wobbly timey wimey.
It also has the Mona Lisa as a main plot device and the villain has one of the silliest yet most brilliant plans in the whole of Doctor Who. The location work in Paris is great (it was the first overseas shooting the series had), and the whole story is impossible to dislike as it’s constantly moving from one thing or another. The cliffhangers move the mystery along, the music is superb and there is always something happening, be it a funny line (“You’re a beautiful women probably”), a chase scene or a plot point. This story is a must watch.
4. Vincent and the Doctor
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things”
This episode is so good my mum likes it. Oh wait, I’ve already made that joke. Anyway, the reason I love this episode is not just because it delves into the dark subject matter of mental illness and people’s views on it, but because it is so well made and has the Doctor at his kindest and most joyful (one of many reasons why the Eleventh is my favourite Doctor). This story works on so many levels. It works as a basic Doctor fights monster story, it works as a character study, it works as a historical, it works as an analysis on human psychology and most of all it works as a great Doctor Who story.
The original aim of the show was to educate children, and this story does that, taking a deep and honest look at a complex person. It also shows a new side to the Doctor, as he attempts to change Vincent’s outlook on life, showing his care for humans. However, in the end Vincent still kills himself, reminding the Doctor that history can’t be changed. Even the monster has meaning, as both it and Vincent and been shunned from their respective communities. It’s deep stuff for Doctor Who, but all worth it.
3. Genesis of the Daleks
“Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other, and it’s it? The Daleks cease to exist?”
This story is often seen as one of the greatest Doctor Who stories, and having seen it I completely understand why. It is a study of the Doctor and shows the Doctor in a helpless situation. It poses many questions and like Dalek it shows the parallels between the Doctor and his foes. He hesitates to destroy the Dalek incubator as he realises that doing so will make him just like them. It poses questions about meddling with the past, responsibility and the lengths that the Doctor will go to. While the Daleks don’t feature much, Davros does.
While he may seem like a ranting villain, he is a fascinating character who is doing what he believes is the best for his people and to him, the Doctor is the one interfering. The dark tone all helps to compliment the deep storytelling, but it’s not all dark, with some hilarious lines (“Hello can you help me? I’m a spy!”). This story is one of the most important in the show’s history, as it forces the Doctor to question himself and it gives him an impossible dilemma: Become a Dalek, or let the Daleks live?
2. Human Nature/The Family of Blood
” Because I’ve seen him. And he’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm and the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the center of time and he can see the turn of the Universe… And he’s wonderful”
My favourite Tenth Doctor story doesn’t actually feature the Doctor much, but he’s the whole reason for the story. At it’s core, the story is all about humanity. For the whole of the show, the Doctor has been an alien, yet when he physically becomes a human he learns all about what it is like. It examines a character, John Smith, and the difference between him and the Doctor. Smith is NOT the Doctor, yet he’s a human being with human emotions, who is forced to die to help save the world. It also shows the Doctor at both his most merciful and merciless.
By choosing to hide away in a watch he is giving the Family a chance to live out their lives in peace, but when they proceed to continue chasing him down he punishes them. It has the Doctor as a complete alien, yet has John Smith as a human. It is easily the darkest story in Doctor Who that I’ve seen, as it deals with death, love, humanity and mercy. It has David Tennant at his best as he portrays two different characters, each with their own outlook on life. This is one of my favourites, but anyone who knows me knows what my number 1 is…
1. The God Complex
“An ancient creature, drenched in the blood of the innocent… drifting about in an endless shifting maze… for such a creature, death would be a blessing.”
Why is this my favourite Doctor Who story? Not only did it make Matt Smith my favourite Doctor, but it made me realise what Doctor Who could achieve and is the reason I am writing this list. The Eleventh Doctor is the personification of what the Doctor is to me, and this story is the perfect personification of the character.
Matt Smith started off as a quirky, childlike alien who made epic speeches, ran around with a manic grin and eating fancy food. In short, a madman. But during Series 6 he began to lose everything; Rory died (lots), he was given hope of the Time Lord’s survival, he murdered a Ganger Amy, had people die for him at Demon’s Run and all that time he still maintained his cheerful persona. This story shows the apex of the Eleventh Doctor’s journey, as he is trapped in a place which is killing off people and he is forced to stand by and watches it happen. In the end, he is forced to give up his companions and he learns what effect he has on people. Like the Minotaur, he gives hope and feeds in it. This adventure changes the Doctor, and he comes out of it wiser and more competent.
That’s not the only thing to say about this story though. The direction is superb, the music is outstanding, the setting is creepy and the supporting characters are fleshed out and interesting. But this story truly works and is my favourite story simply because it is the ultimate analysis of the Doctor, and it remains to this day the best story I have seen.
So those are my 12 favourite stories. What are yours? While I’m here I might as well give honurable mentions: The Impossible Astronaught/Day of the Moon, The Deadly Assasin, The Five Doctors, Ghost Light, The Curse of Peladon, The Fires of Pompeii and Father’s Day.
I know normally this is the time for the Doctor Who episode review, but I still need time to think the latest episode over. Still, I thought it was really, really, really, really good, but the reason why the review is not here is because I need time to analyse it. Yes, that’s right, analysis! It’s THAT good.
So, it gives me an opportunity to do a post I’ve always wanted to do. So, with 13 Doctors, which ones are my favourites? If you know me you should know my favourite, but there are other Doctors who are equally as awesome. Let’s start off with the adventurer…
The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant
Yes, it’s everyone’s favourite Doctor kicking off the list. One of the many reasons I like the Tenth is that he can go through so much without saying a word. The image above is from The Family of Blood, and without words you can see that he is angry. But he’s also fun loving (especially in Series 2) and caring, willing to give even people like Davros and the Master a chance to redeem themselves.
Despite losing so many people, with Rose permanently trapped in a parallel dimension, Martha leaving to look after her family and Donna having her memory wiped, the Doctor still remained optimistic and adventurous, throwing himself into adventures always with a cheeky grin on his face and mumbling science mumbo-jumbo in rapid succession. My favourite stories from his era include Silence in The Library/Forest of the Dead, Human Nature/The Family of Blood, The Waters of Mars, School Reunion and The Fires of Pompeii.
And now, it’s time for the time travelling eccentric…
The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker
“Would you like a jelly baby?”
Before Tennant, Baker was arguably the most iconic Doctor (Well, why else would he be the only Classic Doctor Who actor to appear in the 50th?). His obvious alien nature, his quirky dress sense and his ability to change emotions in the space of a sentence truly makes the Fourth Doctor one of my favourites. He’s just impossible to dislike, as he would bounce up and down like a child and save the day before the villains even knew what had happened. This Doctor was always an outsider, as even when he was on Gallifrey he would stand out.
He too was subject to moments of darkness, but his bursts of rage contrasts his bubbly outer persona so well it never seems out of place. He was equally delighted in being held at gunpoint as he was sitting in the Tardis playing chess with K9. I’m currently having a marathon through his era with my Dad, so I’ve seen nearly all of his stories, with my favourites being Genesis of the Daleks, The Seeds of Doom, The Deadly Assasin, Image of the Fendhal and City of Death.
And now, it’s time to move onto the James Bond of Doctors…
The Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee
“Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”
Stuck on Earth for the majority of his era, the Third Doctor was unlike any other incarnation, driving around in his car Bessie with a cloak billowing behind his back, ready to use Venusian Aikido on anyone standing in his way. Arguably the most violent incarnation (though the War Doctor might have topped that position), this Doctor was also armed with UNIT, a lab and a mouthful of sarcastic quips.
More like an Earth scientist than a Time Lord, his attitude is one of annoyance at being stuck on Earth, though as he gains re-control of the Tardis he loosens up and begins to accept Earth as a home. In fact, I like to believe the Doctor’s current love of Earth steams from his time working for UNIT. Oh, and the Third Doctor can’t be mentioned without mentioning the Master, whose rivalry with each other remains unmatched in Who history. My favourite Third Doctor stories include the Curse of Peladon, Planet of the Spiders, The Sea Devils, Terror of the Autons and The Green Death.
And now, make way for the mysterious manipulator of Time…
The Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy
“Unlimited rice pudding, etc, etc?”
I’ll admit, the Seventh Doctor is probably the first Doctor I remember seeing (Remembrance of the Daleks I think I saw). Even though my love for this Doctor stems from his final season, I understand that many people dislike the Seventh due to his first season. However, he is one of my favourites simply because he seems so Doctorly. He treats every mistake as a lesson, and rather than using violence uses words and cunning manipulation to trick people. When he walks into a room, he already has everything planned out, and uses his vulnerability to fool his opponents.
People describe this Doctor as the chess master Doctor, which is a perfect description. He plans all his moves and will convert any uncontrollable situation into one which he has total control over. He hated violence (a stark contrast to the Third) and will use any means to achieve his own gain, even manipulating his companion Ace to figure out the mystery behind her, in what was one of the biggest story arcs in the Classic Series. Because the series was cancelled during the Seventh’s era, he didn’t have as many stories as the others on this list, but my favourites are Remembrance of the Daleks, Battlefield, The Curse of Fenric, Ghost Light and Survival, the latter four all consisted of his final season.
And now, my favourite. It’s time for the madman in a box…
The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith
My favourite Doctor is also the era which made me a mad Who fan. Sure, I had seen David Tennant, but it wasn’t until Matt Smith where I truly became MAD about Doctor Who. Without him, I would never had been interested in Classic Who as much as I am now. Everything about the Eleventh Doctor seems made to suit me; his off beat manner, his optimism, his humorous comments, his manner of moving and speaking all come together into a Doctor which is just perfect to me. His personality truly changed during his run.
He started off as a madman who would hide his brilliance underneath a playful image, but during Series 6 and with the loss of Amy and Rory, he became a man tired of playing around and aimed to become a defender of the universe however bad it was. He stopped being a child inside a man’s body and turned into an old man inside a young body, who had seen so much evil yet hid it. His era was truly brilliant, and many of my all time favourite stories are from his era, including Vincent and the Doctor, The Doctor’s Wife, The Impossible Astronaught/Day of the Moon, The Doctor trilogy and of course, The God Complex.
So, those are my five favourites. What are yours? Coming soon: KILL THE MOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!