To quote Tom Baker- “It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for.” We have one more Peter Capaldi story to go so what better time than to look back at the best of his era. It’s been a bumpy ride but the good ultimately outweighed the bad. so let’s not waste any time and dive straight in-
A very strong early Series 8 script, Listen is an incredibly atmospheric and clever standalone that is unlike any other story in the show’s history. The sequences in the children’s home and at the end of the universe are very well written and full of tension and the dialogue is strong throughout. I love the simplicity of the storytelling and how real tension and scares were crafted out of barely anything at all. The final scene where the Doctor’s childhood was revealed could have been terrible, but I think it added to the mythology of the show. I wonder if we’ll get a reference this Christmas.
The great thing about this episode is how everything is ambiguous. The whole concept of fear and whether monsters are real or a figment of people’s imagination is a fascinating concept and one I think the episode handles very well. Watching this was one of the first times I truly saw Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and I love stories where the Doctor is vulnerable or unsure of himself. The only story I can compare this to is The Edge of Destruction, another story with no villain and that focuses entirely on character relationships and atmosphere.
9. The Eaters of Light
One of several Series 10 stories that will pop up on this list, I really love this story. Whilst monster-of-the-week plots tend to fall flat, I found this one to be strong mainly because of the themes presented throughout, such as the theme of colonisation and also about the Doctor’s responsibilities. There are many similarities to Rona Munroe’s previous story Survival, as once again there are a group of youngsters thrown into a world they don’t understand and they have to fend for themselves. I just love stories which have more under the surface.
Having this be the story before the finale really helped in my opinion, as like Boom Town it was linked to the finale through common themes and character exploration. There’s the idea of time dilation, the Doctor and Bill being seperated and the Doctor’s willingness for sacrifice. The monster was great, the TARDIS team were great, especially Nardole, and I adore the pseudo-historical scripts in the show most of the time so this one was right up my alley. The mystical elements of the plot were also really well handled and added to the story rather than detracted.
8. Mummy on the Orient Express
One of the stronger stories from Capaldi’s first year, this story was a breath of fresh air in 2014 and is still entertaining now. On top of being a fun and well paced murder mystery with a Doctor Who vibe, this story is vital in fixing the Doctor and Clara’s relationship after the ending of Kill the Moon (the only good bit about Kill the Moon may I add) and does it very well. One of the best things about this episode was the ending, where the Doctor questions his own morals and comes to term with how Clara sees him. The character growth comes naturally from the story as opposed to being in the foreground, a common problem with this era.
The villains in this were great, with the Foretold being a very memorable monster, and I love the Doctor going solo in this adventure and solving the mystery on his own. Perkins is a really watchable character and I have a hunch that Steven Moffat considered bringing him back as the second companion of Series 10 before settling on Nardole. I adore the steampunk setting and the macabre tone throughout, with the delightfully sadistic Gus being my favourite Series 8 villain. Overall a solid slice of Doctor Who that will be remembered as a highlight of Series 8.
Considering this story focuses on Clara, I’m amazed I like this story as much as I do. It’s probably due to the incredibly tight script and the fascinating monsters combined with a simple but engaging plot. There are so many brilliant ideas here, such as the shrinking TARDIS, two dimensional beings, the companion becoming the Doctor and at the same time the Doctor learning how others see him through Clara. The best moment comes at the end, when the Doctor tells Clara that she was an “outstanding Doctor. Goodness had nothing to do with it”.
The Boneless are in my opinion the best original villain from the Capaldi era and I would like to see them return some day. This is easily my favourite Clara story, and whilst she’s my least favourite New Series companion I feel this story captured her character the best out of any story in her time as a companion. The whole episode just has a very original and fun vibe to it and it’s a blast every time I watch it. The sequence where the Doctor escapes from the train using his hand is simultaneously hilarious, tense and awesome.
Despite the conclusion to this three parter being disappointing, Extremis still holds up as an incredibly dark and clever story. As a set up it’s perfect, with The Monks feeling like a true threat and the Doctor’s blindness adding a lot to the stakes in the story. The main plot about the Veritas is a strong enough mystery but it’s the final twist that gives a story a sense of scale and it’s executed perfectly, with the absurd plot (the Pope visiting the Doctor in person, the TARDIS not translating Italian and the gateways around the world) slotting together to make an immensely satisfying whole.
The subplot with Missy and the final act of heroism from the virtual Doctor also sets up the arc for the rest of the series. Nardole is a highlight here, adding humour to the dark story and this was the start of him progressing from an entertaining side character to an awesome companion. This is a very topical story for 2017, as it questions how people can survive in a world full of darkness and it raises questions about what’s real and what’s not. Can a post-Trump and Brexit world still have positives? This story confirms that as long as people do heroic things, it doesn’t matter what the world is like. Extremis is extremely poignant and very meta.
5. The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar
This story is proof that when Steven Moffat hits, he hits hard. The highlights of this two parter are Missy and the interactions between the Doctor and Davros, with the scenes between them being some of the best of the Capaldi era. Much like the Series 10 finale later on, this story manages to feel small scale and epic at the same time. It was great seeing Skaro again and even better than that was seeing Davros again, with this being one of his finest stories. Some may find the resolution unsatisfying and that all of his character development was erased, but the early scenes still have weight to them when you realise that Davros meant every word he said, even if he hadn’t truly turned good.
Missy’s inclusion helps give the sombre second half humour and she is absolutely hilarious throughout, making the scene where she makes the Doctor almost kills Clara inside the Dalek a hint towards her darker side. She’s my favourite Master and this story confirmed it and I desperately wanted her as a full time companion. I even enjoyed Clara in this story and seeing the other Daleks from the show’s past was brilliant. The whole story is about trust, redemption and regret, and it’s simply wonderful. Whilst Series 9 may have ended poorly, it began with a bang.
Otherwise known as “what Kill the Moon should have been”. Oxygen is great because it isn’t just a base under siege/horror story, as good as those aspects of it are, but because it makes a point and serves as a clever satire. There’s no real villain here as the suits are programmed to obey the unseen company controlling them and I appreciate the return to hard sci-fi. Unlike Kill the Moon, the story never forgets that it’s Doctor Who and keeps the satire to a subtext, focusing on the brilliant dynamics between the Doctor, Bill and Nardole and the intense atmosphere.
Having recently watched the Alien movies, rewatching this story allowed me to see the influences those movies had on Oxygen, with the idea of corrupt corporations and human lives being sacrificed for the sake of profit. I always love it when the show tackles interesting ideas and difficult subject matter without losing the core of what makes the show good, which is entertaining sci fi. The story is perfectly paced and features amazing direction and cinematography, with the scene of Bill losing oxygen one of Series 10’s best. A borderline perfect story made even better by its relevance to the arc.
3. Heaven Sent
This is one story. One. Putting aside what actually happened afterwards, let’s just focus on this amazing episode featuring probably the best performance by any Doctor in any story. This looked like it was doomed to failure- the Doctor on his own talking for 55 minutes, with not much plot or action. Despite this, Peter Capaldi completely sells the Doctor’s grief and determination and it’s this episode that solidifies him as probably the best actor to take the part. The whole episode serves as a magnificent analysis of the Doctor’s mind and how he works.
The music is incredible, the direction is some of the show’s best and the whole story is a breathtaking experience. It’s the kind of episode I strive to make one day. It’s not conventional Who at all, but it’s still brilliant and serves as a fantastic metaphor for grief and letting go. The final ten minutes with the billions of Doctors punching through the wall for 4.5 billion years is a scene that will go down in Doctor Who history, with one of the lowest points of the Doctor’s life suddenly turning into the most triumphant. Easily the best episode of Series 9, but my favourite is…
2. The Zygon Invasion/Inversion
This is much more conventional Who than Heaven Sent, but that doesn’t make it worse. Taking the weakest aspect of the 50th and making a two parter out of it was extremely well played on Moffat’s part and makes the 50th even better than it already is. Like the best Jon Pertwee stories, what this story does best is use the current world climate to create a very modern and relevant story. Osgood makes a much better companion than Clara ever did and the story is full of tiny moments that help flesh out the conflict such as the Zygon who kills himself as he wants peace and the implication that these kind of conflicts never achieve anything.
The intense subject matter and themes doesn’t stop it from being highly entertaining, with a great villain in Bonnie and UNIT being plain awesome. This hearkens back to the best of the Jon Pertwee era and as a massive fan of that era this story was obviously going to appeal to me. The gritty direction and sombre mood throughout makes this an immersive experience that’s a hard watch but one that’s very rewarding. Whilst the speech in The Zygon Inversion may overshadow the rest of the story, there’s enough to like in both parts to make this a modern classic.
- World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls
I’ve gushed about this enough, but simply put this is now in my Top 10 stories of all time. Considering it had to write out two companions and featured two Masters, multiple versions of Cybermen and the Doctor’s impending regeneration, I would have been happy if this was merely good. The fact that it’s brilliant in every way is one of Moffat’s finest achievements, with a story which encapsulates who both the Doctor and the Master are. Everything about this story, from the acting to the music and the direction is pitch perfect.
The Cybermen get their best showing in New Who with their origins being masterfully handled and the sheer glee of seeing two Masters on screen is enough to make any fanboy happy. The story is about triumph and who the Doctor really is and his decision to stand and fight the Cybermen makes this a brilliant bookend to his good man arc in Series 8. The themes of the series and the era as a whole are expanded upon and made better by this story. It’s epic and intimate, incredibly dark but also incredibly optimistic and is perfect in every sense of the word.