13 awesome (and 7 not-so-awesome) episodes of the new Doctor Who

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EST

Doctor Who has delivered many delightful and entertaining episodes since it returned in 2005, but as even the show's biggest fans will admit that ... well ... there've been a few appallingly lame ones as well.

Now that three new Time Lords have given us five new seasons of Doctor Who, let's take a look at the episodes (in chronological order, not by preference) that were the best of the best—and also those that had us squirming in our seats.

As you'd expect, there are SPOILERS AHEAD.


Dalek (series 1, episode 6)

Written by: Robert Shearman

Story: In 2012 Utah, the Doctor becomes part of the collection of Henry Van Statten, a rich collector of alien artifacts. While captive, the Doctor also encounters one living exhibit called the "Metaltron" who, to the Doctor's horror, happens to be a lone surviving Dalek ...

Why it's good: It's a solid story that really pushes the Doctor to the edge of his sanity: the last of the Time Lords facing the last of the Daleks. He is stopped from doing the unthinkable (killing the last of his mortal enemies) by Rose's compassion for the sad creature. The sight of the Dalek, shown without its protective polycarbide-armored shell, is completely heart-wrenching and made the unthinkable happen—it made the audience care for it. This episode received a nomination for the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (series 1, episodes 9-10)

Written by: Steven Moffat

Story: While chasing a metallic object, the Doctor and Rose end up in London during the Blitz, where they encounter a group of homeless children being terrorized by a gas-mask-wearing child. And apparently dead people start sprouting the same chilling gas masks. Meanwhile, Rose encounters a certain Capt. Jack Harkness ...

Why it's good: It's the two-parter that introduces the great Capt. Jack Harkness. It also coined the phrase "Are you my mummy?" and it's written by future show runner Steven Moffat. Did we say Capt. Jack Harkness? It also won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

The Girl in the Fireplace (series 2, episode 4)

Written by: Steven Moffat

Story: While visiting a spaceship in the far future, the Doctor, Mickey and Rose encounter Clockwork Droids that run the ship and have a strange fixation on Madame de Pompadour. The Droids have been opening time windows to 18th-century France all over the spaceship to get to the woman called Reinette, and as the Doctor tries to save her, he falls in love in the process.

Why it's good: It's a really beautiful love story between the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour. The Girl in the Fireplace is also beautifully rendered and acted and is a classic episode on every point: It also usually happens to makes everyone's favorite list, and we weren't about to start a precedent by leaving it out. It also happens to have won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form and was also nominated for a Nebula Award.

Doomsday (series 2, episode 13)

Written by: Russell T Davies

Story: Facing the Cybermen and Dalek threat at Canary Wharf, the Doctor risks losing Rose to a parallel universe in order to save the Earth.

Why it's good: It has Cybermen and Daleks together for the very first time; the episode has an ending that was really (and we mean really) sad. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that we're talking about the farewell conversation between the Doctor and Rose on Bad Wolf Bay, with her managing a very teary-eyed "I love you" and with him almost saying it back until the damn signal faded. If you need more creds, it was nominated (along with its companion piece Army of Ghosts) for the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, which it only lost to The Girl in the Fireplace.

Human Nature / The Family of Blood (series 3, episodes 8-9)

Written by: Paul Cornell

Story: Pursued by aliens called the Family of Blood, the Doctor becomes the human John Smith in order to escape them. Smith has no memories of his life as the Doctor, and as a history teacher in a 1913 English school, he falls in love with nurse Joan Redfern (Jessica Hynes) while his companion Martha Jones looks helplessly on. But the Family of Blood are drawing close on John Smith ...

Why it's good: Paul Cornell adapted the story from his own 1995 novel, which featured the seventh Doctor. It's an acting tour de force from David Tennant, who truly makes John Smith a man very different on all points from the Doctor. Also, the punishment the Doctor deals to all four members of the Family of Blood in the end makes for some chilling moments in New Who history. The story was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2008.

Blink (series 3, episode 10)

Written by: Steven Moffat

Story: The very popular Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) takes center stage when she discovers mysterious messages coming from a man called the Doctor from 1969. People start disappearing from Wester Drumlins, and Sally makes a connection to the mysterious angels haunting an abandoned house ...

Why it's good: This episode marks the first appearance of the Weeping Angels, one of the most popular New Who Monsters. Sally Sparrow makes for a very compelling companion (though she never actually was a proper companion per se). "Blink" also ranked number 2 in a 2009 Doctor Who Magazine reader poll that ranked the top 200 Doctor Who episodes (#1 was 1984's "The Caves of Androzani"). Still not convinced? It won the BAFTA craft and BAFTA Cymru awards for best writer and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Need we really say more?

Silence in the Libray / Forest of the Dead (series 4, episodes 8-9)

Written by: Steven Moffat

Story: The Doctor and Donna Noble find themselves in the Universe's greatest library, which was sealed off 100 years ago, leaving behind the enigmatic warning "Count the shadows." The Doctor comes face to face with the mysterious Professor River Song, and together they must uncover the library's secret, face the Vashta Nerada and save everyone—including Donna.

Why it's good: The story introduces the character of River Song (Alex Kingston). The library nodes with people's faces are disturbing and creepy, and the mystery of the library had us guessing for a while. It's also a classic Steven Moffat episode that introduces an interesting new monster (though we have yet to see them again). Oh, and yeah, it was Hugo Award-nominated, too.

Midnight (series 4, episode 10)

Written by: Russell T Davies

Story: While on holiday on a planet named Midnight, the Doctor is trapped and powerless when an alien entity possesses a woman named Sky Silvestry. Soon paranoia turns into a witch hunt as the passengers of the stranded tour bus turn on the Doctor and a sacrifice will be made ...

Why it's good: This is a tense and taut storyline that shows Doctor Who show runner and writer Russell T Davies at his very best. It's David Tennant's best episode (in our humble opinion). Plus, the whole synchronized speech between the Doctor and Sky is really fascinating and chilling stuff. The Guardian's TV reviewer Sam Wollaston described the episode as "great ... it's tense and claustrophobic, and gnaws away at you."

Turn Left (series 4, episode 11)

Written by: Russell T Davies

Story: In a "what if" case scenario, the episode shows what should have happened if Donna Noble had never met the Doctor. She is also sent to the correct timeline by a mysterious blond time traveler.

Why it's good: Davies really hits it out of the park for a second consecutive episode after Midnight. The repercussions of what could have been had Donna Noble never met the Doctor, had she turned right instead of left at a particular moment in her history, made for very chilling and terrifying consequences. Catherine Tate was truly fantastic here, and it's definitely one episode to remember. Turn Left was nominated for a Hugo Award in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category.

The Waters of Mars (series 4, episode 16, aka the specials)

Written by: Russell T Davies and Phil Ford

Story: The Doctor lands on Mars in the year 2059, where he encounters the first human colony on Bowie Base One. The base is commanded by Capt. Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan), who the Doctor realizes is a pivotal character in the history of humanity. The Doctor must decide whether to use his knowledge of her fate to change history, while the members of Bowie Base One are being decimated one by one by a watery alien life form that has one idea: escape to Earth ...

Why it's good: It's genuinely creepy, and it also features the suicide of a main character (it was a really bold move from Russell T Davies and the BBC). It also shows the Doctor really going to the deep end here. No wonder it won the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Presentation, Short Form.

The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone (series 5, episodes 4-5)

Written by: The Moff again (seriously, we know)

Story: The Doctor, new companion Amy Pond and Doctor River Song go through the whole "Crash of the Byzantium" thing that was mentioned in Silence in the Library. They end up on a very forbidding planet and face off against a horde of Weeping Angels. The mysterious and foreboding Crack is also getting closer ...

Why it's good: Basically because of that really creepy scene where a Weeping Angel gets out of a television image to creep inside Amy's head (we still get goose bumps thinking of it). Angel Bob. The discovery that there's a second Doctor running around that will tie in to the finale. These two episodes also add more to the mythos of the Weeping Angels. Did we mention it also marks the return of River Song and her blue diary?

Vincent and the Doctor (series 5, episode 10)

Written by: Richard Curtis

Story: After seeing a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit in the present, the Doctor and Amy go back in time to 1890 Provence in order to investigate a painting made by the great artist that features a mysterious and creepy face in the window of the church. There they meet Van Gogh himself, as well as encountering an invisible creature ...

Why it's good: OK, so the main storyline is standard "monster"-of-the-week fare and there's nothing that spectacular about it per se. What really elevates this episode in our eyes is the incredible performance by its main guest star, actor Tony Curran, in the role of Vincent Van Gogh. Come on, admit it! You cried during that museum scene! Plus the fact that Bill Nighy was in it really raised its utter coolness factor.

The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (series 5, episodes 12-13)

Written by Steven Moffat (OK, maybe we're definitely seeing the trend here)

Story: River Song returns to warn the Doctor that the mythical Pandorica is opening, and the Doctor faces his greatest mortal enemies. Plus, he races against time and space themselves to save the whole of the universe against his own exploding TARDIS.

Why it's good: The Doctor giving his speech at Stonehenge was one of the high points. "Hello Sweetie" written by River Song on the oldest cliff face in the universe is hilarious. It also features the return of Rory Williams—who's definitely one of the best new companions EVER! The Doctor saying "Fezzes are cool!" The Doctor crossing his own timeline many times over, and the discovery that there is someone or something other at work behind all the events and more! All this makes us forget the use of a deus ex machina from Moffat in the finale.

Now that we've gone through some of the best of the new Doctor Who episodes, it's time to take a look at those episodes we think are probably ... not.


Aliens of London / World War 3 (series 1, episodes 4-5)

Written by: Russell T Davies

Story: After the crash of a mysterious spaceship in the heart of London, the Doctor and Rose discover a conspiracy by a race of aliens called the Slitheens who have taken over 10 Downing Street. The Doctor has to save the planet from inside a locked room with the help of Rose and Harriet Jones.

Why it's bad: The Slitheens are definitely amongst the worst new aliens ever created for new Doctor Who. The story itself is rather ordinary, with the only good thing in this whole deplorable effort being the introduction of Penelope Wilton's character: Harriet Jones, future prime minister.

The Long Game (series 1, episode 7)

Written by: Russell T Davies

Story: The Doctor, Rose and new companion Adam Mitchell arrive in the year 200,000 on Satellite 5, a space station orbiting the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire (Earth). However, things have gone wrong, and the development of mankind has stopped in its tracks. Moreover, people getting promoted to Floor 500 simply disappear. Who, or rather what, is responsible?

Why it's bad: Where to begin? First off, Adam Mitchell is not a very sympathetic character and definitely not companion material (good thing the Doctor got rid of him at the end). Then there's the weird opening in people's foreheads allowing people to receive transmissions. (Can we say UGH here?) Even the presence of Simon "Shaun of the Dead" Pegg himself, as the Editor, can't save the episode.

The Idiot's Lantern (series 2, episode 7)

Written by: Mark Gatiss

Story: The Doctor and Rose arrive in 1950s London during Queen Elizabeth II's coronation (they thought they were going to see an Elvis Presley concert in New York City). The people gather around their new Magpie television sets and literally get sucked in. Something is affecting the signal ...

Why it's Bad: Where to begin. The Doctor's hair, for starters (we seriously mean it), the faceless people, "Feed me! Feed ME!!" Basically a bad episode we really want to forget. Oh, and we really wanted to punch the dad.

Love and Monsters

Written by: Russell T Davies

Story:The story centers around young Elton Pope, who at a young age witnessed his mother's death and encountered the Doctor. He discovers other people who've had similar experiences, and they form a group called LINDA: London Investigation 'N' Detective Agency. Everything is good until a certain Victor Kennedy arrives, and Elton and LINDA face something really sinister.

Why it's bad: A monster called an Abzorbaloff that absorbs its victims into its grotesque body? (It was created by the young winner of a contest, so we sort of feel bad for not liking it, but there it is.) Then you have the fact that one of the characters of the story (Ursula, played by Shirley Anderson) was saved by the Doctor when he used his sonic screwdriver to save her essence in a piece of paving stone: Essentially she's a face in a stone slab.

Fear Her (series 2, episode 11)

Written by: Matthew Graham

Story: The Doctor takes Rose to the 2012 London Olympics. While there, they investigate a girl named Chloe Webber who has the ability to make people disappear by drawing them.

Why it's bad: Let us first start with the terrible storyline, and then let us move on to the character of the little girl who we didn't like. Add to it a general dose of lack of originality and you have one of those episodes that are generally loathed by the Doctor Who fan community.

Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks

Written by: Helen Raynor

Story: The Doctor and Martha arrive in New York in November 1930, where they stumble into a mystery about homeless people disappearing. They then have to foil a plan from three Daleks who plan to create a hybrid race of Human Daleks.

Why it's bad: Another one of those almost universally loathed Doctor Who episodes. People being transformed into Pig Slaves? Others kidnapped in order to create a new Dalek race? The first Human-Dalek hybrid? The Doctor being put repeatedly in the Daleks' sight and yet they fail to kill him? (Yes, of course they would, he's the Doctor, for goodness' sake, but please just don't put the Doctor in that silly situation in the first place, OK?)

The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky

Written by: Helen Raynor

Story: New UNIT member Martha Jones enlists the Doctor's help to investigate kid genius Luke Rattigan and his ATMOS system, which is being used in almost every car on Earth. A dastardly plan to choke the planet is put in motion, and the Doctor faces off against an old enemy ...

Why it's bad: We hesitated a bit about this one, because it has the wonderful Bernard Cribbins in the episodes, and Cribbins makes everything wonderful; but there were quite a few things that finally outweigh that positive point. Let's start with Martha Jones and the Martha Jones Clone, which didn't work for us at all. Then there's the whole ATMOS thing, which is a bit preposterous: Almost everyone on the planet installing such a unit? The storyline is not very exciting, and the Sontarans make for some uninteresting adversaries here. Then there's the spoiled rich kid Luke Rattigan, who we felt like giving a spanking.

So what did YOU think were the best and worst episodes of the new Doctor Who series?