Okay, yes, alright I know – put down your flaming torches, please – I am aware that Doctor Who is more than 14 years old. But it has been 14 years since Doctor Who was revived, with the episode Rose on 26th March 2005. If I had any power of forethought, then I would have written something to celebrate that before today. However I did not. So I did not. So that’s that. Regardless, to celebrate, I am going to talk about my favourite episode for each year of Doctor Who since it was revived. Let’s get started, shall we?
2005: Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways
While compiling this list, turns out it’s the hardest the earlier on in the series you have to choose. In a very close second place is Father’s Day, because it truly puts the focus on Rose’s character. Bad Wolf just feels epic. The Doctor, Captain Jack and Rose start the episode separated and in different killer games. And then, at the end of the whole thing…turns out the Daleks are behind the whole thing! I also really like Parting of the Ways where Rose is abandoned and has to get herself back independently, absorbs the heart of the TARDIS and saves the Doctor. Her scene in the café with Mickey and her mother will always be brilliant to me.
It was a better life. And I don’t mean all the travelling and seeing aliens and spaceships and things. That don’t matter. The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You know he showed you too. That you don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand. You say no. You have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away, and I just can’t.Rose Tyler, The Parting of the Ways
2006: The Girl in the Fireplace
Turns out that I love series 2! So many wonderful episodes to choose from. School Reunion is another highlight: good old Sarah Jane. Plus, Doomsday will always make me cry. However, it’s The Girl in the Fireplace that steals my heart. The clockwork droids are so delightfully creepy and Reinette is superbly played by Sophia Myles. She is truly an exceptional character. Witty, intelligent and incredibly brave, she truly shines throughout. Plus, I love the exchange where she manages to read the Doctor’s mind while he’s entering hers. “A door once opened can be stepped through in either direction”. Brilliant.
2007: Human Nature / The Family of Blood
I didn’t choose two, I promise! It’s just really hard to single out just one part of a two-parter story. Human Nature/The Family of Blood really gives the spotlight to Martha. As a character who is obviously in unrequited love with the Doctor, she really showed her own grit and independence throughout this story, despite her heartbreak at the Doctor falling in love with a human. We also get great acting from David Tennant as John Smith and the Doctor. It’s always nice to give your leading actor a challenge, and you can really see him rise to it here. The turmoil of John Smith is really tricky and well played, as the audience sympathises with him and having to die, though he was never truly “real” in the first place.
2008: Turn Left / The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End
Yes, perhaps I could have narrowed this down more. Oopsie. Sorry. Turn Left puts the focus upon Catherine Tate’s Donna. Her scenes with Rose blew my mind as a child. You really see into Donna’s psyche of viewing herself as nothing special, even though Rose clearly knows better. In the end, she foreshadows her own unfortunate fate by sacrificing herself to ensure that she meets the Doctor. I then had to include The Stolen Earth because of just how filmic it feels. Every companion crops up in an epic mashup that the Who-niverse has never seen before or since. It really added to the stakes to include Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood into the mix. The most incredible showdown at the end of a series ever, and Donna’s memory wipe always makes me cry. Who knew that Catherine Tate could act that well?
Also – sidenote – have you noticed how all of my favourite episodes so far involve bad ass women and the focus being on the companions? Just saying.
2009: The Waters of Mars
There were only three episodes in this year, so it’s not much of a competition. I picked this one because it really highlighted how damaged the Doctor had become at the end of this regeneration, becoming the Time Lord Victorious and attempting to meddle with time. It was an important turning point for him before his final story.
2010: The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone
Matt Smith is here! Hooray! We got to see Amy in this episode, all by herself, walking through a forest with her eyes shut and absolutely terrified. It was great to see this depth to her character, which sort of became lost as she got older. She definitely started the series more vulnerable than how feisty she later became. Plus, this episode used the angels effectively in their return episode, as well as River Song being delightful in our first viewed interactions with the Eleventh Doctor and (spoiler) her own mother.
2011: The Doctor’s Wife
The TARDIS as a human? Sign me the fuck up. Also hit me in the feels. Need I say more? Next.
2012: The Snowmen
Mary Poppins as a companion? Check. Also why was Victorian Clara so much better than actual Clara? So disappointing. Victorian Clara was a badass.
2013: The Day of the Doctor
50th anniversary! Hooray! Final reveal of the Time War, after years of waiting.
2014: Time Heist
I mean, it was slim pickings this year – let’s be honest. This episode was just so tonally different from the others. It was really fun, and it was great to see Clara and the Doctor acting in a little team.
2015: Face the Raven
Again, reflecting back on Series 9, I realise that I enjoyed all of them but I never really loved any of the others. I like Face the Raven because it’s such a fitting end for Clara. One thing that I enjoyed about Clara as a character is that they were never apologetic for her flaws. They embraced them as part of her personhood, and didn’t feel the need to shy away from them. Ultimately, it was this that led to her downfall. And it was great to see the Doctor actually bringing out the worst in somebody too. Even Time Lords can have toxic friendships, guys.
2016: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
IT WAS THE ONLY EPISODE THIS YEAR. I HAD NO CHOICE AND I HATE IT.
2017: World Enough and Time
A very well paced and creepy episode. The reveal of poor unfortunate Bill being part robot was heartbreaking, as well as the different time zones at the front and rear of the ship allowing the pacing of this episode to really thrive. Bill was so isolated from her safety net of the Doctor and ultimately, the reveal that Bill had been turned into the first Cyberman was spine-chilling. Plus, a two Master story? With a horrendously well disguised John Simm? Yes please. Plus plus, a Cybermen origin story of sorts? With the original Cyberman who were actually people? They are so creepy, how did this take so long?
Rosa is a tremendous demonstration of what Doctor Who was originally intended for: to educate. It very deftly shows us the importance of Rosa Parks and is incredibly emotional. I really fell in love with the current TARDIS team from this episode.
Series 11 was really great, in my view, but I felt that none of the episodes really had that “the world is ending and there’s a countdown clock” feel. Resolution definitely had that. It was nice to see a new sort of Dalek story, as well as Whittaker having some heavier material to deal with. Admittedly, this being my favourite episode of 2019 considering it is, in fact, only March and it is, indeed, the only episode we are getting this year, is besides the point.
So there we have it. I have realised throughout this list that, ultimately, I love the early series of Doctor Who in a much more visceral way than the later series – though I do continue to enjoy it, there seem to be fewer stories that I fall in love with and want to watch time and time again.