Julien Neaves – Editor
One of the best ways Whovians have coped with this covid19 pandemic is the bingeing of previous episodes or even entire series/seasons. But as you joyfully careen through various adventures in time and space you will encounter some speed bumps. You know what I’m talking about – those episodes that stink up the place like a disguised Slitheen hiding out at Taco Bell during two-for-one burrito night.
For this article I have compiled ten of these stinkers and ranked them in descending order from kinda bad to the very worst. When I originally did this list I called these subpar episodes “skippable” but thankfully even the not-so-good Doctor Who episodes are still worth watching. Well…some of them at least. So with an Allons-y, Geronimo and a galaxy-sized SPOILER ALERT here are the Ten Worst Modern Doctor Who Stories:
#10 Daleks in Manhattan/ Evolution of the Daleks (Series 3, Tenth Doctor)
The Daleks may be the Doctor’s oldest and most iconic enemies but that does not prevent them from being used in some craptastic stories. Case in point this two parter that featured the Tenth Doctor and Martha dealing with awful-looking pig men and Daleks that wished to evolve themselves or something. We also had the dumb-looking 80s cartoon reject that was the Dalek/human hybrid and the robotic and plastic Dalek/Timelord hybrids who thankfully were all wiped out by the end of the story.
This story does not make it lower on the list because we see the return of the Cult of Skaro from Doomsday and the deaths of all of them save Dalek Caan, who would escape only to return in the much better two parter The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.
#9 Love and Monsters (Series 2, Tenth Doctor)
This is the episode that most Whovians love to hate. Whether it’s the dull lead, the disgusting monster created by a child for a contest, or that ill-advised oral sex joke at the end there is a whole lot to loathe here.
But the episode does have a quirky charm and is not lower on the list for being the first Doctor-lite Modern Who episode (which would be perfected in Blink in the subsequent series). And because it references all Russell T. Davies plots arcs including ongoing, resolved, and incoming, in one episode: Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Mr. Saxon, and Clom, later cited as one of the missing planets in Series 4.
#8 In The Forest of the Night (Series 8, Twelfth Doctor)
Bor-ing! What a dud of an episode. Sure I get that they wanted to do a light, childlike fantasy story but did they have to make it so uninteresting? The kids are forgettable, the “villain” is the trees, and the resolution comes out of nowhere leaving more questions than answers.
It would be lower on the list but this is the last we see of Danny Pink before he tragically dies (and Missy before her revelation as a regenerated Master) in Dark Water the following episode. Otherwise In the Forest of the Night could have easily made bottom two.
#7 Victory of the Daleks (Series 5, Eleventh Doctor)
The Daleks make another appearance on this list with another uninspired story. We have this episode to thank for the multi-coloured Dalek designs of the Supreme Dalek Paradigm which appear to be sponsored by Skittles. Thankfully the design has apparently been phased out following their last appearance in Asylum of the Daleks.
The story features Winston Churchill and the British forces believing that the Dalek wants to be their “soldier”, but the cherry on the crap cake is seeing the Spitfire planes outfitted with shields and lasers and fighting the Dalek ship in space. What is this, a Syfy Saturday movie? The saving graces are Amy’s inspiring speech to the unwitting robot scientist Bracewell, the Jammy Dodger bluff, and also the appearance of Churchill who would return in the Series 7 episode The Pandorica Opens.
#6 Sleep No More (Series 9, Twelfth Doctor)
In a pretty solid Series 9 Sleep No More came out of nowhere and hit us like the toilet seat that fell from space and hit that woman in the TV series Dead Like Me. We started with an interesting POV camera set up and mysterious sleep technology. But then we got turd-looking monsters which were actually made from eye cold (which somehow was even worse) and a twist ending which was less mind-blowing, see The Usual Suspects, and more “saw it coming a mile away,” see The Village.
Sleep No More adds nothing to the Series 9 arc or to the overall mythos, and can easily be skipped without negatively affecting your binge experience.
#5 Praxeus (Series 12, Thirteenth Doctor)
Now Doctor Who has had a few environmentally-themed episodes in the past, but they are usually done with subtlety and precision. This episode had all the subtlety and precision of a placard to the face.
Yes we get it – microplastics are bad. But if I wanted to learn about them I would read an article or watch a video. I come to Doctor Who for escapism, not PSAs. If not for the cool transformation effects then this episode would have been even closer to the bottom of the barrel.
#4 Smile (Series 10, Twelfth Doctor)
This episode was just so derivative. It was like they picked up a bunch of old story ideas, put them in a blender, switched it on, poured it out and voila – Smile! Those Emojibots looked ridiculous and were like budget versions of the robots from The Girl Who Waited. And the “bad emotions will kill you” scenario was like the writer doing a poor homage to Moffat’s “don’t blink”, “don’t breathe” et cetera, without the requisite skill. 🙁
#3 Cold War (Series 7, Eleventh Doctor)
Of all the nine series of Modern Who, Series 7 stands out as the most uneven, and features the most mediocre episodes. And matters were not helped by the series being split into the “Goodbye to Ponds” half and the “Meet the Dull Impossible Girl” half. For the latter half we got this unremarkable episode featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Clara on a Soviet sub facing off against an Ice Warrior, a Classic Who alien returning after almost 40 years.
But the episode managed to make the Ice Warrior less interesting than he was in the days of the Second and Third Doctor by making his form a survival suit, with the real Ice Warrior being a reptilian creature that enjoys giving people head massages. It was supposed to be claustrophobic and scary a la Alien but it is just boring and dumb. If not for the Ice Warrior shout out, as dubious as it was, this episode could have taken the top/bottom spot on this list.
#2 Arachnids in the UK (Series 11, Thirteenth Doctor)
Hey? Who changed the channel? I was watching Doctor Who, not a Syfy Saturday night movie! Yes it is the second time I am using that reference. What? It comes in handy.
But seriously, giant spiders? And they were mutated by toxic waste? Somebody sure phoned-in this one. All we need is some callous American businessman. Oh wait, we have that too. And then we have The Doctor wanting to save the giant killer spiders? ¿En serio? This episode was just plain nonsensical and an insult to the franchise.
#1 Fear Her (Series 2, Tenth Doctor)
David Tennant is a lot of people’s favorite Doctor (I would put him second after Tom Baker myself) and most of his episodes are infinitely rewatchable. But not Fear Her. Not one bit.
Let’s see what went wrong: Silly plot? Check. Heavy-handed child abuse message? Check. Awful child actress? Check. Stupid “Scribble Monster” and “Sketch Monster?” Check and check. Adds absolutely nothing to the series or mythology? Check, check and double check.
I had actually forgotten about this episode until I stubbed my toe on it during a previous episode binge. And the level of suckage was most painful especially as it came right after Love and Monsters, and I was still in recovery mode. Skip Fear Her. You will miss nothing and you will avoid it sucking down the quality of everything around it like a whirlpool of crap.
So what do you think of the list? Did I miss any bad episodes? Do you disagree with any of my picks? Let the debates begin!
For my Top 7 Worst NuWho monsters you can click here.
Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. Also loves promoting Caribbean film, creating board games and is an aspiring author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Can also be found talking about TV and movie stuff on Instagram as redmanwriter and on Facebook at Movieville