If you are reading this article on July 15 then you are one day away from the announcement of the next actor to play The Doctor in BBC sci fi series Doctor Who. Whoever he (or dare I say she) may be they will be succeeding Peter Capaldi who played the 12th Doctor (and not the 13th or 14th) for the past three series. Over the years we have seen him grumpy and irascible, caring and compassionate, funny and thoughtful.
Capaldi will return on Christmas Day for the annual Christmas special alongside the First Doctor. He may show up in some future multi-doctor story but we have seen the end of his regular episodes. So in honour of the attack eyebrows-having, pudding-brain hating, sonic shades-loving Doctor we will be doing a countdown of the best episodes of his run.
With a SPOILER ALERT for everything up to and including the series 10 finale The Doctor Falls here are the Top 12 stories of the 12th Doctor:
#12 Knock Knock (Series 10)
Straight up horror stories are something of a rarity in Doctor Who so Knock Knock was an interesting change of pace. Those termite things made one’s blood crawl, people getting stuck inside wood was cool and the wood lady was disturbing. The episode was atmospheric and unnerving and an experience better than the majority of horror films being put out these days. I would have left Bill’s friends dead at the end but otherwise a fun, scary thrill ride.
#11 Into the Dalek (Series 8)
Into the Dalek gave us something we never knew we wanted – a Fantastic Voyage, Innerspace-inspired journey inside a Dalek. We’ve heard of getting into the minds of your enemy but this is just ridiculous! All kidding aside Into the Dalek was wild journey which explored not only the inner workings of the cyborg mutants physically and mentally, but also the darkness that is within the Doctor’s soul. The scene where he puts a tracker in one of the soldiers leading them to believe he was going to save them was particularly cold, but it showed the sometimes brutal pragmatism of our favourite Time Lord. And let us not forget Rusty, that charming killing machine. He was too cute.
#10 Empress of Mars (Series 10)
Empress of Mars is a pretty straightforward story of the Doctor trying to broker peace between the Ice Warriors and some marooned Victorian soldiers. But it makes this list because of all the Classic Who goodness to be found inside this jammie dodger of an episode. After their abysmal, head massaging appearance in Series 7’s Cold War we finally got an episode worthy of these proud warriors. We meet an Ice Warrior queen for the first time and see their visually interesting weapons that compress people into box shapes. And there is even a cameo from Alpha Centauri. Delicious!
#9 Flatline (Series 8)
In almost 55 years of Doctor Who we have seen a variety of strange alien creatures, from giant ants to floating eyeballs and many things in between. But we had never really seen anything like the Boneless. These two dimensional beings were odd and unnerving thanks to a brilliant design and a tightly paced episode. We also had some fun with the shrinking TARDIS and the Doctor delivering his powerful speech to his 2D/3D baddies. The episode may have been called Flatline but it pumped some life into Series 8.
#8 Mummy on the Orient Express (Series 8)
You have 66 seconds before a mummy that only you can see kills you. What do you do? What do you do? Mummy on the Orient Express was a tension-filled science mystery with some sweet effects and great costuming. Clara in a flapper? *Swoon* It is always great seeing the Doctor use his mind to unravel a problem and the climax when he puts himself in the Foretold’s cross hairs will have you holding your breath. We never did find out who the heck was Gus though. Chris Chibnall, get on that.
#7 Dark Water/ Death in Heaven (Series 8)
This Series 8 two-part finale gave us the reveal of Missy as a female incarnation of long time Doctor nemesis the Master and a triumphant return of the Cybermen. We had glimpses of Michelle Gomez as Missy before but here we got a full blast. She was wild, homicidal and quite a lot of fun. The interplay between Gomez and Capaldi was wonderful to see.
The dead coming back as Cybermen via a cloud was an odd premise but it did give us a touching moment between Clara and the underrated Danny, and a surprise cameo by Classic companion Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in Cyberman form. Good ole Brig.
#6 World Enough and Time/ The Doctor Falls (Series 10)
The most recent 12th Doctor story and the Series 10 two part finale kicks off the second half of our list. World Enough and Time is wonderful with its time bending physics and slow unraveling of the origin of the Mondasian Cyberman, who were more terrifying than you ever thought they could be. Companion Bill Potts is the focus here but Pearl Mackie is able to carry the episode well. The reveal with the John Simm Master at the end also made for a jaw dropping twist.
Sadly Steven Moffat could not maintain the quality with The Doctor Falls. While the interaction between Missy and the Master was a grand time and the plight of CyberBill was touching the episode fell somewhat flat. And the Doctor blowing up pipes to kill the Cyberman was not the most ingenious plan we have ever seen him come up with. The deus ex machina with the Pilot and Bill at the end made sense but lacked the emotional resonance that Moffat was likely going for. The surprise appearance of the First Doctor at the end was a welcome touch though, but not enough for this two-parter to be higher on this list.
#5 Face the Raven (Series 9)
Few companions have been as divisive as Clara Oswald, with fans both loving and hating her. Personally I found the character started off one dimensional but grew to be a rounded, interesting companion especially during her time with the 12th Doctor. Fan sentiment aside it is hard to deny Jenna Coleman’s powerful performance in Face the Raven.
It is a taut, gripping story about the dangers of becoming cavalier while adventuring through time and space. It was a difficult experience watching The Doctor, who always saves the day, being utterly helpless to save his friend from certain death. Clara’s moving death, however, was undercut a bit by her return in Hell Bent but this does not stop Face the Raven from being a fantastic episode. And you may notice that four of the top six episodes on this list are from Series 9, but it was just that good a series.
#4 The Zygon Invasion/ The Zygon Inversion (Series 9)
After the shape shifting Zygons grand return in The Day of the Doctor special Whovians were left hungry for more of these slimy suckers, and they did not disappoint with this Series 9 two-parter. Creepy atmosphere, surprise transformations, evil fake Clara and return of Osgood (still not sure which one) and a powerful anti-war speech from Capaldi made for an epic, thoroughly satisfying experience.
#3 The Magician’s Apprentice/ The Witch’s Familiar (Series 9)
Series 9 certainly kicked off with a bang with this entertaining two-parter. We had the Doctor having a millennium-life crisis complete with a tank and rock and roll, Missy back and as gleefully murderous as ever, Colony Sarff being all slithery and the welcome return of not only Davros and the Daleks but home planet Skaro as well. The Missy/Clara odd couple dynamic was also entertaining and amusing.
The story featured a lot of twists and powerful moments between the Doctor and Davros including callbacks to some of their previous encounters. It was also enjoyable watching the Doctor use the “sewer” Daleks to attack the surface ones. And Missy meeting Davros and “bopping” him was the cherry on top of this scrumptious cake of EXTERMINATION!
#2 Heaven Sent (Series 9)
There was some difficulty choosing the top Capaldi story as second and first place are both are high quality, near perfect episodes. Our silver medal goes to the penultimate episode of Series 9 Heaven Sent. Tardis wiki puts Heaven Sent and Hell Bent together but while the first leads into the second the two could not be more different in tone and structure. Heaven Sent is a deep, well written, thoughtful, visually mesmerisng episode with a Twlight Zone flair. Hell Bent is, well, a bit of a mess so I will be separating the two.
Heaven Sent is just brilliant. The mystery is intriguing, the design of the Veil is gorgeously sinister and Capaldi delivers a powerhouse performance. As the lone actor he carries the entire episode on his shoulders but makes it look effortless, keeping us gripped from start to finish. And at the ending him seeing Gallifrey again made our hearts swell. Definitely one of the best episodes of his run.
#1 Listen (Series 8)
Now listen. Just listen. I know for many of you Heaven Sent is your favourite Capaldi episode, and I really love it as well, but I just had to give the edge to Listen. First off this episode is one of the most terrifying and unsettling in the entire history of Doctor Who. The spaceship knocking scenes were scary but that bed scene was enough to make your heart beat out of your chest.
And what is so masterful about this story, besides Capaldi again delivering a top class performance and Coleman also bringing her A game, is that there is no clear villain and we are never sure if there ever was or it was all in the Doctor’s head. We never did find out what the heck was under that sheet did we? And the surprise trip to the past to meet the Doctor as a child was something we never expected but were delighted to have. Listen is a timeless, thought provoking episode with genuine scares and brilliant performances. And it is the best episode of the 12th Doctor’s run. We at redmangoreviews will miss you Peter Capaldi and your attack eyebrows. See you at Christmas.
So that’s our list. With three series worth of stories I must have missed out on some of your favourites from the 12th Doctor. Feel free to share them in the comments.
For my Top 13 Doctors of Doctor Who you can click here.