Julien Neaves – Editor
A little over three years ago I wrote an article on the seven Classic Doctors of Doctor Who and their seven best stories (in my most humble Whovian opinion). And no, I didn’t include the Eighth Doctor because he only had the awful TV movie and the fantastic minisode, and therefore didn’t qualify. I still want to see Paul McGann for a multi-Doctor episode though. Hopefully for the 60th anniversary.
Anywho (get it? Anywho? You get it) I decided to do a companion article on the five Modern Doctors. A couple of quick caveats though – I am focusing on stories that really highlight the particular Doctor so there are no Doctor-lite stories like Blink. And secondly there are also no introductory, multi-Doctor, or regeneration stories as these all have lists of their own. With that out of the way, and a Gallifrey-sized SPOILER ALERT, here are the Five Modern Doctor Who Doctors and their Five Best Stories:
Ninth Doctor – The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. The Ninth Doctor’s catchphrase is the best way to describe this excellent two-parter (you will realise almost all the entries are two-parters by the way). Everything just works so well here. The Empty Child and those infected are just freaking terrifying and instantly iconic. People are STILL making “are you my mommy” jokes to this day and even the show referenced it later.
Then you have the introduction of the most popular secondary character Modern Who has ever produced in the suave Captain Jack Harkness. And THEN you have the great setting of the London Blitz and a mind-bending mystery to go along with it.
But Julien, I hear you asking, what about the Doctor? Well Christopher Eccleston is just at the top of his game. He is funny and witty with Rose and Jack, and he is brave in the face of the terrifying mask people. He also uses that centuries-old brain to decode the aforementioned mystery. And that “everybody lives” speech at the end is just pure gold. And for the Ninth Doctor I have to give the gold to this timeless story.
Tenth Doctor – Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
This entry has some similarities to the previous one. Once again we have the introduction of another very popular secondary character in the person of spunky, sassy, intrepid and flirty intergalactic archaeologist River Song (though not the first chronological meeting of The Doctor. Wibbly wobbly timey wimey and all that).
And we also have another bone chilling creature in a one-off appearance, this time the flesh devouring, space suit borrowing Vashta Nerada. AND we also have another mind-bending mystery for The Doctor to decode. I’m not saying this is a winning formula, but it’s a winning formula.
And the Tenth Doctor just takes charge from the word go. He’s all energy and cunning and dry humour. We also see him dealing with the possible loss of Donna (oh what a cliffhanger that was) and then the actual loss of River, a woman he just met but who is obviously very important to his life. Spoilers. I’m not crying, you’re crying! The acting, the writing and the special effects all work together to produce a masterpiece of a two-parter.
Runner-up: The Girl in the Fireplace
Eleventh Doctor – The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
The Doctor, Amy, Rory and River cross the pond for this thrilling adventure. We start off with a bang – a mysterious message from The Doctor and his death from an even more mysterious astronaut that just walked out FROM A BEACH! And all that’s just in the first few minutes.
The rest of this two-parter is government conspiracy, The Doctor growing a prison beard, River being a bad ass, Amy playing a deadly game of tic tac toe on her face, and the best new aliens of The Eleventh Doctor’s tenure in the horrifying l, yet strangely forgettable, The Silents (not The Silence which was later revealed to be the name of the evil faction). Wait. Where am I? And how did I get these marks all over me? Oh yes, the list.
For this premiere two-parter we also get a lot of Doctor for our money in this one. We get the cryptic future Doctor, the zany curious Doctor, a somewhat despairing Doctor and then back to the zany Doctor again. And the Doctor/River scenes here are some of the best and most fun ever.
Runner-up: A Good Man Goes to War
Twelfth Doctor – Heaven Sent
If you have seen this episode I don’t need to say very much about it. It is simply a work of art. The set-up is simple: The Doctor is trapped in an endless loop, a death-like creature named The Veil (love that design) is constantly hunting him and he has to find a way out. Each time he dies he comes back. And he dies a lot. Like A LOT.
Peter Capaldi carries this entire episode and he makes it look effortless. It is the epitome of a tour de force performance. We are locked into every moment and every morsel of dialogue. We feel strongly every moment of dark humour and despair, of cleverness and ridiculous hope. Heaven Sent was nominated for a Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation (short form) and it was very well deserved. And it also deserves our pick for the best Twelfth Doctor story.
NB – One reader, Dawn, pointed out that this and the previous three stories were all written by former showrunner Steven Moffat. What can I say? The guy knows how to write an excellent Doctor Who story.
Thirteenth Doctor – Spyfall Part I and II
I could have gone with one of the historical episodes like Rosa, Demons of the Punjab or The Witchfinders but for the story where The Thirteenth Doctor really shines (and which sadly does not happen often due to the uneven and inconsistent writing) look no further than this Series 12 premiere and this sort of James Bond homage.
After a lacklustre Series 11 this was just a breath of fresh air. It was lively, exciting, funny and the companions ACTUALLY had something to do. Bradley Walsh’s Graham (easily the best companion of the ‘fam’) is especially delightful here. Laser shoe dance anyone?
But things get turned up to 11 with the reveal of Sacha Dhawan’s Master who is equal parts charm, menace and lunacy. He and Jodie Whittaker bounce off each other very well and gives The Thirteenth Doctor some great scenes. We also see this incarnation at her best in mystery solving (what? I like m, taking charge and even being a little silly. The rest of the series didn’t fully live up to this promising start, but it was definitely a shot in the arm to this Doctor’s era and arguably her best story.
So what’s your best story for each modern Doctor? For my Top 10 Tales from the Tenth Doctor 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