Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
It has been 11 years since Doctor Who fans were fully introduced to the Eleventh Doctor played by Matt Smith. His debut episode The Eleventh Hour aired on April 3, 2010 and to say he started with a bang would be an understatement. Now though I’ve missed the anniversary by about two months it’s never too late to revisit the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures. So for today’s list I will be ranking the best 11 stories from this incarnation’s three-series run.
Now a couple of caveats. I will not be including any Christmas specials (I already have a list for that) nor the multi-Doctor story The Day of the Doctor (that’s on a list as well). With that out of the way, and a Gallifrey-sized SPOILER ALERT here’s my ranking of the Top 11 Stories of the Eleventh Doctor. Geronimo!
#11 The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (Series 5, Writer: Steven Moffat)
I know some people may be unhappy that this two-part Series 5 finale is at the bottom of this list but allow me to explain. I found The Pandorica Opens to be great. I loved an alliance of some of the Doctor’s worst enemies coming together to stop him. The Stonehenge speech was one of Smith’s best. Rory being an Auton sleeper agent was a cool twist. And River was her sexy, flirty, supercool self.
But The Big Bang? Other than the iconic fez/mop ensemble the conclusion just felt flat and super deus ex machina, especially Amy appearing to wish the Doctor back into existence. What is this? A Disney movie? This was less of a “bang” or more of a “bleh”. So because of the disappointment of the second part this story gets dragged down to the bottom of the list. Overall I found Moffat was not as good at finales as Russel T. Davies, Dalek obsession notwithstanding.
#10 The Lodger (S5, Writer: Gareth Roberts )
Am I interrupting ‘sexy time’?
This is easily the funniest episode of Smith’s run. Seeing the Doctor trying to act human and engage in normal human relations is a riot. A pre-late night James Corden is a superb straight man as Craig Owens and he plays off Smith so well and has adorable chemistry with Daisy Haggard’s Sophie. The mystery with the ship hologram is also very well done. Sure the resolution is a bit hokey but I didn’t mind it too much. The Lodger is just such a comforting and relaxing episode. Like slipping into a pair of bedroom slippers.
They tried to recreate the magic with Season 6 episode Closing Time but other than the infinitely meme-able Stormageddon Dark Lord of All it is mostly forgettable, with a weak use of the Cybermen and an ending that was just insulting to the intelligence.
#9 The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People (Series 6, Writer: Matthew Graham)
You look different. Did you change your hair?
I expected this two-parter to be higher on the list but it didn’t hold up that well when I rewatched it. The concept of The Flesh is so intriguing and the story did a commendable job of exploring themes of identity and humanity. But after the strong set-up of The Rebel Flesh the follow-up was just not as epic. Jenny was turned into a rather one-dimensional villain and Rory’s betrayal was noticeably out of character. So while a very good story it could have been better.
#8 Asylum of the Daleks (Series 7, Writer: Steven Moffat)
Where do I get the milk?
While overall I found the final season to be a step down in quality compared to Season 6 it certainly did start off strongly. The first feather in its cap is that Asylum of the Daleks did what few Modern Who episodes could—actually make the Daleks scary again. And I appreciated that. I also enjoyed the walk down Dalek memory lane via the appearance of designs from throughout the years and references to previous adventures.
I also adored Oswin Oswald (she’s my second favourite after Victorian Clara; sorry Modern Clara) as she was so clever, witty and sweet. And the twist revealing she was actually a Dalek? It knocked the wind out of me the first time and remains tragic to this day. We also had The Ponds rekindling their love and The Doctor solid as ever. This is one Asylum I enjoyed visiting.
#7 The Name of the Doctor (S7, Writer: Steven Moffat)
Don’t tell me you’re an 80s music fan and you don’t know this band
Of Moffat’s three series finales The Name of the Doctor is his best. The nostalgia factor alone of seeing clips/recreations of the previous Doctors, including seeing the First Doctor choosing the TARDIS, is worth the price of admission alone. But we also had a satisfying explanation for the Impossible Girl, the wrapping up of the version of River from the Library, and the War Doctor twist. That is a lot of lore in one episode.
And as a story it is well-paced, features some of Strax’s best one-liners, and shows of some sweet visuals including the giant dying TARDIS and the Doctor’s time stream. The Whisper Men also make for some decent henchmen and Richard E. Grant brings some ole school bombast as The Great Intelligence. Now this is how you end a series.
#6 The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon (S6, Writer: Steven Moffat)
I swore I put a photo here. That’s weird. Let me double ch-HOLY CRAP!
We have to be thankful for this two-part Series 6 opener for creating the cheapest Doctor Who costume ever (the pen marks). And Moffat truly grabbed our attention by having the Doctor killed in the opening moments by a mysterious astronaut. He also introduced us to one of the creepiest aliens in all of who, the frighteningly forgettable Silents (not “Silence” as we would learn later).
Definitely a thrilling, scary and action-packed story with a riveting mystery. And who doesn’t want to see River blasting away Silents like she’s in a shooting gallery? Hands? No one? That’s what I thought.
#5 The Girl Who Waited (S6, Writer: Tom MacRae)
Am I the only one who found Old Amy kinda sexy? Just me? I’m okay with that
One thing I recognised while rewatching the Eleventh Doctor episodes is how brilliant Karen Gillan’s performance was. There is so much nuance and intelligence and emotion to it. The seeds of her current stardom are clearly visible, and nowhere is that more apparent than in The Girl Who Waited. She does masterful work with Old Amy, giving us a character that feels both familiar and new. And she nails her scenes with both Rory and Young Amy.
And that ending? It feels like your heart is being ripped out and stomped upon and then set on fire. So beautifully heart-wrenching. Sure the Handbots are somewhat generic but they are just there to serve the deeply emotional plot. And no, I’m not crying; you’re crying!
#4 The Doctor’s Wife (S6, Writer: Neil Gaiman)
I will miss all the biting
Writer extraordinaire Neil Gaiman delivered a winner with this award-winning episode. Suranne Jones is so good as TARDIS receptacle Idris it is mind-blowing and she has explosive chemistry with Smith. The Time Lord-devouring House makes for quite a memorable villain especially with some stellar voice work by Michael Sheen. Just a dark, funny, exciting and ultimately tragic episode. We never knew we wanted the TARDIS to talk and after this episode we could never forget it. Cheers to you Sexy.
Too bad Gaiman’s follow-up Nightmare in Silver was decidedly pedestrian. They can’t all be winners.
#3 A Good Man Goes to War (S6, Writer: Steven Moffat)
“Where is my wife?!” is one of my all-time my favourite Doctor Who quotes so that should clue you in on how much I am in love with this episode. Just the cold open is one of the most epic moments in all of the franchise. And the epic just continues from there with the attack on Demon’s Run featuring lots of old friends and the introduction of what would become the Paternoster Gang (Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax). We also had the oh-so-creepy Headless Monks with their laser swords and oh-so-disturbing chanting. And you had Frances Barber going full-tilt villain as Madame Kovarian. And then not one but two twists: baby Melody is a Flesh ‘ganger (that scream by Amy is blood-curdling) and the reveal of River Song’s identity. As I said, EPIC!
#2 Vincent and the Doctor (S5, Richard Curtis)
Little known fact: I also paint nudes
I wouldn’t describe myself as a “crier” but you put on the museum ending of this episode and you are guaranteed to get some waterworks. Tony Curran simply delivers a powerhouse performance as Vincent Van Gogh and both Smith and Gillan provide ample support. The invisible Krafayis is a bit of a throwaway baddie but like The Girl Who Waited this is a character-focused story. It is such a brilliant and ultimately tragic exploration of an historical figure. As a viewer we journey with Vincent through his self-doubt, happiness, flirtation with Amy, crushing depression, and final realisation of his legacy. As an episode this one is truly a work of art.
Honourable Mention: The Angels Take Manhattan (S7, Steven Moffat)
Man I hate that stupid thing
And speaking of tragic, this one was a big old disappointment. After he changed The Weeping Angels so much in Series Five two-parter The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone that they were no longer scary, Moffat restored them to their simple time-displacing terrifying selves in The Angels Take Manhattan. He even introduced the unnerving Baby Angels with their sick giggling. And we also had the double trauma of saying goodbye to the Ponds twice, heightened by some great performances by both Gillan and Arthur Darvill as Rory.
But you see that Statue of Liberty Weeping Angel? That has to be the STUPIDEST thing in all of Whodom. And I am talking about a franchise that includes the Kandy Man. It makes no sense whatsoever and topples over at the slightest intellectual scrutiny. He really should have left Lady Liberty alone because otherwise this is a pretty good episode.
#1 The Eleventh Hour (S5, Steven Moffat)
Glad these two could see eye to eye
For my number one allow me to take a page out of Coldplay’s book because I’m “going back to the start”. After rewatching every episode of all three series I just couldn’t find one better than The Eleventh Hour. It is just perfect.
Smith gives one of his best performances here and is just this bounding ball of awkward energy. He has hilarious scenes with young Amy (fish fingers and custard anyone?) and strong early chemistry with older Amy and Rory. And Prisoner Zero is absolutely terrifying and one of the best-designed creatures in the whole franchise. And the Doctor’s speech to the Atraxi? Fuhgedaboutit! It still gives me chills to this day! The Eleventh Hour is a fun, funny, scary, thrilling, and grand episode that represents all the best things of Doctor Who. And that’s why it’s my number one.
So that’s my list? What are your top three Eleventh Doctor stories? You can check out more wibbly wobbly timey wimey content below:
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Julien “Editor Jules” 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. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.