Which is the Funniest Episode of Doctor Who…?

Last Saturday, Doctor Who touched on a theme it hadn’t visited in a while – comedy. As in, full-blown comedy. Yes, there are humorous quips peppered throughout even the most sombre of episodes (heck, even Into the Dalek had some laugh-out-loud moments, and that was darker than a coal mine, at night, with the lights out). But on the whole, Doctor Who is a more serious adventure series that rarely ventures into the regions of farce, physical comedy or sitcom. There are, however, a few standout episodes that have been quite rightly labelled with a ‘gag tag’; The Runaway Bride, The Pirate Planet and The Eleventh Hour have all been suggested. But which is the all-time funniest episode of Doctor Who?

A hard question to answer, given the highly subjective nature of comedy! But here’s a list of what I consider to be strong contenders for the crown…

5. Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Part Two)

Invasion of the Dinosaurs 2

No, I’m not referring to the slightly questionable dinosaur puppets. On the whole this is quite a serious story with strong moral and political undercurrents, if you can see past the imperfect visuals. But I love the scene in Part Two where the poor Doctor is trying to get some peace and quiet in his laboratory. As Sarah Jane leaves, he frantically races to the door, shuts it and locks it, breathing a huge sigh of relief. That is, until the Brigadier bursts through the other door: “Ah, there you are Doctor! Now what are you up to?” Cue Jon Pertwee, clutching his head in despair!

This moment always tickles me – perhaps more than is appropriate or normal – hence why I’m putting this episode at number five!

4. The Lodger

“Can you hold? I have to eat a biscuit.”

The Lodger

A bit of a Marmite episode from Series Five, The Lodger is essentially a sitcom (or a romcom) with a science fiction foundation. Most of the people I speak to seem to detest this episode for the mere reason it has James Corden in it. Now, I had no experience of James Corden before watching this episode, so I had no inherent bias, and I thought he did a mighty fine job playing the loved-up, somewhat bemused tenant who found himself living with a man from another planet. Watch this episode for the scene in the call centre (I think every office needs a Doctor!).

3. Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime

I must admit, I used to detest this episode. As the opener to Series Four, I felt so disappointed; it was unbelievably lightweight, and felt like some trial I had to endure as a Doctor Who fan before I was allowed to watch the proper episodes. But, having watched it again recently, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think one has to approach it with the right mind-set, and take it on its own merits. And there are many!

Watch out for the Doctor and Donna’s mimed exchanges through the window, and the comedy death of Miss Foster, so wonderfully realised by actress Sarah Lancashire. A nice one to pop on at the end of a hard day!

2. The Chase

Can you have comedy Daleks? Hmmm… It’s a risky move.

Daleks vs Mechanoids - who will win?!

As with Partners in Crime, you need to be in the right frame of mind when you watch this one, otherwise you risk bitter disappointment – The Daleks’ Masterplan it ain’t! You have the Daleks trying to question the inhabitants of a strange haunted house / theme park attraction, as well as an American Peter Purves who acts like he’s on drugs. Then there’s Ian dancing round the TARDIS to The Beatles, and the Doctor singing to himself while sunbathing (“What’s that awful noise?” asks Barbara!). Yes, it smacks of an overconfident series that has already started to parody itself, but I can’t help liking it. After all, if every Dalek story featured Eric Saward-style massacres, we’d all be in need of therapy.

1. City of Death

City of Death

So here we are – the story that I consider to be the funniest in Doctor Who‘s 50 year history. I also think it’s one of the best, and the humour goes hand-in-hand with the drama to create an overall very satisfying experience.

Generally, it’s the slick interplay between the characters that keeps the story racing forward, but there are many other humorous moments; Tom Chadbon’s Duggan ‘throws light’ on the situation by attacking the villain with an oil lamp, for example. Then there’s the classic ‘interrogation’ scene between the Doctor and Count Scarlioni in Part Two (“What a wonderful butler, he’s so violent!” the Doctor remarks). All in all, I can’t fault this story, and I’ve watched it more times than is healthy. And I plan to watch it many more times before the year is out!

But what do you think, Kasterborites? Which episode would you crown the funniest of all? Are you a fan of the Kandy Man’s culinary concoctions in The Happiness Patrol? Or maybe it’s the sparkly costume from The Twin Dilemma that always raises a smile? Let us know your thoughts!

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  1. TimeChaser says:

    There are plenty of good comedy-centered episodes – I personally enjoy The Unicorn and the Wasp, as I am a big Agatha Christie fan – but to me the funniest is the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor. There’s so many wonderful funny lines and moments in that episode.

  2. Bradondo says:

    For me it’s probably “The Gunfighters.” The first time I saw it (when it was first shown in the U.S.) I was stupefied by its seeming ineptitude. I didn’t get the joke until I watched it again some years later when I realized the humor was clearly intentional. “The Pirate Planet” and especially “City of Death” managed to be extremely funny while telling very compeing stories. Although it’s only a minisode the cinema-only prequel to “Deep Breath” had the entire audience in stitches. It was Strax’s appraisal of each of the Doctor’s incarnations and many of his jabs were dead-on. I think there were a few of us there feeling a slight pang of guilt for laughing so hard at the expense of our favorite actors!

  3. james says:

    i giggle all the way through The Horns of Nimon every time I watch it.

  4. lozzer says:

    Partners In Crime is actually one of my favourite episodes, I’d like to explain why but I’m really not sure why… perhaps it’s because I loved Donna’s character so much, And yes, she is funny in this episode.

  5. vortexter says:

    Robot of Sherwood for me!. The line- ‘He’s full of surprises isn’t he!’ gets me every time.

  6. Philip Bates says:

    I find The Crimson Horror really funny – but with a good storyline too. You simply can’t beat that old-style montage footage and the Doctor’s Northern accent. Matt’s great at physical comedy as well, so there’s something he does with his sonic screwdriver when he sees Jenny in the tight leather that always makes me giggle in a “Carry On” sort of way.

    One of my favourite lines ever is from City of Death, however, and one which is often overlooked: “Well, you’re a beautiful woman, probably.” Genius.

    • calliarcale says:

      Yes! That is one of my absolute favorite lines too! Tom Baker got a lot of really great lines through his tenure, but especially in that one. And Julian Glover is so excellent as the villain; he played it like a Bond villain. (And whaddya know, a couple of years later he was the villain of “For Your Eyes Only”.)

      And yeah, the “Crimson Horror” was much funnier than I’d been expecting. I adored it.

  7. Castellan Spandrel says:

    The Time Warrior and Seeds of Doom. Both have very amusing, larger-than-life characters – Rubeish, Amelia Ducat, even Irongron – and witty lines.

    The real star of Seeds is, of course, Hargreaves the butler. I love the way he says, “Mr Keeler!” when he sees the latter strapped to a bed, transforming into a Krynoid, almost as though the poor man’s soiled the bed and is being admonished.

    Come to think of it, without the horror elements, Talons of Weng-Chiang is genuinely funny, thanks to Jago, Litefoot, the Doctor and Leela’s interactions.

  8. joesiegler says:

    Do you mean unintentionally funny, or ACTUALLY funny? 🙂

  9. Al says:

    Good choices, but I also have to nominate Crimson Horror as well as Deep Breath, which I thought was a very funny episode, for the right reasons (I honestly don’t know why people think Sherwood was that much of a departure).

  10. FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    Can’t believe nobody has mentioned The Romans yet!

  11. Ranger says:

    Hmm, difficult one. I love Crimson Horror, Seeds of Doom (Chase was the best villain – ever)for the exchange “What do you do next, Doctor?” “I win!” City of Death obviously because of the violent butler and beautiful woman, probably lines, but I think I’ll have to plump for Partners in Crime. I absolutely hated it on first viewing – I really did not like the “cute” fat babies and that’s all I could see at first, but since then I have watched it numerous times and I just adore the relationship between the Doctor and Donna (one of the best companions ever). The mime through the windows is purely comic genius, as is the look on Miss Foster’s face as she waits for them to realise she’s spotted them. The episode has gone from being one of my least favourites to being one of my go to episodes when I am feeling down.

  12. Cryer says:

    The Time Warrior, The Seeds of Doom, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Robots of Death, City of Death and The Face of Evil are all very funny in my opinion. 🙂

    • Castellan Spandrel says:

      The Face of Evil is a good call, when viewing it as a sort of ‘Life of Brian’ of Doctor Who.

      There’s one brilliant visual gag – Neeva (and presumably the rest of the Sevateem) believes that the spaceship glove is a holy hat, and he wears it accordingly, with sacred reverence.

  13. Jonathan Appleton says:

    Can’t argue with City of Death, but I’ll nominate some Troughton moments – he was so good at the comic stuff. Those explosions nearly setting fire to his bum in The Invasion – I could watch that all day. His interplay with the Brigadier in The Five Doctors just about steals the whole show – ‘Not exactly Brigadier, it’s his tomb…’. Lovely stuff.

    • Bar says:

      Sorry to be boringly conformist but City of Death wins for me too, though I love all the double-act stuff between Troughton and Frazer Hines; probably funnier still when you know what they got up to off screen.
      Romans is a favourite but it’s not so laugh-out-loud, and I grin at the incomparable Roger Delgado most of the way through The Sea Devils.
      And ‘Stones of Venice always makes me laugh – when Churchwell moans ‘She’s the Last Queen of Venice!’ the 8th Doctor leaves a gap the perfect length for the whole audience to shout ‘not while you’re alive she’s not!’
      Am I being unfair to suggest that NuWho has to be so much more aimed at the American market that it has lost some of the Britishness of its humour? That wonderful mixture of camp, deadpan and not taking oneself seriously that infiltrates classic Who.

  14. Luke Curtis says:

    It was never ever going to be anything other than City of Death was it? sure some episodes have funny scenes in them but CoD is almost up there with Douglas Adams better known work for constant, intelligent non-stop comedy.

    top comedy moments away from CoD:
    The Doctor accidentally getting engaged in The Aztecs
    Much of The Myth Makers
    The 2nd Doctor & Jamie accidentally holding each others hands instead of Victoria’s in Tomb
    TomDoc choosing his outfit in Robot
    Adric eating non-stop in (IIRC) Black Orchid
    Daleks playing trains in Evil

  15. Spider-pope says:

    I think i’m actually going to have to vote for ‘Robot of Sherwood’, the Doctor’s interactions with Robin and his Merry men had me in stitches, as did the Sheriff’s “After this…Derby!”

  16. Patrick says:

    I’m really surprised that The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors are not mentioned more. In The Three Doctors, William Hartnell’s comment about a dandy and a clown always gets me laughing, and, in The Five Doctors, Sarah Jane Smith falling down the gentle slope gets a groan from me… and then a laugh. And who can forget when Doctors 1, 2 and 3 are attempting to read the stele in the tomb!! Then again, after watching Sarah Jane and Doctor #3 ziplining into the top of the tomb, I can’t get the image of a rather large, ungainly plaid bird out of my head for several hours!! Great watching!!

    • Castellan Spandrel says:

      I agree, Patrick, but the key in each case is Patrick Troughton, for me. He gets the best lines and steals the best laughs effortlessly.

  17. Ranger says:

    And who can forget Nyssa’s “comedy” face when falling in the river in Castrovalva?

  18. Gary says:

    The Pirate Planet. “Mr Fibuli!!!!”

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