This year, Doctor Who has been back on our screen ten whole years. It feels like yesterday that the TARDIS materialised once more; suitably, it also feels like forever.
So join us as we celebrate a decade with the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors. Let’s find out which serials are our favourites, and shine a light on the underrated ones too. Watch us run.
And then vote on your favourites. At the end of the year, we’ll find out which serials showcase our beloved show at the height of its game.
After the battle of Canary Wharf, the Doctor meets two new friends: Donna Noble, a feisty redhead who initially turns down further trips in the TARDIS, and Martha Jones, a would-be doctor herself. She has one trip in the TARDIS: back to meet Shakespeare. And another into the far future to the gridlocked undercity of New New York. Oh, and go on then: another one to meet the Daleks. This one trip carries on – until they meet Professor Yana, striving for Utopia in the dying of the light…
Drew Boynton: Blink
Everyone knows why: it’s the BEST. Probably the best Doctor Who episode ever.
The story, the direction, and the acting are all top-notch. Carey Mulligan is radiant as Sally Sparrow, the best non-companion-companion ever. In 45 minutes, Steven Moffat’s writing hits emotional highs and lows that he hasn’t approached in five years as showrunner. The Weeping Angels were truly scary and inventive villains. The DVD conversations with the Doctor are brilliant. In fact, everything about the WHOLE episode is just brilliant. If everyone here hasn’t picked Blink, then I would be very surprised… and that’s even with the amazing Human Nature/Family of Blood, the entertaining Gridlock (come back, Brannigan!), and the dazzling Utopia (“I AM THE MASTER!”) all in the same series!
Alex Skerratt: The Shakespeare Code
I’d been longing for the Doctor to come face to face with the bearded Bard ever since the 2005 relaunch, and it’s fair to say that the resultant ep did not disappoint!
I will freely admit that Dean Lennox Kelly looked absolutely nothing like the eponymous scribe (I think the Time-Space Visualiser in The Chase had it sussed), but his scarecrow hair and sultry demeanour ably highlighted the cool side of iambic pentameter. And what’s more, the story was actually good. Hats off to Gareth Roberts for a ripping yarn that managed to encompass Martha’s first TARDIS trip, witches, Bedlam, The Globe Theatre, and Queen Elizabeth the Oneth.
It’s one of those stories that I can comfortably rewatch over and over again, with an absolute minimum of mental preparation, and that’s no mean feat. “Be not afraid of greatness:’ ’twas well writ!”
Joe Siegler: Utopia
Some will call it Part 1/3 of the series ending story, but I see it as more standalone than the last two. That quibble aside…
There’s MUCH to love in Utopia. The opening scene where they land at Torchwood HQ (which still hadn’t been blown up by Jack’s stomach bomb), and do a “pit stop”. Jack’s leap onto the TARDIS and through the vortex. It’s way OTT, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun. We get to the other side of the titles, and there’s a great scene which goes back to Eccleston’s finale about abandoning Jack. A chase ensues, with Jack saying “I missed this”, and after the characters showing their teeth, we’re introduced to Sir Derek Jacobi.
Derek’s performance in this story is brilliant, and by the time he is finally revealed to be the Master, you ache that you didn’t get more with Jacobi (Shalka aside). Jacobi’s time as Professor Yana is a great; you feel bad that he’s stuck there with bad coffee. His time as the Master is really short, but spot on.
There’s also Chantho – who is a bit of a goofy character – but the flirting with Captain Jack is great, and the scene with Martha and her about swearing is a great character development moment, and fun too.
But of course, the return of the Master, and then the regeneration into John Simm is awesome. That they included the voices of Anthony Ainley and Roger Delgado in this episode was just the icing on the cake.
And then there’s Blink, which is all kinds of awesome, but Utopia gets it for me for all the “Who History” and fun in it. This is by far my favorite Series 3 episode: lots of fun, lots of Doctor Who moments. It is one I can (and have) rewatched several times. In fact, I just might do that now.
Christian Cawley: The Lazarus Experiment
It isn’t just the Pertwee era style protagonist or the fact that Mark Gatiss gets his first flavour of acting in Doctor Who in front of the camera. Nor is it that he is deliciously creepy, the possibilities of what Professor Lazarus has achieved dancing in front of his eyes with every moment on camera. I’m not even discouraged by the CGI monster, which while looking nothing like Mark Gatiss (and resembling something from a computer game five years previously) is nevertheless engineered perfectly into the scenario with clever use of the set.
This isn’t a favourite even because of the beautiful Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Martha’s sister Tish.
Rather, The Lazarus Experiment works so well for me because it is the first time in Series 3 that we get a sensation that “something else” is going on, something that only we have a hint of, that Martha’s overprotective mum believes she is clued up on (but isn’t) and that the Doctor is blissfully aware of. That guy in the suit warning Mrs Jones of the Doctor; the Gallifreyan-style circular logo of Lazarus’ company. The clues are all there, building up to the great reveal of the Master in Utopia a full five episodes later. Stephen Greenhorn’s script is perfectly paced, too, rounded off with that moment in the cathedral.
Darkness and anticipation, with a good chunk of pathos from Gatiss at the end. Brilliant.
Jonathan Appleton: Human Nature/ The Family of Blood
Probably the highlight for me since the series returned in 2005, Paul Cornell’s adaptation of his earlier novel proved just how far the programme was willing to go to put its lead characters through emotional torment. All those people unable, for a variety of reasons, to say who they really are or how they truly feel. The Doctor’s decision to give up the very thing that makes him who he is is made for the best of reasons, but has the most catastrophic results: innocent people die, Martha has to endure ghastly racism, and poor Joan has her heart broken.
Was David Tennant ever better in the role? Was there ever a scarier little girl on the screen? Did you ever blub so much at the conclusion of an episode as this one? For me it’s a no to all three.
James Lomond: Blink
Well it’s Blink, coz, innit? While it leaves the TARDIS crew languishing in 1960s domesticity and focuses on an (admittedly extraordinary) day-in-the-life of a woman we’ve never met before, it does it so very, very well.
Blink packs in the themes and tropes but does it with such style. When The Moff does The Moff well, (assisted by brilliant direction and performances) he can turn from horror to comedy to tears in a few moments. The “until the rain ends” scene does this perfectly. Given that all the information being fed to Sally Sparrow comes from her later recollections and those of people around her, telling her that he will live “until the rain stops” is both terribly poetic but very plausible. And it works.
It’s got well written, plausible characters with just enough lightness and realism to make the fantasy sail by as if it were all completely normal. Blink is metatextual up to its eyeballs but again with such cheeky style it just works: “The angels have the phone box” and putting that on T-Shirt; look to your left; and why does nobody ever go to the police?
And then there are the most chilling enemies modern Who has produced – and they’re done so CHEAPLY! This is British Sci-fi at it’s very best. LOVE.
Philip Bates: Smith and Jones
Series 3 started off really well: we have Shakespeare, and the sublime Gridlock. Then a misstep in New York. Back on track again with The Lazarus Experiment (yes, I did enjoy that one), 42, and the obvious fan-favourites… Then the finale ultimately let me down. But what a strong run of stories!
Why? Perhaps because it all felt so very fresh and exciting.
I remember the excitement leading up to Series 3 well, and particularly how much I wanted to see great big space rhinos on the moon. Martha’s first trip into time and space, like humanity’s itself, starts on the lunar surface. Smith and Jones sums up Doctor Who so brilliantly.
We have insane ideas that all somehow gel together; the awesomeness of space and time travel truly hitting home; rain going upwards; grim gags about straws; police for hire; hauntingly majestic music; and great direction from the always-top-notch Charles Palmer.
Underneath all this is the core message of not judging by appearances. The Judoon are a bit thick, but they’re not the bad guys they’re initially purported to be. The true villain? Oh, that sweet little lady with the salt deficiency. The Doctor, too, looks like us, and his time machine is made of wood.
Right in the middle of all this is the wonderful Freema Agyeman, one of the most underrated companions of all. She’s smart and quick, questioning and logical. She won’t even call the Doctor by his name – not until he proves himself properly. And she’s dragged down by a bickering family who, frankly, we don’t see enough of. (Any excuse for more face-time with Gugu Mbatha-Raw.)
Sure, the Doctor pulling a plug is a slight let down, but the rest of this story is a beautiful fairytale.
Becky Crockett: Gridlock
It’s simply a good storyline: the whole dying Face of Boe clue (“you are not alone”) to the upcoming stories, all the different people in the cars in the under-city – plus David Tennant and kittens.
Nothing beats Tennant and kittens.
Scott Varnham: Utopia
For me, Utopia created hype for a story that no other has been able to live up to since. This was the story where Captain Jack (one of the few companions I actually cared about) was coming back. I’d been waiting for this since the end of Torchwood‘s first series. When I actually sat down and watched it, I was not disappointed. The banter between the three main characters was fantastic, it cleared up a few unanswered questions, and the script was well-written.
It’s not perfect (what are the Futurekind, exactly? Where did the Master’s TARDIS end up?), but no Doctor Who story is. One of the few times Doctor Who has been able to live up to the hype, for me. Full marks, Rusty.
James Whittington: Blink
The strongest story from a rather patchy season, Blink is one of the stand-out stories from the whole of the show’s 50-odd year run. Doctor-lite, it focuses not on the resident companion but on the best companion that never was, Sally Sparrow, played perfectly by soon-to-be Hollywood star Carey Mulligan. Moffat’s script about “quantum locked” Weeping Angels that have the power to send you back to the past is eerie and packed with jumps and intelligence with the Doctor really only appearing as DVD Easter Eggs segments and at the end.
This smart expansion of a short story originally written for the Doctor Who Annual in 2006 contains an over-arching melancholy of our own mortality that gives it a bleakness that is deep and moving. Its power is in the sparse use of the Doctor and Martha; we get flashes of their dynamic rather than the over reliance on Martha looking doe-eyed at the Doctor and bemoaning the lack of attention he gives her. Though the Weeping Angels would return on numerous occasions that effectively removed their impact it is this episode that they will be judged and which finally gave the new run of Doctor Who the horror injection it so sorely needed.
Those are a few of our favourites from Series 3. Now it’s your turn! Vote below for your favourite, and we’ll find out the overall winner later this year…