THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR’S TOP ELEVEN DOCTOR WHO EPISODES
Back when it was rebooted in 2005, who could have imagined the success Doctor Who would have (re)found, or the effect on popular culture it would have had (again)? Not me, but I’m glad it did. So with Peter Capaldi’s time in the TARDIS about to begin, I thought now would be the right moment to reflect on eleven of our outgoing (gone) Time Lord Matt Smith’s best adventures in time and space. Here’s my pick of the self-styled Mad Man In A Box’s top episodes.
11) The Doctor’s Wife
The storyline itself may not be up to much, but purely for its main conceit, The Doctor’s Wife is great mileage. A baddie called ‘House’ and people made of scrap parts may never hold the attention, but the TARDIS being given a voice and a body (Suranne Jones) sure does. The way that the Doctor and his (apparently female) mode of transport bounce off each other is brilliant, and adds a never-before-seen dimension to the relationship between the mad man and his blue box. It’s perhaps a case of story coming second to character, but is an interesting experiment nonetheless.
10) Let’s Kill Hitler
Bonkers Steven Moffat writing at its best (or worst, depending on your view), this one ties your head in knots. And yes, Hitler does feature at one point, but not for long. With an unexpected twist on the by-this-point silly River Song storyline, and the Doctor in some classy new garb with a cane, it certainly offers its fair share of strangeness.
9) The Wedding of River Song
Tying up the too-clever River Song storyline once and for all was the only reason I was interested by this point. Then pyramids, pterodactyls and Winston Churchill intervened, and by that time I think my brain was dissolving. However, as per usual, it was up to Smith’s great combination of childlike enthusiasm and compassion to save the day – and he did. Again. The ending was vaguely predictable but welcome. It marked the end of a fairly average series, but still, Stetsons got themselves on the list of objects that are cool.
This episode was clever and unexpected, and full of heart. It finds the Doctor warming to his new assistant, Clara, as they try to solve the mystery of what is lurking within a haunted house in the 1970s. Essentially a good old-fashioned love/ ghost story, Dougray Scott in a suit, Jessica Raine as a medium and a suitably loopy twist of sorts make this episode one of the highlights of the most recent series. And apparently the Doctor does love a good toggle switch.
7) The Power of Three
Despite being set mostly on Earth, this one was a cracker. It finds the superbly matched trio of Doctor, Amy and the oft-underrated Rory living at home, with the Doc unable to sit still for five minutes, at one point doing all the household chores just to keep from boredom. But of course, Who wouldn’t be Who without some problem to solve, and here it comes in a devilishly devious guise. Three also introduced a character who may strike a chord for long-time viewers of the series.
6) Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
Embracing the complete and utter madness that typified Matt Smith’s Doctor was the brilliance of this episode – and it’s just good fun. It has Mark Williams of Arthur Weasley from Potter fame playing Rory’s dad, and also David Mitchell and Robert Webb voicing robots. Continuing the theme, David Bradley (another one from the Potter clan, Argus Filch) also turns up as a baddie, but to an extent the plot doesn’t matter here. In the immortal words of Smith himself, it’s ‘DINOSAURS … on a spaceship!!’
5) The Lodger
James Corden proves that he can do something other than Smithy in this winningly pedestrian, Amy Pond-lite episode set in suburbia, which provides yet more of Smith’s Doctor failing, in wonderful style, to master normal life. The episode features, among other things, the Doc playing football (the career Smith would have liked to go into if not for a back injury), some scary neighbours and, of course, a love interest. It must have been liked by viewers, as Corden’s character returned a series later.
4) Amy’s Choice
The surreal Amy’s Choice leaves the titular Pond to make a difficult decision – to choose between her Raggedy Man and her husband. If anything, the villain in this episode is the Doctor (something Smith’s first series explored more than most since the reboot), the one who takes people’s lives and changes them forever, and ‘prefers the company of the young.’ Creepy, interesting and thoughtful.
3) The Eleventh Hour
This episode introduced Smith’s Doctor and Karen Gillan’s feisty Amy Pond to the world in fine fashion. The weirdness that ensues when they first clash makes for a great watch. In a way Smith’s first hour is one of his finest, as it brought so many quotable and memorable snippets with it. Fish fingers and custard? Here. Vaguely mocking the Scottish (which we may or may not still be doing come October 2014)? Check. The Doctor’s catastrophic time management (read: TARDIS) problems? Still around. By the end of the Hour, Smith had more than proved his worth, and Murray Gold’s new theme had found its way into my head.
2) The Day of the Doctor
This was the 50th Anniversary Special, and a fitting tribute to the Time Lord. Bringing back not-so-old favourite David Tennant to star alongside Smith and John Hurt, The Day of the Doctor was effectively a restart for the whole series. The sort-of twist is brilliant, and the interplay between the Doctors makes for an entertaining watch. Clara is also at the forefront more so than she was previously, and Jenna Coleman really proves her mettle in this one. The ending in particular brought a massive grin to my face.
1) The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang
For my money, this is still the best closing two-parter since Who returned. Two episodes, yes, but I’m counting it as one story. It’s clever, it’s heartwarming and it’s well-written. The universe is in danger of being destroyed (isn’t it always?) but the focus is still on the relationships. All the characters are right on the button, and even River Song is at minimal annoying point. Fezzes are cool, and things are very very complicated. There’s one aspect of the plot that still doesn’t really make sense, but I can forgive it that. The pinnacle of Smith’s reign, this story ends his first and strongest series in the role, appropriately, with a bang. It’s sad that it was only near the end of his time in the TARDIS that an equally good story came along.
Matt Smith’s run wasn’t always great, with it sadly being a case of the Doctor often being stronger than the stories he was given, but he was a unique Time Lord, and his time in the TARDIS was not without its highlights. Some of them are even among the best moments since the show returned in 2005. Now onwards, and hopefully upwards. As Peter Capaldi says, we’re going ‘into darkness’, which is ironic, because in a career that has included Malcolm Tucker and various other highs, this could be Capaldi’s own moment in the sun.
It’s his time now. I have a feeling that he might make it count.