03 April 2010

Top 10 - Best Doctor Who Episodes 2004-Present

In celebration of The Doctor's return in the UK tonight with its fifth series (or 31st season, if you prefer to be more technical) starring Matt Smith (Secret Diary of a Call Girl) and Karen Gillan (New Town Killers), I am beginning the first of a (hopefully) ongoing feature, "Top 10", with my favorite/or what I think are best Doctor Who episodes from the Russel T. Davies run.

The funny thing about this is that my choices will no doubt change again next week, so it's not the most steady list in the world. However, there are at least five on there that I absolutely love, and I'm pretty sure you'll figure out which ones when you read my mini-review.

If you haven't had the pleasure to watch any of Doctor Who, and you are even remotely interested, I implore you to do anything in your power to watch it. Put the series on hold at the library, sign up with Netflix and use the Watch It Now! option (which has all four seasons, plus two of the 'specials'), or check out miscellaneous TV show hosting websites. It's a program that boasts extraordinary episodes, and even their less-than-stellar installments feature at least six aspects that are really, really damn good. Another nifty feature is the show's ability to change each week - one episode is utterly dramatic, the next epic, the following one a comedy, then a thriller, a romance of sorts, etc., etc. It's always changing.

As you can tell, I dig the show, and thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I'll be sitting in front of the computer tonight around 8 or 10 looking for any uploads of the new Series 5 episode, "The Eleventh Hour." For any Who fans who wish to give their two cents, feel free to comment!

10. The Parting of the Ways
Here concludith my first season with Doctor Who, and what a doozy it was. The Parting of the Ways is the first of many "big" season closers, with The Doctor facing certain doom, and by the end of the episode, your stomach is in knots and your futile attempt to hold in tears folds and you're just sobbing. In this finale, The Doctor enters the arena with the Daleks, the Time Lords greatest enemy; unfortunately, to stop this devastating foe, a sacrifice must be made. Grand in scale with the war between The Doctor and the Daleks, it all concludes with a much more personal note, between The Doctor and Rose, and it's amazing. This also marks a very pivotal moment for a particular character that is given their own spin-off series, Torchwood (a organization that originates in Series 2). All in all, it's magnificent writing, and the shows final minutes promises a new enigmatic Doctor and plenty of crazy fun ahead.

09. The Girl in the Fireplace

Truly a excellent episode as only Steven Moffat can write it, The Doctor, Rose and Mickey board a ship in space that has multiple portals to the olden days of France. There, he meets a young girl worried about creatures under her bed. Turns out these portals are directly linked to this girl, and that each portal goes to a particular year of this gal's life. The Doctor meets Madame de Pompadou (the beautiful Sophia Myles), and the episode turns into a half-romance tango, what with de Pompadou totally ga-ga for The Doctor. So, we got spaceships, portals, clockwork bad guys dressed in Victorian outfits, The Doctor crashing through a window with a horse, Rose and Mickey bantering, and a little romance. All in all, a pretty damn good episode.

08. Smith and Jones
A favorite of mine, definitely amongst season openers ("Partners in Crime" is alright, "Rose" coulda been better, and "New Earth" was also just alright), "Smith and Jones" has a perfectly brisk pace, and nicely introduces new Companion Martha Jones against the backdrop of a bizarre alien strategy, with The Doctor right in the middle of it. This episode introduces the species of the Judoon, a bounty hunter-esque race that does the job for the money. In this particular case, they've transported a hospital to the moon ('cuz they don't got jurisdiction over the earth) to search for a illegal alien. The Doctor's working fast to find out who this alien is before they spot him. Fast, energetic, brilliant dialogue, and the chance to look at the lovely Freema Ageyman (Law and Order: UK) for 50 minutes - what's not to like?

07. Doomsday
Horribly sad, Doomsday is the episode that fully lives up to its title. One of The Doctor's old nemesis' return - the Cyberman. Oh, and the Daleks (again). There's the villainy of the Canary Wolf Torchwood location, and stuff about multiple dimensions which assist the story's closing minutes, making it one of the most heart-breaking things, like, ever. A finale with a bang, The Doctor and Rose are literally in a struggle to stay together, as the forces of the universe seem to be doing their damnest to rip them apart. Don't want to spoil anything, but Doomsday is truly heartbreaking, and absolutely a tour de force episode in regards to cinematography, performances, and musical scores.

06. Forest of the Dead
The final installment of the two-part library saga written by Moffat, "Forest of the Dead" is full of surprises. Twists and turns at every corner, narrow escapes, revelations that stun The Doctor himself, and of course, more brilliant work by composer Murray Gold. I won't like, the complicated storyline took a few viewings for me to get several aspects (although I'm sure there's still some subtle stuff I've neglected to comprehend), but it's completely worth it. The character of River Song, created by Moffat, is a enigmatic adventurer who knows much more about The Doctor than anyone before. Her knowledge stuns him. Oh, and speaking about River Song: she's played to gleeful perfection by Alex Kingston (ER), who will luckily be appearing in reportedly five episodes of Series 5. Catherine Tate's Donna Noble undergoes some real character growth in this episode, maturing quite a lot. Tennant's Doctor discovers something new about himself. And finally, the Monster-of-the-Week (if you prefer to refer it as such) is chilling. A great episode. And finally, download Murray Gold's "The Greatest Story Never Told." Pure awesomeness.

05. The Stolen Earth

Epic, apocalyptic, amazing, funny, beautiful, pretty cool, powerful, musically majestic, and featuring one of the best cliffhanger endings to any series I have ever seen in my entire existence, The Stolen Earth was a emotional journey from beginning to end. The Daleks have descended on Earth, having stolen the planet and 26 other planets and transporting them a second out of time as to make it difficult for The Doctor to track them, full-on Armageddon is upon us. With The Doctor out of the game, Torchwood, Sarah Jane Smith, U.N.I.T. employee and ex-Companion Martha Jones, and a disgraced figure from a earlier season, unite to fight the Daleks in his absence. There has hardly been a time I've been as on edge-of-my-seat as this installment, where literally anything can happen to any character. The Stolen Earth is amazing, and it's a little unfortunate the follow-up didn't deliver the goods nearly as much.

04. The Family of Blood
Scarecrows. The Doctor as the mortal John Smith, doing everything in how power to save his fellow man. A creepy alien group known as The Family. And finally, The Doctor exacting vengeance in a dark style only he can dish out. Not the most extraordinarily written episode in the world, but it's one of my favorites - some fantastic casting, especially the actor you see in the photograph who is simply freaky. And there's that kid from Love Actually in here, the one who was in love with the American girl. Plus, in retrospect, the concept of 'death' to the John Smith portion of The Doctor is eerily similar to the 'death' of Tennant's Doctor and the birth of Matt Smith's eleventh Doctor. Nifty.

03. The End of Time, Part Two

David Tennant's final appearance as the Tenth Doctor, this episode is truly marvelous. Of course it wasn't always that way: initially, I wasn't a fan of Davies' farewell two-parter, but it's grown on me. Tennant's Doctor was given a prophecy at the end of "Planet of the Dead", and that prophecy is about to come to fruition. His time is up, and "The End of Time" feature a man walking, head-up, to his death. The power of a man confronting his own mortality head on, at his own choice, is marvelous and powerful. David Tennant brings his A-game, and delivers his strongest performance ever. John Simm solidifies himself as one of my favorite actors of all time with his portrayal of The Master. And Russel T. Davies is officially one hell of a man to admire. His work on Doctor Who is extraordinary, and this script, which wraps up so many elements of the past four years, is nothing short of brilliant on so many levels. And of course, God bless you Murray Gold for some more fantastic cues. "The End of Time" is grand in scale, and the beautiful thing is that the true destruction of the Time Lord is something so personal, so simple...and then the last 20 minutes...Oh Boe, it's simply amazing.

02. Utopia

This was a toughie. The entire Master storyline of season 3, beginning with "Utopia", was terrific (minus the last minutes of "The Last of the Time Lords", which was just bad, lazy writing), but final, heart-pounding, jaw-dropping final 15 minutes of this episode have been repeatedly viewed more times than any other episode. With those ending minutes of awesomeness, and the presence of John Barrowman reprising his role as Captain Jack Harkness (last seen in Series 1), "Utopia" is fantastic. Renowned British actor Derek Jacobi is Professor Yana, a old man with a vision, and a nagging headache that he can't seem to make go away. Unfortunately, Martha gets a little too talkative, and Professor Yana begins to realize something that harkens back to "Human Nature/The Family of Blood." Enter John Simm, giving the best performance of any villain to date for these three Master episodes.

01. Blink
A common number one choice, and deservedly so. There's few programs in the world that have written a single episode that is so brilliant, so bloody amazing, and that it hardly even features the title character! Blink is friggin' creepy, that's the number one thing to know about it. I am absolutely flabbergasted that something so simple - the Weeping Angels - end up being the most frighting creation on the entire planet. What Moffat does with them is terrifying. And then to have all the twists and time travel 'wibbley wabbly, timey wimey' stuff - damn, it brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. I won't go into detail, but you owe it to yourself to download this singular Doctor Who episode, even if you have no intention whatsoever to watch the series after this. Blink has won many, many awards. Find out why.

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