Crash Course: Doctor Who

Doctor Who is one of those shows that you either love or hate and, honestly, if you hate it then we really can’t be friends. But that will not stop me from regaling you with fandom jokes that you won’t understand and forcing you to sit through my favorite episodes in an attempt to convert you. So here, without further ado, are my top ten episodes of Doctor Who that you really need to watch if you don’t want me to throw you into the Untempered Schism.

Oh. And one last thing before we get started.


Alex Kingston as River Song. (Silence in the Library, 2008)

10. Silence in the Library (Season 4, Episode 9)

This episode makes the list because of two words: River. Song.

I love her. Some people hate her but I am not one of those people. She is my spirit animal. She is totally in control and completely unafraid, despite the fact she and her husband (who doesn’t know her yet) get chased through the largest library in the universe by a bunch of flesh eating shadows. It’s a hell of a first date.

She sacrifices herself to save a man who doesn’t even know her, because she loves him, because she knows he has so much more work to do, and because the universe would be a much sadder place without The Doctor.

What about the Vashta Nerada, you may ask? They were creepy and somehow managed to make me afraid of shadows and dust swimming in sunlight at the same time. No me gusta.

9. Human Nature/ The Family of Blood (Season 3, Episodes 9 & 10)

So I’m cheating a bit by doing two episodes in one. Sue me. Well, it’s not exactly cheating. Both episodes deal with the same story line in which The Doctor makes himself human in order to hide from a group of aliens hot on his tail. The downside? He can’t remember that he’s a Time Lord. He genuinely thinks he’s human. He can’t even remember that Martha Jones is his friend. And then he falls in love. It’s so sad because in the end he doesn’t want to go, he wants to stay John Smith, but he can’t. He has to save the world again.

His wrath for those who took away that simple, happy life from him is terrifying. He doesn’t kill them. He does something so much worse. He traps them, stands them still in the midst of time, and leaves them alone.


8. A Good Man Goes to War (Season 6, Episode 7)

            Dorium: Demons run when a good man goes to war.

That man is Rory Williams. His badassery in the opening sequence is jaw dropping in and of itself, but he gets progressively more awesome as the episode continues.

The Doctor opens up a veritable intergalactic shit storm on Madam Kovarian and her merry band of flying monkeys. Never has the name ‘The Oncoming Storm’ been more appropriate. But it’s tempered by a moment of softness, a moment of quiet sadness, when The Doctor gifts Amy and Rory with a cradle from Gallifrey. He says it’s his own, but we know from Fear Her (Season 2, Episode 12) that The Doctor once had children, and I have a feeling they may have slept there once a long, long time ago.

Oh, and brownie points for the most awkward family reunion…pretty much ever.

7. The Doctor’s Wife (Season 6, Episode 4)

Suranne Jones as Idris/The TARDIS. (The Doctor’s Wife, 2011)

The best Doctor Who episodes are always the ones where The Doctors’ hopes are risen up and then smashed to tiny bits and pieces and baked in a pie.

Long story short, The Doctor is lured to an asteroid outside the universe by a fake Time Lord distress call. The soul of the TARDIS is then stolen and put inside a human body, stranding The Doctor, Amy, and Rory on an asteroid that’s more than a bit alive and has developed a taste for Cremé de TARDIS. Said asteroid/alien/glowy-thingie hijacks the TARDIS upon learning that it’s the last one and drives it back to the universe.

With Amy and Rory still inside.

Thus begins one of the best on screen mind fucks ever. I won’t spoil that for you, but it’s defiantly worth a watch if you enjoy watching your favorite characters in mental anguish.

6. The Shakespeare Code (Season 3, Episode 3)

Hilarity ensues in this episode, in which The Doctor and Martha (How do I love Martha Jones? Let me count the ways.) travel back in time to meet William Shakespeare. Problem is, once they arrive, they find the area under attack from what appears to be witches. The witches are in fact aliens called Carrionites, hence The Doctors involvement, and have put Shakespeare under a ‘spell’ in which he writes a formula for the resurrection of their race into a play. Basically the human race is in danger of being wiped out. Because this is Doctor Who and the human race is always in danger of being wiped out.

In the end Shakespeare, The Doctor, and Martha use the power of words to fight the Carrionites. What happens then is one of the best ‘ad libs’ in the history of modern TV, resulting in the Carrionites being trapped in – what else? – a crystal ball.

5. Vincent and The Doctor (Season 5, Episode 10)

I have a special place in my heart for any TV show or movie depicting Vincent van Gogh. He is without a doubt my favorite artist and to see him depicted so wonderfully by Tony Curran was a feast for the senses.

The Doctor takes Amy Pond to a museum which houses a rather large display of Van Gogh’s works. In one of the works (The Church of Auvers) is a depiction of a “not very nice face.” The Doctor and Amy travel through time and space to meet him and unravel the mystery.

The monster isn’t really the focus of the episode. It focuses rather more on Van Gogh and the fragile lines between genius, insanity, and depression. It’s a heartbreaking episode. Despite the fact that she treated Van Gogh with so much kindness and changed his life by doing so, Amy learns that, in the end, even The Doctor can’t save everyone.

Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow, being watched by The Weeping Angels. (Blink, 2007)

4. Blink (Season 3, Episode 11)

            The Doctor: Don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink and you’re dead.

Perhaps the most famous and well loved “Doctor-Lite” episode; famous for the romance scene between Sally Sparrow and Billy Shipton, (which lasted all of 3 minutes before he was attacked by The Weeping Angels and tossed back in time to 1969.) and loved because it’s just bloody brilliant.

Sally loses her best friend and potential boyfriend to The Weeping Angels. She then teams up with her best friend’s brother to find the TARDIS, save The Doctor and Martha (who are also trapped in 1969), and foil The Weeping Angels plan to consume the TARDIS’s core as food.

Sally Sparrow, ladies and gents. Certified BAMF.

3. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (Season 1, Episodes 9 & 10)

Albert Valentine as Jamie/The Boy in the Mask. (The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances, 2005)

I’ve done it again, but this story arch is so widely praised by Whovians and Non-Whovians alike as one of the best there’s ever been that it’s impossible to make a list such as this and not include it.

The Doctor and Rose Tyler chase what appears to be a bomb through the Time Vortex and land in London circa 1941. During the search for the “bomb” The Doctor encounters a group of war-time misfits, led by a  young girl named Nancy, who are trying to survive the war and get food in their stomachs while running from a creepy kid in a gas mask who turns everyone he touches into gas mask wearing zombies.

Throw in the unbelievably memorable line “Are you my Mummy?” and you’ve got one hell of a villain. Except he’s not really a villain. He’s a kid who got tangled up in alien technology designed to heal the injured. He just happened to be wearing a mask at the time, so the technology things that how all humans look and if they don’t then they’re injured and need to be fixed.

Technology which came from the bomb that isn’t a bomb. Surprise, surprise.

The plot twist at the end, though. That’s the best part. I usually see around corners with most TV shows, but that bit genuinely surprised me. All’s well that ends well, The Doctor saves the day, and we get the positively scrumptious Captain Jack Harkness to look forward to in future episodes.


2. Planet of the Ood (Season 4, Episode 4)

The Ood are perhaps one of the best love “monsters” in all of the Whoniverse and in this episode we finally learn of their origins. It’s not at all what you’d expect. Doctor Who usually deals with far off, fantastical ideas but we’re hit full in the face with the fact that that the Ood, contrary to what was depicted in earlier episodes, are not servants. Their planet was taken over and they themselves enslaved because they were unable to fight back. They are imprisoned, tortured, fitted with a communication device, and shipped off across the galaxy to serve humans.

The Doctor and Donna Noble wind up on the Planet of the Ood by chance and witness these atrocities first hand. When the Ood begin displaying signs of Red Eye (a sort of madness) they decided to investigate.

The Doctor does what he does best and saves the day, but once the Ood are free they deliver him a startling message. One that he can’t ignore for long.

His song is ending.

1. The Big Bang (Season 5, Episode 13)

My number one must see episode of Doctor Who has been, and always will be, The Big Bang. It’s an amazing conclusion to Season 5 and made me love Matt Smith more than I ever thought I could.

Van Gogh’s The TARDIS Explodes. (The Pandorica Opens, 2010)

With The Doctor locked in The Pandorica and unable to stop it, The TARDIS explodes; ripping through time and space and undoing all of history. The stars go out. Nothing is the same.

It’s at this point that little Amy Pond, no more than seven years old, follows a litany of strange clues to the local museum where she sees The Pandorica. When it opens she finds an older Amy Pond trapped inside, having swapped places with The Doctor at the last possible moment, and the race to save the world begins in earnest.

In the end The Doctor makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the people he loves. He flies The Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS, triggering a second Big Bang, and rebooting the universe.

The cracks begin to seal, time begins to repair itself, but there’s a catch. The cracks can’t close properly until The Doctor is on the other side, and once he goes over, he’ll never have existed. No one will remember him.

It’s at this point in the program that writer Steven Moffat displays just how talented he is and Matt Smith delivers a gut punching performance as The Doctor says goodbye to Amy one last time.

And that’s ok, because the universe is safe, and his friends are hale and whole, and that’s the point of him, isn’t it? The Doctor makes sacrifices and no one notices, or even remembers.

The episode fast forwards about twenty years or so to the day of Amy and Rory’s wedding. Despite this being one of the happiest days of her life, Amy feels like something is missing and begins to cry at the reception quite inexplicably. Then she spots a woman walking by the window – the one and only River Song – and sees the blue TARDIS journal sitting on the table.

And then she remembers.

She remembers and those memories bring The Doctor back.

Charlotte House (4 Posts)