Thursday, 26 March 2015

Here are my 10 favourite DOCTOR WHO stories, circa 2005-15...

Thursday, 26 March 2015

10 years ago today, DOCTOR WHO returned to British television screens after 16-years (unless you're counting the 1996 television movie), with the episode "Rose". And lo, how the show has blossomed! The Doctor's regenerated three times since, and we've had five main companions aboard the TARDIS. By way of celebrating nu-Who's decade anniversary (which is also my 36th birthday, BTW), I thought I'd compile a list of my 10 favourite stories the revived show has produced...

10. Human Nature / The Family of Blood
(26 May 07 & 02 Jun 07) - written by Paul Cornell & directed by Charles Palmer
I loved how this episode plonked you into a crazy situation and trusted you to keep up. We also get to see The Doctor (David Tennant) masquerading as a human with no memory of being a renegade Time Lord, which was genius foreshadowing of how The Master would return later the same year. Throw in some of the show's creepiest villains (actual actors giving performances, not expressionless figures in masks, too), and you have a very memorable few hours. How odd Hugo-winning writer Paul Cornell (who also penned series 1 highlight "Father's Day") never wrote for the show again! [archived review]

9. Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead
(31 May 08 & 07 Jun 08) written by Steven Moffat & directed by Euros Lyn
A brilliant blast of Douglas Adams-y imagination, with a planet-sized library now overrun by minuscule entities hiding in shadows and devouring the population. Also very notable for introducing fan-favourite archaeologist River Song (Alex Kingston), in her debut story that ingeniously marks the end of her character's storyline. Timey-wimey, no? [archived review]

8. Midnight
(14 Jun 08) written by Russell T. Davies & directed by Alice Troughton
I rarely found RTD's stories passed muster as sci-fi, but by stripping everything back to basics and hitting on some wonderfully creepy ideas, this episode dazzled and had a brilliant conviction. Whoever would have thought Lesley Sharp simply reciting dialogue would be so damn terrifying. [archived review]

7. The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon
(23 & 30 Apr 11) written by Steven Moffat & directed by Toby Haynes
It's fair to say Steven Moffat's very good at beginnings but his endings are hit-and-miss. When his ambition's reaching for the stars, he's more prone to failure when his intricate puzzles get out of control. Some of series 6's failures with its entwined mysteries ("who killed The Doctor?", "who is River Song?") have a reflective effect on this premiere, but it overcomes that through sheer force of will. Location shooting in Monument Valley gave the show a sense of scale it never had before, its planted conundrums still feel very juicy (even if we know the slightly disappointing answers), and it involved the ironically unforgettable Silence—lanky, besuited aliens you can't remember if you stop looking at them. [archived review]

6. The Snowmen
(25 Dec 12) written by Steven Moffat & directed by Saul Metzstein
In my humble opinion, this is the show's finest Christmas special to date—because it's a good story that took advantage of its festivity without being overwhelmed by it. Menacing snowmen with sharp teeth, a nefarious snow globe voiced by Sir Ian McKellen, Richard E. Grant on panto villain setting, and the best incarnation of "impossible girl" companion Clara (Jenna Coleman)—here playing a spirited Victorian barmaid who takes no nonsense from an inconsolable Doctor. I still wish this version of Clara had been the one who joined The Doctor in his TARDIS. [archived review]

5. Listen
(13 Sep 14) written by Steven Moffat & directed by Douglas Mackinnon
After two years hearing claims his gymnastic storytelling had lost sight of the humanity that was so present under RTD's stewardship, Moffat turned in a typically complex time-travel yarn that managed to keep us engaged with its emotional content. "What scares The Doctor?" was a great question to investigate, and that unexpected flashback to the Time Lord as a frightened little boy was the icing on the cake. Peter Capaldi had some fun hours in his maiden year, but this was the undoubted highlight. [archived review]

4. The Doctor's Wife
(14 May 11) written by Neil Gaiman & directed by Richard Clark
A strange and gorgeous love-story between The Doctor and his TARDIS; magically given sensual physicality as buxom guest-star Suranne Jones. A beautiful, creative, emotional story from revered author Neil Gaiman. Quite possibly the only story that saw Matt Smith's Doctor given poignant material that worked without feeling too schmaltzy and unearned, too. [archived review]

3. The Eleventh Hour
(03 Apr 10) written by Steven Moffat & directed by Adam Smith
The best introduction of a new Doctor (Matt Smith) ever filmed, mainly because of how deftly his regeneration entangled with the life of new companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) as a child and adult kissogram. Moffat's debut year as showrunner had a clear trajectory and this premiere buzzed with vitality and fresh changes. A new Doctor, a new companion, a new showrunner. The show had become a big success during the Russell T. Davies and David Tennant years, but this is when it truly became a world-conquering smash. [archived review]

2. Blink
(09 Jun 07) written by Steven Moffat & directed by Hettie MacDonald
You seriously thought this award-winning favourite wouldn't make my list? Is it actually overrated? No. Although it's perhaps a shame Tennant's Doctor and Martha (Freema Agyeman) are so marginalised during such a celebrated hour, with the episode focusing almost exclusively on future Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow. Of course, the reason this hour's so fondly remembered is simple: it created one of television's scariest foes. Terrifying "living statues" that can only move when you're not looking at them. A simple but inspired conceit that the episode's script and direction executed perfectly. [archived review]

1. The Day of The Doctor
(23 Nov 13) written by Steven Moffat & directed by Nick Hurran
The feature-length episode to mark Doctor Who's 50th anniversary had to be something very special. I was bowled over by how perfect this joyful celebration was. You had three Doctors (including Hollywood legend John Hurt) appearing together in a 3D adventure you could watch at the cinema; filled with impressive visual effects, and an epic storyline that neatly elucidated and concluded the Time War backstory. Not only that, but 1970s icon Tom Baker had a lovely cameo in his signature role, and with the help of digital trickery every incarnation of The Doctor helped save the planet Gallifrey. I was grinning like a seven-year-old all the way through. [archived review]

What have we learned from my list? Answer: Steven Moffat is clearly my favourite nu-Who writer. He created 8 of my top 10 storylines. Some of that's down to the fact he could drop into RTD's era with a well-polished classic (unencumbered by the time and stress of running the show), but also because becoming showrunner allowed him to indulge himself in the most compelling and ambitious hours. I also seem to enjoy a good two-part or feature-length storyline.

I'm sorry there wasn't more variety in my choices regarding who wrote my favourites, but whenever I considered a non-Moffat story I also really like... I found it just didn't compare to another Moffat one. And to be honest, I was close to "The Girl in the Fireplace" and "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang" edging out some of those non-Moff hours. Sorry!

Feel free to post your own favourites in the comments below.