As Jodie Whittaker’s time in the TARDIS comes to an end, so does another era in the modern run of “Doctor Who.” Not only will Whittaker be regenerating into the first Doctor of color with Ncuti Gatwa, but showrunner Russell T. Davies will be returning to the show after departing in 2010. “Doctor Who” has dazzled as some of the best science fiction on television, and while every Doctor has had its rough patches, each era of the show has also given us some truly great work. So in honor of the 13th Doctor, here are the ten best episodes from the revived series.
10: “The Witchfinders”
Well it doesn’t take long for the latest iteration of the character to make an appearance and from Whittaker’s first season as The Doctor comes one of her best episodes. When the 13th Doctor and companions arrive in 17th century Lancashire, they find themselves in the middle of the witch trials. Of course it wouldn’t be “Doctor Who” without an extraterrestrial twist and a fantastic celebrity guest star in Alan Cumming’s scene stealing King James. It was a tie between this episode and “Demons of the Punjab,” but I feel this episode perfectly captured the spirit of the show and the character of The Doctor.
9: “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End”
Often considered the “Infinity War” of modern “Doctor Who,” this two-parter capped off season four in an explosive way. When the Daleks steal 27 planets out of the sky, including Earth, and the 10th Doctor has no way of reaching them, it’s up to every companion he’s made along the way to save the day. While “Journey’s End” may have fumbled the conclusion a little bit, these two episodes truly serve as one big blockbuster. Plus, it still contains one of the series’ most shocking cliffhangers.
8: “The Impossible Astronaut”/”The Day of the Moon“
For the series’ first time filming in America, the creative team knew they had to go big, and you don’t get much bigger than the moon landing. Kicking off the sixth season, the 11th Doctor, the Ponds, and River Song (Alex Kingston) must stop an alien race known as The Silence, creatures who you can only remember when looking at them. The episode features a grand scale, and kicks off the season-long mystery of who the astronaut is on an incredibly exciting note.
7. “Turn Left“
Easily the series’ darkest hour and the episode that cemented Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) as one the greatest companions of all time, “Turn Left” is an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. Similar to “It’s A Wonderful Life.” the episode explores what the world would look like had The Doctor died during “The Runaway Bride.” Tate is a powerhouse, and we also get a truly heartbreaking performance by the late Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott.
6: “The Eleventh Hour“
Matt Smith had the best regeneration story, which shouldn’t be a surprise given he also had the best first outing of any of the modern Doctors. Essentially working as a reboot of the series, this episode introduces us to a new Doctor, new companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill), a new TARDIS, and a new Sonic Screwdriver. It was a whole new era for the series. It’s a tight hour-long adventure that immediately establishes the 11th Doctor as one of the best iterations of the character.
5. “The Day of the Doctor“
Still one of the biggest moments in television history, “Doctor Who’s” 50th Anniversary Special stands as a perfect celebration of the series. This episode is one big feature-length adventure involving the 11th and 10th Doctors and the mysterious War Doctor played excellently by the late John Hurt. The show has yet to dominate the public eye quite as this episode did to this day. With a simulcast across 94 countries and even shown in theaters, it was an event 50 years in the making, and it was certainly worth the wait.
4. “Heaven Sent“
Finally, the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) makes his appearance on the list, and this episode is rightfully this high up. Capaldi essentially carries this episode on his back, being the sole performer throughout. The Doctor finds himself trapped within a clockwork-like castle, and deals with the pain of a recent loss. While the second part of this episode, “Hell Bent”, sours some of the episode’s stronger moments, it still stands as one of the best-written and best-acted episodes in the whole of “Doctor Who.”
3: “The Waters of Mars“
Before David Tennant stepped down from his role as The Doctor, he was given four massive specials to end his tenure. The best of these is this base-under-siege story which sees the 10th Doctor facing a water based infection making its way through a base on Mars. Where the episode gets interesting, apart from the fantastic monsters, is the dilemma The Doctor faces. The deaths of the base’s inhabitants are a fixed point, and need to happen for certain events in history to occur. The strongest moment comes when The Doctor decides to help declare himself, The Time-Lord Victorious.
2: “World Enough and Time/ The Doctor Falls“
This episode serves as the catalyst to many greats for the series. The greatest 12th Doctor story, the greatest two parter, the greatest Master story, the greatest finale; these two episodes are simply great. In the season 10 finale, the 12th Doctor and companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) find themselves on a massive spaceship just outside of a black hole. Through a series of events the two find themselves at the mercy of the dreaded Cyberman and The Master (John Simms). I truly don’t want to give too much away, but this is a near perfect episode and should’ve been Capaldi’s final adventure as the character. His speech about “where he stands, is where he falls” still gives me goosebumps.
Number two on this list may be a near-perfect episode, but “Midnight” actually is a perfect episode. When the 10th Doctor takes a shuttle tour of the planet Midnight, he and a small group of tourists find themselves in a waking nightmare as they’re trapped inside with a creature that repeats everything they say. Essentially a bottle episode, everything great about “Doctor Who” is summed up in this one episode. The tenant gives his best performance as the character, and the supporting cast is equally great. It’s emotional, funny, and terrifying, it’s “Doctor Who” at its finest.
“Dr. Who” is available to stream on HBO Max.
By Adam Beam