One of my favorite TV shows of all time is the extremely popular international phenomenon Doctor Who. One of the best elements of this series is its ability to reinvent itself periodically with new casts, crews, and tones, a controversial aspect of the series which results in a very diverse array of stories. Though I’ve enjoyed almost all of these seasons, there are some I’ve enjoyed more than others.
#13. 10th Doctor Specials
Best Episode: “The Waters of Mars”
Worst Episode: “The Next Doctor”
I know the Tenth Doctor is almost everyone’s favorite but by his last few years of specials, I was ready for him to go. Aside from the clever and frightening “Waters of Mars”, I found all of the specials to be dull and tiresome, and the one-off companions (besides Wilfred Mott) to be forgettable.
#12. Series 7
Best Episode: “The Power of Three”
Worst Episode: “A Town Called Mercy”
I never felt like the half-season model worked well for Doctor Who, and was glad that it only lasted for Seasons 6 and 7. The Eleventh Doctor’s final season suffered from a scattered and rushed atmosphere as Amy and Rory play out some more contrived drama until their unnecessarily complex exit in the midseason finale. Things only get worse from there as Clara Oswald debuts as a flat, ill-defined plot device.
Nevertheless, this season featured some fascinating developments in the character of the Doctor and some very solid and enjoyable, if average, episodes.
#11. Series 6
Best Episode: “The Doctor’s Wife”
Worst Episode: “The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People”
Speaking of unnecessarily complicated…
While Series 6 had some memorable and fun episodes such as the terrifying “Night Terrors” and the hilariously creative “The Doctor’s Wife”, the season was weighed down by a claustrophobic overarching plotline which, while wrapped in a satisfactory manner, felt oddly dark and lacked the sense of joy maintained by previous and subsequent seasons of Who. Further development of Amy, Rory, and River, along with the introduction of the Silence, do wonders to lift this season from the bottom of the pack.
#10. Series 3
Best Episode: “Blink”
Worst Episode: “Last of the Time Lords”
Poor Martha Jones was a wonderful companion saddled with a tedious and repetitive crush on the Doctor and mostly average episodes. While none of them were bad, per se, none of them quite reached the heights of the previous and subsequent seasons. The reintroduction of the Master seemed like the perfect way to revitalize the season but the opposite occurred– the cringe-worthy and corny finale completely undercut the positive parts of the season and left Martha with an even worse reputation among Whovians.
#9. 11th Doctor Specials
Best Episode: “The Time of the Doctor”
Worst Episode: “The Day of the Doctor”
Technically, these were only two episodes, so they were hard to categorize. “The Day of the Doctor”, the show’s ambitious 50th Anniversary special, was immensely enjoyable but somewhat disappointing due to the extreme hype and a kind of disappointing lack of energy from the Tenth Doctor; while “The Time of the Doctor”, surprisingly exceeded all of my Christmas special expectations by being heartfelt, funny, and ambitious and finally making Eleven and Clara’s relationship feel believable.
#8. Series 11
Best Episode: “The Witchfinders”
Worst Episode: “The Tsuranga Conundrum”
As of today, the Eleventh Series hasn’t finished airing, so its position on this list is subject to change. It’s often difficult for me to gauge how I feel about a series of Doctor Who until it ends, and the showrunner’s full hand is showed, but for now, Series 11 feels good if not great.
An interesting mix of amazing episodes (“Kerblam!”, “Demons of the Punjab”, “Rosa”, “The Witchfinders”), okay episodes (“The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, “The Ghost Monument”), and bad episodes (“The Tsuranga Conundrum”, “Arachnids in the UK”), Series 11 has a little bit of everything. The Thirteenth Doctor hasn’t quite found her footing yet but she’s a joy to watch and her companions, while underdeveloped, are a refreshing change of pace in every conceivable way.
#7. Series 5
Best Episode: “The Big Bang”
Worst Episode: “Victory of the Daleks”
A solid, all-around enjoyable series, the Eleventh Doctor’s debut season was notable for having my second-favorite season finale of the whole series and almost no clunkers whatsoever. The new pairing of Amy and the Doctor (joined sometimes by Rory) were at their best here, going on adventures that were rarely anything worse than just okay. This series had a ton of imagination in it, some heartwrenching stories, and just enough wonder to balance out the overarching plotline.
#6. Series 1
Best Episode: “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances”
Worst Episode: “Boom Town”
Series 1 didn’t have great production values, and in retrospect, Rose was actually pretty annoying, but this series exemplified the wonder and sense of fun that defines nuWho, and paved the way for a fantastic new era of the show. With a cleverly restrained overarching plotline, and a perfect mix of creepy and campy, Series 1 was a truly special era of the show with a vastly underrated Doctor.
#5. Series 10
Best Episode: “World Enough & Time / The Doctor Falls”
Worst Episode: “The Pilot”
The Twelfth Doctor has a special place in my heart as one of the best, most complex and underrated Doctors of all time, and all of his seasons could’ve taken the #1 slot in this list, but Series 10 ended up at the back of this list through no fault of its own. Bill and Nardole were absolutely fantastic companions, and almost every episode of this season was a great mix of depth, darkness, and fun. “World Enough & Time” and “The Doctor Falls”, while somewhat too dark, were both incredible, and the character development of Missy was extremely satisfying to see.
So why is this series the lowest of the Twelfth Doctor’s era? Mostly because Bill and Nardole, unlike Clara, only had a single series of development, producing less of an emotional attachment to me than series 8 and 9.
#4. Series 8
Best Episode: “Flatline”
Worst Episode: “Robot of Sherwood”
I expected this series to end up a lot lower on my list. Even I can admit it wasn’t the best debut the Twelfth Doctor could’ve had, often seeming scattered and refusing to flesh out the Doctor in favor of focusing on Clara (who I love, to be fair). However, despite the confusing and melodramatic finale, and the cringeworthy “Kill the Moon”, “In the Forest of the Night”, and “Robot of Sherwood”, Series 8 had a lot going for it.
Aside from the aforementioned episodes, every episode felt fresh and exciting… and the Twelfth Doctor, while angst-ridden, was so fascinating to watch as he evolved. He and Clara had a powerful, ever-changing dynamic that made Series 9 that much more interesting, and it introduced Missy, one of the best things to happen to the series.
#3. Series 2
Best Episode: “The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit”
Worst Episode: “Love & Monsters”
This series is overrated, but for good reason. Piggybacking off the Ninth Doctor’s adventures, Tennant took everything good about Series 1 and magnified it by one hundred, producing a fun and exciting romp through space and time that left me on the edge of my seat. Despite my dislike for romantic Doctor/Companion pairings, Ten and Rose had a believable chemistry that culminated in a tragic and memorable season finale… not to mention the heartstopping, terrifying “Satan Pit” two-parter which gave me nightmares for days.
#2. Series 4
Best Episode: “Turn Left”
Worst Episode: “Planet of the Ood”
I’m a sucker for crossovers, especially of the companion variety. My favorite multi-Doctor stories are the ones where they take their companions with them, giving them the chance to see the others who’ve taken their place aboard the Tardis. Therefore, “Turn Left” through “Journey’s End”, a cumulative Tenth Doctor adventure where all of his recent companions team up to help him stop the Daleks, automatically elevate this series to a pretty high spot.
Even without those stories, however, the presence of Donna Noble, a hilariously fresh take on the companion, did wonders to elevate Series 4. Tennant and Tate had a great dynamic, elevating their already-strong stories to the next level as we met everyone from the Adipose to the Vashta Nerada.
#1. Series 9
Best Episode: “Heaven Sent / Hell Bent”
Worst Episode: “Sleep No More”
I’m glad not every season of Doctor Who was like Series 9. It was heavy, dense, and dark in a way that makes rewatching it a struggle. However, these same properties made it an extremely intriguing, satisfying season that put an incredible cap on the story of the Doctor and Clara which had been building for the past three or so years.
Aside from “Sleep No More”, every episode was amazing in its own way– especially the opening two-parter, a fun and frantic romp that gave us the Missy-Clara team-up we didn’t know we needed, the powerful Zygon two-parter, and the tragic and tense final two-parter, “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent”, which inverted expectations at every turn and showed just exactly what the Doctor was capable of.
Series 9 remains the pinnacle of Doctor Who for me, representing a unique season that wasn’t afraid to take risks; and focused wonderfully on the true heart of the show: the relationship between the Doctor and his companions.