Friday, 18 October 2013

The Best, The Worst, and The Most Underrated of Doctor Who


This year the greatest TV show ever made, Doctor Who, is fifty years old. For any newcomers to Who fandom, fifty years worth of TV might seem a little daunting. With this in mind I thought I'd compile a list of what I feel are the best, worst, and most underrated episodes that each of the eleven Doctors have starred in.

The First Doctor - William Hartnell



The Best: The Romans

The Hartnell era is often quite serious in tone, it was after all originally intended to be an educational show. Hartnell himself is often remembered for his grumpy, impatient portrayal of The Doctor. The Romans however is the series' first attempt at comedy. The Doctor rarely stops chuckling as he bullshits his way into the good graces of Emperor Nero. In one memorable scene The Doctor fends off an assassin by nimbly dodging his attacks, causing the assassin to fall victim to his own pratfalls (an early example of the Third Doctor's Venusian Akido perhaps?). Nero is played as a randy old buffoon and there's lots of mistaken identity, switching of poisoned goblets and main protagonists narrowly missing each other. It's all very silly, and loads of fun, and it really stands out from the rest of the era.

Most Underrated: The Time Meddler

I've seen this described by many as boring but I think it moves along at a nice pace, especially compared to many other stories from this era. Peter Butterworth plays the Meddling Monk, a member of the Doctor's race, who has his own TARDIS and is using it to interfere with history for his own personal gain. Both Butterworth and Hartnell get some great lines, and the scenes where they're together are a delight. A role playing game from the '80s describes the Monk as an earlier incarnation of the Master. This idea is not considered canon, but I find it fascinating, and watching The Time Meddler with this in mind certainly adds to the experience.

The Worst: The Daleks

I'm sure that watching the first appearance of something as brilliant as the Daleks was amazing in 1964, but watching this story today, I can't escape the fact that it's boring. Really, really, boring. This opinion isn't going to win me any friends in Doctor Who fandom, but surely I can't be the only one who thinks this? For a more exciting Hartnell era Dalek epic check out The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

The Second Doctor - Patrick Troughton



The Best: The War Games

The War Games
is a ten parter, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that it might make for challenging (in other words, dull) viewing. This couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, our heroes get captured and then re-captured a couple of times, but the central idea's so unique, the supporting characters are so likable, and the villains are so entertainingly evil that any repetitiveness is easily forgiven. It also helps that this is the first story to introduce the Time Lords and explore the Doctor's origins, as well as being Patrick Troughton's last story before he regenerates. But even without these selling points this story would still be a classic. It blends a vivid depiction of historical events with an exploration of clever sci-fi ideas, in other words it's quintessential Doctor Who. The main bad guy in this story, The War Chief, is also named (along with The Monk) as a previous incarnation of The Master in the aforementioned '80s role playing game.

Most Underrated: The Invasion

Mark Campbell's Pocket Essential Doctor Who dismisses this story as "deeply boring" but I think it's ace. Kevin Stoney as Tobias Vaughn is a fantastic bad guy, and the Cybermen in the sewers are really creepy, especially the one who goes off his nut and starts staggering through the shadows, screaming in agony, attacking anything it comes across. This story is the second appearance of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the first appearance of UNIT, and it's intriguing seeing the Second Doctor working with them, a situation more commonly associated with the Third Doctor.

The Worst: The Seeds of Death

This story really is deeply boring, but what marks it out as the worst is that on paper it sounds awesome; Ice Warriors take over a space station on the Moon. What we get instead is lots of dull people in dull overalls being dull, with The Doctor getting menaced by some bath foam at one point. To be fair though, The Second Doctor does get one of his best lines ever - "You can't kill me, I'm a genius!"

The Third Doctor - Jon Pertwee



The Best: The Sea Devils

I found it particularly difficult choosing between this and The Green Death as my favourite Pertwee adventure. The Green Death has one of the most heart wrenching companion departures (The Doctor seems properly gutted when Jo Grant leaves) and it's set in my beloved homeland, Wales. But The Sea Devils has Roger Delgado as The Master, and so I have to give it the top spot. Delgado's Master features in many of the Pertwee stories, but this is probably his best. He's banged up in jail after being caught at the end of The Daemons, and The Doctor's been going to visit him regularly. The warmth between the Doctor and the Master is beautiful. Even when they're sword fighting with each other you feel that they're both loving it. You get the impression that despite being arch enemies they really do enjoy each other's company, and that The Doctor considers The Master to be the only person who really understands him, and vice versa. This aspect of The Master was lost after Delgado's death, and only really returned with John Simm's recent portrayal of the character. Another aspect of this story that makes it stand out is the brilliant incidental music. It's all screeching, eerie, synthesizers, and it really helps to make this story feel unique.

Most Underrated: The Time Monster

Everyone seems to hate this story, but I love it. It's pretty daft, and the monster is literally a person wearing a bed sheet, but it's lots of fun. Pertwee and Delgado bounce off each other beautifully as usual, Ingrid Pitt stars as an Atlantean Queen, and at one point The Master says to Jo "I'm sorry about your coccyx too Miss Grant." What's not to love?

The Worst: The Ambassadors of Death

Apparently this was a leftover script from the Troughton era that was hastily adapted to fit the Third Doctor's status quo, and it shows. Overlong, dull, po-faced and forgettable. There is a character, Ralph Cornish, with the same surname as me, so it's got that going for it I guess.

The Fourth Doctor - Tom Baker



The Best:
The Deadly Assassin

This was a tough one as there are so many great Fourth Doctor stories. Ask me on a different day and I might say Terror of the Zygons, Genesis of the Daleks, Talons of Weng Chiang, Seeds of Doom, The Robots of Death, or City of Death. But if I'm really pushed I have to go for The Deadly Assassin. In this story The Doctor returns to his home planet of Gallifrey and gets embroiled in a murder mystery involving The Master. The Doctor, particularly The Fourth Doctor, is always at his best when cocking his snoot at authority figures, and the Time Lords are the ultimate authority figures. In this story the Time Lords are depicted as elderly, male dominated, pompous, corrupt and complacent, so The Doctor's rebelliousness is particularly relatable and satisfying. As well as pricking the Time Lord's pomposity, The Doctor also gets to play the action hero, as he fights for survival against the titular assassin in a nightmare-ish, virtual reality, jungle. There's no companion in this story, so the full force of Tom Baker's charisma is felt.

Most Underrated: The Face of Evil

This story's most famous for a scene featuring some inspired improvisation from Tom Baker, who didn't want the Doctor to threaten a foe with a knife; "Now drop your weapons, or I'll kill him with this deadly jelly baby". Even without this brilliant scene though The Face of Evil would still have a clever sci-fi concept, the introduction of  Leela (one of the most unique companions), a great jungle set, witty dialogue and a fantastic performance from Baker.

The Worst: The Leisure Hive

For me Doctor Who is at it's worst when it's brightly lit and po-faced, and The Leisure Hive is both of these things. It's the story of an alien holiday complex facing bankruptcy due to a falling tourist trade and............. Oh, I'm sorry I just drifted off there. To be fair though, the design of the alien Argolin race looks great.

The Fifth Doctor - Peter Davison



The Best: The Caves of Androzani

A really predictable choice I'm afraid, but tough, Caves is brilliant. Not only is it the best Fifth Doctor story, it's a contender for best Doctor Who story ever! Although the story involves gun runners and corrupt businessmen it never gets too serious and gritty. The corrupt businessman, Morgus's habit of addressing the camera directly, and the wonderful Phantom of the Opera-like villain, Sharaz Jek stop the whole thing from going all Blake's Seven. What's great and unique about this story is that The Doctor isn't interested in righting any wrongs, he just wants to cure himself and his companion, Peri of the fatal poisoning they're suffering from and then get the fuck out of Dodge. This story is typical of The Fifth Doctor's era, in that The Doctor is swept along as a victim of circumstances beyond his control. And yet, ironically, in this story The Fifth Doctor is probably the most aggressive and Doctor-like he's ever been, standing up to Sharaz Jek with sarcasm and humour, and deliberately crashing a rocket in order to get back to Peri. Of course, at the end he sacrifices himself to save Peri and we get one of the best regeneration scenes ever, with The Fifth Doctor dying as memories of his companions and the mocking laughter of The Master spin around and around through his brain.

Most Underrated: Castrovalva

Okay, I need to warn you that a great deal of this story is taken up by The Doctor's companions, Tegan and Nyssa carrying a cupboard through a forest, but if you can endure that then Castrovalva is very entertaining. This is Peter Davison's first story, and despite the fact that The Doctor's suffering from post-regeneration trauma you really get a feeling for who The Fifth Doctor is, thanks in no small part to Peter Davison's excellent performance.

The Worst: Time-Flight

A story about Concorde getting sucked back to prehistoric times shouldn't be this boring. This story's also notable for The Master wearing a racist, oriental disguise for no apparent reason. He's trapped in dinosaur times, who the fuck is he hiding from?!

The Sixth Doctor - Colin Baker



The Best: Revelation of The Daleks

The Doctor and Peri aren't in this one much, but there's not much need for them as this story features possibly the most rich, unique, and compelling bunch of supporting characters ever featured in Doctor Who. During the course of this story (set in an intergalactic funeral home) we meet Jobel - a vain and lecherous Embalmer, Tasambeker - Jobel's mousy student and unwanted admirer, Arthur Stengos - an old friend of the Doctor, reduced to a deformed head in a glass Dalek, Madame Kara - a scheming and glamorous company head, Vogel - her obsequious and devoted secretary, Orcini - a noble but aging mercenary knight, Bostok - his malodorous but loyal squire, and Alexei Sayle as a cheesy DJ who plays records for the dead. On top this we have two warring factions of Daleks, and Davros (creator of the Daleks) with a scheme to sell a famine plagued galaxy their own dead relatives as food, all combining to make one of the strangest, and most entertaining Doctor Who stories of all time.

Most Underrated: Trial of a Time Lord

This story is far from perfect, (for example, there's a lot of corridor running, even by Doctor Who standards, and Peri's ultimate fate is ridiculous) but it's nowhere near the disaster some fans would have you believe. Trial of a Time Lord's plus points include Brian Blessed as a warrior king, the return of Sil - one of the Sixth Doctor's best villains, some wonderful model based special effects, a return to the nightmare world of the Matrix (last seen in The Deadly Assassin), and Bonnie Langford as a companion. Yes, that's right, Bonnie Langford! Peri was a good companion but Nicola Bryant always played her as uncomfortable with, and even fearful of The Doctor. It made the aggressive and loud Sixth Doctor seem like a bully. Bonnie Langford's Mel on the other hand was cheerful, and able to stand up to The Doctor's blustering, and as a result she complimented The Sixth Doctor well. The main highlight of this story however is Colin Baker's brilliant performance as The Doctor, as he indignantly rebukes the corrupt Time Lords and verbally spars with his own evil alter ego from the future, The Valeyard.

The Worst: The Twin Dilemma

Wrong footing the audience by introducing a darker, more unstable incarnation of The Doctor is a great idea, but this script is just too immature to deal with that notion properly. As a result we get poor old Colin Baker having to play an arsehole Doctor who tries to throttle Peri, but isn't allowed to experience any moments that redeem him in the eyes of the audience.

The Seventh Doctor - Sylvester McCoy



The Best: The Curse of Fenric

Sylvester McCoy's final season as The Doctor is pretty much flawless, so it's hard to pick a best story. But, if I had a gun to my head I'd go with The Curse of Fenric. The Doctor and Ace are caught between British and Russian soldiers in World War II England, and have to fend off a horde of vampires, an alien vampire boss from Earth's future, and Fenric, an evil force from the dawn of the Universe. This story was ahead of it's time in so many ways. The characters all feel like real people with rich, fleshed out back stories and believable motivations. The Doctor's history with Fenric feels mythic and Ace experiences genuine character development. On top of all this, the vampires are some of the creepiest monsters ever to feature in Doctor Who. Plot threads from previous seasons pay off in the story's finale, and we see a ruthless, manipulative and darker side to The Doctor. The only negative aspect to this story is the scene where Ace seduces a soldier to provide a distraction. The supposedly sexy dialogue poor old Sophie Aldred has to spout is complete bibble.

Most Underrated: Battlefield

I've seen this story described as the weakest story in McCoy's final season, but I absolutely love it. Arthurian knights from another dimension spill their war out on to our world and The Doctor's old friend, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart comes out of retirement to fight them! The Brigadier is the star of this story. His advancing years add some poignancy, but he's still a complete double-hard bastard! As in the rest of this season, The Doctor's manipulative side is emphasised, and we discover that a future incarnation of The Doctor will become the Merlin of Arthurian legend! Apparently The Brig was meant to be killed off in the original script for this story. The story does indeed feel like it's building up to a noble sacrifice that never actually comes, but The Brig's such a brilliant character, played so well by Nicholas Courtney, that I find it easy to forgive the slightly twee ending.

The Worst: Time and The Rani

Colin Baker quite rightly refused to come back for a regeneration scene after being fired by the BBC, and so this story begins with the sight of Sylvester McCoy in a curly blond wig and goes rapidly downhill from there.

The Eighth Doctor - Paul McGann



The Best, The Worst, and the Most Underrated: The TV Movie

Since I'm only covering TV stories and not novels or audio adventures, The Eighth Doctor only has one TV Movie for me to write about. Thankfully it simultaneously manages to be the best, the worst and the most underrated!

The Best: Paul McGann is brilliant, a dashing, gentle, impulsive Doctor with an almost childlike enthusiasm. Eric Roberts is wonderful as The Master. I'm not sure if it's deliberate but he genuinely seems like he has the previous Master, Anthony Ainley, inhabiting his body. The TARDIS set looks amazing, and while including Sylvester McCoy's regeneration was a poor choice for a TV Movie designed to introduce new audiences to the character, it's hard not to get a fanboy thrill from seeing The Seventh Doctor transform into The Eighth.

Most Underrated: Back when it was first broadcast the most controversial aspect of this story seemed to be The Doctor sharing a kiss and a high speed motorcycle chase with his companion, Grace. These days, with the new series depicting The Doctor driving motorbikes up the side of buildings and snogging everything that enters his TARDIS, the TV Movie seems ahead of its time.

The Worst: Grace is really, really annoying, and is given some of the crappiest lines in the script. For example during the motorcycle chase she announces to nobody "I finally meet the right guy, and he's from another planet!" Also, The Doctor is half human for some reason.

The Ninth Doctor - Christopher Eccleston




The Best: The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances

In 2005, Russell T. Davies brought The Doctor back to our screens, and in the first new series for 16 years we got a brilliant two parter from Steven Moffat. It's set during World War II and features genuinely hilarious dialogue ("Bananas are good!"), the first appearance of randy action hero and future Torchwood star, Captain Jack, and one of the most uplifting endings of any Doctor Who story. But the story's best remembered for its alien menace. A child in a gas mask asking for his mother. So simple and yet so pants-soilingly scary. Moffat realised that all the best Who monsters, The Daleks, The Cybermen, The Kandyman (ok, not him), manage to be scary while also being easy to imitate in the school playground. This was also the first story to address the delicate question of whether The Doctor has it off or not. Moffat was able to discuss such adult themes by rather cleverly using the word 'dancing' when he actually meant 'knobbing'.

Most Underrated: Boom Town

Eccleston's only series has quite a few underrated gems. I would argue that Aliens of London/World War Three, The Long Game and even the episode that brought it all back, Rose. have all been unfairly maligned. But the episode from this season that I generally see getting the most stick is Boom Town. It's by no means the best of the season, but it's nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe. The Doctor lands in Cardiff and finds a loose end left over from a previous adventure in the form of Margaret, a Slitheen disguised as the mayor of Cardiff. Christopher Eccleston really proves his acting chops here as he and Margaret (played by Annette Badland) sit down for a meal and discuss what Margaret's fate should be, and whether The Doctor is entitled to decide it. If the episode has a flaw it's that the dilemma is wrapped up way too easily, but it still has a lot going for it. Two of the most interesting questions Russell T. Davies tackled during his five years in charge of Doctor Who were; i) what happens to the people The Doctor gets involved with after he moves on to his next adventure? and ii) With the Time Lords dead, should that make The Doctor the ultimate authority in the Universe? This episode was one of the first times these questions were discussed and I found it intriguing. Also, it's set in the greatest city on Earth, my hometown, Cardiff.

The Worst: The End of the World

Some great looking aliens can't save this episode. It's daft, but not in a good way. The ending to Galaxy Quest is recreated without a hint of self awareness (the button that saves everyone is inexplicably situated behind deadly rotating blades) and poor old Eccleston has to deliver the daftest line ever with a straight face - "Jabe! You're made of wood!"

The Tenth Doctor - David Tennant



The Best: The Waters of Mars

The Tenth Doctor is smug. That's not a complaint, it's one of the character traits that makes Tennant's Doctor so unique. Despite the fact that I think The Tenth Doctor is brilliant, I can't deny that throughout his time on our screens there was a part of me that really wanted the self satisfied git to get his comeuppance. The Waters of Mars is The Tenth Doctor's comeuppance! The Doctor encounters a doomed group of astronauts on Mars. Unfortunately their deaths are one of those "fixed points in time" that crop up in Doctor Who occasionally. The Doctor's decision on whether to save them or not has potentially terrifying repercussions. Does The Doctor have the right to set himself up as the ultimate authority in the Universe? This was a question that Russell T. Davies had been batting around for years. In The Waters of Mars The Doctor answers that question with a snarl; "For a long time now, I thought I was just a survivor, but I'm not. I'm the winner. That's who I am. A Time Lord victorious!" This wasn't just the culmination of a character arc that RTD had been crafting ever since he revealed that The Doctor was the last of the Time Lords in The End of the World. It was also the culmination of an arc that began in 1964 with The Aztecs, when The First Doctor tells Barbara "You can't rewrite history! Not one line!" In The Waters of Mars The Doctor finally goes too far, and it takes the sacrifice of an ordinary human being, who snatches her destiny back from the Time Lord victorious, to bring him back to his senses.

Most Underrated: Voyage of the Damned

Voyage of the Damned was the 2007 Christmas special. I didn't enjoy it at the time, mostly due to its guest star, Kylie Minogue. Kylie was enjoying a surge in popularity at the time and everyone seemed surprised after the episode aired to find that she couldn't act! Somehow a few recent Top Ten hits had erased the memory of Street Fighter from everyone's minds. Another problem I had with this episode was the absurd way the bad guy is dispatched at the end. It's a daft scene that unfortunately unfolds in slow motion, giving the audience far too much time to dwell on its silliness! Despite these flaws however I found my second viewing of the episode much more rewarding. Kylie aside, it's a pretty decent homage to '70s disaster movies, and the concept of a space ship made to look like the Titanic crashing through the atmosphere towards Buckingham Palace on Christmas Day is a great example of the barmy ambitiousness that made RTD Who so great. But the most intriguing thing about this episode for me is the subtle way RTD touches on themes that would later be dealt with in the aforementioned Waters of Mars. Towards the end of the episode the horror of an all powerful Time Lord who answers to nobody is summed up rather neatly in a seemingly throwaway remark by a minor character. Mr Copper has just been rescued by The Doctor, but so has a complete bastard called Rickston. This prompts Copper to muse "Of all the people to survive, he's not the one you would have chosen, is it? But if you could choose, Doctor, if you could decide who lives and who dies... that would make you a monster."

The Worst: Love and Monsters

A good friend of mine remarked recently on Twitter that "RTD's ludicrous misjudgements are worth it, because he's insanely dedicated to throwing everything at the wall." The most ludicrous of RTD's misjudgements can be found in Love and Monsters. Once again the aftermath of an encounter with The Doctor is explored. By the end of the episode Ursula, the girlfriend of the episode's main protagonist Elton, has been left as nothing more than a disembodied face in a concrete slab after being "rescued" by The Doctor. This disturbing exploration of the serious ramifications of The Doctor's "fight some aliens and fuck straight off afterwards" approach to saving people is completely undermined by a cheap crack made by Elton about his "sex life" with Ursula. The tragedy of this episode is, it's pretty decent right up until that crack. One of the main characters has been turned into a talking glory hole and it's dealt with so flippantly that it renders the episode unwatchable for me.

The Eleventh Doctor - Matt Smith



The Best: The Eleventh Hour

This must be, without a doubt, the best first episode any Doctor has ever had. Traditionally The Doctor's on his arse just after regenerating, but new head writer Steven Moffat decided to fly in the face of convention and plunge The Eleventh Doctor straight into an adventure. This was definitely a smart move, as leaving an actor with Matt Smith's energy and charisma on his back for most of his introductory episode would have been a criminal waste. Moffat helps us to instantly warm to this new Doctor by giving him some hilarious lines, and Smith delivers them beautifully. For example, when this episode's monster transforms itself into a duplicate of our hero, The Doctor (who hasn't yet had the chance to look at his new face in the mirror) remarks dismissively, "Well that's rubbish. Who's that supposed to be?" Moffat has played around with the possibilities of time travel more than any other Doctor Who writer, and it could be argued that his complicated "wibbly wobbly timey wimey" plots are sometimes to the series' detriment. But here Moffat's time travel shenanigans add to the episode's fun and freshness. For The Doctor this episode takes place in one day in which he doesn't even have time look in the mirror. For his new companion Amy Pond however, it takes place over the course of ten years, during which time she grows up from a little girl to a young woman. The Doctor has already been an integral part of Amy's life, and he's only a few hours old! Basically, this episode is a masterclass in inventive ways to get your audience invested in your new leading man as quickly as possible.

Most Underrated: The Rebel Flesh/ The Almost People

Waking up and discovering that you're not actually who you think you are, and being replaced by an inhuman duplicate of yourself are two of the scariest concepts ever explored by sci-fi and horror. It always touches a nerve with me, even when it's explored in a comedy like The World's End, or a crappy action film like The Sixth Day. This is probably one of the reasons I enjoy this two parter so much. I like how the episode uses its human cast, and their duplicates (or 'gangers) to show us the best and the worst of humanity. I also love how the prejudices of the humans towards the 'gangers are shared by Amy, making this story a little more interesting than the usual "The Doctor lectures some silly humans" stuff we got a lot of during The Tenth Doctor's reign, and even in a few Eleventh Doctor stories, like The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood. The 'gangers themselves look brilliantly scary, like adult foetuses, and the sight of a 'ganger Doctor is genuinely unnerving. The twist involving Amy at the end of this story is fantastic.

The Worst: Nightmare in Silver

This episode was written by Neil Gaiman, and since Gaiman's previous episode, The Doctor's Wife, was so goodmy hopes were high for this one. Unfortunately I was massively disappointed. In this episode The Doctor and Clara are accompanied in the TARDIS by two children. I'm not against children in the TARDIS, I just wish it hadn't been these particular children! Gaiman makes the bizarre decision to have the two kids greet their first journey to an alien planet in a time machine with grumpiness and boredom! Every child in the world who's watching this show would gladly give their parents' kidneys away for a chance to travel in the TARDIS, and Gaiman's decided that these two children aren't that bothered! If The Eleventh Hour is a masterclass in inventive ways to get your audience invested in your new leading man as quickly as possible, then Nightmare in Silver is a masterclass in how to instantly alienate your audience. From most writers the way these kids are written would be strange. From a writer of Gaiman's skill and experience it's absolutely baffling!

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There we go, the best, the worst and the most underrated in Doctor Who according to me. What have I left out? Where have I gone wrong? What do you agree with? Leave a comment and let me know.

17 comments:

  1. First... I love The Romans. I used to recommend The Aztecs, but now it's The Romans. Same reason, only much funnier! I'm surprised people don't like The Time Meddler much! I'd give my underrated, uhm, rating to The Gunslingers which is a perfectly fun piece of history, song and all, and unjustly maligned. As for the worst, I actually like that you've mostly gone for "most disappointing", and The Daleks does have a saggy middle, but for ACTUALLY WORST regardless of expectations, look no farther than Galaxy 4. SNOOZE!

    Second... The War Games a 100 times yes. But I liked The Seeds of Death a lot more than you did, in fact, I'd put in in the Underrated pile. Sure, the first time I saw it, I thought it was slow and badly designed, but on more critical viewing, I found a lot of directorial flourishes that made me respect it a lot more. I mean, it's still not The Space Pirates or The Wheel in Space, or (for a Bob Holmes disappointment) The Krotons.

    Third...My favorite IS The Green Death, but The Sea Devils isn't far behind. The Time Monster? I neither love it nor dislike it, but looking at a list of Pertwee stories, I think you may be right to mount a defense. Worst for me is probably the dull Monster of Peladon.

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  2. Fourth... Yes, hard to pick a favorite, but The Deadly Assassin kind of falls apart for me, so I'd rather give the award to City of Death or Talons. My love for Face of Evil is well known, and I can only applaud your decision to profess your own for it. And while there are possibly worse stories than The Leisure Hive (Nightmare of Eden comes to mind), TLH is the start of the notorious JNT era and saps all the joy and sense out of the series. Deserves your ire.

    Fifth... It's hard to beat Caves, though Kinda and Enlightenment try their best. I thought Castrovalva was better considered (I especially love Part 1 as the Doctor unravels), but what else is there to defend (I have a soft spot for Black Orchid, actually). Time-Flight is so terrible, it makes Mawdryn Undead palatable.

    Sixth... Well, if we can't use any of the awesome 6th Doctor audios, I'll have to agree Revelation is best (even if in part because it ignores the Doctor and Peri for a long time), and The Twin Dilemma commits crimes that make it worse than similar low point Timelash. However, I'm afraid I can't quite accompany you on the Trial bandwagon. On the one hand, I do consider it 4 separate stories, and Trial itself is for me the weakest part of all 4! I might be willing to build a defense of Terror of the Vervoids, in which I quite like Mel (but almost never do again), but only if we excise the Trial cutaways.

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    1. I did consider Nightmare of Eden for worst Fourth, but the Doctor's brilliant "I wondered why I hadn't been paid" line saves it. I wonder if that was in the script or a Tom Baker ad-lib?

      As for Fifth, I bloody love Enlightenment! I almost put it in the number one spot because Caves is so obvious, but in the end I just figured i love Caves too much. I love Kinda too, but weirdly I've always preferred Snakedance.

      I will admit, the Trial bandwagon is a lonely place. :)

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    2. I prefer Snakedance too! It's less "coded" which makes for smoother viewing, and has some really interesting anthropological touches. Both are good eps for Tegan, a companion I loved a lot more in rewatching the whole series than I thought I would based on past experience.

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  3. Seventh... I love the 7th Doctor, so it's hard for me to name a favorite or say any of the stories are actually terrible (yes, even Time and the Rani)! But like you, I've long held that Curse of Fenric was my favorite, though having just finished rewatching Battlefield, it's got some competition. In fact, I think Battlefield is so good, I want to reject the notion that it is underrated (though it may be, I think you're right it's often forgotten, I've been guilty of that myself). Come on, it can't be the least of Season 26 when Survival has the Ainley Master in it (yes, I went there). Biggest disappointment for me was actually Silver Nemesis, a retread plot that never gels into a new whole.

    Eighth... The TV Movie on all counts. I think you do a good job of explaining why, though I can't possibly agree on your assessment of the American Master ;-).

    Ninth... Agree (hard to beat The Empty Child). Agree (I like Boom Town a lot as well, that dinner scene is excellent and the Rose/Mickey stuff true to life). Disagree (only mildly, I just happen to think The Long Game is weaker, as it hardly requires the heroes to be there and is just a set-up for the season finale).

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    1. I always assumed everyone loved Battlefield as much as I do but I've read some stinking reviews of it over the years. Absolutely baffling, it's so good!

      The idea of having a companion who's rejected by The Doctor for being crap saves the Long Game for me. You're right about the Rose/Micky stuff in Boom town. I didn't want to bang on about that episode too much so I didn't mention it, but I loved how RTD wrote Rose as always being a bit of a dick to Mickey. In the Writer's Tale he describes her as "wonderfully selfish" and I love that aspect of her even though it winds me up, it makes her seem more real.

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    2. It's the Buffy formula (not that I noticed at the time). The most illuminating fanzine article I ever read about the RTD era (that by then, I'd grown seriously frustrated with) described RTD's style as showing us characters and then not judging them (fate/drama doesn't interfere, so they might not get what they "deserve"), which helps give me a filter through which I can reexperience the era (soon, I've got less than 2 weeks of Classic Who to go, eep!). I've got to reread that article, because it was a lot more eloquent with its point than I just was.

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  4. Tenth... Well, to me, Love & Monsters (or at least the first 30 minutes) are well worth my time and so become Most Underrated. The last 15 minutes are The Worst, though I usually reserve my full-length episode ire for Fear Her, which just doesn't work. Best? Blink.

    I'll save my rant about Voyage of the Damned for my own space in a couple months' time. Let's just say it's not my favorite, and it's not Kylie's fault.

    Eleventh... I don't think I've seen the last series enough times yet to give a proper opinion, but I'll try. I'm with you on The Eleventh Hour, yes, surely the strongest first story any Doctor has ever gotten. But I'd be tempted to substitute Vincent and the Doctor or A Christmas Carol. You know what? Yeah, put me down for that last one. The Rebel Flesh was pretty great, is it badly regarded? I've got to say, I don't really know how any of the episodes from Series 6 and 7 are really regarded... You're right about the Worst, of course, though I'd also like to nominate Wardrobe, which seemed a particular waste of premise and talent and thoroughly forgettable, especially after the previous Christmas special.

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    1. To be honest I'm not particularly clued up on how well Series 5 or 6 have been received either, I based Rebel Flesh's underrated status on the fact Madeley doesn't like it. :) I've always found Fear Her quite inoffensive. I'll be interested to read your thoughts on Voyage. Until recently I hated it, but my recent rewatch won me over to it. The way Kylie kills Max still always makes me think of this though.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGboWGna39Y

      If only Kylie had a brick she could have been saved!

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    2. I thought Fear Her was inoffensive too, then put my mind to it and produced this condemnation: http://siskoid.blogspot.ca/2011/09/fear-her-him-and-other-thing.html

      Maybe Voyage will win me over using that RTD filter thing I was talking about in the previous response. Stranger things have happened.

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  5. It's not that I think Rebel Flesh is the worst thing ever, and as with all Matt Smith episodes there's a few nice bits, I just find it a bit mediocre. The worst sin of the 11th Doctor era for me is that it's very average, and Rebel Flesh is bang on the median.

    By the same token, the reason I usually consider Fear Her as the worst episode of modern Who isn't because it was offensively bad, had terrible production values, or the cast couldn't act, or whatever. It's because it elicits no reaction in me whatsoever. It's an episode full of nothing, and Doctor Who shouldn't ever be that.

    Totally agree with everything re. Nightmare, and also Wardrobe. The latter's a complete waste of everyone's time, especially considering Christmas Carol is one of the best of all New Who. Regarding Voyage of the Damned, can't stand it. Probably the worst RTD-written episode for me.

    Fascinating to hear the theory that RTD doesn't judge his characters- that seems bang on the money to me. I think that may be the heart of why so many anti-NuWho nutters hate the show, due to moral flaws. They can't stand the idea that the Doctor-as-moral-arbitrator is actually a pretty terrifying idea, a central theme of RTD's tenure (and the Moff's, to a slightly lesser extent)

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  6. Honestly, I'd list "The Wedding of River Song" as the worst of Eleven. A cheap trick for a resolution, and the final nail in the coffin for the character of River Song, who went from an awesome, self-assured, independent woman the first couple times we see her, to a psychotic Mary Sue of epic proportions who is willing to destroy the universe to get her way...and then she gets it, sealed with a kiss by the good Doctor. Why she wasn't treated as the villain of the episode that needed to be stopped and locked away is beyond me. Since when did the Doctor reward someone threatening to destroy the universe by giving them what they want? Why didn't he work on stopping her and then making sure she never does this again? And no, MARRYING her was not what should have been the way to stop her.

    For me, that was the worst, and the first time in all of New Who that I was actually angry about an episode. I've been disappointed before, but never angry. Thanks, Moffat.

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    1. Yeah, I know what you mean. Wedding isn't one of my favourite episodes. It's like a bunch of genuinely good ideas, scenes and images (The Doctor as Churchill's imprisoned soothsayer for example) strung together by a plot that's complete bollocks. And by that point River had outstayed her welcome a bit.

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    2. Didn't Rose's dimension-hopping get her a clone Doctor in Journey's End?

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  7. "The Daleks Take Manhattan" and the second part whose title escapes me - in the Tennant years....the absolute worst!

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  8. I find Voyage of the damned and The rebel flesh very underrated as well. However, The invasion and The time meddler are not underrated because most fans seem to like them.

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  9. Tenth doctor
    Best:
    Blink! The best NuWho episode in my opinion till date.

    Underrated:
    Midnight (One of the scariest episodes. And DT and Sky woman acted their arses off)

    Worst:
    Love & Monsters (What were they thinking!)

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