2020 minus 68: Ten Doctor Who stories I’ll happily rewatch any time

Posted: 25 October 2019 in 2020 minus, Doctor Who, ten things
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OK, during the past few months, I’ve written about stuff I like re-reading or rewatching, about individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts.

And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, time – sorry! – to combine them. 

Now, there are loads of ways I could do this; one story from each of the first ten Doctors, say. Or ten stories from NuWho; there are certainly enough of the latter.

And if I do most of them from the ‘classic’, the pre-1987 run, it’s kind of unfair on the first, second, sixth, seventh etc., since I didn’t watch most of their episodes, or hardly any in the Seventh Doctor’s run, to be fair.

So, no ‘rules’, no only one story per Doctor, no rules other than one: these won’t be the ‘best’ Doctor Who stories, nor necessarily the ten Doctor Who stories that are the best television.

They’re not even my ten favourite episodes/stories. They’re just ten stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch.

OK, time to start.

The Sea Devils – The Third Doctor
I don’t really remember the episodes with the Silurians. I mean, I probably saw them; as I mentioned in the run of Doctor Who posts, I watched the show from when Pertwee took over.

And while I remember some of Liz Shaw not really that much. (I’d include Inferno in here, but I dunno; something about that story, excellent as it is, doesn’t work for me.)

But The Sea Devils had everything that made Doctor Who watchable back then: UNIT, The Master, Jo Grant being… well, being Jo Grant, and the Doctor getting to show off his anger, his compassion, his knowledge, and his grudging respect for The Master. Oh, and Roger Delgado being as Master-y as he ever was. Everything worked in the story; there was a decent plot, a great script and some nice nods and winks to the viewers.

Oh, and this as well.

The Three Doctors – The first Three Doctors

Lord knows what they were thinking; let’s do a multi-Doctor story. Sure, I mean, there had been crossover stories on tv before, and the US Western Maverick had loads of them. But this was something new; the same character, at different times in his life… and get this: they don’t get on. They don’t actually much like each other. Oh, as an effective tenth anniversary gift for the viewers, it was wonderful.

A better than decent baddie, squabbles between the Doctors, confused companions, Leithbridge-Stewart’s exasperation, and special effects that… yeah, ok, let’s not talk about them. They’re actually almost painful to watch now.

But the script is great, the acting is fun, and Patrick Troughton is obviously having enormous fun being back as The Second Doctor.

What no one knew at the time, of course, was that William Hartnell was so very ill, that this would be his last contribution to Doctor Who, and indeed, it may have been unfair to force him to do the story.

But for a nine year old me… I think it was the best thing I’d ever seen on television. And if for no other reason, it goes on the list.

Genesis Of The Daleks – The Fourth Doctor
There’s a reason why this story appears in the ‘best Doctor Who stories’ lists. I’ve watched it I don’t know how many times, and while, yes, there are plot holes, and yes, some of the dialogue is a bit ropey, the damn thing holds together despite that. No. It does more than ‘holds together’. It works, far better than it had any right to. Now, ok, I’ve a soft spot for Ian Marter’s Harry Sullivan. I always liked him as a character and he’s particularly good in this. But it’s the Doctor and Davros around who this story hangs. And the Daleks. We see the creation of the Daleks.

Sometimes, when a series – whether it’s comics or tv – gives in to temptation and reveals the origin of a character that’s been either shrouded in mystery, or just had multiple explanations, but says this is the definitive origin, it doesn’t work.

The two that spring to mind from comics are Wolverine and Cable; when they’ve tried to give definitive origins, they’ve never quite worked.

But this does. (And it’s not like Doctor Who hasn’t tried with others, like the Cybermen.) But this is how to do it… right.

By making the actual creation less important than the motivations of the creator and giving the Doctor the dilemma below.

I can’t say there’s nothing wrong with the story; there is. I can’t say there’s nothing wrong with individual episodes. There are. Still and all, it’s a favourite of mine, and if you somehow have never seen it, I recommend it without reservation.

Rose – The Ninth Doctor

Yeah, I’m leaping straight to NuWho, now. After sixteen years off the telly (apart from the tv movie which everybody seemed to be slightly embarrassed about for some reason), Doctor Who was back. Decent promos, a pretty good set up, and in fifty minutes, Russell T Davies brought back The Doctor for a new… well, not fair to say a new generation, because there were as many ‘old’ fans watching as newer fans who wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

But sure enough, Saturday 25th March 2005, me and my then nine year old lad were both sitting on the couch, watching the opening credits. Which were very snazzy, I’ll admit. The story is pretty good, the introduction of the other characters was pretty much everything you needed to know about them, and Ecclestone’s Doctor was everything I’d wanted: stripped back to the basics, even with the ‘costume’.

And the story itself was… ok. I mean, again, it introduced the who, what, where, how… efficiently, and the acting is fun. Even Billy Piper’s character grows during the episode. And that final few moments is pure delight.

But yeah, it belongs on the list.

Oh, and it’s got a spot perfect “it’s bigger on the inside” moment that explains stuff, and just how The Doctor is… different.

The Christmas Invasion – The Tenth Doctor

It can be tough to pull off regeneration episodes, the first story with a new Doctor. Apart from anything else, you run the risk of the Doctor doing something and the audience thinking ‘yeah, the other fella would have done that faster/better, and would have dealt with it better’.

The temptation is to make the Doctor’s character completely different, to emphasise the differences… which to be fair most do.

But this story is smarter, somehow. For most of the episode, the Doctor is… recovering, unwell. And when he does reappear, it’s pretty much perfect. A fully working Doctor, knowing what he’s doing, but entirely unsure of who and what he is yet. The plot’s fairly standard, the acting is great from everyone concerned, and the dialogue is genuinely ‘different’.

And Tennant pulls it off in spades. Great baddies, superb coda to the tale when he really shows he’s a different man.

A couple of patented RTD wince-inducing moments, to be sure, but it”s great, and a story that I can – and have – rewatched any number of times.

And it started a tradition of pretty good ‘Doctor picks a new outfit’ scenes in the new run. All of them have been pretty good in the run, I’ll be honest.

School Reunion – Tenth Doctor

Another tenth Doctor episode, and one of my favourite in the entire Tenth Doctor’s tenure.

From the moment Doctor Who was brought back, the fans were begging for… overt and specific references to the earlier run. There were hints, and yes of course there were the classic baddies; Rose above had the Nestene Consciousness, after all. But what everyone wanted was some reference to the old companions.

(One of my favourite moments in the ensuing The Sarah Jane Adventures was, at the end of an episode, Sarah Jane tells the kids what happened to some of the other companions of the Doctor.)

And of all the companions to bring back, Sarah Jane Smith. And the episode is pretty much perfect. Anthony Head as a spectacularly evil baddie, the return (briefly) of K-9, the pleasure and pain of The Doctor meeting Sarah Jane again. The sparks between her and Rose. And a reminder to viewers once again that travelling with the Doctor has costs, sometimes huge ones.

A smart script, great acting and fun dialogue. Yeah, I like this story.

And Sarah’s reaction to seeing the TARDIS? Oh yes.

Utopia – Tenth Doctor

The new run of Who has in the main concentrated on single 50 minute stories, with a season arc. Sometimes that’s worked better than others, sometimes it hasn’t worked at all. And occasionally, there are two parters. Or, on one occasion, a three parter.

I’m not the hugest fan of The Sound of Drums, nor of The Last Of The Time Lords, the second and third parts of the The Master Returns three parter.

But the first part… oh, that one I like. I mean I shouldn’t. It’s mostly setup for the remainder of the story but I do like it a lot. The return of Jack Harkness to the show, and the relationship with the Tenth Doctor that develops, Martha wholly out of her depth for most of the episode, the nice sf concept of ‘ humanity at the end of the universe’ and, of course, Derek Jacobi as Professor Yana. I mean, ok, it’s RTD, so yes of course YANA means something and teh penny drops just before it’s revealed, which is good writing.

But it’s the basic plot and the acting that set this episode apart. Everyone acts their socks off, and their actions and reactions make perfect sense in the circumstances. Mistakes are made by characters and it makes perfect sense that they”d make them. There’s not a moment wasted in the episode and the pacing is just about perfect.

And the moment when Derek Jacobi turns from lovable old buffer into… oh yes.

Eleventh Hour – Eleventh Doctor

Yes, another regeneration episode. Very definitely.

Because it’s great. It’s clever, it’s fun; Amy and Rory are character you instantly want to know more about, and the solution to the problem is clever. And the final two bits of the episode are similarly clever, and fun.

Nothing more to say, except I defy anyone to watch this and not start counting.

The Day of The Doctor – Tenth, Eleventh and War Doctors

Pure fun, from start to finish. Genuinely. There’s nothing wrong with this special. Everything just… works. It shouldn’t. I mean, it really shouldn’t. But it does.

And that final guest star.

I think I might watch it again tonight.

Oh hell. That’s nine already.

I only have one more to choose.



Oh, wait. It’s not impossible. Not at all.

I can do another one next week, can’t I?

OK, one more today.

Ten more next week.

I’ll end with.…

The Doctor’s WifeThe Eleventh Doctor

Yes, ok, I’m slightly biased here. Full disclosure. I mean, anyone reading this is likely to know, aren’t they. I mean, I remember this story, and think so fondly of it… because of a personal connection.

I mean, it was broadcast the night of the very final hypotheticals panel. So I came out of that, having enjoyed the final panel, the culmination of twelve years’ work., enjoying the nice words everyone was saying about it, and me, and… then I got to watch this fun episode.

Oh, and yes, Neil’s a friend. There’s that as well, I suppose.

But yeah, I do enjoy this episode a lot. Fun acting, great dialogue, and a cracking baddie. And we get to meet the TARDIS, and say hello to the TARDIS. And, have to say goodbye to the TARDIS. While Amy and Rory and put in real danger.

And it’s funny. And silly. And clever, and just a bit scary. Just scary enough.

Oh, and there are so many nods to old school Who fans.

Yeah, I think I might rewatch this as well.

Some more next week.

And the usual tomorrow.

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