With series 11 returning tonight, I looked back on every Doctor Who since its revival in 2005. It has had many ups and downs, with episodes I completely forgot existed and some I’ll remember until I die. This list is only based on my enjoyment of each series but I’m aware this is the internet and someone will always be angry if I don’t love a show the same way they do.
10. Series 9
Peter Capaldi deserved better. He deserved every episode to be the quality of ‘Heaven Sent’, instead they tended to be the level of ‘Hell Bent’- an adventure best left forgotten and ignored by absolutely everybody. Capaldi does not get enough credit for holding together a series which had become bleary-eyed, smashing through plotlines rather than stepping back to let things focus. I say that while well-aware he gets credit. It does not come close to the right amount.
9. Series 7
It started off so strong with ‘Asylum of the Daleks’. Clara Oswald was quirky and fun in that story, leaving me curious how she would come back as a full-time companion and even looking forward to it. If she had remained that interesting, fun character this series would rank higher but her presence almost polluted episodes for me. Prior to her reappearance, ‘The Power of Three’ was just dull, concerning given it was written by Chris Chibnall, and the Doctor straight-up murdered someone in ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’. Nope.
8. Series 8
The beginning of Capaldi deserving better. I nearly stopped watching at ‘Kill the Moon’, an episode which felt like an insult to every single viewer. I could handle the plot, having seen worse in this show, the child character was irritating but it’s a family show, but then an alien laid an egg bigger than itself. Basing this too much on just one episode? Fine. ‘In the Forest of the Night’ was also in this series. Appalling. Bonus points for Missy, though. She was great.
7. Series 5
I have tried to see what people love about series 5. When the Steven Moffatt era is criticised, it is often rebutted with “But series 5 was some of the finest Who I’ve seen”. For the most part, it didn’t land with me. While others were happy to see the Weeping Angels return, I felt they were ruined by the idea you can survive if you “walk like you can see” (do they not realise they’re alive just because someone hasn’t tripped over?). This also set the precedent for River Song being a recurring character and she, like Clara, went from interesting and fun to an irritating friend who refuses to accept you don’t want to hang out anymore. Disagree all you like, this is my list. Deal with it.
6. Series 6
An improvement on the previous series. ‘The God Complex’ is one of the most underrated episodes of the modern era. As a whole, it’s not an amazing but as one-off episodes it works well. ‘The Girl Who Waited’ was an effective exploration of Amy and Rory’s relationship and ‘The Rebel Flesh’ was a decent idea given the kind of execution better ideas should have been awarded.
5. Series 2
Some terrible episodes are in this series but they’re offset by ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, ‘The Army of Ghosts’ and ‘The Impossible Planet’. The Doctor met the actual devil and it was feasible within this universe. For some reason, Billie Piper forgot how to act in this series and that held it back, particularly when she was supposed to be in love and could not quite get her facial expressions above ‘fond’. Series 2 at least remembered something which later ones ignored- casual viewers are still a thing and they want things simple.
4. Series 3
I’m going to have to start by defending Martha Jones here. She was clever and did not solve all of her problems by shouting the Doctor’s name louder than the noise generated by the threat. Series 3 includes ‘Blink’ (the standard “here, watch this to see if you like it” episode), the Doctor becoming human and the return of the Master. As an older series, it benefits from its weaker efforts now being seen as not so bad when compared to the ‘filler’ ones of more recent years. Like series 2, it was accessible for any kind of viewer and fun even when it was clunky.
3. Series 10
This is what Capaldi deserved. Series 10 sometimes gets slated because it was “too much social justice” and “forcing an agenda”. Okay, Bill Potts was gay and it was mentioned a fair few times. Amy Pond took her husband along, Rose fawned over the Doctor and Martha left the Tardis because she realised her love was unrequited. Bill’s relationships were no more in your face than any other and she was granted engaging stories without needing to be the most important woman in the universe. I was excited about new episodes for the first time in years and was keen to rewatch most of them.
2. Series 4
My love for this series may be aided by the Doctor-companion relationship, which is the best of the modern era. Donna Noble was deeply in love. Deeply, but platonically. Her tragic character arc highlighted her development. As she reverted back to how she was at the start, it was a blunt force trauma for the audience to realise just how much she’d grown and a testament to the writing. During this series, we were given River Song before she was overused, a monster we never saw yet provided a real sense of unease, and an admittedly self-aggrandising nod to how screwed the world would be without the Doctor.
The 2009 specials are included in series 4.
1. Series 1
Without the high-calibre episodes in this series, there would be no list. Christopher Eccleston was the perfect actor to bring this series back, hiding guilt and loneliness behind an exterior which looked like it could take you in a fight. Rose Tyler was the ideal companion, a girl who had not seen anything spectacular in her life and was suddenly enamoured- but not soppy- with this marvellous man who could show her the stars. He was then able to see the universe as she did; wonderful. Very few episodes have come close to the brilliance of ‘Dalek’ and, for me at least, nothing has topped the emotion of ‘Father’s Day’.
Looking over this list, I realised two things. First, the quality of promotional stills improved drastically. Second, this list looks very biased towards 2005-2010 and there is a reason for that. I preferred the series back then. Still, I don’t watch Doctor Who hoping it never improves and that my opinion never has to change. My sincerest hope for series 11 is that it becomes my favourite.