Counting down the 11 days to the 50th anniversary, here are my top 11 stories for each Doctor, starting with 11 (Matt Smith).
1. The Doctor’s Wife
Rory: He’ll be fine. He’s a Time Lord!
Amy: It’s just what they’re called. It doesn’t mean he actually knows what he’s doing.
The first story by Neil Gaiman is a fantasy come true for the Doctor and fans of the show. Finally, the silent co-star of the show for 50 years and the Doctor’s constant companion for 700 years gets a chance to speak.
2. The Name of the Doctor
Time travel is damage, it’s like a tear in the fabric of reality. That is the scar tissue of my journey through the universe. My path through time and space. From Gallifrey to Trenzalore.
This one is almost a mini-anniversary episode all by itself. There is so much here for fans of the classic series. Plus, we get the fun trio of Vastra, Jenny and Strax, some new, terrifying monsters in the Whisper Men and a resolution to the mystery of Clara Oswald.
3. Vincent and the Doctor
The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.
A bittersweet tale written by Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill, Blackadder) and featuring a fantastic guest performance by Tony Curran as Vincent van Gogh, this one isn’t epic or loud. It’s just a love letter to an artist and gives the Doctor a chance to show Amy (and us) that not everything can be fixed with the wave of a magic wand, er, sonic screwdriver. There’s also a lesson about judging a book by its cover and a glimpse of how great Bill Nighy would have looked as the Doctor.
4. The Girl Who Waited
Do not be alarmed. This is a kindness.
Karen Gillan got to show her acting chops as Amy gets trapped in an alternate time stream with a bunch of well-meaning but deadly robots. The scenes with her and Rory are heartbreaking.
5. The Eleventh Hour
I know what I need! I need… I need… I need… fish fingers and custard!
When Matt Smith first appeared at the end of David Tennant’s last episode, I was slightly put off by the fact that this big, weepy goodbye moment could be pierced by an odd-looking thing that wasn’t David Tennant. So, for the intervening months I was a bit apprehensive about the new Doctor and whether or not the show would crash and burn along with the TARDIS. But almost from the moment Matt Smith popped his head out of the doors of his overturned machine, he ruled as the Doctor for me. I’m going to miss him terribly.
6. The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang
It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.
It was building to this 2-part story from the beginning. Russell T. Davies put in little hints that would tie into the season finale throughout his series (see “Bad Wolf” and “Vote Saxon”), but none of them were the focus of the entire series the way Steven Moffat wove the crack in the walls of time and space throughout Series 5. Yeah, the big reset button and all the paradoxes stretched the levels of disbelief a bit, but the drama and humor in it won out in the end.
7. The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon
I am being extremely clever up here and there’s no one to stand around looking impressed. What’s the point in having you all?
Another 2-parter, this one from the beginning of Series 6. It’s not quite as effective as Pandorica/Big Bang, but it introduces a creepy new monster in the Silence and guest stars Mark Sheppard (He who must appear in every scifi show by the Queen’s Law). The scenes in the orphanage were especially creepy with the Renfield-like caretaker and Amy being stalked by the creatures.
8. Asylum of the Daleks
Run, you clever boy, and remember.
The kick off to the 7th series of New Who, this one was pretty much going to be a standard adventure story…until Clara ‘Oswin’ Oswald showed up. The previously announced new companion wasn’t expected to arrive until after the demise of the Ponds some five or six episodes later, but surprise! Here she was, and she stole the show.
9. Amy’s Choice
You’re a Time Lord, let’s call me the Dream Lord.
A choice between realities and, finally, the settling of the question of whether Amy’s going to pine after the Doctor or stick with her childhood sweetheart, Rory. I love the turn taken by Toby Jones as the Dream Lord. He gets all kinds of snarky with the Doctor and hits him right in his core and answers a question we’ve all asked: Why doesn’t the Doctor ever go back and revisit his old friends? The living ones anyway. “Is that the right word for the people you acquire? Friends are people you stay in touch with. Your friends never see you again one they’ve grown up. The old man prefers the company of the young, does he not?”
10. A Good Man Goes to War
When you began all those years ago, sailing off to see the universe, did you ever think you’d become this? The man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name. “Doctor”: the word for “healer” and “wise man”, throughout the universe. We get that word from you, y’know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean?
The introduction of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. Madame Kovarian. The Headless Monks. Dorium Maldovar. This one’s got Star Wars written all over it, too. As the ending for the first half of Series 6, it also brought back characters from earlier in the season and set the stage for Let’s Kill Hitler, which would lead off the second half.
11. The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone
The eyes are not the windows of the soul, they are the doors. Beware what may enter them.
The second appearance of the Weeping Angels after 2007’s Blink, this one’s not so jump-out-of your seat scary as it is a puzzle box for the Doctor, River and Amy to figure a way out of. It features a nifty appearance by current Game of Thrones star, Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont), as Father Octavian, the leader of the religious soldiers who are investigating the crash of the Byzantium.