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[UPDATED] CITRUS'S TOP 20 DOCTOR WHO STORIES OF ALL TIME (at least at this point in time)


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Fifty years ago, on November 23rd 1963, two curious schoolteachers followed an unearthly child into a scrapyard only to find a magic blue box and the daft old man who stole it from his people and ran.

 

And he's been running ever since.

 

The continuing escapades of the grumpy, bumbling, dashing, crazy, sweet, bombastic, cunning, caring, damaged, heroic, and raggedy Doctor and his friends is one of popular culture's greatest adventures and has earned its title as one of the most beloved cult shows (if not the most beloved) of all time. To celebrate this once in a lifetime milestone in the life of one of my favorite things ever, I might as well share a quick list of my all time favorite episodes from every era of the series. This is by no means a definitive list; not every Doctor is represented equally, and there many "essential" episodes I have not yet seen ("Talons of Weng Chiang", "Curse of Fenric" just to name a few). Heck, some of these rankings might change later. These are just the stories that I think best define what I love about show and just plain entertain me the most. And hey, I've provided a link to the episodes I could find so you can check them out for yourself if you haven't already.

 

So...

 

 

20. The Mind Robber

Some would argue that the only episode in this serial worth watching is the first one (which does end on an awesome cliffhanger the rest of the story may not be able to live up to), but not me. It's a wild departure from the stories the Second Doctor usually found himself in, and features some of the best scenes of his run. And seriously, any story where the possibility that the Doctor may be killed by a unicorn is present deserves a watch.

 

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19. The Green Death

Karate fights, chase scenes, giant alien maggots, an environmental message that was way ahead of its time on television, insight into how the Third Doctor's attitude towards humanity had changed, and one of the more subtle and well-done of the companion departures. This episode has the works, baby.

 

Did I mention the Doctor in drag?

 

18. The Girl in the Fireplace

This was back when Steven Moffat's "girl who waited" concept was fresh and new, and he gets every emotion and laugh he can out of the Tenth Doctor's doomed sorta-romance with Madame de Pompadour. The clockwork repair droids are make for some cool enemies, the means by which all the strange sci-fi shenanigans are occurring is really clever, and David Tennant knocks it out of the park. But above all else, the episode serves as a microcosm of the tragedy of the Doctor's relationship with his companions. The curse of the Time Lords, if you will.

 

17. A Christmas Carol

The best of the reboot's Christmas specials, offering a really clever twist on the tired recreation of A Christams Carol you see every show do at least once. Visually inventive, funny, and moving all at once, and the Doctor is at his most whimsical. One of my favorite Christmas specials period.

 

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16. Remembrance of the Daleks

After years of shoddy writing, debatable creative decisions and two Doctors who weren't allowed to be as great as they could have been, a change in producers results in the best Doctor story in ages. There's tons of great stuff that makes this serial worth watching: Sylvester McCoy is marvelous as the Doctor and takes the character into a new and interesting direction, the Daleks are presented as an intimidating military force with actual strategies and different classes (the Special Weapons Dalek is the best thing ever), there's a fanboy's treasure trove of callbacks to the very first story, and it's the debut of Ace, one of the most badass companions ever, as evidenced by the scene in which she messes up a Dalek with a baseball bat charged up with Time Lord technology.

 

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15. The Waters of Mars

Starts off as a pretty basic Doctor story, albeit one with a very creepy and visully unique central monster, but turns out to be much, much more: a dark exploration of the Doctor's evolving morals and what happens when he doesn't give a f***. It's not nearly as funny as Tumblr gifs would have have you believe.

 

14. Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways

The best finale of the reboot so far and the last time the Daleks really worked. Relentless and religious in their desire to exterminate the human race, they cut the scheming weirdos schtick and become genuinely scary again, which in turn leads to my favorite Doctor/Dalek confrontation ever. It's exciting, emotional, instantly iconic, and it even ends with possibly the best regeneration scene ever.

 

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13. The Aztecs

My favorite of the First Doctor's purely historic adventures. The rule here, that history cannot be changed ("not one line") is promptly broken in the also very good "The Romans" (and how broken it is is explored further in "The Time Meddler"), but One's insistence upon it and his sympathising with Barabra as she struggles to save a doomed civilization offers a lot of insight into his personality and makes him much more three-dimensional; underneath that stern face and Edwardian jacket, the Doctor does indeed have a heart. Two, actually.

 

12. Vincent and the Doctor

It may or may not make you cry, but if you don't feel anything during these forty minutes, I do not want to meet you. A beautiful and respectful tribute to one of the most tragic artists of all time, this story ends with an mature meditation on sorrow and happiness: a single good day may not be able to change a sad life, but it makes all the difference in the world.

 

11. The Pirate Planet

The first Classic story I ever watched, and woo boy, is this a doozy. It's an very entertaining adventure with some fantastic stuff from Tom Baker, a great villain, clever comedy, one of the best uses of jelly babies ever, K-9 having a laser duel with a robot parrot, and enough out-there ideas for several stories. You expect nothing less of writer Douglas Adams, creator of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

 

10. Genesis of the Daleks

The Daleks are finally given an origin story and a creator in the form of Davros, who gives us some of the greatest moments of villainy in the whole of Doctor Who. Using only a handful of sets to create a tragedy on an epic scale, what really makes this story is the Doctor's ultimate decision on whether to wipe out the Daleks. While it's sort of obvious he ends up not doing that (you can't eliminate the things that sell the toys), the way he reaches his conclusion is thought-provoking and says a lot about his character. It was never about whether the Daleks deserved to be destroyed; it was about whether anybody has the right to make that decision at all.

 

9. Inferno

Doctor Who's answer to Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror", but with less facial hair. A well-paced and intense serial from eerie start to explosive end, the Third Doctor's best story sees him witnessing what happens when he fails to save the Earth in time in all its horrifying detail. All the weird elements in the story, from the impending apocalypse to the weird primordial zombie people fit together surprisingly well, and the alternate universe twist at the end of the first act is the kind of big, strange ideas that the best of series does well. MVP is Nicholas Courtney, who's great as the always twinkling Brigadier and his evil counterpart, the Brigade Leader.

8. City of Death

Douglas Adam's other Doctor story is one of the most beloved of the Fourth Doctor's adventures, and with good reason. It's an utter delight of an episode, with a twisty and creative plot that swings between big idea sci-fi, light-hearted comedy, and a surreal caper that involves several clones of the Mona Lisa. The chemistry between Four and Time Lady companion Romana is at its absolute best, the resolution to the plot is one of the funniest moments in all of Doctor Who, and it comes complete with a random Monty Python cameo. That should be reason enough to watch this story.

 

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7. The Doctor's Wife

This may depend on whether you like Neil Gaiman's writing (because this is very much a Gaiman story), but it's an absolutely brilliant science-fantasy tale that provides some of the best moments of Matt Smith's tenure as the Doctor and introduces us to a new perspective that changes the context of everything we've seen so far. The TARDIS always had character (a quality the Doctor loves in any vehicle he uses), but now it is a character, and it's here that we learn, cheesy as it is, that the Doctor's love for his TARDIS is only matched by the TARDIS's love for her thief.

 

6. Blink

An episode I keep thinking is overrated after a while, but then I watch it again and remember that it totally is as good as the hype says it is. The Doctor is only in it for a few minutes, but that's okay, because Carrey Mulligan is amazing as heroine Sally Sparrow, bolstered by a great supporting cast and a high production value that's much more cinematic than we've seen before. It helps that it has a ingenious script that utilizes time travel in an interesting way and dialogue that would later become some of the most meme worthy of the entire series.

 

And of course...

 

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Probably the scariest Doctor Who story ever, and that's saying something.

 

5. The Caves of Andronzani

The episode that is most often picked as the greatest story ever, and it certainly deserves every accolade it gets. Gripping and exciting from start to finish, the Fifth Doctor's final adventure features him at his most heroic and badass (leading to the show's best cliffhanger, in which the Doctor makes it quite clear that he has had it), pitted against fantastic villains in an intense situation that just keeps getting more dangerous and complex as it goes on. Penned by the all-time master of writing Doctor Who, Robert Holmes, this is how you have a Doctor go out in style. Even Colin Baker's tiny moment at the end is awesome. Seriously, go watch this.

 

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4. The Deadly Assassin

The first story to take place on Gallifrey, this is the episode that defines who the Time Lords are as a race, and more importantly, how they are as vulnerable as anyone else. It's a great conspiracy plot full of huge ideas (it had the Matrix before the Matrix was ever cool), bolstered by Tom Baker's excellent performance in the first Doctor story to not feature a companion. It's also the greatest Master story ever, despite the fact that he's absolutely nothing like his regular self. Gone is the suave, charismatic mannerisms of Roger Delgado, and this isn't the manic fun of John Simms. The Master here is a monster, fueled by pure vengeance and a need to prolong whatever life he has left, at any cost.

 

3. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

Starts off simple enough, but soon becomes much more emotionally complex. I could go on and on about the near-perfect recreation of war-torn London and the interesting perspective of the the event that it takes, the glorious coolness that is Captain Jack Harkness, and one of the greatest and creepiest Doctor Who monsters ever (which has one of the more creative origins we've seen). But what makes this episode freaking sublime is the ending. It easily could have ended up being sappy or clumsy, but it ends up being a genuinely touching moment (I actually remember tearing up a bit) that perfectly sums up who the Doctor is. It adds a whole new level of sadness to any loss of life the Doctor suffers, because now e know how much saving people means to him.

 

2. The War Games

The Second Doctor's adventures (and the black and white era) go out with a literal bang in the most exciting and subversive story the show had ever attempted to do at that point, and it delivers. Yeah, it's a whopping ten episodes, but there's so many new details about the nature of the War Games and crazy scenarios being added that the pacing just works and the story never drags. There's some great satire regarding the futility of war and the kind of people who would perpetuate it, as well as some great action scenes for 1960's television.

 

But what makes this story an important classic (possibly the most important of the whole series) is the introduction of the Time Lords (who are actually kind of scary here) and the explanation that the Doctor's exile is a self-inflicted one. In one fell swoop, the show now has a mythology to tap into and the Doctor is given a level of pathos nobody knew he was capable of. Bonus points for one of the sadder companion departures and the awesome title card.

 

1. Human Nature

Not a Doctor story in the traditional sense at all, but still a masterpiece of science fiction and fantasy television. Despite technically not featuring the Doctor at all, this is the story that best demonstrates that, once you get past the charm and the wonder, the Doctor can be an extremely dark character that borders on inhuman. But you can get past that, there's still something wonderful and worthwhile about his existence, and no matter how much pain he may seemingly bring along with him, the universe needs its Doctor. The entire thing plot is thematically charged, from the loss of innocence, to sacrifice and love, to the thin line that separates justice from vengeance. The production values are high, the villains are hammy in the best possible way, David Tennant turns in his greatest performance, I count at least three different tear-jerkers, and if there was ever a story to prove Martha Jones was a great companion, it's this one.

 

And any show story that tells kids that there is an evil alien girl staring at them whenever they look in a mirror is worth a look in my book.

 

Runner-ups:

 

Midnight: Reaches John Carpenter levels of creepiness and paranoia, the Doctor's alien-ness is turned against him in an interesting way and the cast includes Merlin and Patrick Troughton's son.

Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead: Cathrine Tate turns in some great stuff, the Vashta Nerada are great monsters, and the character of River Song, whether you liked how she ended up or not, is a fantastic concept.

 

Pyramids of Mars: Awesome villain and sense of urgency that just increases as the story moves along.

 

Planet of the Spiders: Jon Pertwee's final episode, which features a satisfying end to his interpretation of the Doctor and uber-creepy back-spiders.

 

Turn Left: A mind blowing observation of how the smallest change in history can have the heaviest consequences, and a dark vision of what a world without the Doctor there to save it looks like.

 

School Reunion: Sarah Jane Smith returned. That is all.

 

Happy Birthday, Doctor. May you keep running forever more.

 

Wait, this is a brony site. Better whip out the Forest Rain.

 

 

Agree? Disagree? Think I'm an idiot? Rattle off in the comments with your favorites.

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