My nightmare run of new Doctor Who episodes (so far anyway)!
Following on from my earlier post on my dream run of new Doctor Who episodes were I to select my top episode from each of 1 – 13 across all the seasons since 2005 (https://vickster51corner.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/my-dream-run-of-new-doctor-who-episodes-so-far-anyway/), it seemed only fair to consider what my nightmare series would look like! I always say series 6 was the worst for me and this selection proves that is indeed the case, with a large number of choices coming from series 6. I really liked Matt Smith’s Doctor, but his run of stories has contained quite a few that I just didn’t enjoy. It’s also interesting to see that, as with the Doctor Who TV poll, none of my nightmare episodes come from series one. It’s generally agreed amongst most fans that I know, that series one was overall a strong series and this certainly seems to back up that viewpoint. I still strongly believe that were it not for Christopher Eccleston and the strength of stories in his year, the show would probably not still be running. I’ll always be sad that he didn’t want to be part of the 50th Anniversary, as he had every right to be there and it would have been lovely for the fans.
So, here are my choices for my personal nightmare run of new Doctor Who (plus a Special for each of Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat).
Episode 1 – The Impossible Astronaut (series 6, 11th Doctor)
This was the obvious choice for me, as I quite enjoyed all the other series openers and so this had to come bottom. I wasn’t a fan of the whole arc set up at the start of series 6 (the who is the astronaut and why / how do they kill the Doctor?) and I remained sceptical that it could be resolved in a satisfactory way (more on that later). However there are some nice elements within this episode – I loved Matt’s cowboy Doctor, the TARDIS in the Oval Office and the concept of the Silence.
Episode 2 – The Beast Below (series 5, 11th Doctor)
After the strong start of The Eleventh Hour, I found this story incredibly disappointing. There are some nice Doctor/Amy moments and Liz 10 is a great addition, but my main gripe is that this had all effectively been done before, in the far superior Planet of the Ood – humans enslave a different species, here the whale and keep it subservient and compliant through torture. The end with the revelation of how the whale is harmed, is so similar to the giant hive mind brain of the Ood it’s ridiculous. Add to that the Smilers, who actually weren’t that scary and it was a poor episode so early in Matt’s run.
Episode 3 – The Curse of the Black Spot (series 6, 11th Doctor)
This is certainly no Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and is another weak point of Matt’s time for me. As usual, Matt is great as the Doctor but the material the cast had to work with was lacking. The mermaid-style villain was not very exciting and by this point putting Rory in jeopardy yet again was insulting to Arthur Darvill’s talent as an actor (who I still think is so much stronger in the show than Karen Gillen). Notable mention for series seven’s A Town Called Mercy, which despite being set in the Wild West is just dull.
Episode 4 – Daleks In Manhattan (series 3, 10th Doctor)
This season three two-part story is one that most fans tend to add to their least favourite episode lists and it was the clear choice here. It could have been great – look at the title for a start! Sadly we have pig men running around the sewers and the revelation of the half human/half Dalek at the end of this episode is just ridiculous. Not even David Tenannt with the help of a pre-Spiderman fame Andrew Garfield can save this one!
Episode 5 – The Rebel Flesh (series 6, 11the Doctor)
I seem to have a dislike for the two-part 11th Doctor stories (in contrast to the 10th Doctor’s ones, if you ignore the Manhattan one above!) and this entry is quite near the top of my least favourite story list, meaning it beat the concluding part of series 3’s Dalek farce to take this spot! I found this whole story of doppelgängers dull, especially in part one, which for me just feels like filler until the inevitable reveal at the end that there are two Doctors. I just couldn’t bring myself to care. Notable mention to the already mentioned Evolution of the Daleks from series three.
Episode 6 – The Almost People (series 6, 11th Doctor)
And here is part two of the above story. The two Doctors was fun to watch and the revelation about Amy at the end was very clever, but I still left this episode feeling disappointed and it had to be included as, although other options are, I admit, weak (The Lazarus Experiment for instance), I would still always choose to watch those episodes over this two parter any day.
Episode 7 – A Good Man Goes To War (series 6, 11th Doctor)
I know this story was filled with grand battles and had some nice characters but I just didn’t like it at all. My biggest problem with it is that too much of it either didn’t make sense to me or was a let down. Why were enemies of the Doctor coming to his aid? Why were the Cybermen intimidated by Rory? These are just two of my gripes. Plus I found the revelation as to who River Song was to be just too disappointing for words. It seemed such an obvious choice that it was too much of a wasted opportunity for me and I’d been hoping for so much better. Throw in the Doctor’s complete lack of sensitivity towards Amy and Rory’s loss at the end (yes I know he’s an alien and knew their daughter was alive by then, but it still jarred for me) and I came away frustrated and rather cheated. Notable mention for series seven’s The Rings of Akhaten, which remains one of the most dull stories, saved only by Matt’s monologue at the end and Murray’s music.
Episodes 8 & 9 – The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood (series 5, 11th Doctor)
As with my favourites list, it makes sense to look at this two-part story together, as both parts made my cut. I rarely vote on Gallifrey Base’s episode poll, but even I had to add my 1/10 vote for part one after it aired. I genuinely would have rather listened to a leaf blower (the description for 1/10 on the poll) than this awful story. Bringing back the Silurians should have been a high point for Matt’s first year, but instead we were given this clunky, poorly written story instead. The plot is dull and some of the dialogue is truly awful and most of the supporting characters are terrible – the mother and her father are weak and even Meera Syal’s character feels two-dimensional. As usual, Matt has some nice moments and it was tragic to see Rory “die” (as we didn’t think it would be a regular plot device back then), but this remains probably my least favourite story of New Who.
Episode 10 – Love & Monsters (series 2, 10th Doctor)
I feel a bit sorry for Love & Monsters, as it isn’t a terrible episode and has a fine performance from Marc Warren, but compared to the other episodes positioned tenth, it was inevitable it would take this slot. It was a brave choice back then to do a Doctor-lite story, but it’s just a bit too silly to be able to support a whole hour without him and Rose. Blink works so well because the strength of the threat and the story as a whole as well as the acting means you don’t miss the Doctor too much. Plus having a character survive as a paving slab is just absurd!
Episode 11 – The Crimson Horror (series 7, 11th Doctor)
I know a lot of people will be annoyed that I haven’t chosen Fear Her but this is my personal preference. Yes, Fear Her is a weaker story, but I liked the idea of the drawings and there are some lovely moments between The Doctor and Rose. In comparison, although Matt is great (I loved the Yorkshire accents) and it has some incredible guest stars in Rachel Stirling and Dame Diana Rigg, I felt they were wasted (sorry Mark Gatiss). The concluding reveal that Mrs Gillyflower was being controlled by a blood-sucking worm attached to her breast is quite frankly awful and makes the whole episode seem a bit of a disappointment to me.
Episode 12 – The Pandorica Opens (series 5, 11th Doctor)
I know many will disagree with this choice, but I didn’t like this episode at all on first viewing and it hasn’t improved much since. I did like parts of it – Matt’s Stonehenge speech was fantastic for one. However, for me it just didn’t make enough sense – the Daleks teaming up with anyone seems farfetched, but all those enemies banding together to trap the Doctor?! Plus don’t even get me started on how he gets out of the box in part two. In fact can anything annoy me more than that cheat of a plot point in the series five finale?
Episode 13 – The Wedding of River Song (series 6, 11th Doctor)
The simple answer to the above question is YES – something was more annoying and that was the series six finale! Where to start?! The “previously on Doctor Who” at the beginning may as well have screamed in big letters – the Doctor’s a robot. The rest of the episode was a forgone conclusion after that. Then there is the “wedding” itself – what was the point?! I understand that River didn’t want to touch him as it would restart time, but why on earth was a wedding ceremony the only way around this? It made no sense at all and together with the robot putting on a regeneration light show solution to the beach scene, Amy yet again forgetting Rory and the reveal of the question, the whole storyline felt pointless and I felt very very disappointed.
As for the Specials, I have to mention these too and it seems only fair to include one per showrunner.
Worst Russell T Davies Special – The Next Doctor
I know most people will disagree with this choice but I have my reasons for this selection. I enjoyed all of the 10th Doctor’s other Christmas episodes, whether his partnership with Donna in The Runaway Bride or David Tennant’s debut, or even the Titanic / Poseidon Adventure in space! I also enjoyed the season of final specials for Russell’s time on the show, but for me The Next Doctor comes at the bottom. Why not Planet of the Dead I hear some cry?! Well – it’s fun and light, before everything becomes darker for the 10th Doctor, the desert looks gorgeous and it has not only David Tennant but also Adam James too (as DI Macmillan). That’s all I need to enjoy it more than The Next Doctor! I just don’t really enjoy the story and ultimately you always know that David Morrisey isn’t the next Doctor. Also, I really did not like the giant robot stomping around London like a Power Rangers episode (albeit here controlled by Dervla Kirwan) and that moment in the episode always annoys me. David Morrisey is fantastic and he has some lovely moments with David Tennant, but it remains the RTD Special I’m least excited by and least likely to watch.
Worst Steven Moffat Special – The Doctor, the Widow & the Wardrobe AND The Time of the Doctor
I admit this was a hard decision and in the end it had to be jointly awarded to two episodes. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe is the weaker of the two story-wise. The fact it’s such a rip off of certain aspects of C.S Lewis makes me irritated anyway (right down to the title for goodness sake!), but other than that we have dull tree people and pointless acid-spraying characters that add very little to the story. Yes the little boy is very cute and a happy ending is nice at Christmas, but Doctor Who can do so much better than this.
As for its joint holder, I had to include Matt’s swan song The Time of the Doctor. To start, I’ll be clear that I love the last ten minutes – the Doctor bidding farewell to Clara, her begging for help, the help coming from above and the final moments in the TARDIS are all wonderful and very well acted (plus having the 11th Doctor say a final farewell to Amelia and Amy was a lovely touch). My problem is that the rest of it is dreadful. The plot is all over the place, bouncing from Clara’s family lunch, to the space Church (where back story from countless episodes was glossed over in a few lines), to the town of Christmas itself. I also didn’t like the voiceover. It should have been Clara or the Doctor to connect more with you, rather than a character we barely knew or cared about. It felt rushed, cobbled together (and having the same music cue “4 Knocks” from David Tennant’s scene of sacrifice in The End of Time playing over the old 11th Doctor’s scene with Clara and the cracker was also very jarring for me) and in my opinion and the words of the 10th Doctor, Matt Smith deserved so much more. He was a superb Doctor, bringing fun, eccentricity and life to the part in a totally different way from David and Chris and I think his last story should have been a million times better and for that reason this Special had to be included. Coming so close after the 50th Special only highlighted how weak this one was for me.
So there you have it. That’s my nightmare list of New Who. Feel free to agree / disagree in the comments section!