Doctor Who: 50 Years, 50 Stories Countdown – Part 5
Today’s the Day of the Doctor! And here are the last few of the 50 Doctor Who adventures that everyone must see…
30. Midnight (2008)
The best stories are also often the simplest, and Midnight is simple; deceptively so. Set in one room, on a space bus that finds itself stranded on a deserted planet of crystals… and then something knocks. It’s like an accomplished stageplay with added Doctor, and features amazing performances from the ensemble on the bus. Turning into moral fable about the identities of heroes and villains, and the brilliance but arrogance that defines the Tenth Doctor, it runs far deeper than you first expect. At the heart of it are compelling performances from David Tennant and Lesley Sharp, and Russell T Davies proves he can do scary, twice over…
31. Turn Left/The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End (2008)
Arguably the strongest of the series finales, Turn Left leads into the biggest ever Dalek invasion with an equally huge story: the premise is, what if the Doctor died? What would happen? The way in which several years of backstory is explored using this ‘butterfly effect’ framework is unbelievable skilful, and Catherine Tate shines as companion Donna Noble, our only hero left. Heralding the returning of a wonderful cast of companions, allies and enemies is Billie Piper, who proves her worth again within a single second, and we are launched into an explosive two-parter. With so much to cram in these episodes move at break-neck speed, but every avenue is explored and every pleasure delivered – plus more. The ending is utterly euphoric and totally tragic at the same time, the bravest in Doctor Who history. Complete with crossovers with the excellent spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures! This story is Doctor Who gold.
32. The Waters of Mars (2009)
Another success of the Russell T Davies era is the way it handles the comedown from that finale-to-end-all-finales. A lonely Doctor, a vengeful Doctor, stumbles upon a Mars mission in the future he knows ends in death. And he can’t meddle in time. Can he? It is a fascinating debate translated into an hour of unstoppable drama. There’s a lot of emotional depth to a story that initially seems to be a romp with robots on the red planet. One-off companion Lesley Duncan propels herself up into the list of great companions with just one fleeting performance – and a lot of great material to work from. There is no better story to lead in to the end of days… we all knew it was coming. It’s goodbye to David Tennant…
33. The End of Time (2009-10)
The End of Time, I think, is a victim of the more mean-spirited of fans. Davies had been praised for so long for his astoundingly ambitious and yet pensive and profound finales that it was the only thing left for fans to criticize. Yet this story absolutely lives up to its hype, pulling in a slightly different direction than previous years, by telling a tale relatively removed from the established touchstones of the series, just peppered with great reappearances from old friends… and the Master. John Simm, a crazy but credible Master, is back and in this lovely Christmas special he bounds through homelessness, to aristocracy, to suburbia, with a mad plot centered on Immortality. Which is rather fitting for a Doctor’s swansong! David Tennant is truly ten times the Doctor he was before (and he was brilliant before), and him being paired with another old man at the end of his time Wilf, Bernard Cribbins, is beautifully cathartic. The End of Time darts neatly between the intimate and the epic, and ties up the last four years of wonderful Doctor Who like the best Christmas present imaginable.
34. The Eleventh Hour (2010)
Steven Moffat takes the reins and enter Matt Smith, Doctor 11. And he is captivating from the start; more than a worthy successor to David Tennant, if not quite settled in his role as gawky boffin yet. The Eleventh Hour is great fun, flitting between a Davies-Pertwee Earth invasion story and a barmy time-warp that Moffat will later fully revel in. The weak link here is Karen Gillan as Amy who harks back to a time when companions were cast for looks rather than ability, but generally it secures a happy future for the good Doctor.
35. The Doctor’s Wife (2011)
Perhaps the most self-referential and self-obsessed of recent Doctor Who stories, and that’s a real achievement! Bafflingly, it is not to the story’s detriment, and this madcap tale in which the Doctor meets the human embodiment of his time travelling machine is perfect for Smith. Deliciously shot and superbly acted by Surrane Jones. A very sentimental story about a mad man and his box.
36. Asylum of the Daleks (2012)
The Daleks are back – properly back! And there’s so so many of them! The first story for a while which utilises the enemies well! The Doctor, Amy, Rory are thrown onto the Dalek Asylum planet, on a mission. Surprisingly chilling and featuring a few surprises, this is a great way to start the season. Having said that, it did suffer the fate that a lot of recent stories suffer in being too full for its own good and leaving lots of aspects under-developed. But the sheer joy of the Doctor in the TARDIS at the end chuckling to himself his own name, the title of his series, is enough to make you love it.
37. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (2013)
We all know that the Doctor’s TARDIS is bigger on the inside but so rarely do we see beyond the console room it’s a wonder than we believe it! And when we have seen beyond in the past, it’s been more than a little disappointing. It’s true to say that Journey suffers the same fate of some other TARDIS-delving stories of the past (that we don’t quite buy that all of these sets are one big time machine) but there is some beautiful design work here, some incredible monsters, great set-pieces and a nice if unremarkable little story to band it all together. The climax may be a massive flop but at least it unashamedly brands itself as a massive flop! Put aside those slight criticisms and just sit with wide-eyed wonderment, and Journey becomes a hit.
38. The Name of the Doctor (2013)
It was the last story televised before today’s anniversary special… it was also an incredible gift for fans in which nods to the last fifty years are plentiful and the whole narrative is brought full circle through the answering of the question: who is Clara Oswald, the Impossible Girl? Moving, dark, fun and brash, like all series finales since the show returned, the only problem here is that the effect of it is a little lost on those not familiar with a large chunk of past Doctor Who. But after reading these articles you are, aren’t you?