As we draw near the close of a decade, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look back at the best Doctor Who from the ’10s. I was originally going to pick my 10 favorite television stories that aired between 2010 and 2019. But then I thought it would be fun to make one selection from each calendar year. And since there were a number of years in which only one episode happened, that gave the opportunity to stray outside of just the television show. So here’s our picks for the 10 highlights from the past 10 years:
2010: “Vincent and the Doctor”
The decade started out with the final David Tennant episode, “The End of Time” Part Two on New Year’s Day, and gave us our first full season of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. There were a number of standouts in Matt’s first year, including “Amy’s Choice,” the return of the Siluarians, and of course the epic finale. But 2/3 of the way through the season, the show gave us one of the most emotionally beautiful episodes in its long history. Tony Curran gave a lovely portrayal of penniless artist van Gogh, and tackles his struggles with mental illness honestly and unflinchingly. Not even a trip to the future to see the lasting impact and legacy of his extraordinary work was strong enough save Vincent from taking his own life. One of the most heartbreaking episodes ever.
2011: “The Doctor’s Wife”
Series Six was split in two, with the first airing in Spring followed by a Fall second half. The fourth episode proved to be one of the show’s all-time classics. Neil Gaiman made his Doctor Who debut with a script that focused on the Doctor’s extraordinary time/space machine and his relationship with it. The TARDIS’ matrix is extracted by an entity called House and implanted in the body of mad bitey lady called Idris. Meanwhile, House puts Amy and Rory through emotional torment inside the TARDIS. The Doctor learns some new things about the vessel he has called home for centuries. The episode is littered with numerous unique Gaiman-y touches, like the Patchwork People.
2012 only featured half a season on television as the series ramped up for it’s 50th anniversary the following year. Elsewhere in the franchise there were two notable Tom Baker events. First, the great voice himself made his Big Finish debut as the Fourth Doctor in a new series of stories co-starring Louise Jameson as Leela. And second, in bookstores everywhere came the long-awaited novelisation of the Fourth Doctor classic “Shada.” Douglas Adams never wrote a novel version of his unfinished 1980 Doctor Who serial. Gareth Roberts captures Douglas’ unique voice and folds in some lovely New Series touches (fixed points, Carrionites, etc) to make the book attractive to fans of all ilk. It’s a cracking story.
2013: “The Day of the Doctor“
The 50th anniversary of the greatest science fiction show of all time gave us an avalanche of commemorative magazines, books, comics, audios, novels, toys, and more. But even with so much to pick from, how could our selection for 2013 be anything other than the most epic single episode produced by pretty any television show ever? “The Day of the Doctor” finally gave us the story of the Doctor’s involvement in the Time War and the fate of Gallifrey that he brought about. With many nods back to the series’ long history, the episode was simulcast live around the globe and was filmed in 3D for it’s theatrical release. Preceded one week earlier by the surprise return to television of the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) in “The Night of the Doctor,” November 2013 was a helluva time to be alive.
2014: “Mummy on the Orient Express”
The Peter Capaldi era kicked off with a challenging first season, highlighted by a classic Doctor Who tale of a mummy on a train — in space! The Doctor and Clara and the passengers of a space train are stalked by an ancient being called The Foretold, and according to legend, if you see it, you have 66 seconds to live. Start the clock. An inventive script by Jamie Mathieson gives us a peak into the heart and mind of this new and somewhat contentious incarnation of the Doctor.
2015: “Heaven Sent” / “Hell Bent”
“Heaven Sent” is one of the true artistic triumphs in Doctor Who history, and a solo tour de force by Peter Capaldi. The Doctor mourns the loss of Clara (in the excellent “Face the Raven” by Sarah Dollard) as he’s delivered by Ashildr into the hands of the Time Lords, and a ghostly creature called The Veil is intent on learning the Doctor’s most deeply held secrets. But he breaks through their ruse (literally) and prepares to turn the tables on them in “Hell Bent,” as he claims Gallifrey to be his planet and bends the laws of time in an attempt to save his dead friend. Driven by a powerhouse script by Steven Moffat and the auteur vision of director Rachel Talalay, “Heaven Sent” will long be seen as one of Doctor Who‘s crowing achievements, and “Hell Bent” is a thrilling and emotional end to an epic season.
2016: Classic Doctors, New Monsters
2016 was one of those annoying gap years, with the only broadcast episode being the lackluster “The Return of Doctor Mysterio,” so we turn to Big Finish for our highlight. Even after the New Series began on television, Big Finish’s license to create new, original Doctor Who stories was limited to the Classic series. It was something of a shock, then, when BF announced that it would finally be able to incorporate New Series elements into it’s catalog. One of the first releases to celebrate this new license change was Classic Doctors, New Monsters, which paired up BF’s standard stable of Doctors — Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann — with monsters from the 2005+ era. The big surprise here was that the Weeping Angels could actually be made to work in an audio setting, in a very inventive story about the great sculptor Michelangelo. But the highlight of the set is the Sixth Doctor / Judoon story, in which a Judoon has been captured and is being exhibited as a sideshow freak.
2017: “World Enough and Time” / “The Doctor Falls”
Once again, the dynamic talents of Moffat and Talalay bring us an exciting and emotional tale of the Doctor and the loss of a friend, this time with a teaming up of two Masters and a return of the original Cybermen. “WE&T” is one of the darkest and most macabre episodes in the series’ history, with hospital patients begging for death in cold, sterile computer voices. “TDF” sees the Doctor taking a stand against a Cyber invasion force in desperate hopes of saving a small community of people. He makes an impassioned plea to the Master and the Mistress to stand with him to give these people a chance to survive. They turn him down, of course, but the Doctor is resolute. “I will stand here doing it ’til it kills me. Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.”
2018: “Demons of the Punjab”
Jodie Whittaker’s first season as the 13th Doctor was a divisive one, but one of the standouts was a harrowing tale of love in the face of prejudice. Written by Vinay Patel, “Demons of the Punjab” had the Doctor take Yaz back to the day her grandmother became the first woman married in Pakistan. Only, the man she married wasn’t Yaz’s grandfather. Who is this mystery man that Yaz has never heard of, and what happened to him? And what part do the weird alien assassins play in events?
2019: The Legacy of Time
Again, the TV show had a gap year with only one representative episode – “Resolution.” Fortunately, it’s the same year that Big Finish celebrated their 20th Anniversary of producing original Doctor Who audios! The Legacy of Time is a massive 6 episode tale featuring all of the BF Classic Doctors (including Tim Treloar’s Third) with a surprise appearance in the final chapter, along with a great number of companions and guest stars from both Classic and New Series. The highlight of the set is the third chapter, “The Sacrifice of Jo Jones” by Guy Adams, in which Jo, working alongside the modern UNIT crew, is reunited with her beloved Doctor. As in 2017’s highly recommended UNIT Assembled, Adams deftly captures the voice and spirit of Jo magnificently. Elsewhere, the Fifth Doctor teams up with Jenny (the Doctor’s Daughter — twice over in this case!); the two space/time archaeologists River Song and Bernice Summerfield join forces with the Eighth Doctor; and Leela and Romana recall adventures with the Fourth Doctor.
And there you have it! Let us know what your picks are! To read more about these and many other Doctor Who adventures, check out Doctor Who’s Greatest Hits – Remastered, on sale now!