Series 1-7 Face-Off: Episode 10
Doctor Who TV is running new series pitting all the revival episodes against each other to decide your dream run. This will be done on an episode by episode basis. Today we continue with the 10th episode of each of the seven series so far.
Note: Splits are not counted and specials will have their own categories at the end.
Introduction by Sam Rahaman
- The Doctor Dances (2005)
- Love and Monsters (2006)
- Blink (2007)
- Midnight (2008)
- Vincent and the Doctor (2010)
- The Girl Who Waited (2011)
- Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (2013)
What makes a good episode 10?
With the exception of The Doctor Dances in Series 1, a conclusion of a two-part episode, Episode 10 is usually a standalone story that has no bearing on the overall series arc. Now that the audience are fully invested in the main characters, and the arc as a whole, the episodes can really begin to push the boundaries of the show by exploring darker and more emotional themes. This has most commonly been achieved through the focus on small groups of characters in ‘Doctor/Companion-Lite’ stories; a new tradition in New Who – although not all of the stories are told in this way. Therefore a good Episode 10 sets up the dramatic tonal shift in the series, in the build-up to the finale, as well as furthering character development by really delving into their psyche, testing their relationships with the other characters involved, as well as pushing them, and sometimes the audience, to their limit. It’s for this reason that Episode 10s are, usually, some of the most creative, powerful and engaging episodes featured in the entirety of New Who.
There’s one episode on this list that continues to stun audiences and critics alike, that has won numerous awards and is widely seen as one of the best episodes in New Who; it was also recently voted the Ultimate Doctor Who story by the readers of this site. I am, of course, talking about Blink, the incredible story penned by Steven Moffat; and it’s not exactly hard to see why the episode gets such praise either. The success of the episode comes, in part, from the introduction of one of Doctor Who’s greatest and most terrifying monsters, the Weeping Angels. The concept behind them is ingenious and unnerving – they can only move when not being looked at, and if touched by one they “kill you nicely” by sending you back in time to live out the rest of your life whilst they feed on your potential energy; so the only way to stop them is by keeping your eyes focused on them and err, not blinking (which is physically impossible for a human to do) – the whole idea behind them is terribly cruel, and yet oh so brilliant.
Furthermore, what also makes this story so compelling is the utilisation of the ‘Doctor-Lite’ narrative. With the Doctor and the companion taking reduced roles within the story, the audience are introduced to the main protagonists , Sally Sparrow and Larry Nightingale – what could have been a risky move turned out to be a stroke of genius, and that’s due to the fact that they are some of the most engaging characters to have appeared on the show, coupled with the fantastic performances from Carrey Mulligan and Finlay Robinson, the audience become invested in their story in such a short space of time and want them to succeed. What’s also great about this type of narrative is that due to the Doctor taking a back seat and only being able to help Sally and Larry through Easter-eggs on DVD’s, the sense of threat is heightened tenfold with their safety net now taken away from the audience; there’s no Doctor and his blue box to save the day this time, the protagonists are on their own and must somehow find a way to defeat the seemingly unbeatable monster – literally, anything could happen, and that’s what is so terrifying.
The Dark Horse
Midnight is undoubtedly one of my favourite episodes in New Who, and yet it never seems to get the attention or acclaim that I feel it deserves. Russell T. Davies penned an absolutely masterful script here that presents a horrifying and accurate portrayal of humanity at its lowest form when faced with catastrophe; exploring the effects of human paranoia, and how even people who appear to get along can turn against each other at the drop of the hat. What makes this episode genuinely terrifying for both audiences and the characters involved is the fear of the unknown, we literally have no idea what this creature is that’s taunting the humans, mimicking them, taking control of them; we never know who/what is doing it, only the horrific actions they commit and the affects it has on the passengers of the leisure cruise.
Furthermore whilst in Blink the safety net in the Doctor was non-existent, here, the Doctor’s safety net in the companion has vanished too (hence it being a ‘Companion-Lite’ story). He’s a complete stranger to these people, usually the companion is there to shed light on who he is, offer support, make the side characters trust him – but now he has to do it all on his own, he has no one to defend him as the passengers all start to turn against him, our hero is completely and utterly alone and defenceless, and just as scared as the passengers and the audience, and then he himself becomes a victim to the monster, and with no one there to save him – which makes for some genuinely tense, chilling and nail-biting viewing. This episode could very well grab the top spot (and a small part of me hopes it does).
This has been one of the hardest decisions for me, because, personally, I love almost every single episode in this list; and yet it soon became apparent to me that there could only be one winner, and that is Tom MacRae’s beautifully crafted The Girl Who Waited. The episode is easily one of the most poignant and moving episodes of Doctor Who that I have ever had the pleasure of sitting through. Where this episode really excels is the exploration of Amy and Rory’s relationship. Rory is literally forced, by a situation outside of his control, to choose between two different, but equally real, versions of his wife; a wife who waited 36 years for her husband to find her, and one who is still waiting for him and that can be saved from the trauma the other version went through. It’s a heart-breaking but absolutely ingenious premise that asks the audience to question what would they do if they were in Rory’s position. Could you, honestly, make a choice between two versions of your true love? They’re both completely identical, they share the same thoughts, memories but choosing one would mean the other version dies, having never existed. The story is just breath-taking and is wonderfully written by MacRae who incorporated some of my all-time favourite pieces of dialogue in the shows history (“Tell Amy—your Amy—I’m giving her the days. The days with you. Days to come. The days I can’t have. Take them please. I’m giving her my days”). Coupled with tear-jerking performances from Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, and Murray Gold’s sublime musical score, this episode is by every definition of the word, perfection; and is everything that a good episode of Doctor Who should be.
You’ve heard Sam’s thoughts, but what about your own? Which one tops your list? Vote below.
Continues on Monday.