Series 1-7 Face-Off: Episode 11
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 11th 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 Mark McCullough.
- Boom Town (2005)
- Fear Her (2006)
- Utopia (2007)
- Turn Left (2008)
- The Lodger (2010)
- The God Complex (2011)
- The Crimson Horror (2013)
What makes a good Episode Eleven?
By the time we have reached the eleventh instalment of the series, we are almost at the long-awaited finale. Now only this episode stands between you and several of the answers to the questions amassed over the course of the series. Going by the more traditional (Series 1-5) format of the show, it is the last single episode before the two part finale. As such it is important that it advances the story arc a little, bringing it back to the fore in the minds of the audience, and perhaps even create a few new questions to further tease the audience. Examples of how writers have focused the attention of the viewer back onto the arc include: the emphasis on Bad Wolf in Boom Town, the crack at the end of The Lodger and Rose’s return in Turn Left. In Series 3, there was a slight variation to the theme as several fans consider the finale of this series to be a three part trilogy. This is supported by the fact that Utopia is linked so heavily with the episode which follow. Series 6 and Series 7, due to a split in series did not feature two part finales, thus reducing the role of their respective Episode Elevens. Both served their purpose of strong standalone episodes whilst also bringing in elements of the wider story arc.
Looking at the list, there are a few episodes which stand out for me which seems indicative of a potential close contest. One such example is Fear Her, however that is for all the wrong reasons. When it comes to predicting a winner here, the decision becomes rather straightforward. Toby Whithouse’s The God Complex is an episode which has received large acclaim from the fans, and it isn’t difficult to see why. The premise of the episode is a sublime idea, taking something iconic to the show and using it as a plot point. The relationship between a Doctor and his companion is a focal point of the show and the audience’s window into the Doctor’s world. To take this and have an alien prey upon it forcing the Doctor to sever the position of trust in which his companion holds him, was a bold move on Whithouse’s part. Furthermore, to draw a parallel between the Minotaur and the Doctor made the revelation even more poignant. A statement to the audience that perhaps we shouldn’t trust this man we know so little about, after-all as are subject to witness each week, life with the Doctor is dangerous. However it is not just the concept behind The God Complex which earns the episode its plaudits, but the content within. Everyone has a fear, whether you admit it or not. All of us would have had a room in that claustrophobic hotel, and as per the narrative of the episode would have been defined by what was inside, a thought which in itself is quite terrifying. The (some-what unexpected) departure of Amy and Rory from the TARDIS at the end of the episode gave it a feel of consequence and authenticated the events contained within the narrative. The God Complex would be a deserving winner and will always be thought of as a classic.
The Dark Horse
From one episode which plays with a fundamental theme of the show, to another. Turn Left takes the entire concept of Doctor Who and turns it on its head. Utilising the Doctor-lite format for the narrative allowed for the exploration of a world without its Time Lord Protector. By focusing on a single decision and then expanding upon the consequences shows the audience that sometimes the smallest tings can mean a lot. For Donna, the importance of being in the right place at the right time meant everything to the fate of her planet. To think that something as simple as turning your car in a different direction can have such a huge impact on your life is incomprehensible. However, therein the beauty of the narrative lies, it rings true to a situation which anyone could find themselves. Such a set up gives the episode a unique feel which allows it to explore and integrate interesting concepts such as the labour camps. Fans were also treated lots of small references and monsters from earlier in the series and the previous two. I can still remember the chills down my spine on initial viewing upon learning that the Doctor had died. There was more emotional turmoil as we learned the fates of Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, and Captain Jack Harkness, before finally witnessing the unfathomable situation Donna found herself in and the leap of faith she had to make. All this was very succinctly resolved with an intelligent plot device which was led perfectly into the series finale. It would feel wrong to discuss this episode without passing comment on Tate’s exemplary performance in the role of Donna; she brought the character to life as a centre for the audience’s empathy. As a wonderful standalone episode, Turn Left has every chance of winning what looks like it could be a very tight poll.
Making a decision on which episodes fitted best to each of the categories in this introduction was a difficult one. The three episodes themselves were easy to single out however, and Utopia completes the line-up. I could honestly see any of the trio of episodes coming out of this poll as the victor. Utopia has a lot going for it, taking the Doctor further than he has ever gone before (quite literally) whilst simultaneously re-introducing characters and drawing upon concepts established earlier in the series. The narrative follows the endeavours of a group of humans (the great survivors) at the end of the universe, trying to find the fabled Utopia as their last hope of survival. The twist involving Professor Yana with hindsight is quite easily spotted, however upon initial viewing it was totally unexpected. The combination of shock and excitement proved to be a winning one which in tandem with the narrative produced a wonderful compelling story. The return of Captain Jack was also a welcome one which made for an interesting dynamic between the now TARDIS trio. This ultimately was overshadowed by the return of the Doctor’s arch-enemy the Master resulting in possibly the best cliff-hanger in the history of the show. For being absolutely marvellous, Utopia wins my vote.
You’ve heard Mark’s thoughts, but what about your own? Which one tops your list? Vote below.