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Series 1-7 Face-Off: Episode 7

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 7th episode of each of the seven series so far.

Note: Splits are not counted and specials will have their own categories at the end.

episode-7-face-off

Introduction by Connor Johnston.

Today’s Candidates

  1. The Long Game by Russell T Davies (2005)
  2. The Idiot’s Lantern by Mark Gatiss (2006)
  3. 42 by Chris Chibnall (2007)
  4. The Unicorn and the Wasp by Gareth Roberts (2008)
  5. Amy’s Choice by Simon Nye (2010)
  6. A Good Man Goes to War by Steven Moffat (2011)
  7. The Rings of Akhaten by Neil Cross (2013)

What makes a Good Episode Seven?

You’re in the midst of a brand new series of Doctor Who! Isn’t it wonderful!? After starting out full throttle, all your anticipation and attention boils upon the oncoming, undoubtedly EPIC series finale that’s only a few weeks away! EEP!! And so what do you have to quench your finale thirsts? Plain old non-finale episode 7s.

It’s a well-known fact that in an uninterrupted series (no splits), the episodes in the middle suffer from the curse of the  “mid-series ratings slump,” as Russell T Davies deemed in his Production Letter attached to the Series 4 DVD box set a few years ago. This is what makes episodes 7s so important and so great, that there needs to be an extra effort made by the production team to keep the audience hooked with a brilliant standalone (usually) episode, that’s heavy on character development and light on arc clues and secrets (usually). You may have noticed above, where the episodes are listed, we’ve chosen to do things a little bit differently today by including the writer’s name as well. That is because the Episode 7 of each series is the only episode spot that has been allocated to a different writer every series. Every Episode 7 is something different, an experiment, a roller-coaster ride! Episode 7’s are risky though they always have big treats for characters, memorable moments, exceptional plots and some stunning dialog. It’s a big job to even start comparing these stories… I pity those who have to vote for only one!

Predicted Winner

Going completely against my earlier description (keep an eye on those ‘usuallys’) , Steven Moffat’s introduction of a series split ensured that Series 6’s episode 7 had a very different feel to previous episodes from this slot – All of a sudden “plain old episode 7” became EPIC-AWESOME-MID-SERIES FINALE! Regardless of any criticism towards the choice of splitting Series 6 and 7, one cannot deny that decisions to send out 13 episodes in 2 short sharp bursts of energy meant that the wonderful goosebumps that inhabit our bodies when a series starts and ends would occur 4 times per series – as opposed to the usual 2. Steven Moffat’s “A Good Man Goes to War” is a roller-coaster ride for Whovians, with some sensational depth in Matt Smith’s acting as we are introduced this very strange, very different, dark and angry Doctor. The subplot of this episode is great – the realization that the Doctor is one of the most feared people in the whole universe, that the very name ‘Doctor’ is the word for warrior in some civilizations – it gives some motivation to why the Doctor makes the impossible choice to recluse into the shadows towards the second half of Series 6 and the better part of Series 7 (see the mini-episode “The Inforarium “for some more explanation). It’s these dark themes, excellent plot, and not to mention the EPIC, reveals of the episode (MELODY SONG/RIVER POND… AHH) that makes this episode so popular with fans, shown by its high ranking in the recent “Best of Matt Smith” polls, and leads me to predict “A Good Man Goes to War” will take out the prize for this episode stand off!

The Dark Horse

Series 4 is undoubtedly one of my favorite seasons of Doctor Who out of all the 33, and Gareth Roberts’ “The Unicorn and the Wasp” is one sensational romp that is severely underrated by fans worldwide. The highlight of the episode (besides from the script) is the cast, with both regular and guest stars shining from start to finish! Catherine Tate flexes her capabilities in her natural element of comedy with several hilarious moments possibly making it the funniest Doctor Who episode to date! And if comedy isn’t your cup of tea (or jar of anchovies), the plot thickens with a brilliant Cluedo-style murder mystery… with Agatha Christie, as well as subtly addressing the issues of adultery and strength in the character development of Agatha herself, flawlessly played by Fenella Woolgar.  Mystery, love, loss, twists and comedy are all riddled through the pages of the script, and leave some brilliant shocks and surprises in for the audience! The unique characters and brilliant setting add to the library of reasons why this episode should not be underestimated and forgotten by you Doctor Who TV-ians when you’re casting your votes today.

Writer’s Pick

This section of the article to some extent is very hard to write. If you haven’t picked up on it already – I hold all of these 7 episodes in extremely high regard. In fact so much so that 4 out of 7 of these “plain old episode 7s” are within my top 10 New Who episodes of all time! Like I stated earlier – it’s not an easy job to choose 1 exceptional episode and rank them superior to 6 other completely exceptional episodes (Doctor Who TV feeds of our tears – it’s a known fact), but in a way, for me at least, there is one episode that is so exceptional, so emotional, so thrilling, so rich in character development and that has such a stunning plot that makes it in fact so very easily my favorite non-special episode of all time – and there for my favorite Episode 7. This episode is of course: Neil Cross’ ‘The Rings of Akhaten’.

Rings handles the themes of faith and loss beautifully and extremely tastefully. The brief of Clara’s first trip on board the TARDIS, and our real first insight into what this new companion will bring to the team leads Cross to devise this brilliant script jam-packed (Not Strawberry Jam! No. No, no, no. That would be unacceptable.) with memorable moments for almost every one of the cast members. Specifically both of the Doctor’s speeches are exceptional without a doubt – Rings truly is one of Matt’s shining hours acting wise, but the real show stopper (for me at least) is Clara’s comforting chat with Merry behind the TARDIS. It was that moment that I knew I had a new favorite companion, and that I was completely and utterly in love with Clara Oswald.

The real brilliant thing about this episode is that these stunning moments don’t sacrifice a deep high quality plot – as amazingly the quality is 100% consistent from beginning to end. As mentioned earlier the themes of loss and faith are exhibited perfectly by the death of Clara’s mother, and the exploration of the impact that her mother has had in shaping the woman Clara is today, as well as essentially both the unquestioned devotion, followed by the complete loss of faith in the people of Akhaten as their God is revealed to be nothing but a parasite. Musically Rings is a triumph, and is possibly the highlight of Murray Gold’s contribution to Doctor Who since its revival with such classic tracks such as “The Long Song” and “Infinite Potential” leaving the audience in awe. Finally the enemies of Rings are wonderfully constructed – A soul-eating mummy, his haunting creepy servants ‘The Vigil,’ and finally the hidden Parasite God, are not only great, intimidating and threatening ideas, but also are exceptionally executed.

Not every episode can be epic finales or the thrilling openers – but very often all it takes is the depth and emotion of these exceptional “plain old Episode 7s” to remind us truly why this show is the most extraordinary show in all of time and space! And remember with these 7 stunning adventures, all unique in their own way – you really can’t go wrong! Unfortunately I can only shed some thoughts on 3 of these amazing stories – Good luck voting for one (Don’t forget the brilliant 42!!!)  I hope this has made it extremely harder easier for you.

Vote

You’ve heard Connor’s thoughts, but what about your own? Which one tops your list? Vote below.

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137 comments
JJ2000
JJ2000

7. A Good Man Goes To War - No reason needed. Absolutely bloody brilliant! One of the best episodes EVER!!!!

chinnysandshoes
chinnysandshoes

My top three choices were:

1. A good man goes to war - amazing amazing acting from Matt Smith here. He's funny, poignant, dark, terrifying, yet afraid, tender.... Beautiful acting. I love his friends, their loyalty to him, his to them. Epic reveals. Nothing better.

2. Unicorn and the wasp - classic whodunit Agatha Christie mystery + Doctor Who madcap adventure with Donna and Ten = magic fun!

3. Rings of Akhaten - I love the dialogue. So well written. And Matt screaming up and defying the God and Clara riding in to save the day. All the elements are there. But it just was too formulaic and predictable. I'd choose this episode on the dialogue alone and Matt's passionate delivery.

TheOncomingFish
TheOncomingFish

A Good Man Goes to War definitely. Such an epic episode. 

DaftDalek
DaftDalek

1. A Good Man Goes To War: An epic episode with so much going on. The pace is frenetic and the addition of so many allies and villains of the Doctor is great. Amy and Rory losing the baby feels still tragic (something Let's Kill Hitler changed), too. However, I'd have loved to see Jack and Ood Sigma!

2. Amy's Choice: Great idea, Doctor Who's Inception one could say. The Dream Lord is creepy, almost terrifying. It is chilling to think that it's actually the Doctor behind him. The dialogue is top, too.

3. The Unicorn And The Wasp: An underrated episode and of course a really funny one. While the idea of a giant wasp is kind of underwhelming, the murder mystery story is fantastic!

4. 42: Impressive episode and the fact that its running time is the actual run time of the story is a difficult task. It's totally Chris Chibnall's best episode, although I'm not that keen on alive stars. Still, Torajii beats easily the Old God!

5. The Long Game: As an big RTD fan, I believe this is his worst work in Doctor Who. Little happens in it and this isn't particularly interesting. Mainly, a set-up for the finale.

6. The Idiot's Lantern: The idea isn't particularly original and it is a bit uninteresting, no matter how creepy the faceless people were.

7. The Rings Of Akhaten: I was surprised to see how many fans this episode has, on this site at least. It just can't grow on me. I feel it's too childish, there is a bunch of useless monsters-villains (Mummy, Vigil),the aliens are totally a poor man's The End Of The World and the plot doesn't really go anywhere.


NewWho2012
NewWho2012

I think Amy's Choice just wins this because it's a brilliant episode, something I don't say often about Series 5. Then would follow The Unicorn and the Wasp and 42 which are both good episodes. But I've never liked The Long Game, never bothered watching it since it's first broadcast because it always seems so boring, don't know why.

DW_girl
DW_girl

In order of preference:

1) Amy's Choice 9.5/10

2) 42 9/10

3) The Unicorn and the Wasp 8.5/10

4) The Rings of Akhaten 7.5/10

5) The Idiots Lantern 7/10

6) A Good Man Goes To War 7/10

7) The Long Game 6/10

Never been too keen on The Long Game, and I think AGMGTW is overrated. The Idiots Lantern is quite nice to watch still. And the rest are just brilliant.

JLS1138
JLS1138

Also...Idiot's Lantern....any scene with the grandmother thumping on the floor and the reveal of her non-face still makes me shiver

JLS1138
JLS1138

As if there's even a question...A Good Man Goes To War. That said, I do really like the Rings of Akhaten and don't know why it gets dumped on so much. Not a huge fan of 42 but overall a solid Episode 7 list

hankim912
hankim912

'42' was quite interesting for me.

needcomicmoney
needcomicmoney

The Unicorn and the Wasp. Agatha Christie + Doctor Who = Television Gold.

Thesilence_1994
Thesilence_1994

A good Man Goes to War  is the best! 10/10. 'Amy's Choice' is 8/10, 'Idiot's lantern' is 8/10. 'Rings of Akhaten' is 7/10, '42' is 7/10 and 'Unicorn and the Wasp' and 'The long Game' are 3/10. 


The Living Angel
The Living Angel

The Rings of Akhaten, yes I will defend this episode until my dying day

Cripper411
Cripper411

I think the Rings of Akhaten is the best episode, the visuals were stunning with excellent dialogue by Matt SMith.  I liked the references to Susan in this episode, something that seems to be happening more and more often in Dr Who!  If you are interested, check out my vlog where I do regular dr who videos :)  https://www.youtube.com/user/cripper411  Please subscribe, it would help a lot :)

KarenBee
KarenBee

Unicorn and the wasp. Funny, smart, great performances, terrific costumes and setting. So nice to see an episode where the sun is shining. Brilliant physical comedy and along with Shakespeare Code the best Gareth Roberts episodes before the drop in quality to the infantile James Corden sequel.

Puts a smile on your face and doesn't pretend to be more than it is - a gloriously fun episode with the doctor and Donna at their best.

SimonSayersFranklin
SimonSayersFranklin

I voted Rings just because it deserves to have some love at least. 

DawnTime
DawnTime

Easy - Ladies and Gentlemen I give you " A good man goes to War" !

EdWhovian
EdWhovian

"Amy's Choice" for me- the Dream Lord concept was fantastic, and this ep really shows that mid season does not have to equal "boring filler"

lukashcartoon
lukashcartoon

The Rings of Akhaten was a good episode, but not a superior episode. It was a little wobbly on the threat...(a monster in a cage, oh wait I mean a very mean planet.) No, for me, it's the great "When A Good Man Goes To War."  There was just too much epic in that episode.  Another contender was Amy's Choice...which was  brilliant character study, and a very creepy baddie. 




Malohkeh
Malohkeh

I'm going to go with "A Good Man Goes to War". I love "Amy's Choice" and "The Unicorn and the Wasp" as well, but AGMGtW is truly a masterpiece. So many things I love about it.


"The Rings of Akhaten" is a bit of a missed opportunity. It's a great episode, don't get me wrong, but I just feel it should have been so much more. It's a case of the parts being far stronger than the whole.


"42" is a fairly generic episode. It's undeniably strong, with some great scenes (the silent escape pod detachment is a favorite of mine), but little sticks out to me about it.


"The Long Game" is average as it gets, and "The Idiot's Lantern" is terrible. I love a good campy romp, but this one was just nonsensical in the worst possible ways.

Merganman4
Merganman4

Personally, my choices are in this order:

Amy's Choice-8/10 

A Good Man Goes to War-8/10 

The Rings of Akhaten-7/10 

42-710 

The Long Game-710 

The Unicorn and the Wasp-6/10 

The Idiots Lantern-5/10












StephenAHayes
StephenAHayes

The Unicorn and the Wasp could have been great if not for a completely stupid ending.

It's A Good Man Goes To War for me shortly followed by Rings

ManWithChips
ManWithChips

Hm...A Good Man Goes to War...or The Rings of Akhaten...A Good Man Goes to War...The Rings of Akhaten...Good Man...Rings...AGMGtW...TRoA...


Oodkind
Oodkind

It's not hard to pick first place this time, as most of the episodes are the lower point of the series. A Good Man Goes to War is the only stand-out episode for me in the group.

  1. A Good Man Goes to War - Simply the best of the bunch. 9/10
  2. The Long Game - Pretty good, just didn't stand out. 8/10
  3. The Rings of Akhaten - A well-done episode. Not my favorite story. 7/10
  4. 42 - It had some good ideas, but it just isn't interesting to me, for some reason. 6/10
  5. The Idiot's Lantern - A good episode, not great. Interesting concept. 6/10
  6. The Unicorn and the Wasp - I found it too silly. It just didn't work for me. 5/10
  7. Amy's Choice - Kind of boring. It had some nice moment, though. 5/10

`

Overall, not the best episodes, but no awful ones either. Sort of the slow point of every season. And yes, the format of this comment is sorcery! 

Polyphase
Polyphase

Another pretty easy one as there's not much to choose from

1)42

2)The Unicorn and the Wasp

3)The Idiots Lantern

4)The Long Game

5)A Good man Goes to War

6)The Rings of Akhaten

7)Amy's Choice

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

Wow. Reading through the comments, this one has caused the greatest divide opinion yet.

Stradiwhovius
Stradiwhovius

Damn, my own rating system is working against me! I would love to vote for The Rings of Akhaten. I feel like it's so undeservingly undervalued and it's a sentimental favourite of mine. However, I'll be voting for Amy's Choice - It's pretty much the definitive article for me as to what a Doctor Who story should be: Bonkers, character-driven, clever, creative, funny, threatening and, above all, entertaining. 1) Amy's Choice - 10/10. One of my all-time favourites. 

2) A Good Man Goes To War - 9/10. Matt Smith is at his angry, whimsical best here. Perfect balance of emotion and action, particularly given what the episode needed to achieve.

3) The Rings of Akhaten - 8 or 9/10. Slightly messy opening and middle, but ultimately an uplifting and very creative masterpiece.

4) 42 - 6/10. A tense and truly chilling piece of television. IMO, it has everything Cold War was desperately lacking.

5) The Unicorn and the Wasp - 5/10. Great fun and a decent (if predictable) mystery.




6) The Idiot's Lantern - 5/10. What's this? Down to #6 and I still like the episode?! Yeah, I think this story is a bit underrated. Great historical backdrop, bizarre threat. Very RTD mix of domestic and alien and I enjoyed it very much.



7) The Long Game - 4 or 5/10. I don't find this episode very enjoyable. Maybe I just don't get it.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

This was the hardest one yet. I ended up going for "A Good Man Goes Too War", but "Rings" and "Unicorn" were both very close. I think I chose "Good Man" because that one instantly blew me away when I saw it, where as the other two were pretty average at first, but grew over time as I rewatched them.

KristiStoneman
KristiStoneman

I'm voting for "The Long Game" because I feel most people will vote for "A Good Man Goes to War".

Oncoming_Badger
Oncoming_Badger

Straight out, 42 is one of the best episodes ever because it felt so of it's time like a proper scary action space blockbuster confined into 42 minutes. We don't even have time to get to know the crew everything we learn is extremely under pressure and on the clock even the Doctor is terrified and the scenes where he goes to save Martha or is possessed leave you gripping your seat when your half way standing up. Then the idea that the sun is sentient and in pain from being scooped out. Possibly one of not only the best Who episodes ever but one of the most underrated who episodes ever.

1. 42

2. Amy's Choice

3. The Rings of Akhaten

4. A Good Man Goes to War

5. The Long Game

6. The Idiot's Lantern

7. The Unicorn and the Wasp

IceDaleks
IceDaleks

1) The Rings Of Akhaten

2) Amy's Choice

3) A Good Man goes To War

4) The Unicorn And The Wasp

5) 42

6) The Long Game

7) The Idiots Lantern

Sir James Bond
Sir James Bond

Sentient suns are great are they. They're capable of fuelling all manner of story.....some good, some not so good. Some are instantly engaging, exciting and atmospheric, while others are 'The Rings of Akhaten'. But, 'accentuate the positive', that's my motto, so leaving aside the vacuous excesses of Season Seven, lets revel instead in all that's great about '42', a solid little pot boiler and totally devoid of any obvious musical padding (stop that now). 


I love '42's 'real time' storytelling gimmick and its 'in universe' aesthetic similarities with 'The Impossible Planet'.....it adds to a nice sense of internal continuity. I like the word 'Torajii', because it goes so well with 'system'. I like the overbearingly clammy atmos, a remarkable feat given the interior spaceship location shoot a was apparently very nearly sub zero. Ten's in his casual look, (so much prefer the 'no tie' motif). Martha gets trapped in a escape pod in beautifully understated, yet remarkably powerful scene where she slips silently adrift from the 'S.S. Pentallian', with the Doctor's plaintiff cries of "I'll save you!" growing ever more distant. A man in a space welders mask makes for an eerily effective puppet villain, especially when accompanied with a catchy catchphrase. Ten's sun kissed possession is terrifyingly brought to life in an acting tour de force from both Tennant, and Ageyman. And never before has a man stretching out to flick a switch been so damned exciting, again some fine thesping from Tennant, aided and abetted by Murray Gold's bombastic score and Graeme Harpers deceptively simple direction. 

'42's straightforward storytelling sensibilities should not undermine its worth. Its a great piece of Saturday night entertainment, a nice stepping stone in the Doctor/Martha relationship, and a worthy potential winner of 'Best Episode 7'. 

Pipnant
Pipnant

Easiest choice so far for me. The Unicorn and the Wasp is one of my all time favourites. I didn't particularly like it before but on multiple re-watches it's absolutely great. However, this one seems to have everyone split...

Nightmarish
Nightmarish

None of these really stand out to me...

Bollyknickers
Bollyknickers

3. The Rings of Akhaten


It’s full of flaws but when I’m feeling like a sentimental buffoon, I love it to bits.  A friendly, warm, cosy piece of Saturday night television which sells Clara as a companion.

2. The Idiot’s Lantern

Appreciated more on re-watch.  My favourite Gatiss story.  A creepy alien threat on the backdrop of a realistic historical era.  Personal highlight was the dynamic between the Connolly family; the arrogant, ‘man of his time’ characterisation of the father and his son who is beginning to distance himself as he grows up.  It’s also one of Rose’s best as she gets to act independently; she’s an investigator in her own right, without needing the Doctor behind her in everything she does.

1. Amy’s Choice

I re-watched this episode last week.  I’d always enjoyed it but I saw a colossal improvement.  It’s now one of my favourite episodes ever.  Eerie, moving and charmingly quaint, it explores the dream-reality setup without going over-the-top with science-fantasy madness – it never loses focus.  Toby Jones’ performance of the Dream Lord is exquisite; he’s the ideal ‘dark’ counterpart to the protagonist, with enough wit to keep the laughs going throughout the episode.

TheSoundofDrums
TheSoundofDrums

1. The Rings of Akhaten

2. A Good Man Goes to War

3. Amy's Choice

4. The Unicorn and the Wasp

5. 42

6. The Idiot's Lantern

7. The Long Game

TheSoundofDrums
TheSoundofDrums

After much debate between choosing A Good Man Goes to War and The Rings of Akhaten, I've gone for the latter. It was a hard decision to make as A Good Man Goes to War is one of my favourite Matt Smith episodes and for good reason. Its story was tense and had great development throughout as the situation grew and the revelations slowly got revealed for the massive mid-season finale. But I really do enjoy watching The Rings of Akhaten and love its story, structure, characters and setting. It was a genuine alien story which is rare to see within New Who and Neil Cross captured it all beautifully. Also how can we forget Matt's brilliant speech to the music of 'The Long Song'. A truly magnificent moment in the history of Doctor Who. For these reasons I had to drop A Good Man Goes to War as my choice and go with The Rings of Akhaten.

Trenzalore
Trenzalore

The unicorn and the wasp is my all time favourite new who story, but Amy's choice is my favourite 11th doctor story and the idiots lantern is always an interesting one to watch. But of course my all time favourite new who story wins... The unicorn and the wasp.

GWad84
GWad84

My choice: A Good Man Goes To War. The opening sequence, The action, The script, the twists and turns, the introduction of new chatacters and reintroduction to others and The Doctors 'Colonel Runaway' monologue. Perfect episode.

2nd choice: Amy's choice

3rd choice: 42

KingoftheOod4450
KingoftheOod4450

Matt Smith is utterly fantastic in both, but his tonal shifts in A Good Man Goes to War just edge out Amy's Choice.


The major flaw with AGMGTW is the fact that the 'revelation/fall' of The Doctor is that the universe fears him - he's become too big. River was the completely wrong person to deliver that speech. She is a major hypocrite here, and it completely blew any impact of the speech as it came from her.

DW_girl
DW_girl

Not to mention it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout! :)

DW_girl
DW_girl

The "shock" scene never fails to make me laugh! :)

sontaran17
sontaran17

@Deus_Ex_Machina  I know! Its because they're completley diffferent! Like I said in the article -- That is because the Episode 7 of each series is the only episode spot that has been allocated to a different writer every series. Every Episode 7 is something different, an experiment, a roller-coaster ride!