Series 1-7 Face-Off Results: Dream Run (Episodes 1-8)
Across March and April Doctor Who TV pitted all the revival episodes so far against each other and asked you to vote on each. The results are now in and now we’re revealing the “Dream Run” – these are the episodes that topped their respective slots.
Now join Mark McCullough as he examines the first half of episodes in the list.
Episode 1: The Eleventh Hour
Not a huge surprise with this correctly predicted winner, in fact something would have been badly wrong if anything other than The Eleventh Hour had won here. Matt Smith’s first episode in the TARDIS was the start of an era, in more ways than one. Perhaps the most magical and nostalgic episode of the lot, and thoroughly deserving of the praise it gets. If I’m looking to introduce someone to the show, I usually use this one, which in itself shows just how good it is as an Episode One. So good in fact that I would say it has become the marker from which series openers are judged. Let’s hope Moffat can repeat this success with Series Eight.
Episode 2: Day of the Moon
“We’re not fighting an alien invasion, we’re leading a revolution”. A dramatic twist to the usual format of the show with the enemy already dominating Earth and a high stakes storyline, complemented by the use of beautiful scenery in the United States, all combined to make a wonderful episode. Day of the Moon is more than deserving of this spot in the Dream Run. That said I am still quite surprised to see it here as it was up against several very good episodes. Something which also works in its favour is the inclusion of what has been touted as the best cliff-hanger ever. An episode featuring Canton, Nixon and a perfect balance of tone, perhaps it was foolish to overlook it.
Episode 3: School Reunion
Conceptually the Krillitanes are a fascinating monster, able to adapt themselves based on those they have conquered. The story of School Reunion is quite strong too utilising the brains of schoolchildren to aid the alien incursion. But I’d be prepared to bet that isn’t the reason for its inclusion in the Dream Run, that’s probably due to a Smith. This episode was the first to properly feature Mickey involved in the adventure. This naturally was overshadowed by the re-introduction of Sarah-Jane Smith. Through Sladen’s wonderful performance the audience immediately fell in love with her (eventually leading to a spin-off series). I will always love School Reunion for introducing me to Sarah-Jane
Episode 4: The Doctor’s Wife
Episode Four seems to be the romantic one, at least it appears that it was given this result was the product of a very close contest between The Doctor’s Wife and The Girl in the Fireplace. Ultimately The Doctor’s Wife emerged victorious and I have to say I’m glad. I’m not as big a fan of either episode as most; but I can certainly appreciate our winner a lot more. The concept of giving the TARDIS a body and a voice providing it with an opportunity to converse with the Doctor is a genius one. More than that, writer Neil Gaiman also manages to create some of the more chilling ideas within (or should that be outside) the Doctor Who universe: the patchwork people Aunt and Uncle, a sentient asteroid with immense power and the scene with the Ponds in the TARDIS corridor. Couple this with the romance storyline and it is easy to see why this story is here.
Episode 5: The Angels Take Manhattan
The final episode to feature both Amy and Rory, who having previously occupied the companion role for the entirety of the Smith/Moffat Era were about to meet their bitter end. The Angels Take Manhattan had to be brilliant; it was only fitting for such wonderful companions. Emotionally and tonally the story was spot on, complemented by Murray Gold’s particularly powerful score. Unfortunately the logic at times was far from sound and had a serious impact on my enjoyment of the episode. I can’t help but wonder if this episode is only in the Dream Run because it was the Pond’s swansong, after all we did have the heartache of losing them twice within the about five minutes. Also worth noting is the wonderful performances by the main cast.
Episode 6: Dalek
The episode which featured the re-introduction of the Daleks, the show’s most iconic monster to the new audience, of course it was due a place in the Dream Run. The title Dalek reflects the perfect simplicity of the narrative: one single Dalek wreaking havoc on the world. If you want to establish something as a threat, this is the way to do it. Rob Shearman writes the Daleks journey perfectly as it evolves from a killing machine, to adopting some of Rose’s qualities. It is a huge testament to the writing that as the viewer I actually felt sorry for the Dalek by the end. The episode also featured several interesting characters and a few nods to the history of the show. I think it would have been a travesty if Dalek had not been included in the Dream Run.
Episode 7: A Good Man Goes to War
I’m a little bit surprised to see A Good Man Goes to War feature on the list. I can’t dispute the quality of the majority of the episode, but I feel it was let down slightly by its ending. The River reveal was quite obvious and rather poorly done. With the Doctor supposedly having “fallen further than ever before” it all seemed too happy and neat. It would have perhaps been better without the reveal. Ignoring that, it is quite easy to see why people voted for it, it contain so many epic moments: the Doctor taking Demons’ Run, Rory on the Cybership. Along with this it also has character defining moments: Dorium’s statement about the Doctor collecting his debts, the Colonel Runaway incident and the Doctor’s treatment of Lorna. Wonderful performances by the entire cast, especially from the wonderful Francis Barber as Madame Kovarian, helped to cement the quality of the episode.
Episode 8: Silence in the Library
There is just something about Silence in the Library (and its second part too) which makes it such a wonderful episode. By this stage Moffat had established himself as the ‘scary writer’ following Blink. This time he uses shadow as the object of fear, shadows which could strip the flesh from your skin in a matter of seconds. The story features the introduction of the mysterious River Song, a woman from the Doctor’s future who knows everything about him, whilst he knows nothing about her. This makes for some heartbreaking scenes between the two. Utilising a dark tone and dark set completed the narrative and gave the audience a real sense of danger serving to increase the tension. The episode ended on a cliff-hanger which placed Donna in serious danger leading to an agonising wait until the next Saturday. Silence in the Library is an episode thoroughly deserving of its place in the Dream Run.
Join us again tomorrow for the conclusion of the Dream Run, looking at episodes 9-13 and the specials from each showrunner.