Series 1-7 Face-Off Results: Dream Run (Episodes 9-13, Specials)
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 we’re revealing the “Dream Run” – these are the episodes that topped their respective slots.
Catch-up on other articles:
Now join Mark McCullough as he examines the second half of episodes in the list.
Episode 9: The Empty Child
Utilising the backdrop of war torn London in the midst of the blitz, The Empty Child drew its terror from a different source. A child in a gas mask looking for its mummy, a simple idea yet incredibly scary, especially as it was infectious. Maintain too close contact and you became like him. The narrative follows Nancy, a young woman who has made it her duty to look after those children who have nothing else, risking everything to get a meal as bombs drop around then. Her situation is very poignant and as such she becomes a very likable character. The episode is also the first appearance of Captain Jack Harkness. In truth several episodes could have occupied this slot in the Dream Run, they are all equally as good as each other.
Episode 10: Blink
Doctor Who has always been considered as ‘hide behind the sofa television’. I always considered that a cliché and an exaggeration, that was until I seen Blink. The Weeping Angels are without a doubt the best new monster to be introduced to the show, both terrifying and merciless. The creature which can only move when you are not looking kill you by sending you back in time, feeding on your potential energy. An even smarter move by Moffat was to have them take the appearance of statues commonly found in graveyards. The Angels are integrated into a strong plot focusing on Sally Sparrow. To take the Doctor out of the equation, by falling victims to the Angels only served to increase the terror and tension further. To complete the formula for success the character of Sally was particularly strong and relatable. Given all this, it is no surprise to see Blink here.
Episode 11: Turn Left
Very deserving of its place on the Dream Run, Turn Left went for a dramatic twist on the Doctor-lite episode by creating a universe without him. This allowed for Donna’s character to shine and for the return of Rose. The episode featured a particularly strong narrative packed with emotional moments as we learnt of the deaths of some of our heroes. The performance from the cast was sublime, especially from the members of the Noble family. The integration of concepts such as concentration camps, and the constant nods to previous series of the show added to the impact of the episode. Quite possibly the best concept featured in an episode of the show and certainly one of the most poignant.
Episode 12: The Pandorica Opens
Steven Moffat knows how to do two-part specials and his offering for Series Five was sublime. As such I am delighted to see The Pandorica Opens on this list. Right from the opening scenes where the Doctor’s friends unite to send him a message, the narrative had a feel of epic-ness which should define a finale. The Pandorica, as teased through-out the series along with the cracks, maintained a sense of mystery throughout. Only when it was too late did the audience (and the Doctor) realise what was happening. The concept of the Alliance is certainly an interesting one and most certainly served to increase the scale and stakes of the episode. The conclusion took the Doctor to the lowest he has ever been and left the audience with literally no idea where it was going. What more could you want from the first part of a finale?
Episode 13: The Name of the Doctor
I’ll be honest, when I seen that The Name of the Doctor had made the Dream Run, I was a little disappointed. I have a few major gripes with the episode, not least the complete and utter lack of any real motive whatsoever from the villain, the Great Intelligence. Furthermore, the return of Post-Library River served only to undermine the majority of the character’s story for me. To compound my misery, the brilliant concept of the Whispermen was brutally underused. That said, it does have a lot of good parts too: the dream conference scene was stunning, once again Moffat fooled us all with the grave being discovered rather than the secret, and it was nice to finally have some answers to the Clara mystery. As always the main cast gave some stellar performances. The episode also featured a lot of fan service (which evidently worked) including cameos for each previous Doctor and a scene set on Gallifrey. Does it deserve to be on the Dream Run? Well it was voted here so I can’t deny that it does. Personally I think a few of the other finales deserve to be here more though.
Russell T Davies Special: The Waters of Mars
Those who know me will know which episode I was hoping would win this section. Thankfully if another episode had to win, it had to be The Waters of Mars. One of the best character driven narratives in the history of the show takes the character of the Doctor further than he has ever gone before. As he reaches breaking point, we see him adopt the name The Time Lord Victorious and declare himself in charge of time. The concept of the Flood was a fantastic one, taking water (an essential precursor for life) and turning it into a threat is a frightening prospect. The supporting cast for the episode were also exceptional, particularly Captain Adelaide Brooke. The wonderful direction and use of Wikipedia-like pages to map the impact on time was also a masterstroke. The emotional gravitas of the episode was exceptionally compelling and was supported by a wonderful score by Murray Gold. The Waters of Mars is fully deserving of this spot on the list.
Steven Moffat Special: The Day of the Doctor
What else? As I had said in the introduction to this section of the poll, I was expecting a non-contest. Surely enough, The Day of the Doctor emerged as the winner taking the spot for Moffat Special in the Dream Run. Whether it deserves it or not is barely a question, of course it does. Some of my favourite moments in the history of the show come from this episode, as do my fondest memories of being fan. The Day of the Doctor is more than just an episode; it’s a celebration, recognition of how far the show has come and an indicator as to where it is going. No surprise then that the narrative changed one of the biggest events in the Doctor’s life and it took all thirteen Doctors to do it. Whilst I may consider The Time of the Doctor to be a better episode, it’s always going to be the wonderful 3D celebration, The Day of the Doctor that holds a special place in my heart.
As with the Nightmare Run, I am going to break the results down by writer and by series. But first as I’m sure you are aware, accompanying the poll was a series of introductions where myself and a team of writers predicted a winner, named a Dark Horse and gave our own favourite episode. Purely for interest’s sake, I have looked at how we done:
Correctly Predicted Winners: The Eleventh Hour, School Reunion, The Doctor’s Wife, The Angels Take Manhattan, Dalek, A Good Man Goes to War, Blink, The Pandorica Opens, The Name of the Doctor, The Waters of Mars, and The Day of the Doctor.
Successful Dark Horses: Turn Left
So as you can see, we predicted the majority of episodes correctly (12/15 – 80%) with only one of the Dark Horses winning, that means there was only two introductions where the eventual winner was not covered. No Writer’s Picks featured in the Dream Run.
Now let’s have a look at the composition of the run by writer:
- Ten Episodes: Steven Moffat
- One Episode: Robert Shearman, Neil Gaiman, Toby Whithouse, Russell T Davies, Phil Ford
As you can see, the list is made up mostly by Moffat Episodes. Not much to say there only that it proves Moffat’s unbelievable ability as a writer. Interestingly Moffat’s stories from the RTD Era of the show almost all make an appearance with only The Girl in the Fireplace narrowly missing out. This would tend to suggest that the quality of Moffat’s scripts have remained unaffected by the transition to show-runner. Another thing worth commenting on is the 100% record of both Phil Ford and Robert Shearman, which would indicate that both men are in dire need of a return to the show (fortunately Ford is returning for Series 8).
Finally analysing the composition of the Dream Run per series gives the following results.
- Three Episodes: Series Six,
- Two Episodes: Series Five, Series One, Series Four, Series Seven
- One Episode: 2009 Specials, 2013 Specials, Series Two, Series Three
Not huge amounts to comment on here as all series are represented. No one series has run away with it and the results follow a normal distribution. Good to see all series represented.
So there you have it, your dream run voted by you. I’ll certainly be trying this as a marathon idea this summer in the wait for Series Eight. Speaking of which, If Series Eight can live up to the quality of this list, I will be one happy fan.