Series 1-7 Face-Off Results: Nightmare 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 to begin we’re revealing what we’re calling the “Nightmare Run” – these are the episodes that didn’t fare so well coming last in their respective episode slots.
So join Mark McCullough as he examines the first half of episodes in the list. Did they deserve their low placing?
Episode 1: New Earth
David Tennant’s first regular episode, New Earth claims the first spot in the Nightmare Run. The story features a visit to humanity’s new home following the events of The End of the World in the first series. This allows for the re-introduction of several characters from that episode including Cassandra and the Face of Boe. With a narrative that touches on the ethical issues of the pharmaceutical industries and clinical trials, albeit in a totally different setting, I found it to be an interesting and poignant episode. Not a bad episode in its own right, but unsurprisingly no match for the quality of the other series openers.
Episode 2: The Beast Below
Of all the episodes on this list, this one surprises me the most. As my own vote in the poll, I’m quite sad to see it feature here. Amy’s first proper trip on the TARDIS to Starship UK is filled with poignant imagery and contrast between characters. Featuring humanity as the monster and having the new companion to be the one who saved the day made for an intelligent narrative. I find The Beast Below to be the definition of an underrated story. Although it did face rather tough competition in this poll, the fact that I’m writing about it here shows just how underrated it is.
Episode 3: The Curse of the Black Spot
Pirates and Doctor Who? From the off this was either going to be a match made in heaven or not everyone’s cup of tea. Evidently the latter was the case as The Curse of the Black Spot finds itself taking the slot of the third episode on our Nightmare Run. By providing a clever (sci-fi) twist to common pirate tropes along with an engaging base under siege style narrative, made for a strong story. The episode, whilst fun and enjoyable, probably finds itself here due to the fact its series was split, meaning it was less welcome as a somewhat filler episode.
Episode 4: Daleks in Manhattan
Another episode, for which I had voted, Daleks in Manhattan, makes its way onto this list. I find this two part narrative to a fascinating set-up, utilising a classic and established villain and taking them somewhere completely new. The grasp of the struggles of the time period and their integration further complements the narrative. It also features some very strong characters: Laszlo, Tallulah, Solomon and Frank. It’s a shame to see that both parts of this fine story have made their way onto this list. However I feel if one part is deserving, it should be this one as it was quite slow in building to the grand reveal of the Daleks and their goals
Episode 5: Evolution of the Daleks
The second part of the story Evolution of the Daleks featured some dark concepts too, the idea of human testing demoting our species to its animal origins, with a superior species essentially using us as we use the animals of our planet. However taking an iconic foe like the Daleks and changing things so drastically was probably never going to go down well. It is my belief that this was the reason behind the genocide within the narrative. Bearing in mind the Daleks involved were the Cult of Skaro, I thought the risk paid off and made for an excellent story. I’m quite surprised to see this episode here, although again it is probably a case of tough competition rather than a bad episode
Episode 6: The Lazarus Experiment
Completing three in a row from Series Three, we have The Lazarus Experiment. The narrative follows the experiments of the aptly named Professor Lazarus as he tries to change the course of human history by reversing the aging process. His experiments go horribly wrong leaving his genetically mutated as a badly CGI-ed monster. Another focus for the episode is the family of the companion, Martha Jones. There’s something about this episode which makes it seem so average and I can’t quite put my finger on it. So perhaps it is fair to say it is no surprise to find it on the list.
Episode 7: The Idiot’s Lantern
A mix of really strong competition and this episode being sub-par sees Mark Gatiss’ The Idiots Lantern find its way on to the Nightmare Run. The episode had good intention featuring a clever alien threat which corresponded well with the time period the episode was set in. Unfortunately the episode suffers from the companion in grave danger situation. Perversely instead of upping the ante, having Rose fall victim to the Wire undermines the threat of the narrative as we know she is not going to be left faceless. Despite this the episode fares quite well in other areas particularly in the Connolly family subplot. In truth, this is an episode which deserves its place on the list.
Episode 8: The Hungry Earth
I’ll be honest, this one surprised me a little, at least until I looked at what the competition was. The Hungry Earth is the first part of the re-introduction of the Silurians to the audiences of the twenty first century. The narrative is very tense with the Doctor and Amy being split within the early stages of the episode. The story then adopts a base under siege style story whilst keeping the identity of the attackers initially withheld. The cliff-hanger is strong too with Amy in danger and the Doctor discovering the existence of an entire civilisation. Perhaps this story doesn’t deserve to be here, I find it quite good.
Join us again tomorrow for the conclusion of the Nightmare Run, looking at episodes 9-13 and the specials from each showrunner.