Series 1-7 Face-Off Results: Nightmare Run (Episodes 9-13, Specials)

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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 in and now 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.

Join Mark McCullough as he now examines the second half of episodes and the specials. Did they deserve their low placing?

Episode 9: Night Terrors

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Having the filler episode from the first half of Series Six already on our list, it comes as no surprise that we also have Night Terrors, the equivalent from the second half. The story is a risk, Mark Gatiss penning his first episode which is not set in the past. Perhaps Gatiss should stick to his strengths in future as the episode evidently wasn’t very well received. That said it does feature some exciting concepts and wonderful character moments particularly those featuring Daniel May’s character. Some scenes also stand out as being especially chilling, these include: the elevator scene, and Amy’s conversion into a Peg Doll.

Episode 10: Love & Monsters

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When people talk about episodes that they don’t like, Love & Monsters is commonly brought up. As an episode, it’s an experiment, a new style and something different. If the show never took risks, it would never get anywhere. Unfortunately this gamble was not one that paid off. To me it seemed everything was going well for the majority of the episode. Getting an insight into how the Doctor affects people’s lives was a welcome change, particularly where Jackie Tyler was concerned. The latter part of the episode was things started to go wrong and a laughable monster along with a nonsensical resolution left the episode damaged beyond repair.

Episode 11: Fear Her

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When you get a bad episode it usually makes the one after seem that little bit better. For Fear Her to come at this point given the quality of its predecessor was a bad blow for the second series of the show. As a concept the narrative is not that bad an idea, however it is the execution which drags the episode down. The performance given by the cast is also as good as it could be with the addition of Chloe’s domestics feeling rather forced. Perhaps it’s just me but I find the Doctor and Rose to be quite annoying within the story too. Fear Her is a watchable episode, but not much more. To me it feels like a missed opportunity.

Episode 12: Closing Time

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With most other episode twelves being part of a two-part finale, realistically this spot was to be contested by the two Cybermen stories. Personally I think the other one (Nightmare in Silver) deserves to be here more, but where Closing Time suffers the worst is the fact that the Cybermen are beaten by love. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as it could be argued that it shows how the Cybermen are always vulnerable to humanity; however it had been done before this and as such felt laboured. Trying to recreate the comedy of The Lodger amidst the backdrop of a serious Cyberman story just didn’t work. Instead the episode damaged one of the show’s most iconic monsters.

Episode 13: The Wedding of River Song

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Of all the finales, I think this is the one which deserves to be here. It feels messy and all over the place and perhaps that was the intention from Moffat given the style of the narrative. I found it impacted on the enjoyment of the episode.  Whilst entertaining, some parts felt unnecessary whilst other areas, such as Madame Kovarian were brutally underused. The resolution to the Doctor’s death at the start of the series, whilst intelligent, appeared to be almost a cop-out. The episode has some good parts too, the Silence are threatening and the scene where the Doctor learns of the Brigadier’s death is fittingly poignant. I don’t think it would be unfair to say that The Wedding of River Song is only here because of the quality of the other finales.

RTD Special: Planet of the Dead

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Perhaps the Davies special that slips under most people’s radar, Planet of the Dead is a strange one. Very rarely have I seen the episode criticised, come to think of it I haven’t seen much praise for it either. Maybe that’s the problem and why it features on this list. As a story it is a fun romp which introduced a new one off companion. It is packed with unique ideas and a genuine earth-threatening situation. The episode’s narrative allows for a heavy focus on UNIT and the introduction of the wonderful Malcom. The dénouement features a chilling prediction about the Doctor’s fate. Not a bad episode by any means, just not a very memorable one.

Moffat Special: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

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In the introduction to the corresponding section of the poll, I mentioned The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe as an episode I thought was extremely underrated. In truth I knew that it would be here, mostly because of the quality of the other episodes in the Moffat Special category. I can see where the episode falls down, the actual threat and alien aspect of the narrative is average at best. But it’s one of those few episodes in which that doesn’t really matter, as the story excels in delivering its goal as a Christmas Special, packing a strong emotional gravitas and ultimately delivering with a happy ending for both the Arwells and the Doctor.

Concluding Thoughts

I thought it may be a nice touch to analyse the episodes a little based upon from which series they originate from and by who wrote them. As far as which series contributes the most to our Nightmare Run, here are the standings:

  • Five Episodes: Series Six (counting The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe)
  • Four Episodes:  Series Two
  • Three Episodes: Series Three
  • Two Episodes:  Series Five
  • One Episode: 2009 Specials
  • Zero Episodes: Series One, Series Four, Series Seven

This shows us that the bulk of the Nightmare Run come from three series of the show. It is no surprise to see Series Six and Series Two are the biggest contributors, since when I have seen people discussing their favourite series, it is usually these two make up the bottom of the list. I have seen many people claim that Christopher Eccleston’s run of Doctor Who did not contain a bad episode. These results would tend to support that claim as Series One is joined by Series Four and Series Seven as the only series not to contribute anything to the list.

Now I’ll have a look at the results per writer of the Episode in the same way as above, the contributions to the nightmare run per writer are as follows:

  • Three Episodes: Steven Moffat, Russell T Davies
  • Two Episodes: Mark Gatiss, Helen Raynor
  • One Episode: Chris Chibnall, Stephen Greenhorn, Stephen Thompson, Gareth Roberts, Matthew Graham

Some things stand out to me from these results. Firstly both Moffat and RTD have offered three episodes each (I was relieved to see them come out equal), however this is to be expected given the amount of episodes each man has written they are bound to have their fair share of dud scripts. We also have to bear in mind that due to the format of the poll, they were both guaranteed to feature one each as their specials were polled individually. Secondly and perhaps most worryingly is Mark Gatiss, for a man who is being touted as a potential future show-runner, it is disappointing to see no fewer than one third of his episodes feature in a Nightmare Run. To make matters slightly worse for Gatiss, two of the episodes he has acted in (the only two speaking roles) have coincidently made their way onto the list as well (Poor Mark!). Boasting an even worse record is Helen Raynor, having only written for episodes four and five, she manages to take a clean sweep in the Nightmare Run, occupying both positions.

So there you have it, your Nightmare Run as voted for by you. I always like to end things on a positive note so I’ll say this. While this run would be the worst of Doctor Who, I am more than confident that it would be able to hold its own and compete with many other TV series.