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Series 1-7 Face-Off: RTD Specials

Doctor Who TV is running new series pitting all the revival episodes against each other to decide your dream run. Today we continue with the special episodes from Russell T Davies’ era of the show.

face-off-rtd-specials

Introduction by David Selby.

Today’s Candidates

  1. The Christmas Invasion (2005)
  2. The Runaway Bride (2006)
  3. Voyage of the Damned (2007)
  4. The Next Doctor (2008)
  5. Planet of the Dead (2009)
  6. The Waters of Mars (2009)
  7. The End of Time (2009)

What makes a good Special?

Russell T. Davies’ Specials will always have a special place in my heart. Year on year, Christmas on Christmas, they were one of the highlights of the day; perfect family entertainment, yet still no lapse in the usual Who standards. The function of the 2009 Specials was something different; to pay a gradual farewell to the Tenth Doctor, mapping his descent into darkness and finally his unconventional regeneration into Matt Smith.

Predicted Winner

I’d be extremely surprised if anything other than The Waters of Mars won. It plays a pivotal part in the transformation of the Doctor as he begins to question what his role is in the universe. Devastated, supercilious and pushed over the edge, the Doctor goes against his instincts and everything which has defined him in the new series. As his own life spirals out of control, it’s up to Adelaide Brooke to set him right. Adelaide is a strong, complex one-off character; a woman with twilight in her eyes but also one well-acquainted with the world’s harshest realities. This terrific characterisation takes place over the backdrop of a spectacularly-release Martian landscape, inhabited by the Flood – a mysterious, unnerving one-off antagonist which, despite the episode’s character-focus, isn’t side-lined. If one can genre-categorise The Waters of Mars, it would have to be Doctor Who’s disaster movie. The destiny trap: you can’t change history if you’re a part of it.

The Dark Horse

As Doctor Who’s first Christmas Special (discounting any episodes that happened to air over Christmas or include mild Christmas references), The Christmas Invasion does stand a vague chance of doing well in this poll. Accessible to all, The Christmas Invasion was largely to thank for Doctor Who’s popularity as Tennant won over new viewers with a short but memorable first performance as the show’s eponymous protagonist, wherein he battled slave-trading monsters the Sycorax and a more light-hearted Christmastime threat, the Pilot Fish.

Whilst I can’t imagine it succeeding, I’d also be thrilled if The Runaway Bride did well, for many of the same reasons but also because of how its ‘bluer’ emotional focus didn’t destroy the mood, but in fact added to the episode’s charm.

Writer’s Pick

It could only be my favourite Doctor Who story, The End of Time.

Controversially (but in my eyes, effectively), The End of Time experimented with the concept of regeneration, painting it as a tougher, darker process. Whilst the Doctor remains, intrinsically, the same man; whilst he retains his memories, experiences and lessons, each incarnation is a distinctly unique personality who goes on his own inimitable journey. You could argue that the more the Doctor changes, the more he struggles to come to terms with his regeneration. Part of the regeneration process is both falling to, and coming to terms with, the character’s essential weaknesses and/or strengths. Ten’s Doctor was defined as arrogant and at times dangerous; yet he died saving a friend and without pulling the trigger – still at the heart the same man who came onto our screens in 2005; the man who never would.

Others characters complement the narrative. There’s Rassilon, who plays the part of ‘the Narrator’ in the first part, foreshadowing the events to come and accentuating the sheer scale of Davies’ storytelling. In the second, he takes up the legendary role of Rassilon; a character defined in part by both hubris and an indomitable necessity to survive. Rassilon was one of the founders of Time Lord society, yet ultimately he led it into its destruction. There is something fascinating, almost ironic, about his personal journey. Through his basest instincts to live forever, he ends up securing his own fate – compare this to the Doctor in The Time of the Doctor; through making peace with the universe, he is granted life.

Bernard Cribbins gives as heartfelt a performance as ever as the lovable granddad Wilfred Mott; a perfect counterpart to the Doctor allowing a new dynamic between the lead characters. The Master’s story reaches a beautiful pinnacle as he realises that his entire life has been a lie and a plan. He sacrifices himself saving his greatest nemesis and destroying the man he tried to save – and again, Davies’ use of irony is unparalleled.

Vote

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

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167 comments
MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

1. The waters of Mars- 9/10

2. The end of time (only because of the last 20 minutes)

3. Voyage of the damned- 7.5/10

4. The Christmas invasion- 6/10

5. The runaway bride- 5/10

6. Planet of the dead- 3.5/10

7. The next doctor- 3/10

DaftDalek
DaftDalek

1. The Waters Of Mars 10/10 2. The End Of Time 10/10 3. The Christmas Invasion 9/10 4. Voyage Of The Damned 8/10 5. The Runaway Bride 8/10 6. Planet Of The Dead 8/10 7. The Next Doctor 7/10

Willywoo7
Willywoo7

he wrote all the David tennant episode which are the best in my opinion

Adric the Genius
Adric the Genius

The End of Time, due to Bernard Cribbins, Rassilon and one of Tennant's finest performances.  Also, the regeneration is wonderful, and highlights the Doctor's true feelings as he is alone.

LaraHarris
LaraHarris

None of these specials are bad. They are all excellent stores well told however there are a couple like The Next Doctor, Voyage of the Damned and The Christmas Invasion that are, in my opinion, cracking stories and excellent Who episodes but not quite as powerful as the others.


The Runaway Bride is the episode where we see the Doctors grief at loosing Rose. Touching, funny and a little bit scary to see the Doctor so filled with despair that he basically waits to die and if you watch it immediately after Doomsday, you really get the sense that it JUST happened, that he has had no time to process it at all before being thrown into something else, it makes it all the more powerful.

Planet of the Dead... have to say I love this Ep. Probably more than The Waters of Mars, for the humour and UNIT and the Doctor being so very Doctor in it.

The Waters of Mars. What can you say. You can't deny the power of it. You see your hero stripped down and the darkness that simmers under the surface all through 10's tenure front and centre. You also get the sense however that he is very much a broken man. Not so much Time Lord Victorious as he puts it, but more Time Lord with nothing more to loose. Literally, nothing. 

For me however The End of Time will always be my favourite. I'm not a someone who cries easily (it has to be said though that since Who came back there have been far more sniffles on my side of the sofa than there have been throughout most of my tv and film viewing life! lol) but EOT does it to me every. single. time. At three very specific points. The moment in the cafe. Where for the first time EVER the Doctor talks about his fears. Shares, as one old soldier and one old *man*. He opens up, drops his guard and connects with Wiilf in a way ever have never seen before and have never seen since. The Second, is the moment on the ship, Wilf pleading with him to defend himself, not to accept his fate and at the same time demanding from him that he defends the Earth. That bit is a tough watch and finally.... I know some people complain about how he treated Wilf and I know that some people don't like that he despaired at the end, raging against the dying of the light but I have to say in my experience, those who do don't actually seem to understand what is happening in those moments. He's not *really* shouting at Wilf and even Wilf knows that and what they seem to keep forgetting is despite his fear and anger and grief he STILL saves him. He doesn't have to but he does. He *never* walks away. He NEVER would. I cry, no actually... I sob uncontrollably at that every time I watch it. From the moment he lies on the floor, relief washing over him at still being alive. Having saved earth, having chosen Earth over his own people and planet. guilt consumes him, he condemned his planet and his people AGAIN and loosing the Master who he believes he could have saved all these emotions roll through him, he starts to lift his head and... Wilf knocks. Who *wouldn't* react like that? The thing about 10 was that he was a very human Doctor and I connected with what he was *feeling* at that point and it breaks my heart. 



So yes, the other stories may be more exciting and may be funnier and may even be more obvious in their spelling out the Doctors reactions but for me, the End of Time shows us a part of the Doctor we never got to see. His vulnerability. His humanity. 

Liana21
Liana21

Between The Waters of Mars and The End of Time.

SachinJayKumar
SachinJayKumar

Honestly it would be The End Of Time for me. No contest. It was a brilliant emotional story and I just think the whole episode was planned out really well.

HiPeople
HiPeople

The Waters Of Mars - It's my favorite Tennant episode!

JSDarwen
JSDarwen

Waters Of Mars, no question. Not just the best of the specials, but maybe Tennant's best episode. Tremendous setting and cast, and the perfect cautionary tale of what can happen when The Doctor lets his power go to his head. I even want to come to Gadget's defence - he was supposed to be a cobbled-together, slightly rubbish robot. He reminded me of a lot of the silly movie robots of the 70s / 80s like Johnny Five or the Silent Running robots - and he even got to have a slightly tragic ending.



DawnTime
DawnTime

Going for a surprise one here not one of the general favourites. - Planet of the Dead - I thought the characters were very well written, very believable. enjoyed the desert scenes. Great fun. I am not a huge fan of the others.

Thesilence_1994
Thesilence_1994

Waters of Mars wins by far! The End Of Time is the worst episode on this list and one of my least favourite episodes ever. 


So, Waters of Mars= 9/10

Pretty much everthing else 6/10

The end of time 1/10.

mgm1229
mgm1229

Thank you for hosting this poll. It's so much fun to think this all through, as it reminds me how much I love this crazy show and it's community of passionate and smart fans. I love the RTD era and think all the specials are, well, special.

I'm going for the End of Time for four little letters. Wilf.

chinnysandshoes
chinnysandshoes

It's either the Waters of Mars or Runaway Bride. I know Runaway Bride didn't get a lot of love because of how Donna was portrayed there. Loud, brash, common, annoying.... But right off, I found her lovely and funny! "Have you ever seen a bride with pockets??" Gets me every time! And just when you think she can't get any more thick, she goes and does the most compassionate thing: knowing when to stop before your soul crosses into the dark side. (May the Force be with her!) She had every right to hate the Racnoss for making her believe that Lance loved her - something she has always craved - yet she tells the Doctor it is enough and to stay his hand. She also tells him at the end to please not be alone. So I always felt she made the right companion with the right heart and instinct. I would choose this because of Donna alone. But I guess as far as how completely good an episode is, I will have to choose my head over my heart and go with The Waters of Mars. The Time Lord Victorious. How chilling and what a great performance by the Doctor and Adelaide Brook and the supporting cast. Didn't we just feel for them when the water (just one drop) touched them and they knew what they would have to turn into? I didn't like Adelaide in the beginning, the way she chastised her deputy and constantly reminded her crew that she was to be called Captain. But in the end, she displayed more wisdom and acceptance of things than the Doctor for all his super intelligence. This episode foreshadowed the downfall of Ten. This is what happens when the Doctor travels alone.














no_tweeter
no_tweeter

Crikey... they were all a bit rubbish IMHO. That said Waters of Mars was ok until the ending... not sure what to pick. Christmas Invasion as it introduced Tennant?


Oodkind
Oodkind

Hm, this is a hard one, but I think it has to come down to either the Waters of Mars or The End of Time. Let's examine:

The Waters of Mars was a superb episode. The story was intense, the acting was great, and the story was believable. However, I didn't like the directing. My main issue was the weird internet articles on the characters that popped up. I could see what they were trying to do, but they could have come up with a better way to show that they all would die. It really broke the flow of the episode. I assume it was a directing thing, but I could be wrong. In my opinion, that was the only flaw of the episode.

The End of Time. Sigh. I loved the concept, though I can see how the regeneration didn't go well with some people. The return of Gallifrey was an exciting story. Wilf was great. But the master? Well, I really didn't like that part of the story. He should have at least been restored when he was in the arch or something. He was too insane, which I think didn't suit his character at all. And turning everyone into him seemed a bit too over the top. And the way they brought him back seemed too rushed. I would say it is a great episode overall, but it had a lot of flaws. 

It seems like I should vote Waters of Mars, but I did enjoy The End of Time more from the story aspect. Waters of Mars was intense, but as personally enjoyable... But it was a better episode overall. And hey, they still count toward the same series in the end.

1) Waters of Mars - 10/10. Superb episode.

2) The End of Time - 10/10. Amazing, but it had it's flaws.

3) The Christmas Invasion - 9/10. Not the best ever episode, but still very good.

4) Planet of the Dead - 9/10. I liked it quite a bit.

5) The Runaway Bride - 8.5/10. I enjoyed it, though it isn't on my top 20 episode ever.

6) The Next Doctor - 6.5/10. I found it a bit boring. It was well done, though.

7) Voyage of the Damned - 5/10. *facepalm* It was good in Turn Left, but the actual episode? Nah...

lukashcartoon
lukashcartoon

My vote will be for The Next Doctor. A good villian, a cool "steampunk" version of the Doctor. A lot of fun.

The_Ogri
The_Ogri

How could vote for anything but my favorite character in Doctor Who besides K-9. Its Jackson Lake for me guys all day very day. I don't need to say anything more.

Oncoming_Badger
Oncoming_Badger

Sorry Dammit but how could you not vote for The Waters of Mars, sublime episode, full stop.

1. The Waters of Mars

2. The End of Time

3. Voyage of the Damned

4. Planet of the Dead

5. The Next Doctor

6. The Christmas Invasion

7. The Runaway Bride

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

Runaway Bride! I loooove Donna XD The End of Time is a very close second though. I agree with what the article said, I liked how it added a whole new depth to regeneration. Not for everyone, but I thought it was a beautifully sad, moving, and occasionally quite dark episode of Doctor Who that explored concepts never really addressed in the show before. Excellent :)

Polyphase
Polyphase

Had to be The Runaway Bride for me with Planet of the Dead 2nd :)

ponchopanda
ponchopanda

It's nice seing TEOT getting some love.

DW2014
DW2014

I didn't like The Christmas Invasion, I didn't like The Runaway Bride either but I did enjoy The Voyage of the Dammed better because it was more Christmas I suppose then when The Next Doctor came on I enjoyed that but then again it was okay but enjoyable to watch. Planet of the Dead it was good but not the sort of thing I was expecting from it . Waters of Mars was just brilliant but then when it got to the end I suppose it went over the top a little with 10 turning to a side of him we never ever seen from him  before and the whole time lord victorious thing that 10 did was certainly not his style and it was quite shocking seeing the doctor changing the course of history and the doctor never does that but I guess that is how it went and ended for 10 though. The End of Time was fantastic just amazingly well done! But it's hard to pick so I guess I'm going for Voyage of the Dammed because I guess I enjoyed it alot and I would watch it again another time!





AztecsDaleksAndCavemen
AztecsDaleksAndCavemen

The Christmas Invasion. It was so great to see David Tennent's amazing first performance in a good old fashioned invasion story that was as interesting as it was fun. It was perfect christmas day viewing and was enticing for viewers of all ages. 

For me Doctor Who christmas specials have to be fun and for the family to enjoy.

TheNightmareChild sees into your soul!
TheNightmareChild sees into your soul!

1. The Waters of Mars: What can I say about this one that everyone else hasn’t already said.  Essentially perfect.



2. Voyage of the Damned: This one gets mixed reviews, but I love this one.  For me, it typifies what I love the most about RTD’s Christmas specials, which is just being a good episode of Doctor Who that takes place during Christmas, appropriately silly given the time of year, but not overly saccharine.  And Voyage is an exciting story to boot, with engaging characters, a real sense of peril, some truly heartbreaking moments, and an effectively creepy opposing force in the Heavenly Host.


3. The Runaway Bride: This one ranks just slightly lower than Voyage just because the silly to exciting ratio is more skewed in favor of the silly side (“DOCTAH MAN!”).  But it was effective in one really important thing, which was demonstrating how dangerous and frightening the Doctor can be sometimes when left without a tempering influence.


4. The Next Doctor: This one had everything going for it, not least being the last episode we would see before Nightmare in Silver where the Cybermen weren’t a joke.  But it also had a moving story with a deeply sympathetic character, a fascinating villain in Miss Hartigan… and then a giant Cyberman started stomping around Victorian London.


5. The Christmas Invasion: It’s a decent enough story that even has some payoff later on in the show, but I can’t deny that the lack of Doctor in this episode hurts it somewhat since we have a new Doctor to deal with.


6. The End of Time: I have extremely mixed feelings about this special.  On the one hand, it has some truly exciting and brilliant moments, especially the return of the Time Lords and Gallifrey.  It has some fantastically tearjerking moments between the Doctor and Wilf.  David Tennant and Jon Simm are in top form as ever.  But on the other hand, a lot of the first part of this special depends on a lot of convenience and things that seem to come right out of the blue; I’m speaking particularly about the way that the Master was brought back.  That was such a weird and rushed moment, that the characters literally had to narrate what was going on as it happened so the audience could make any sense of it.  There were other stupid moments throughout, like the Doctor jumping from what had to have been 200 feet through a skylight onto a hard floor, and of course the completely out of the blue revelation that Mickey and Martha are now married, and for what?  So we could have Smith and Jones?  Oi.  And aspects of the production itself seemed really rushed and cheap, such as the Vinvocci characters, the humans shaking their head around a hundred miles per hour during the transformation scene, I mean that last one might be considered a nitpick but it just looks so silly.  They couldn’t think of anything else?  


So, in some ways, this special is a serious disappointment, but in other ways, it’s a perfect send off to David Tennant’s Doctor.  I find myself feeling pretty much the same way about this one that I feel about The Time of the Doctor: undeniably flawed, but I can’t help but enjoy it.


7. Planet of the Dead: I can’t even put my finger on why, but this one just didn’t engage me at all.  Also, the lead actress’ acting was… not the best.  I mean, it’s okay I guess, it just isn’t that great.

ahunter8056
ahunter8056

Such an easy choice for me. 'The Christmas Invasion' instantly. My favourite Christmas special. However, 'The Waters Of Mars' would be second place for me. Didn't really enjoy 'The Next Doctor' or 'Planet Of The Dead', so they were easily out.

Ninjauthor
Ninjauthor

so difficult other than the runaway bride or the next doctor, I can't really think of one of these specials I didn't enjoy

TheOncomingStorm
TheOncomingStorm

So hard!!! I love them all, particularly Christmas Invasion, Runaway Bride, Voyage Of The Damned(!) and End Of Time, but I just had to go for Waters Of Mars because it's so amazing. Really difficult though.

VortexDan
VortexDan

This is the hardest one, actually. Put a gun to my head it's either Waters for the "Time Lord Victorious" bit,  a character development I really miss in the 11 era.; or it's the End of Time because GOOD LORD David's acting. The way it talked about regeneration and put the emotions of it were just heartbreaking, and combined with Donna's tragic post-mind wipe experience this episode makes me at least tear up. Also: WIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFRRREEEDD MOOOOOOTTTTTT!!!!

KristiStoneman
KristiStoneman

"The Christmas Invasion" takes my vote.  It was David Tennant's first full appearance as the Tenth Doctor.  It has Rose, Mickey, Jackie and Harriet Jones.  It is one of my favorite Doctor Who Christmas specials.  Next up would be "The Runaway Bride, because it has Donna.

Doctor What and Where
Doctor What and Where

For the record, I think this is dumb. The The Next Doctor-End of Time specials were all a season of their own, and not unlike an Old Who serial at that. I think this is silly, to collect them all like this in a bunch.

ilyootha is back in home Universe
ilyootha is back in home Universe

Has to be The Waters of Mars for me. I quite liked the first two RTD's specials, but not so much the following three. And although The End of Time sure has some good bits, for me it is Exhibit A of how not to make Doctor Who!



Seekles
Seekles

The Waters of Mars is quite easily one of my favourite stores. However, Planet of the Dead, which is the story that precedes it, is quite easily one of my least favourites.

stargazer0118
stargazer0118

Suddenly realize the benefits of not having the dislike button anymore... :) 

EricPavlat
EricPavlat

The Runaway Bride.  I've never liked The Waters of Mars, actually.  :^)

Sir James Bond
Sir James Bond

 "We're not just fighting The Flood, we're fighting time itself. AND I'M GONNA WIN!" 

Hi, I'm Sir James Bond, and whenever I hear this line of dialogue I suffer from premature reflex erection of hairs of the skin.....or PREOHOTS for short. PREOHOTS is a common complaint amongst fans of a certain age.....and a certain story.....namely 'The Waters Of Mars'. This line of dialogue rubber-stamps one of the most electrifying and transformative scenes in 'Doctor Who'. Yes, it witnessed the Doctor, the age old champion of temporal order, defender of the laws of time and Keeper of the Legacy of Timothy Dalton, suddenly decide that he'd actually had enough of doing all that, and that basically, want he really wanted to do, was to shape and control.....well.....everything. It was scary stuff, and made for a sensational piece of Sunday night drama. Even now I still suffer from PREOHOTS whenever I watch that scene, and I've discovered that I'm not alone.....and neither are you. 

The effects of PREOHOTS are treatable. Simply take a cold shower,.....or think of 'Victory Of The Daleks'. Its that easy. Suffering from PREOHOTS hasn't held me back, in fact I'm a regional Badger Pointing Champion for the East Westex area, with over 32 badgers pointed at this year ( and a further 14 slightly acknowledged). 

PREOHOTS, embrace the goose pimples.....and love 'Who' to the max.


Polyphase
Polyphase

@Oncoming_Badger Your list is almost exactly the same as mine but in reverse :)

WOM isn't a favorite of mine even though I reckon it will win.

TheBiPunishment
TheBiPunishment

I'm glad that sentence continued after "erection"...

stargazer0118
stargazer0118

@Sir James Bond  Yup, also:  

"Yes, because there are laws. There are laws of time. Once upon a time there were people in charge of those laws but they died. They all died. Do you know who that leaves? *Me!* It's taken me all these years to realize that the laws of time are *mine* and they will obey me!"   


Now this is truly superb writing and character development. Grade A certified. ;)