The Best Doctor/Companion-Lite Episodes
Guest contributor Noah Fischel counts down the best of the “lite” episodes.
According to the storyline released and our lovely resident teaser (*cough* Doctor Who TV), The Crimson Horror will be a Doctor/Clara-lite episode. Doctor Who is no stranger to these kinds of episodes and were actually started as a way to help production by it’s use of double banking, a process which allows two stories to be filmed simultaneously due to it’s reduced need of the full main cast. We’ve had a Doctor-lite or companion-lite episode almost every series since 2006, and most of them are quite good, but some aren’t as good as others, so here is how I think they stack up.
5. Love & Monsters
I know what you’re thinking: “Of course this would be your least favourite. You’re just like everyone else!”
But I’m not. In fact, I actually do see the episode’s “diamond-in-the-rough” status. It was nice to see what effect the Doctor has on just ordinary people. Random strangers brought together by this single, mysterious man. It’s completely realistic too, seeing as how Lorna Bucket not only waited for him, but joined a military organisation just to see him again (though the reason for that was due to different translations of his name).
There are, though, still it’s bad moments. While I found Blue Peter’s “Create a Doctor Who monster” contest a nice thing to do for the children, the monster wasn’t very well made. Not just that, but the idea of of Ursula Blake living the rest of her life as a slab of concrete is almost mind-bogglingly horrifying that it just keeps you wondering what it would be like (and don’t even get me started about their “personal life”). Yes, Love & Monsters is number five in my countdown due to it’s monster, the odd idea of Elton seducing Jackie Tyler, and the disturbing slab lady. At least it had ELO. No one can be sad or angry with ELO.
4. Turn Left
Turn Left actually was good in my book. One of my highlights of Series 4, but among the other Doctor/companion-lite episodes, it just didn’t stack up.
It had a nice premise. “What effects do something as small as driving down a different road have on someone’s entire timeline?”. It showed what would happen if we lived in a world without the Doctor and evidenced how important Donna Noble was in the Doctor’s life. To the point where if she didn’t turn left, we wouldn’t have our favourite Time Lord. Things in the world would be far more different than we could ever know and there would be a bigger loss of life.
But, the cons do deter from the episodes. First, the acting. I absolutely love Catherine Tate, her acting, and her role as Donna, however, I feel she just overacted in this episode. She had good reason to, seeing as there was an invisible beetle on her back, but some moments it seemed too much. And second, she never met the Doctor, right? So what happened to that rash attitude she had before their meeting. It was slightly there, but Catherine, I feel, got too used to acting as “mellow Donna” to reinstate the abrupt, in your face personality that she had before her meeting the Doctor. Personally, I kind of liked Donna even more when she was lippy, like she was in The Runaway Bride.
Midnight was produced at the same time as Turn Left, giving Series 4 the only distinction of having both a Doctor-lite and a companion-lite episode. As far as this episode goes, I loved it. Truly, absolutely adored it. I wish it went on even longer and to this day, it is the only episode (besides The Doctor’s Wife) that I can watch over and over again. The acting was superb. The tension was high. And as far the enemy, “Molto bene!”. Even the guest cast was superb! Colin Morgan was great, and as a fan of Merlin, was a great addition in my mind. This episode was also the second during that series that featured a child of someone who previously played the Doctor. Namely Professor Hobbes, who was played by David Troughton, son of (my favourite classic Doctor) Patrick Troughton. And believe it or not, that wasn’t his first role in Doctor Who! The thing that really stood out was getting to see the frightened side of the Doctor. Recently touched upon in Hide, Midnight was great in that even though the entity took over the Doctor, you could see the fear on his face. Tennant made me feel as though I was getting taken over and was absolutely great in portraying this.
Oddly, there’s not much I can talk down about this episode, other than I would’ve rather liked if the mystery of the Midnight Entity was solved (or at least touched upon. Maybe another episode in the future?). It also seemed that the build up to the climax was a bit rushed. The hostile action taken against the Doctor by almost everyone on the ship seemed a bit sudden. But beyond that, it was a superb episode with great acting.
Please, don’t kill me yet. I have good reason. Well, honestly, I don’t. I’m not sure why, but Blink never set out to me as the do all, be all, end all of lite episodes as most people will say. It was good, don’t get me wrong. Moffat penned what would become one of highest received episodes in the history of Who and what led to the monster that would subsequently haunt my dreams each night for weeks after the episode aired.
Sally Sparrow was a great character. She was clever, observant, and also tough. She, I think, is what all companions should be modelled after. It was slightly sad that after the Doctor got his TARDIS back, he didn’t come and offer her a companion position. She would have been a great pair up with Martha and I feel that their personalities would have blended perfectly.
My one, single annoyance with the episode was that the Angels were defeated too easily. It was passed off as the Doctor being clever and knowing what might happen if the Angels surrounded the TARDIS, but at the same time, it was still too easy. It’s probably just me, though. I’m picky like that.
1. The Lodger
Yes, my number one favourite of the lite episodes is The Lodger. It’s just so enjoyable! Getting to see the Doctor in society is fun to watch and him getting into awkward situations is even better. The Lodger itself is just one giant awkward situation played out and that’s what I loved about it.
The acting was great. James Corden did surprisingly well in the episode. When I first heard that he was cast for the episode, I had my doubts, but Smith and Corden had great on screen friendship and played off of each other very well. In the single 45 minutes they had, Craig had more character development than some companions do in a whole series.
Matt Smith also got to demonstrate his amazing football talents. I would love to just have an entire episode set on some sort of sports planet and the only way for the Doctor to escape is to play the king or ruler in a game of football… Don’t judge me.
Honourable Mentions: The Girl Who Waited and Closing Time
Though not technically considered lite episodes, they each featured mainly the companions and mainly the Doctor respectively. The Doctor wasn’t in the limelight very much in The Girl Who Waited, allowing a lot of character development for Amy and Rory. The acting was great, the storyline was great and was considered Tom MacRae’s greatest contribution to Who (redeeming himself for the less liked Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel).
Closing Time saw the Doctor visiting Craig Owens again, who had a baby with Sophie. A quick glimpse of Amy and Rory in a department store is all we get of them this episode. In my opinion, it is a lite episode based on the fact that they are still in the credits and are still considered his companions. James Corden’s return episode was a little less well received by the fans than his debut episode, but, in my opinion, was quite a good episode.
So, there’s my babblings on. Of course, I know some of you will disagree with me, but I like to hear your opinions. What do you guys think?