Doctor Who: Fifty-One Favourites (Part 4)
K-Ci Williams continues the series picking out 51 Doctor Who faves.
It’s almost Christmas Day! And that means it must be time for another ten of my personal favourites from the show. Doctor Who has taught me so much, and it’s my honour to share with you the things I loved the most from the best of what I think this show has to offer. Please remember to share your favourites in the comments below.
With Christmas very, very soon I wanted to focus on this one a bit more. As a story set at Christmas it was beautiful especially after the sadness I felt after the Ponds left the show. Crying at Christmas, it’s a wonderful concept that reminds us that we have to take everything as it comes and not take those things for granted. Moffat really surprised me with this one; while I really enjoyed The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe, The Snowmen brought to life everything I love about festive specials. His direction of these particular episodes into being very Christmas based or themed are what I enjoy the most. Jenna-Louise Coleman (what she was known as back then) made a spectacular turn as Clara, her Victorian nanny role was probably my favourite initial Clara piece (before her tonnes of development in Series 8). Her chemistry with Matt Smith was stunning, and the addition of the Paternoster Gang was rather appreciated by some fans – including me. It was intriguing seeing the Doctor in the Scrooge role while Clara acted as the character who would get him out of his misery.
Mummy on the Orient Express
This story showcases the increasingly intriguing dynamic between the Doctor and Clara. Jenna Coleman is an absolute beauty; she can work with any fashion – she makes fashion – and her acting is just as superlative as the way she suits her costumes. Equally as stunning in his role is Peter Capaldi; taking the Doctor to new heights. In a dazzling script with suitable pacing, emotional dialogue and a continuation of the concluded relationship from the previous episode, as fans we get a great episode. I think what I learned from this episode was something very important about the effect of the Doctor. Clara realises that the only way to get Maisie to the Doctor is to lie to them. It’s part of the intriguing subplot of the series of Clara Who; going back and rewatching the series has called into question Clara’s character. This is one of the stories that develops part of that. The addition of Foxes – however small it was – was a welcome change to the more serious tones that came after. I hadn’t heard of her before, but her performance is a bubbly take on a classic song.
The Girl in the Fireplace
Looking back at Steven Moffat’s writing and juxtaposing his pre-show running contributions with his recent stories and storylines, it has provided an easy list of my favourites. It is in fact a mix of the two eras. But this is a story that has always given me a kick when I watch it; either joy or emotional. The storytelling is on point, it’s just amazing. The characterisation of our main characters is well done, but the relationship between the Doctor and Reinette is the real pull into the episode. The time portal is an excellent concept, it could be in my house at the moment, except we don’t have a fireplace. Additionally, there are no monsters under my bed, just a couple of books, loose sweets and an air mattress. Trust me I literally looked.
The Fires of Pompeii
Don’t ask me why this made the list. Every series has a hidden gem, or an underrated episode that just simply deserves more praise than it garners. This was actually an episode that I saw before I first watched the show regularly. I had no idea what I was watching at the time, it wasn’t until I watched the Eleventh Doctor in action that I realised that I had seen the show before. The plot is fast paced, the characters are actually interesting, and the script has an emotional punch that crowns the story. When Donna begs the Doctor to save his future self (not really) and his family, it’s so sentimental and a welcome development for her character. I don’t care too much for the Pyrovilles, I would have appreciated it if the story would have been about accepting the eruption that is coming, and trying to save the people. It’s a fixed point in time – something we have been privy to in recent years.
Pregnant Pond. I define stories by how much of an effect they have on me; especially if they can get me hooked right from the beginning. The comedy created between the Doctor and the Ponds as he ponders if she is pregnant or if she swallowed a planet is a highlight, but the Dream Lord as a character and the concept of dreams versus reality is the defining factor. It’s refreshing to watch an episode that travels between two different locations and has a puzzle that is just as perplexing to solve for the characters as it is for the audience. Which of the two dreams are actually dreams, and which is the reality? That plot twist at the end actually surprised me – of course in the world of Doctor Who both dreams could have been real, but I was gunning on the dying TARDIS because of the cold sun. I thought the Doctor was crazy for blowing up the TARDIS. But it all made sense. Great story, interesting resolution.
Vincent and the Doctor
What a touching tribute to one of the greatest painters that ever lived. Boldly written and visually imagined, the cinematography is a highlight of this suitably rated piece of my first series of Doctor Who. The characterisation of Vincent is touching, and well played by Tony Curran. While Amy becomes sad that she couldn’t save Vincent, that there were no new paintings, it’s an interesting notion that people only cared once he had died. If only there was someone like Amy who gave him endless support at the time, maybe he wouldn’t have led such a tragic life. It’s a message for us today, to always attempt at least, to help those who seem like they could use it, because in the end it could take things further than they should be taken. Someone should never feel so low that they feel the need to take their own life, and if we could only give them some inspiration like Amy gave Vincent, maybe we can save the world.
The Waters of Mars
I would say the villains alone are enough to grant this episode a place on the list. As a penultimate story for David Tennant it highlighted the themes that were developing in his era. The “Time Lord Victorious” was a chilling concept, but I must speak of the performance by Lindsay Duncan as Adelaide Brooke. The way she protects her team is a sincere love that I want to develop as a leader of my peers. Still to this day I cannot shake the disturbing images of the Flood. Chilling dialogue, a fantastic score from Murray Gold and epic moments throughout, The Waters of Mars is a special episode for me – it has been the closest to sending me behind the couch.
Asylum of the Daleks
I must admit that the whole shoehorned divorce storyline wasn’t handled well, especially since we only picked up on screen with the characters as they separated. I feel that it would be more rewarding if we had seen the events leading up to that, or at least a small arc depicting the slow separation between them. Could Amy have such a low opinion of Rory’s love for her, that she would think not given him children would matter? Characteristically this choice seemed just as east to solve between them as it was to occur in the first place. But the episode is surrounded by wonderful moments, an incredible pace and great dialogue. Jenna Coleman turns up in a surprise appearance that totally shocked me, it’s a reason why I respect Moffat for all of his secret keeping. I do believe that this redeemed the Daleks somewhat, at least in my eyes. It did not make them scary again, but it did utilise them well. The only modern story I believe has made them threatening for me was in fact The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End – because the characters I loved were having an emotional reaction, Sarah Jane was crying, fearful for the life of her son. When the Doctor is not around, what can you do but sit in fear? Just as the relationship between Amy and Rory was in tatters until the Doctor showed up. We get the sense that he really does care about his companions.
A Town Called Mercy
What happens when the Doctor travels alone for too long? He becomes lost in the universe, forgetful of the very oath he took to never be cruel or cowardly, and he no longer has any sight of the redeeming qualities of others. Take the Gunslinger for example, the Doctor knows the truth about him, so when he orders for the Doctor force someone over the line – he does it. I take it back to that time in The Beast Below (an honourable mention), when the Doctor has no other choice but to kill the StarWhale to save those on the ship, but the ever resourceful Amy Pond steps in to save the day. She has to do the same thing again, make the Doctor see that he is wrong. Also, she has a gun – that’s pretty kick ass. The script is developed really well, the effects and design of the Gunslinger could rival a lot of the shows other offerings, but the acting is what really shines. Karen and Arthur are rightfully at home here, and Matt Smith brings a new light to the Doctor.
As a first episode for Capaldi, I found this to be amazing. Surrounded by other fans of the show in a cinema, having missed out on the screenings of the fiftieth special, it was such a proud moment when I watched this with others. Moffat really wrote a moving masterpiece. I saw a new side to Jenna Coleman in this episode. The scenes were all powerfully written and acted. When Clara confronts Vastra it’s an amazing character moment, when Matt appears it’s a bit jarring and unnerving but I understand the intention. As a character Clara wouldn’t accept Twelve until she got reassurance. I loved the opening, the middle and the end. The Victorian era is getting tired I think, but this story was just amazing. If other stories are like this I wouldn’t mind more Paternoster Gang episodes. Capaldi convinced me was the Doctor back when he was announced, but this just sort of put the icing on the cake. I love Capaldi in this role. It’s the role he was born to play.
Join us again next week for the fifth and final part.