Across Time and Space

By Tony Cross

An Unofficial Doctor Who Companion with an introduction from Daniel Hardcastle

Monday, 20 September 2021

Tony's Top Ten New Doctor Who Stories

Tony chose his Top Ten New Doctor Who Stories and featured them on his blog, and we thought you'd enjoy having a read here too...

This was an interesting exercise. Partly because I realised that it screwed with my perceptions. I often think that the David Tennant era is my least favourite of New Doctor Who and yet three of my Top Ten come from that era.

I'm not sure my choices here as unusual - if that's the right word - as those of my Purely Personal Top Ten Classic Doctor Who stories. This is probably because I am not as immersed in New Doctor Who as Classic Doctor Who. The number of times I've re-watched New Doctor Who stories is usually a lot less than the number of times I've watched Classic Doctor Who.

These are not in broadcast order not 'worst to best' by the way…

Dalek - by the time we reached this story Russell T Davies had already re-established Doctor Who as a TV hit. What Rob Shearman does with Dalek is make Daleks terrifying again. That on its own would probably have given it a place in this Top 10. What Dalek also does though is establish how damaged The Doctor has been by The Time War. There's a lot of talk about wanting to see what happened in the Time War, but we didn't need to because Dalek shows us all we need to know. It also plays to Christopher Eccleston's strengths.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances - One of my favourite things about Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who is how it manages to balance fear and humour. I think one of the most divisive elements of Doctor Who is humour. Or, should I say, how seriously things are being taken, especially performances. It is one of the criticisms of my favourite ever season of Classic Doctor Who, Season 17. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances manages to be scary and funny. "Are you my Mummy?" becomes the new series' first catch phrase and the moment with the tape recorder genuinely freaked me out. Packed with great performances and with a proper happy ending. Plus it introduces us to Captain Jack. Fantastic!

Gridlock - This I love because it is basically a brilliant tribute to The Doctor as a character and a TV series. The Doctor's refusal to give up when all seems lost is wonderful. Whether the fundamental premise makes sense or not I don't know but there's something majestic about the whole thing. The singing of Abide with Me makes me cry every time. The story also manages to nudge that season's arc along in a subtle way.

Human Nature/Family of Blood - This is probably the Doctor Who story that made me cry the most. I cry a lot but there is more than one scene in this story that reduces me to tears. I'd read Paul Cornell's New Adventure that this story is based on, but he managed to take that foundation and build on it. Packed with great guest performances and great speeches. It's creepy. It gives Freema Agyeman a chance to shine. David Tennant is astonishingly good as is Jessica Hynes. This is a story that shows you the downside of the Doctor's life. It's a story about love, loss and grief. The battle for the school foreshadows the horror of the real War that is on the horizon.

Midnight - I was listening to Emmy Award winning actor and comedian Brett Goldstein's podcast Films to Be Buried With. He was talking to Russell T. Davies and Brett Goldstein talks about how fantastic Midnight is. You should listen to it. A story without much in the way of special effects it manages to be terrifying. Not just because of the monster that we never see but experience but what is shows us of human nature. Packed full of superb performances but kudos must go to Lesley Sharp. If you want proof of how brilliant a writer Russell T. Davies is - and if you don't know that by now anyway where have you been - this is the story to watch.

The Day of the Doctor - Weirdly though I love Matt Smith's take on the Doctor this was the only Matt Smith era story to make my Top 10 and even then it is a multi-Doctor story. There's a lot hovering near the Top 10. I might work out why that is one day. But back to The Day of the Doctor. This was an excellent way of marking the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who without getting swamped by all the elements that Steven Moffat was trying to juggle. It managed to pay tribute to what had gone before whilst adding to The War Doctor to the mythos. It's not without some flaws. But what isn't? Matt Smith manages to hold everything together but the whole thing is a joy. Plus when the Caretaker appeared I might have cried.

Robot of Sherwood - Here's the first story I've chosen that people reading this will be thinking: What!? What!!? I enjoyed Robot of Sherwood immensely. It was fun and it was funny. Yet it still managed to make a couple of interesting points about heroes and heroism. Yes, it isn't the most subtle of stories, but I loved it. And I've probably re-watched this more than almost any other New Doctor Who story because it brings me joy. And if that isn't the best reason to love a Doctor Who story I don't know what is. Plus Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are great in it.

The Husbands of River Song - A lot of why I enjoy this story is similar to why I like Robot of Sherwood. It's fun. Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston are glorious in it. It's the perfect ending to the story of River Song. That last speech Peter Capaldi makes is brilliant and Capaldi plays it perfectly. I cried. It has the best "Hello Sweetie" of the entire series. We get introduced to Nardole for the first time. It's fun. For a while this was my favourite Doctor Who story of all time. Even thinking about it now makes me smile. I might even watch it tonight.

Heaven Sent - A glorious piece of Doctor Who and a glorious piece of television full stop. Clever, creepy, moving and centred on a great performance by Peter Capaldi I watched this on broadcast, waited a short while and then watched it again on BBC iPlayer. Tom Baker is - and probably always will be - my favourite Doctor because there is a part of me that is always that 6 year-old kid but Capaldi is (possibly) his closest rival. This seems to be Steven Moffat's meditation on grief, which as you'll see when you read some of my other blogs is something Doctor Who often avoids talking about despite death being absolutely central to almost every single episode of Doctor Who.

The Haunting of Villa Diodati - This is almost a Doctor Who story made purely to my specifications. I am a massive Mary Shelley fanboy.* I've been fascinated by that stay at the Villa Diodati ever since I first heard about it. I love Byron and Shelley's work even as I know that they were problematic men. Add a genuinely terrifying Cyberman - and I've been wanting that for years and years - we have a story that I adore. Jodie Whittaker is great. I've watched this a couple of times since. It even has Polidori in it, who often gets forgotten about in stories about the Villa Diodati.

So, there you have it. My Purely Personal Top 10 New Doctor Who stories. These lists have a habit of changing over time, but I think there's a few of these that will always be there or thereabouts.

Who agrees?

*I recommend Fiona Sampson's "In Search of Mary Shelley" if you want a good introduction to her life and the many, many men who behave badly to her and around her.

As featured on The Patient Centurion.

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Lisa Rull
 Lisa Rull says:

That's a blinding top 10, and for acknowledging the brilliant and yes BEST "Hello Sweetie" alone, I give you all the applause. Makes me cry just thinking about it. And Heaven Sent - yes, we watched it immediately after on iplayer (if not just replaying the recording we'd done, I forget as we also did the other. I think I watched it 5 times between broadcast and the end of the Sunday). The editing, the music... Capaldi's performance. Just total heart. Excited for your book.

posted 21st September 2021

Tony Roberts
 Tony Roberts says:

I would push one more in there: Blink.
Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow could've had a whole franchise out of this. First time we see the Weeping Angels - and if you do - just - don't - blink

posted 21st September 2021

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