With additional reporting by Shaunna Murphy
All Whovians (that's "Doctor Who" fans, natch) remember that the Doctor's big 50th anniversary was back in 2013, but today (March 26) he has another big birthday to celebrate!
It's officially been ten years since the first episode of the modern "Doctor Who" series aired on television and brought the TARDIS, Daleks, and more to a whole new generation of excitable nerds -- and to celebrate, we've put together our own definitive (but totally unscientific however much we pretend otherwise, just like the Doctor himself) ranking of all the episodes that have come out in that time.
Take a look at the full list below, which starts with the least interesting "DW" stories and works its way up. do you agree or disagree with any of our choices for best and worst episodes?
"Daleks In Manhattan"/"Evolution"
I want to love the idea of mutating Daleks, I really do. But between the terrible accents (sorry baby Andrew Garfield!), odd Beauty and the Beast love story, and plodding pace, this two parter is worth skipping.
Widely regarded as one of the worst episodes of all time for how boring it is, as well as how glibly it deals with child abuse. Also, points off for incorrectly predicting a massive disappearance at the 2012 London Olympics.
"The Angels Take Manhattan"
Yes, this was an emotionally charged episode with a lot of great performances from the cast. But it was also the episode where a 300 foot tall statue schleps through a 200 foot deep river and gets all the way to a very specific building two miles away, all without a single person in two boroughs and another state noticing (seriously, guys, it is REALLY hard to miss the Statue of Liberty.) I'd rather just watch "Ghostbusters 2" again, to be honest.
"The End of Time, Part 1"
If you divorce yourself from how great "Part 2" is and how sad we all are to see Tennant go, this episode is really badly plotted. Wilfred is always great, but the Master's resurrection makes no narrative sense, nor does the episode's weird insistence that Barack Obama is the greatest thing to happen to anybody (Calm down, England, even AMERICA wasn't that excited).
"In the Forest of the Night"
Was it gorgeously directed? Sure. But it was also voted the worst episode of season 8 by a considerable margin, and basically had the exact same plot as "Kill the Moon" but more annoyingly whimsical. Pass.
"Victory of the Daleks"
AKA the one where the Daleks evolve into Power Rangers. Otherwise the war propaganda aesthetic is nice, but the World War II story felt recycled, and it was really too soon in the season for a Dalek episode after how well they were utilized in season 4.
"Dinosaurs On A Spaceship"
There's some goofy fun to be had in this episode, but that's all it was: goofy fun with barely any real substance, which was pretty disappointing. Plus, reaaaaally could have done without the whole Nerfertiti/John Riddell subbplot. At least Rory's dad Brian was pretty great, right?
"Voyage of the Damned"
The best thing this episode had going for it was that it brought us our first glimpse at Wilfred. Other than that, it's more tedious than an episode about a space Titanic has any right to be -- save for Alonso, of course.
"The Curse of the Black Spot"
Basically everything in this episode has already been done better on "Doctor Who," but also with pirates. Still, it's pretty fun to watch Amy swashbuckle, and the Henry Avery reference is a nice nod to a character from the original "Who" series.
Did anyone else have nightmares about these life-sized dolls upon seeing the season 6 trailer for the first time, only to watch the episode and feel massively disappointed? No? Just me?
It's nice to have Captain Jack Harkness around for a few stories, but let's face it: this is the weakest Christopher Eccleston episode.
"The Bells of St. John"
Clara should have entered onto the scene with a bang, and she did -- in "Snowmen." In her officially official first episode, she was just... kind of okay, maybe. Plucky?
"The Power Of Three"
Remember what this one was about? Neither do we. But we don't remember hating it, either, so that's a start.
"Robot of Sherwood"
Amazing title pun, pretty middling episode.
"The Doctor's Daughter"
Clones are always a pretty hit-or-miss scifi trope to rely on (for every "Orphan Black," there's a weird "Star Trek The Next Generation" episode where there are two Rikers) but despite that Jenny was an incredibly interesting concept who deserved a much better storyline than she got.
This was riiiiight around the time I started to get a bit sick of 19th Century England. Just give Vastra, Jenny and Strax a spin-off already and be done with it, Moffat!
The Doctor robbing banks SHOULD be the coolest thing ever, but coolness can't save an episode that doesn't have much of a story beyond its concept. However, "Shuttity up" is a great Malcolm Tucker-esque catchphrase, so that's pretty great.
"Love and Monsters"
Elton and his gang get a bad rap from fans, but it's hard not to be at least a little invested in his excitement about the Doctor -- after all, we share his enthusiasm. Could do without that weird line about the sex life of a slab of concrete, though...
"The Planet of the Dead"
It has all the makings of a cool "Who" story -- a competent companion, an interesting concept, and a good cast of supporting characters -- but overall it just felt kind of... dry. Desert pun intended.
"The Beast Below"
Okay, we get it, Amy. The space whale is the Doctor. Yes! We get it. If not for the amazingness of Liz Ten, this would be a pretty forgettable episode, even WITH those creepy smilers.
Robot Anne Robinson is great (though not as great as that "Doctor Who" themed "Weakest Link" episode where the real Anne Robinson unplugs her droid doppleganger) and so is naked John Barrowman, but otherwise this feels like a less interesting episode of "Black Mirror" in hindsight.
"Asylum of the Daleks"
Oswald was prety compelling, but at the end of the day this episode didn't make a lot of sense. Also, the Rory/Amy breakup subplot was total trash. So she divorces him spitefully without telling him why because she's upset she can't give him children? Blugh.
"Journey To The Centre of the TARDIS"
I could spend a whole season exploring the TARDIS without getting bored, but did we really need the bland antagonistic brothers and that terrible Donna-reminiscent retcon at the end?
"The Hungry Earth"/"Cold Blood"
It's great to have the Silurians back, but this two-parter was otherwise pretty forgettable -- save for Rory's very first and incredibly heartbreaking death, of course.
"The Next Doctor"
The novelty of a man who thinks he's the Doctor but isn't is pretty cool (especially now that he's better known as The Governor), but on rewatch it's just not as endearing. plus, is NO ONE going to talk about how a giant Cyberman fell on top of Victorian London? You'd think maybe Charles Dickens at least would have noticed.
"The Rings of Akhaten"
Not the worst episode -- heck, it's the most Clara really got to do that season until the finale -- but let's be real, the way Clara saves the day at the end is pretty trite.
"Let's Kill Hitler"
It's incredibly fun to watch River Song strut her stuff as a younger more unhinged version of herself, and it's about time a show about time travel lampshaded the whole "if you could go back in time you'd have to kill Hitler" fallacy. But as with all River-centric stories, it gets woefully convoluted towards the end.
"The Wedding of River Song"
Again, way too convoluted to be really satisfying, but the sheer ambition of that opening ten minutes should be rewarded. And who doesn't love eyepatches?
"The Doctor, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"
I guess the writers thought that allusion-filled Christmas classic lightning would strike twice. Too bad "A Christmas Carol" was more memorable, AND didn't hit you over the head with the same "mothers are the strongest people ever in the world" trope like this one does.
"The Idiot's Lantern"
Rose and the Doctor are always a blast (the COSPLAY options!), and the faceless TV watchers are pretty creepy. Other than that, this episode is just okay.
"A Town Called Mercy"
Definitely the strongest of the final Amy and Rory episodes for me, but they're not really doing all that much -- it's Matt Smith who really gets the chance to shine here.
"The Name of the Doctor"
It's nice to finally figure out what the heck is up with Clara and get some resolution between the Doctor and River post-Library, but otherwise this season finale wasn't all that satisfying. The Whisper Men are pretty creepy, but I liked them better when they were the Gentlemen on "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"
"A Good Man Goes To War"
In which Rory is a giant badass and a bunch of our favorite minor characters (and some awesome new ones -- hey there, Paternoster Gang!) come back to kick some butt. If only the River storyline weren't SO NEEDLESSLY CONFUSING.
"Tooth and Claw"
Werewolves! Queen Victoria! The Doctor and Rose getting called out on their goofy flirting! This episode had some decent moments, but the pacing doesn't really work all that well when you watch it again.
"The Runaway Bride"
Donna is my all-time favorite companion and it's fun to watch her shout at the Doctor in hindsight knowing that she'll grow into such an amazing person (especially once you watch "Turn Left" and then come back to this one)... But yeah, she's pretty shrill when you first meet her. Good thing she gets better!
Sure, Victorian barmaid/governess Clara meets the Doctor via an annoying deus ex machina (oh POND what a COINCIDENCE), but she's a great character for the short moment that we meet her before she dies and turns into somebody completely different. Plus, this is when Jenny, Strax and Vastra really get to show off just how amazing they are, and the Great Intelligence even makes an appearance.
As much as we love Peter Capaldi, he took some adjusting to in that first episode. Once he got going, though, Twelve and Clara had some pretty solid banter with one another. Still, pick a new time period to have fun in, Moffat.
"Time of the Doctor"
Eleven's departure gutted us, and so did his new friend Handles. The aging make-up, not so much.
While the love story underneath all the creepy monster gets a little melodramatic at times, this episode is still one of the better ones of season 7.
"A Christmas Carol"
So what if all the time paradoxes don't make all that sense upon closer inspection? This special really nails the spirit of the original story, which is hard to do given how saturated the "Christmas Carol" market is. And they managed to do it without any Muppets!
It sure was nice to see James Cordon again, but compared to the irreverent and fresh humor of "The Lodger," this episode was only just okay. Still, Stormageddon and the Doctor as a toy salesman are pretty perfect moments.
"The Lazarus Experiment"
Other than the embarrassingly bad CGI Mark Gatiss monster, this is a pretty solid reminder that Martha is pretty great.
"Kill the Moon"
Capaldi really demonstrates his role as the colder, more distant doctor by basically giving up and letting humanity figure out things for themselves, much to Clara's chagrin. Good thing it worked -- and made for a fascinating departure from what we generally expect from "Doctor Who."
"Aliens of London"/"World War Three"
The new "Doctor Who" was still trying to figure itself out in its fourth and fifth episode, the Slitheen are pretty hit or miss depending on who you talk to -- but I could watch a whole season of Jackie Tyler and Eccleston matching wits.
"Rise of the Cyberman"/"The Age of Steel"
Two seasons in and we're already doing alternate timelines! But it worked really well to reintroduce the Cyberman to modern audiences, and set the scene for the tearjerking season finale.
"Utopia"/"The Sound of Drums"/"Last of the Time Lords"
The Harold Saxon storyline was one of the most well-integrated arcs in Russell T. Davies' time as showrunner, and the return of the Master was something pretty special, albeit a bit melodramatic. Plus, Martha Jones is basically a superhero now!
Spooky and overall pretty solid for a Season 7 Clara episode. Plus, Ice warriors!
"Into the Dalek"
Now that the doctor's fully regenerated, naturally we want to set him up with a dalek -- and this time it's a lot better than when he was hanging out with Churchill.
"The Long Game"
Admit it, Adam is fun to hate, and the complicated Satellite 5 news system is actually pretty fascinating. (I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I kind of wish my brain were a computer system sometimes.)
Physics! Physics! Physics physics physics physics... and also Elizabeth Sladen and Anthony Stewart Head. And K-9!
"The Rebel Flesh"/"The Almost People"
Remember what I said earlier about Clone stories being really difficult? This is one done right.
New Earth sure has a lot of problems, but Martha does a great job of holding her own without the Doctor around, and it's only her third episode!
"The Christmas Invasion"
It was hard to let go of Nine, but it was also just as hard not to immediately fall in love with Ten the second he started accidentally quoting "The Lion King."
"Death in Heaven"
Not as great as the shocking first part, but pretty solid nonetheless. Plus, now we get to revel in Missy's true identity as much as we like.
A nice palette cleanser before the series really exploded -- quite literally. James Cordon is pretty great, though, and so are Matt Smith's flailing soccer limbs.
"The End of the World"
Not a lot of TV shows have the balls to start their season with the Earth exploding, nor with the strangest collection of aliens this side of "Farscape." It's overwhelming, but in a good way.
"The Vampires of Venice"
Yes, I DID put "The Vampires of Venice" above "The Lodger." You wanna know why? Because VAMPIRES! Seriously, this episode is really fun and rewatchable, and who doesn't love poor Rory and his adorable Bachelor party t-shirt?
"The Unquiet Dead"
It's modern "Doctor Who'"s first ever celebrity run-in, and Dickens is more or less pitch perfect. Now we know what finally happened to Edwin Drood!... Even if it is kind of trite.
This episode deserves all the awards just for the scenes where David Tennant and Billie Piper take turns being a woman made entirely of skin, but the cat nurses are great too in a family friendly "American Horror Story" kind of way.
"The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone"
Sure, this is when the Weeping Angels start to go off the rails a little bit, but the sheer adrenaline you get from watching this two-parter more than makes up for it.
Two words: Tiny TARDIS.
"The Impossible Astronaut"/"Day of the Moon"
This two-part season opener was hyped up like WHOAH, and it pretty much delivered -- save for all the questions we had by the end. But who doesn't love a good Nixon impersonator and a whole bunch of edge-of-your-seat suspense?
Danny Pink! He'll never replace Rory in my heart, but he comes pretty close.
"The End of Time Part 2"
Everything that I hated about the first part of this finale was replaced with sorrow and beauty and feelings and also really powerful moments where the Doctor is desperate enough to pull a gun on Timothy Dalton. Just the way it should be!
"The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End"
The premise is so wacky and the cast of supporting characters so huge that this finale has no right to be as good as it is. Except, of course, for the part when everything that made Donna great as a character since her first appearance is stripped from her and it's the saddest thing of all time. Sob.
"The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit"
The Doctor generally tends to stray away from super enormous boss battle-style demons, but this two-parter works precisely because of how well it blends the supernatural with science-fiction.
"The Parting of the Ways"
Bad Wolf was a perfect way to end the show's first new season, and Christopher Eccleston made us miss him the second he disappeared.
This episode really doesn't get enough credit for just being a great old-fashioned, well-told horror story.
"Nightmare in Silver"
In which the Eleventh Doctor makes just a satisfying villain as he does a hero.
"Mummy On The Orient Express"
Unlike "Voyage of the Damned," here is a future-turned-period piece that really works.
"The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang"
The way that this two-parter tied the whole season together was endlessly satisfying, save for that nagging "who blew up the TARDIS" question.
"The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky"
The Sontarans finally return with a bang, and an awesomely clever cloning plan. Man, is it just me or did Season 4 have a lot of clones in it?
Eccleston's doctor might not be as flashy and flirty as the ones that came pretty quickly after him, but he was still -- to borrow a phrase -- fantastic.
"The Unicorn and the Wasp"
This is where my Donna obsession really starts to betray me. If you're not a fan of the time traveling history-based episodes then this might be more of a miss than a hit, but if you are -- or if you're just a fan of Agatha Christie -- then "Unicorn and the Wasp" is pure gleeful joy. Plus, hey, it's Felicity Jones!
"Smith and Jones"
No one will ever replace Rose, and even though Martha struggles with that fact for her entire season, her opening episode proves that she's one of the most knowledgable and self-assured companions of the new series, even in the face of giant talking Rhino warriors.
"The Shakespeare Code"
Yep, I sure am a sucker for the celebrity episodes -- but how do you not love a bard who flirts with the Doctor and recites spells from "Harry Potter?"
"The God Complex"
Is it too late to rescue Rita and make her a full time companion?
"Partners in Crime"
Everything "The Runaway Bride" did wrong for Donna is exactly what "Partners in Crime" does right. She really is a perfect mate for Ten -- and we mean that in the platonic British sense.
Yup, the Master is officially a lady now! And boy, is her latest nefarious plan seriously messed up.
"Planet of the Ood"
Remember when you barely registered the Ood in "The Impossible Planet?" You're welcome for all that guilt you're feeling right now.
"The Fires of Pompeii"
Not only is it pretty great to see Peter Capaldi and Karen Gillan running around in Ancient times before we came to really love them, but Donna demonstrates just how much the Doctor needs her in the episode's heartbreaking climactic moments.
"Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday"
Did you think when you were watching daleks and cyberman trash talk each other early in during this two-parter that you'd spend the end uncontrollably weeping? Neither did we.
For sure the best and SCARIEST Christmas episode "Doctor Who" has ever done, with some pretty sweet St. Nick (Frost) casting.
"Day of the Doctor"
Fan service at its absolute finest. It was cheesy, but boy did we love it.
"Human Nature"/"Family of Blood"
It's jarring as it is to see the Doctor act like a human (and kind of a super dismissive and possibly even racist one at that), but that's what makes this two-parter work so well -- you really feel his pain when he has to give up all of his normality, and the Family is chillingly creepy.
Not only is it great to see the Rory/Doctor/Amy love triangle over as quickly as it began, but Tony Jones makes an amazing villain and the relationships between all the characters are just as incredible as Rory's mullet ponytail.
FINALLY, Clara really gets to be amazing and complex and everything we've always wanted her to be!
"The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances"
If you didn't cry with joy and pump your fist in the air at the end of this two parter where "everybody lives!" -- then you are a very stoic person and I would like to congratulate you on your emotion-crushing abilities. They will get you far in life.
"The Girl Who Waited"
Karen Gillan's best performance by far. And admit it, this episode made you want a significant other as sweet and caring as Rory.
"The Waters of Mars"
Everything about this companion-less special is amazing, from the horrific infected monsters to the grandiose breakdown Ten has during the episode's most climactic moment. I still get chills thinking about "Time Lord Victorious."
"The Girl In The Fireplace"
Basically the best, must succinct love story that "Doctor Who" has ever done -- and with an incredibly clever time-jumping set-up to boot.
"Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead"
Like the Doctor, we'd never met River Song either, but it was just devastating when she "died" as if we'd known her our whole lives -- just like it was when Donna got her perfect happy ending within the Library computer and slowly had it ripped away from her. And don't even get me started on the Vashta Nerada.
"The Eleventh Hour"
This was the first time we had a new Doctor AND a new companion on the show at once, and it didn't take us long to buy into both of them completely.
"Oh yeah, the Daleks were scary when I was a kid, but they have plungers and whisks for weapons!" Great Britain's adults probably said. "How are they gonna make them scary now when they can't even climb stairs?" Oh, believe that they can, foolish naysayers!
"The Doctor's Wife"
Of course a story written by Neil Gaiman was sure to be amazing, but "The Doctor's Wife" was especially incredible for finally giving the TARDIS a voice.
"Vincent and the Doctor"
Yeah, a lot of the top ten are tearjerkers -- what are you gonna do? Anyway, this episode is the best "back-in-time-to-meet-a-famous-person" story the show has ever done, hands down, as well as a fascinating and nuanced portrait of mental illness.
We can argue about just how effective the Weeping Angels are now that we've had them around for six seasons, same as we can with any other great Doctor Who villain -- like the Daleks and the Cybermen, who are generally more fun to have around then they are actually scary these days. But the first time we met these monsters was right here, and boy was it terrifying.
Maybe a bold choice, but also manages to make one of the most tired time travel tropes -- going back in time and saving people who weren't meant to be saved -- into a beautiful and surprisingly subtle (save for the giant flying time monsters) story. I cry every time I watch it.
People talk a big game about "Blink" and it's definitely great for first-timers, but "Midnight," for me, is the real MVP. There's humor, relatable characters, quiet moments of intimacy -- and then abject, mysterious terror and an insidious (?) villain who's never explained. No matter how any times you watch, it's always perfectly chilling.