7. The Girl in the Fireplace (2006) [8.51%]
With the Doctor’s regeneration into David Tennant’s Tenth came a new kind of Time Lord: one that was young, romantic and – dare I say it – a sex symbol for the sci-fi generation. Yet the Doctor’s new-found enthusiasm for adventures in love and time wouldn’t truly begin until four episodes into his first term of office: Steven Moffat’s The Girl in the Fireplace.
The story, as we all know by now, sees the Doctor finding doors on a 51st-century spaceship to the 18th-century world of Madame De Pompadour: the uncrowned queen of France (played gracefully by Sophia Myles). But as well as their blossoming romance, this episode opens many more doors, as we begin to see David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor properly for the first time. He is energetic, charming, outgoing, inventor of the banana daiquiri, not averse to riding horses through mirrors, and, of course, a man who falls in love so, so easily. Yes, this is the regeneration that would be known as “the snogging Doctor”, and once he does with Madame De Pompadour – the rest is history.
But, with all great romantics comes great tragedy, and with De Pompadour’s timey-wimey death, the funny and whimsical The Girl in the Fireplace turns into something deeper: the fateful love story of running out of time, and one the Doctor partakes in over and over again. But – as Reinette says herself: “One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.” Blub. Sophie Hall
6. Army of Ghosts / Doomsday (2006) [8.61%]
Daleks v Cybermen! Back in the day this was the kind of scenario young fans would draw in quiet periods at school, using red and yellow felt tips for the explosions. And then, in July 2006, there it actually was, happening before our very eyes. Like some TV Action comic strip come to life. Kapow!
But to remember it only as a laser show, or for those competing cries of “Delete!” and “Exterminate!”, would be doing it a huge disservice. This Hugo Award nominee began, after all, with Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) saying, “This is the story of how I died.” And ended with the heart-wrenching severance from her beloved Doctor on Bad Wolf Bay. David Tennant’s haunted look… Piper’s crumpling face… standing right next to each other yet worlds apart. And all the more powerful for what is left unsaid.
But there was so much more to Russell T Davies’s packed two-parter: a proper, event-television cliffhanger, Jackie Tyler’s first Tardis trip, a parallel-universe mind-flub and a mystery bride appearing out of nowhere (Catherine Tate’s Donna).
Since its 2005 return, Doctor Who has always found ways to think big, but how often does it deliver on this scale, and with quite such whizzy, engaging aplomb? Mark Braxton