5. The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (2005) [9.99%]
“Are you my mummy?”
I don’t know about you, but that line can still send shivers down my spine – even if it’s not being said by a prepubescent monster with a gas mask. But then I did first watch this episode alone, with the lights off – a supremely tactical error for what might be one of New Who’s scariest episodes. Brrrr.
These days, The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances is often trotted out as among the rebooted series’ best stories and rightly so – it’s spooky and stylish, and really demonstrated the heights that a low-budget British sci-fi show could reach with limited resources. And a handsome American.
In an assured debut to Doctor Who, Steven Moffat crafted a brilliant tale that managed to combine chilling moments with humour and excitement, and topped it all off with an almost life-affirming ending that ranks among my personal highlights from the rebooted series. Everybody lived – and Christopher Eccleston was never better.
And, of course, this two-parter also has the distinction of introducing John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness to the Whoniverse, later to head his own spin-off series but great here as a dashing space adventurer keen to sweep Billie Piper’s Rose off her feet – and anyone else in the vicinity.
I’m really glad this episode made the cut. NuWho was still finding its feet in its first episodes, but this fantastic and ambitious two-parter showed that it was ready to do more than stand on them once they were steady. In fact, it could dance. Huw Fullerton
4. The Day of the Doctor (2013) [13.28%]
Forget for a moment that the 50th anniversary episode brought together 87 million Doctor Who fans from a record-breaking 94 nations around the world at the exact same time. Forget that it was the first multiple Doctors story for 20 years, featuring the return of David Tennant alongside Matt Smith, and the legendary John Hurt as the brand new ‘War Doctor’. And, finally, forget that it brought back the Zygons, saw the tenth Doctor engaged to Queen Elizabeth I and featured a plot about trying to undo history and save the Time Lord’s home planet of Gallifrey from destruction by the Daleks.
Because even without all that, The Day of the Doctor is still one of the best episodes in New Who history – mainly thanks to just two special moments that should become fixed points in time for all those who witnessed them…
The first? Pulses were set racing as 12 – “No, 13!” – Doctors swooped in together to defend Gallifrey, giving us that unexpected, jubilant first glimpse of Peter Capaldi’s new Time Lord – just his eyes, but unmistakably his eyes, fixed straight ahead in a ferocious stare that captured the essence of the 12th Doctor before we even knew him.
And then at the other end of the emotional spectrum, there was another surprise appearance – from the longest-serving (and best) Doctor, Tom Baker, as the enigmatic Curator, in an intimate and moving two-hander with the soon-to-depart Smith. Entering the scene voice-first, Baker’s character answered some questions, raised many more and reminded us why we were here: to celebrate a show that has spanned five decades and 13 actors, and which has gained yet a new lease of life since its return ten years ago… Paul Jones