The 13 most divisive Doctor Who episodes

Which are the Tardis tales most likely to cause a fistfight?

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You can’t please everyone, and nowhere is that clearer than in the Doctor Who fandom. While there are a handful of episodes in the series that few could argue are absolute classics – Blink and ANOTHER, we’re looking at you – there are even more that divide fans completely as to whether they’re actually any good or not.

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Here are just a few of Doctor Who’s most divisive episodes in no particular order, with the chance after each one to vote if you think they’re any good or not and see how they stack up.

Fair warning – we’re betting you won’t all agree with our choices…


1. Love & Monsters

Was this Marc Warren-starring Doctor-lite episode a love letter to Doctor Who’s dedicated fans, or a cruel parody of them that ended with a surprisingly nasty coda? Fan response was mixed when the episode first aired in 2006, and has remained that way ever since.

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It could be argued that this 2013 episode starring Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman was a powerful and emotional journey through a rich alien world, accompanied by beautiful music. To some, however, it’s a weirdly saccharine story full of empty speeches, magic singing and all-powerful leaf.

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The 1996 Doctor Who movie brought the return of our favourite Time Lord after years offscreen, and was a welcome sight to dedicated fans who’d been left in the wilderness.

However, despite it introducing Eighth Doctor Paul McGann (who went on to star in numerous audio, novel and comic-book spin-offs before briefly returning to the series for a web-only cameo) it hasn’t aged well for many viewers, with some complaining that it felt too American and ranged too far from the series’ roots.

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Many fans enjoyed this election-themed futuristic tale, but writer Steven Moffat later said it was his least favourite of any episode he’d written, describing it as “quite a mess” and “all over the place”.

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By contrast, Moffat went to bat for another slightly unpopular episode, telling critics of Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s child-friendly forest tale that the episode would only grow in people’s estimations.

“I think I’d give a shout out to an episode that I think will grow in stature over the years because it’s so beautifully and elegantly written, In the Forest of the Night.

“There were people who thought it was maybe scientifically inaccurate – they’re wrong, I checked with the scientists – and any piece of television that includes the line of dialogue ‘catastrophe is the metabolism of the universe’ as a part of popular entertainment has to be… a beautiful episode!”

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Full disclosure: the author of this piece quite enjoyed this Agatha Christie-infused tale, but many viewers found the story’s terrible puns, odd acting and giant space-wasp villain a little hard to swallow.

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A lot of people just couldn’t get their heads around this 2014 episode, which saw the Doctor and Clara team up with Robin Hood and his Merry Men to battle some metallic menaces. Then again, just as many loved it for its lighter sensibilities and spoon-vs-swordfight.

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An insightful and timely critique of media manipulation, or hypocritical, sadistic and self indulgent? There’s certainly more than one way of looking at this 1985 Sixth Doctor story.

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Who didn’t love this high-energy, character-driven look at the relationship between Matt Smith’s Doctor and his companions Karen Gillan/Arthur Darvill? Hands up!

OK, now put your hands down if you thought that the ending (where the Doctor resurrected half the planet using a computer) was underdeveloped and completely ruined the whole thing. 

Yep, about 50/50 – just like when the episode first aired.

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Was this 1979 Tom Baker storyline a clever skewering of sci-fi clichés, or just a smug and unfunny tale with an awful blob of a monster? We still don’t have a definitive answer.

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A found-footage format? Sleepy-dust monsters? A giant twist at the end? Considering all the bold choices made in this story it’s no surprise that it divided fans down the middle as to whether it was a brilliantly scary tale or a nonsensical mess of weird ideas.

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One of Tom Baker’s most popular serials, this Eastern-themed mystery has since been labelled for its controversial use of yellowface makeup and racial stereotyping in the depiction of its Asian characters, with multiple stations in the US and Canada refusing to air the episode.

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The ethical quandary of this episode (should you kill an innocent creature to save the world?) and the accompanying row between the Doctor and Clara made this a standout for many fans, but just as many found the idea of the Moon being a giant egg too silly to take seriously.

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