“All of time and space, everywhere and anywhere- where do you want to start?” As Doctor Who bounced back onto our screens in 2010 with a new Doctor, a new companion and a new TARDIS, these words were the narrative trigger for the resuming of an infinite number of adventures throughout the Time Vortex. With Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, we’ve travelled to the distant future of the human race, to an asteroid outside the universe and to times long-gone such as the Second World War and the Wild West, entailing three further years of the show that have now led to its forty-ninth anniversary since the original story An Unearthly Child first aired.
So, with the big 50 just around the corner, there’s undoubtedly a question which should be on fans minds in the run up to November 23rd, 2013- which stories that define this legendary British science-fiction saga? To kick off the discussions in full, I’ve compiled a list of eleven classic adventures that sum up why Who has remained in the minds of viewers for nearly half a century now, and indeed why it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. There’ll be plenty of time next year for ‘Best Episode’ lists, so that isn’t what this is intended to be: instead, there’s a story from every Doctor that I believe best defines the characters and personalities of each of the incarnations of the Time Lord.
Step inside our conceptual episode TARDIS, then, and witness the wonders of the universe once again…or you could just stay home and eat your fish and chips by the telly. Your choice.
11. The Impossible Astronaut/Day Of The Moon
If ever there was a time when Doctor Who had a pressing need to redefine its priorities and cater for a large audience, it was Season Six. Though I was a massive fan of Matt Smith’s opening run, there was no doubt in 2011 that many fans felt a bit uncertain about the future of their allegiance to the show as a result of David Tennant’s departure. Current show runner Steven Moffat pulled off a master class, then, with the opening America two-parter of his second full stint on the show, kicking off an audacious narrative arc with a bang.
In the build-up to the first episode’s broadcast, DWM had teased that ‘The Doctor, Amy, Rory or River will die’, so naturally given Rory’s tendencies to bite the bullet we all assumed that the season premiere would put a definitive end to Darvill’s character. The surprise? It was the Doctor who was in hot water, shot down by a mysterious astronaut figure who was seemingly immune to underwater suffocation, and watched upon by the sinister leaders of the Silence. Throughout the course of the run, we would discover why the Silence wanted the Time Lord to kick the bucket (though the arc of his fight back now continues even further into Season Seven!), yet it was in the two-part opener that the show really shone once again, introducing a complex and thrilling arc along with a creepy new villain for us to root against after the credits.
Regardless of your stance on how the Doctor’s death arc was resolved- I thought the Tesalecta twist worked well, in that the Moff would have struggled to do anything else without confusing new viewers- it is impossible to deny that the Astronaut two-parter is amongst the best stories Who has given us in its forty-nine years on air, a true master class in modern science-fiction storytelling.