From , via , the 30-Day TV Meme.
Day 06 – Favourite episode of your favourite t.v show
I’m really struggling with this one. As noted, if a show is your favourite, there’s not likely to be one single episode that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my case, having declared my favourite show to be Doctor Who, I have over 30 years worth of episodes to choose from. I think it would be hard to nail down my favourite episode from each Doctor, but I’ll try…
(Yes, I’m cheating. It’s my journal. I get to make the rules.)
William Hartnell (1963-1966): An Unearthly Child
The episode that set the whole thing in motion, introducing us to the mysterious Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and the TARDIS. The show would later develop a huge and cumbersome mythology, but what this episode gave us was character and mystery. (Technically, this is part one of the first 4 part serial, which includes a trip back in time to visit cavemen, but let’s just pretend it isn’t. It holds up better that way.
Patrick Troughton (1966-1969): The Web of Fear
I’ve actually only seen the one episode of this, as the remainder are lost (along with the great majority of Troughton’s run, alas), but it was my favourite story from my favourite Doctor. I don’t recall now if the Yeti are the only recurring monster to only be encountered by a single Doctor, but something about them captured my imagination. This story also introduced UNIT, which was to play a major role in the adventures of the third and fourth Doctors.
Jon Pertwee (1970-1974): The Daemons
This one had everything. The Master in top form, played by the incomparable Roger Delgado. A quiet English village where a mysterious cult is meddling in dark occult forces, which ultimately (of course) turn out to be alien in nature. The unflappable Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who confronted with a living gargoyle, calmly orders, “Sergeant. Chap with wings. Five rounds rapid.” This serial had everything I loved about the Pertwee era of the programme.
Tom Baker (1975-1981): The Pyramids of Mars
Every time I think I’ve picked a favourite episode from this series, I change my mind. While, unlike most American viewers, Tom Baker isn’t my personal favourite, he’s the image most over here are familiar with if they know the series at all, and over seven years he did a lot of great stories. I’m going to finally settle on this one, which has a lot of fun with trippy Egyptian mythology motifs, and features some of the best Sarah Jane Smith moments the series had to offer.
Peter Davison (1982-1984): The Caves of Androzani
Sadly, Davison’s best turn in the role was his last, in a stellar script by Robert Holmes that played to all his strengths in the role. (Davison said, in fact, that if he’d gotten more scripts of this quality, he might have stayed for a fourth season.)
Colin Baker (1984-1986): The Two Doctors
Honestly, there’s not a lot of great Colin Baker stories to choose from. This wasn’t really a high point in the series, as it was constantly on the verge of cancellation, and Baker’s Doctor never really seemed to gel for me. (It’s a pity. I’ve met Colin Baker and he’s a lovely man.) I picked this one not because it’s a superior story, because it’s a relatively pedestrian effort for a writer as good as Robert Holmes, but it does feature Patrick Troughton reprising his role as the second Doctor, and so I’m choosing it for sentimental reasons. (I note with amusement that this is the third consecutive Robert Holmes story I’ve chosen…)
Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989): Ghost Light
As with Baker, McCoy never got a lot of good scripts to work with, but story editor Andrew Cartmel had ambitions that were never realized (for good or ill, its hard to say). Ghost Light is a trippy episode featuring one of McCoy’s best performances. This story was the penultimate episode broadcast in the original series run.
Paul McGann (1997): The TV Movie
There are problems with the movie. It has some questionable continuity assertions, most of which fandom has decided to collectively ignore, and the actual plot (involving an unlikely Eric Roberts as the Master) is regrettable. But none of that should take away from Paul McGann, whose sole foray as the Doctor on the screen hinted at what might have been. This was a pilot project to relaunch the series in collaboration with FoX-TV, but it never went anywhere. (After seeing how they handled Firefly, I can’t say I’m terribly unhappy.)
(Since this is an essay on TV, I’m not considering McGann’s extensive “radio” work, but he recorded several seasons worth of audio adventures for Big Finish, and that canon contains many stories superior to this one.)
Christopher Eccleston (2005): The Empty Child
The highest point in the first season of the relaunch, Stephan Moffatt contributes the first in a series of brilliant stories that would ultimately win him the head writer position when Russell T. Davies departed. No obvious alien menace here, just creepy zombie children in gas masks, the ongoing London Blitz, and introducing the roguish Captain Jack Harkness, a character so popular he’d not only recur, but get spun off into his own series, Torchwood. At the time of its airing, this was only the third Doctor Who story in twenty-seven seasons which did not feature a single death of a character. ‘Just this once,’ the Doctor cries exuberantly, ‘Everybody lives!’
David Tennant (2006-2009): Blink
Another Moffatt script, easily the best single episode of the new series and arguably the best Doctor Who story ever, Blink was a triumph of taut, scary storytelling using the time honoured DW motif of ‘innocuous everyday thing becomes an object of fear’. The Doctor himself is notably absent from much of the story, which revolves around the delightful character of Sally Sparrow, who I for one would just as happily traded for any of Tennant’s three regular companions. The Weeping Angels are wickedly effective as the monsters, and the resolution is wonderful. Tight writing and great acting make this a must-see episode.
Matt Smith (2010- ): (no entry)
It’s too early to pick a favourite eleventh Doctor story. Of the first half-dozen I’ve seen, I’ve liked some more than others, and some less than others, and there were none I’d find no fault in. What I can say without reservation is, despite my scepticism, Matt Smith’s take on the character of the Doctor is brilliant, and he can just play the part for several years as far as I’m concerned. I’m utterly in love with Karen Gillan (settle down, kid) as Amy, and I fear from the hints being dropped about her as the season-arc progresses that she may be yet another one-season companion, but I’m hoping not. Regardless, the part is in good hands, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the latest incarnation of our hero.
So there you have it, then. Ten actors playing one part, and ten episodes of one of the greatest and longest-running science fiction epics in television history. If you’re not familiar with the history of the series and wanted an overview, you could do worse than the episodes I’ve chosen, I think.