Ah, the modern Doctor Who episodes. So many handsome Doctors, so many companions, so many catchphrases! Oh, how can one glorious human attempt to rank each and every (modern) episode of the arguably greatest show in television history? Basically with a lot of coffee, maybe some wine, and an incredibly patient spouse.
Be forewarned that I do have a lot of affection for light-hearted romps and historical / literary episodes. Oh, and I play favorites with certain companions. It’s no secret that I simply adore Rose and Doctor Donna with every beat of my single human heart. And while I have a gentle fondness for Mickey, Rory, Craig, Clara, Nardole, and Bill, and a meager tolerance for Amy and her narcissism, there is no quibbling about how much I loathe Martha.
Yes, I said it. Love her as you will, Marthites! But the woman couldn’t keep her mouth closed most of the time and spent most of her episodes bumbling in confusion and requiring rescue over and over. Her puppy dog crush was just pathetic to watch, and Freema Agyeman’s acting skills were cringe-worthy. Worst of all though, she becomes a soldier. A soldier!
Anyway, where was I? Is it hot in here? Yes, I’m sweating. Stupid Martha.
Well, what I have achieved is, quite humbly, magnificent perfection and probably the final word on the subject. Right? I’m sure no one can disagree with me. And should you feel tempted to allow outrage to course through your veins, remember that your cup of tea may not be mine. Maybe you’re a Marthite, or a confused Donna Hater. And if you haven’t invested the hours in organizing your thoughts on the matter into a very thoughtful list that was endlessly tinkered with, then your opinion should be shushed! This project was a lot harder than it looked at the outset.
113. “Daleks in Manhatten” / “Evolution of the Daleks” (season 3, episode 4-5)
Pig-men. Vapid caricatures of 1930s New Yorkers. One ridiculous Dalek in a pin-stripe suit. More pig-men. Love story. Martha. More pig-men. I’ll confess to you right now that I really love nearly every Dalek episode, mostly because I find their angry tin voices and quizzical eye stalks just adorable. But also because, respect. But these two episodes sullied the name of Dalek with this insultingly ridiculous beauty-and-the-beast style plot cloaked in a forced thematic setting. There was so much ripe fruit in the 1930s era for the writers to pick from–serious topics that would do justice to all of the economic turmoil, innovation, bravery, and terrifying warfare. And this is what they gave us. And worst of all, they made us sit through it in two agonizing long parts. With Martha Jones. Almost unwatchable.
112. “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” (2016 Christmas Special)
Superheroes. Ugh. One of the many beauties of Doctor Who is that we didn’t need a human with oddly specific superpowers prancing around in masks, disguising his voice, and saving energetic, but naive damsels. We just needed an alien being to show us that humans are, sometimes, powerful in their own right, without radioactive spiders, nuclear accidents, etc. So, holy balls, was I disappointed that Moff decided to cash in on the superhero movie craze. It seemed lazy and jarringly out of place. And all for a Christmas episode! This wasn’t holly or jolly, and it was an insulting gimmick episode that really pissed me off. Worst. Christmas. Episode. Ever.
Points Lost For: American episode. Not really sure why superheroes have to be from New York. And continues the trend that American episodes are the worst.
111. “Sleep No More” (season 9, episode 9)
I am mostly speechless after watching this episode. I mean, eye crusty monsters? EYE CRUSTY monsters? No. That makes no sense. And The Doctor agrees with me, because he said as much. But, since canonically speaking, nothing in this episode happened, it’s okay that it didn’t make sense?…? See? It’s even confusing to hate and review this episode. We must have been very bad fans this year and the writers wanted to punish us by asking us to sit through 40+ minutes of this Blair Witch-style eye crusty warning.
110. “Planet of the Dead” (2009, special 1)
What show am I watching? Who is this awful be-wigged woman with far too many convenient talents? Well, if Lady Christina de Souza was auditioning for the role of future companion, she failed miserably. Even the lonely Doctor looked at her and said, “Yeahh, but…I have to wash my hair tonight. And feed my cat. No companions. I’m allergic to humans. And wigs. Bye now.”
109. “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” (season 7, episode 10)
I swear, I want the TARDIS to have an excellent backstory, but this isn’t it. Sexy is a victim here, as much as we are, of not just the insultingly stupid Van Baalen brothers, but also a worthless reset-button resolution. Worst of all, Clara is reduced to a bumbling damsel in distress. Where is our Warrior Clara? Where is our Warrior Sexy? A glimpse of the library and pool may be worth the price of admission, but the ladies of contemporary Whodom deserved better tributes and a chance to really show what they can do.
108. “The Next Doctor” (2008 Christmas special)
So here we are in a yuletide mope because The Doctor is without a companion, having just lost Donna Noble. In trade, the writers decided to tease the audience whilst bringing in Col. Brandon…I mean, David Morrissey…as a temporary companion. But his brain damage is barely endearing, and the whole episode comes off as a not-so-clever audience prank that just won’t end. Even the Fake Doctor’s Companion, Rosita, was just a little bit insulting. She has the crassness of Donna, the incompetence of Martha, and nothing but the name of Rose. And don’t forget that hiddeous wig. (What is it with wigs on the guest stars during Ten’s companionless swan song?) Plus, Cybermen. Yawn. Even the chief villain, Ms. Hartigan, is lazily named. Yes we get it: In her final moments she briefly had a heart again. Yawn. And more yawn. Overall, this was one of the lousiest Christmas specials for lacking substantial emotion, a viable plot, or anything like holiday spirit. The only redeeming bit: The Doctor speaking of his companions. “They break my heart.” So much sadness and misery. But why must the writers spread it to us?
107. “In the Forest of the Night” (season 8, episode 10)
In defense of a very hated episode: The protective forest growing in the middle of London is a cool idea, and the special effects were very beautiful. I was also glad to get to know Clara’s students a little better, and for once I actually liked some kids on this show. There. I said something nice. So now I can get to the truth. This episode was a disaster of silly writing. Where were all the people of London? Why the hell was Annabelle hiding in a shrub? Clara really wouldn’t save her students just so they can go die in their parents’ arms, right? And she couldn’t use her damn spaceship/time machine to go get the parents? And shut the fuck up, Danny Pink. Man. Soldier Dan can seriously go fuck himself with his jealousy and douchiness.
106. “Into the Dalek” (season 8, episode 2)
Does anyone else hear Van Morrison singing when they read this episode title? Anyway, here we have Innerspace, but with a Dalek instead of Martin Short (look it up). This was a drawn out, whiny crisis for the Doctor as he tries to still decide whether he’s good or not. And what does “good” mean anyway? Apparently it means boring. Missed opportunity for a lot of fun and wonder being inside a Dalek. Too heavy and too long.
105. “42” (season 3, episode 7)
Wouldn’t it have been better if I could’ve ranked this episode 42nd? Huh? Eh? Yeah, no. That’s not gonna happen, because this was a really bland trapped-on-a-ship episode. In fact it’s so forgettable, I keep thinking, “Wow, remember that other trapped-on-a-ship episode that was so much better? I wish I was ranking that one right now.” Plus, Martha. To the credit of the Marthites, I will say that she was somewhat less obnoxious here than in other outings. Wait, never mind, the whole thing ends with her mom, Francine, being a giant douchey snitch. Marthites, you get no credit here.
104. “A Town Called Mercy” (season 7, episode 3)
Whew boy, it’s another Americana-themed episode. Think, Robocop meets some terrible western movie. Setting aside my respect for themes of reality and regret, both with the one-off characters, and our normally bouncy Eleven, this is a sleepy outing. And worst of all, it feels like the Ponds have stayed too long.
Points lost for: Bad makeup effects.
Points lost for: Doctor wielding a gun.
103. “The Lazarus Experiment” (season 3, episode 6)
Ugh, a super Martha-centric episode. I’ll get to the terrible scorpion monster and formulaic bite-sized plot in a moment. But first, it’s Martha…and her family. To anyone who ever criticized Jackie Tyler for being shrill or obnoxious, I’ll say at least she didn’t directly and purposely endanger the Doctor. In fact, Jackie went to great pains multiple times to save him. But now we meet Martha’s mom who is nothing short of Super Asshole. And it turns out Tish, much like sis Martha, is really good as baddy bait (see also: “The Sound of the Drums”). Ugh. The writers must really, really hate Martha to draw her family so terribly. But oh, yes there was a plot here, too, right? Ehh. This plot. Even Lazarus, in his mind, had to be like, “Man, this is a really terrible idea, this miracle of mine. I mean horrible. So many awful things are going to happen to me and people around me. But I’m bored. And I could endanger multiple members of the Jones family, so, eh, why not? Call the caterer.” Not only is this episode lazy, but it fuels my Martha rage.
102. “Utopia” / “The Sound of the Drums” / “Last of the Time Lords” (season 3, episode 11-12-13)
While “Utopia” would’ve been a decent story on its own-tho, by the time we get down to the real business of The Master and his reign as Saxon-tho, I find that I actually sort of liked Martha. Yeah, I said it. She actually kicked ass in this run, and that is really, REALLY rare for her. She only was kidnapped once! (…although her family continued to prove their worthlessness.) The Master was a pretty darn interesting arc, and I adored his portrayal. BUT the conclusion depicting the Doctor as a Christ-figure was waaay over the top. But then, Captain Jack! Face of Boe! Goodbye, Martha! But then, ewww, what is with the fetal Doctor makeup? Creepy. And, COM’ON WRITERS–this was yet another case of “we’ll sing you out of danger!”. Instead of singing, of course, it was thinking of the Doctor and how he died for our sins, or something like that. I don’t know. My ears were bleeding at this point-tho. Boy, this episode trio is really a mixed bag for me. Worth watching, with some beautiful nods to recurring story arcs and characters, but some heavy-handed religious symbolism that was pretty gross-tho.
101. “Gridlock” (season 3, episode 3)
Here we are again with badly wedged social commentary as a plot device–it was even a two-for-one commentary on how shitty we all are. Round and round the vehicles go, unaware they’ll never make their destination. Why? Because we like our mood altering drugs a bit too much, of course. Such sheep we are. Okay, seriously, some fantastic guest stars and one hella-stirring rendition of “Abide With Me” almost pull us away from the clutches of the evil Macra that live in our souls. And it mandatorily has to be ranked higher than it would otherwise because, The Face of Boe. Ah, it’s his final meeting that he promised the Doctor, and our unknowing goodbye to Capt. Jack. But just as I start to jack this episode up the list, because “Don’t go, Boe!”, then Martha stumbles in, immediately figures that a bad prop skeleton on the floor is the Doctor (yeah, pop your eyes out there, sweetie), and then stumbles onward in phony relief toward the Doctor’s voice, where she finds the FOB. And isn’t that just the piss in my Cheerios? After all his travels and accomplishments, after all his years and sacrifice, you know who the FOB sees among his last? Fucking Martha Jones and her flippant “Who’s he?” Sure, you’re at someone’s deathbed, just keep facially overacting and don’t be polite and address him directly or anything. What a waste of a tender goodbye at the end of a very long journey. And did I mention that most of the episode’s plot was centered around Martha getting kidnapped and needing rescue? Ugh. Won’t someone please get her back to her hospital already? Rest in peace at long last, Face of Boe.