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A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article talking about my top 5 Doctor Who episodes of the Ninth Doctor's era, so this time around I've chosen my top 10 episodes for the Tenth Doctor's era. The number has increased simply because he appears in more episodes. Also, all of the episodes are taken from series 2 through 4, no special episodes are considered, and any time there's a Part 1 and Part 2, those episodes will be grouped together as one.
It was much harder than I anticipated to pick just 10. I had so much fun re-watching the Tenth's Doctor time on the show but in the end, I did manage to settle on a list, so below are my top 10 episodes of the Tenth Doctor's era, and be aware that this article contains spoilers!
10. The Shakespeare Code [3x02] — 9/10
"The Doctor takes Martha to London in 1599, where William Shakespeare's new play is being used by three witches in an evil plan." - IMDb
This episode was just a ton of fun! I love when Doctor Who has historical figures as characters and Shakespeare was fantastic in this. I loved the way he interacted with the Doctor and Martha, and it was really fun to see him slowly be introduced to the strange and wonderful world of the Doctor and reveal later that he knows they're from the future.
The enemy was also great to watch, especially the fact that they were witch-like and how they planned to use a Shakespeare play to their advantage. Overall, it was a really entertaining episode to watch and that little appearance from Queen Elizabeth I was hilarious.
9. The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit [2x08/09] — 9/10
"When the Doctor and Rose become stranded on a planet orbiting a black hole, they find a human expedition crew and their servants, the Ood, being terrorised by the Devil." - IMDb
"The Doctor risks his life to investigate the pit and is forced to make a terrible decision, while Rose and the crew fend for their lives against the Legion of the Beast." - IMDb
The characters in this episode were so good and so likable which is why these episodes made it onto my top 10. Their individual personalities and the way they interact made for some entertaining viewing. The enemy they face was interesting and I particularly loved how its mind and body were separate. It was a shame the Ood were used and we had to see them in a violent light because they're one of my all-time favourite species, but it was still fun to see them.
There were a lot of moments that left you hanging, wondering what was going to happen next or if a character was okay or not, and each conclusion to these little cliffhanger moments were all perfectly timed.
It was also a pretty significant episode for Rose and the Doctor. We've seen it long before now but it was another confirmation that they would stay together forever (or for the rest of Rose's life at least) and we saw how they believe in each other too and how they refuse to give up on the other.
8. Tooth and Claw [2x02] — 9/10
"The Doctor and Rose are transported to 19th Century Scotland, where they meet Queen Victoria, and try to protect her from a ravenous werewolf and a band of assassinating warrior-monks" - IMDb
This episode was set in Scotland, had Queen Victoria as a main character, and featured a werewolf as the enemy of the episode... What's not to love? Something I always enjoy about these types of episodes is that they tend to be quite laid back and allow you time to just enjoy the characters and the story without being too concerned about how it connects to the rest of the season or how it's going to progress the overall story of the season.
It's just a time to sit back and enjoy the wonders that are Doctor Who. It was also quite cute to see Rose and the Doctor make bets on whether or not she could get Queen Victoria say, "I am not amused," and their interactions later when it actually happens.
7. The Fires of Pompeii [4x02] — 9/10
"Instead in Rome, The Doctor and Donna Noble end up visiting Pompeii in AD 79, on the eve of the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius, before anyone even knew it was actually a volcano.The entire city is doomed for destruction." - IMDb
The main reason this episode made it into the top 10 was because of the conflict between what Donna wanted to do and what the Doctor knew needed to be done. It can't be easy traveling to these different points in time, knowing what horrible things are going to happen and being unable to do anything about it.
The Doctor and Donna being on different sides was such an important conflict. We've seen it before, the Doctor can't save everyone because he can't change historical events. By simply saving her Dad in season 1, Rose completely messed up time and it all had to be corrected with disastrous consequences. They did manage to fix that, but I can't imagine what would happen if they saved all of those people in Pompeii and if they did, I doubt it would have been so easy to correct.
Donna did convince him to save Caecilius and his family, and it doesn't seem to have caused any issues, insinuating that they were always meant to survive. Speaking of that family, I loved them! They were all super interesting and it was really entertaining to watch them interact. That being said there was a really good balance between the casual/comedic moments and the more darker areas of the episode.
6. Midnight [4x10] — 9/10
As part of a well-deserved holiday, the Doctor takes a tour on a planet called Midnight. Little does he know that something is knocking on the walls, although the planet shouldn't be inhabited. Soon the passengers begin to panic when one of them is possessed. - IMDb
This entire episode is intense and infuriating but still manages to be entertaining. It does a very good job of having a simple enemy that was still interesting to watch. For a species that simply repeats things and slowly steals people's voices, it was actually quite terrifying. You pair that up with the reactions everyone had, and it makes for an enjoyable episode despite how infuriating the actions of the characters may be.
It was also pretty great to see the Doctor be put in a situation where he doesn't know what to do. That's not to say he hasn't dealt with anything like that before, but he really was on his own this time. The people around him didn't trust him and he didn't have a companion to help. That whole sequence where he was frozen, knowing it stole his voice, and the others were about to throw him out was so upsetting. You could see the fear in his eyes which is confirmed later when he tells Donna not to repeat what he's saying.
We've seen the Doctor in vulnerable situations before and there will be more situations to come but there was something very different about this time. Everything about this episode was stripped back but still one of the most detailed in a lot of way.
5. Blink [3x10] — 9/10
"Sally Sparrow receives a cryptic message from the Doctor about a mysterious new enemy species that is after the TARDIS." - IMDb
Something I particularly loved about this episode is how well it carried despite the fact that the Doctor and Martha were hardly in it. Blink was a fantastic showcase of how great Doctor Who side characters tend to be. This episode also served as an entertaining introduction to the Weeping Angels. They're probably my all-time favourite recurring enemy in Doctor Who and it is, in part, due to how well done this episode was.
Every bit of information we were given about them was very natural and it was really interesting to see it all through the eyes of our main character of the episode: Sally Sparrow. She was so important to the story and helped the Doctor in a lot of ways despite only really interacting with him in person one time. Sure she does get help from him (through his recorded messages) but she handles quite a lot of strange and unusual things on her own. This episode was a nice little break from the usual format while still keeping that well-loved Doctor Who vibe.
4. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead [4x08/09] — 9/10
"The Doctor and Donna join a group of archaeologists at a 51st century library. What caused the library to become abandoned? What are the Nodes? And what links the library to one little girl? All they have is one warning - count the shadows." - IMDb
"With the library darkening, the Doctor takes on the Vashta Nerada while figuring out what links River Song to his future. Meanwhile, Donna finds out the mystery of Dr. Moon and the Girl." - IMDb
The first thing I loved about this episode was the world and how it was an entire planet that was a library. It was also so intriguing that the security system was a little girl living in a world made specifically for her. There were so many clever details like how the fake Moon of the planet was a man in the made-up world called "Doctor Moon."
The story was really good too and the journey to figure out what was happening was such an enjoyable ride. It was a firm example of how well Donna can handle herself and how she's more capable than she gives herself credit for. It was also a fantastic introduction to River Song who we see later on in the show's lifespan. To see her at the end of her journey makes me so much more amped up to see her again in the future and to watch her journey with the Doctor unfold.
Something I particularly liked about the species they face is how real it felt. I, like a lot of people, am afraid of the dark so to have an entire Doctor Who episode based on the idea that shadows can hurt you was so creepy and despite having the sci-fi twist to it, it felt incredibly realistic.
3. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday [2x12/13] — 9/10
"When ghosts of loved ones appear all over the world the Doctor traces the phenomena to the Torchwood Tower, where some old friends and enemies are waiting." - IMDb
"Earth becomes a battleground for the Daleks and the Cybermen. With the whole planet at stake and the Genesis Ark activated, how much will the Doctor sacrifice in order to end the war?" - IMDb
I've come to realise that I'm destined to cry every single time I watch this two-parter. Rose is one of my all-time favourite companions in the revived Doctor Who. I also adore her interactions with the Tenth Doctor (I liked the ones with Nine too!) so to see them be torn apart from each other was so incredibly upsetting.
That being said, the build-up to that moment was really well done and entertaining nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed seeing all of the characters trying to figure out how to handle both the Cybermen and the Daleks. It was really great to see Mickey return to this world with some help and I also loved that Jackie accidentally came along for the ride.
The Doctor and Rose prove once again how much they mean to each other. The former shows it by sending Rose to the parallel world in order to save her life, and the latter shows it by coming back even though it means leaving her mother and putting herself in danger. That final scene on the beach was so well done and we see these two characters having to confront their feelings and the reality that they might never see each other again. Everything about it was raw and very human which I absolutely adore.
2. The Girl in the Fireplace [2x04] — 10/10
"The Doctor, Mickey and Rose land on a spaceship in the 51st century only to find 18th century Versailles on board, the time of Madame De Pompadour! To find out what's going on the Doctor must enter Versailles and save Madame De Pompadour but it turns into an emotional roller coaster for the Doctor." - IMDb
This episode is one of my all-time favourites so perhaps I'm a little biased but it's super interesting. Sophia Myles does a fantastic job as Madame De Pompadour and I loved her interactions with the Doctor.
Something else that was really well done in this episode was how time is used. We've often seen the Doctor intend to go to one date and/or time but often getting it wrong. In the case of this episode, he always steps through the portals into different times, and more than once he doesn't intend for any time to have past. He goes from seeing Madame De Pompadour as a child to an adult, and then finally he's too late. He's mentioned before that he always loses the people he cares about because he lives for so long and in this episode, we actually witness that. We see him lose someone he cares about and how that affects him through Madame De Pompadour's letter.
We actually see an entire lifetime in one episode and it works so well. Although Rose and Mickey are there for quite a lot of the episode (and it was particularly fun that the latter was present), this is very much a Doctor episode. It showed a lot of who he is. Fun and risk-taking but also a very caring person.
1. The Stolen Earth/Journey's End [4x12/13] — 10/10
"The return of an old enemy leaves Earth along with 26 other planets stolen from their places. As the Doctor and Donna look for the whereabouts of Earth, former companions of the Doctor assemble a resistance against the new Dalek Empire." - IMDb
"In the wake of Davros' threat to destroy the existence of the Universe itself, the Doctor's companions unite to stop the Dalek empire. Which one will die by the prophecies and what will the fate be for the Doctor?" - IMDb
At the top of the list are the last two episode of season 4, mostly because of how much variety there is. I laughed and I cried but more importantly, I enjoyed every second of these episodes. The whole build up was done so well from the initial disappearance of the Earth to the final showdown between everyone, led by Donna, and the Daleks. It was really fun to have Jack, Gwen, and Ianto from Torchwood and Sarah Jane, Luke, and Mr Smith from Sarah Jane Adventures be a part of this fight, as well as returning characters from previous seasons of Doctor Who.
Seeing the Doctor and Rose reunite was definitely a highlight. It was horrible to see them say goodbye again but the time they spend together in these episodes was wonderful. I loved when they first find each other and how they run toward one another, both of them grinning with so much happiness.
Seeing all of these different characters interact and work together as one big team was everything I wanted and more, but the thing that really made these episodes special was how much focus was on Donna. All throughout her time with the Doctor she's been told how amazing and special she is. There are so many episodes where we see that he's right but this one was so much more. She was the hero in this story and the most important character. My heart still breaks when I think about how things ended up for her. To see Donna go from thinking she's nothing to actually believing she's the most important person in the whole of creation, only to have it ripped from her will always be one of the most painful moments in Doctor Who.