Fri
Dec 20 2013 12:00pm

Our Favorite Eleventh Doctor Episodes of Doctor Who

Best Doctor Who episodes Eleventh Doctor

Doctor Who has been one hell of a rollercoaster under Matt Smith and Steven Moffat’s reign. The quality of the episodes themselves has been markedly variable, as reflected in our own reviews, and for a little while the staff here was worried that we’d always be down about the show, or that we were chronicling the decline of the series.

Even if that had been the case (the 50th anniverary episode and its surroundings celebration did a huge, wonderful job at rejuvenating the series), Doctor Who is still the best damn sci-fi show on television. As we stand here, mere days from the fall of the Eleventh, we’re feeling thankful for all the sheer oddity that his episodes have added to the series as a whole. We pick our favorites below!

 

Emily:

Best Doctor Who episodes Eleventh Doctor

“Vampires of Venice”

This episode is simple, clever and absolutely hilarious, which is always how Who operates at its best. If you can say that your episode involves the Doctor jumping out of a bachelor party cake and flashing a library card as credentials, you’ve already knocked it out of the park. But the emotional moments of this episode resonate beautifully as well—Rory Williams has the distinction of being the first companion to truly call the Doctor out on his bullshit, taking him to task for making people want to impress him and therefore endangering their lives. The defeating of the villain is really a sidenote to this tale, one that sees Rory on the outside looking in as Amy and the Doctor jump around in frenzied excitement over alien vampires. It’s the beginning of building the trio into a team, a great historical period, and features some measured posturing against the queen mother where the Doctor is concerned. A romp, but a meaningful one.

 

Best Doctor Who episodes Eleventh Doctor

“Amy’s Choice”

To begin with, there is no real villain in this episode, which is always an exciting story choice. We do, however, get a glimpse of just how dangerous the Doctor’s dark side can be—while we had seen his proper rage come to the forefront during Davies’ era, we had never been subjected to how insidious and deceitful that aspect of the Doctor was, nor how it could endanger the lives of his companions. The episode is sharp in how it effectively shows Rory and Amy’s domestic bliss as a little too blissful (read: boring), a very realistic fear for a couple just about to be married. But more importantly, everything that this episode accomplishes is in the title; with the Doctor powerless, for the first time ever, he truly puts the most important choice into a companion’s hands. He lets Amy decide how they go out even though that decision could kill them, and acknowledges that the choice should be hers after what she’s suffered. It’s a real growing up moment for the both of them, and one of the aspects to their relationship that made Amy a very special companion.

 

Best Doctor Who episodes Eleventh Doctor

“The God Complex”

A perfect example of misunderstood alien life being made out as the baddie, one of the best sort of dilemmas Who provides. It’s particularly satisfying when the Doctor himself misreads a situation, proving that 1000+ years of travel in time and space should never give you right to presume anything. While the plot takes place in a hotel-looking space, it is effectively a “several people stuck in a room” sort of plot, and the extra characters the tale provides are all incredibly interesting in their own right, which is essential in those stories. But most importantly, the episode still manages to move forward Amy’s emotional arc, examining her attachment to the Doctor, and just how deeply it has damaged her. (One of the more fascinating aspects of Amy’s tenure as a companion is how her connection to the Doctor may have actually done her more harm than good, which is rare for the people who fill those running shoes.) The Doctor’s decision to ask her to let go of him is one of Eleven’s more heroic moments.

 

Ryan:

Best Doctor Who episodes Eleventh Doctor

“The Lodger” & “Closing Time”

My close friends and readers of Tor.com know I’m something of a fickle Doctor Who fan. I either find myself being a total apologist for the show, or more recently, a hipster hater. (Which at least comes with the privilege of $1 IPAs at Mission Dolores before their weekly shuffleboard tournament.)

I do miss David Tennant and it has taken me probably longer than it should to warm to Matt Smith. Smith may be a better comic actor than Tennant, though, and I love funny! To that point, some of my favorite Doctor Who episodes have always been the funniest, which is why I absolutely love both episodes with James Corden’s Craig: “The Lodger,” and “Closing Time.”

Written by Gareth Roberts, “The Lodger” originally saw life as a short comic strip, which featured Mickey Smith and the Tenth Doctor. (Famously, Moffat’s “Blink” also began life as a comic adventure featuring a different Doctor than the aired version.) Both of these episodes operate on a low-stakes “maybe there are aliens in your neighborhood” principle, which helps humanize and undercut some of the more preposterous Doctor Who baggage. The big epic Doctor Who episodes can be fun, but juxtaposing a centuries-old badass like the Doctor into a boring domestic situation is automatically comic gold. Whether he’s just impolitely dominating everyone at football or working (somewhat incompentently) at the mall, the idea that a seemingly weird (but human-looking) guy is actually there to save the entire planet from your living room or local dressing room is awesome.

Further, I don’t mind Amy and Rory at all, but I sort of love Craig and Sophie (Daisy Haggard) more. There’s real pain when he just takes off at the end of “Closing Time,” leaving Craig’s place for the big stakes stuff. You really get the sense Craig is an actual person, a real character with a life on Earth who’s life was changed for the better by the Doctor. This doesn’t mean the Doctor isn’t SUPER annoying when he shows up, sending Craig on super inconvenient adventures. But the image of a pudgy guy with a baby strapped to his chest running to help save the universe is awesome. And that’s what good Doctor Who is all about: regular people getting empowered to do battle with monsters, aliens, and stuff that goes bump in the night.

 

Chris:

Best Doctor Who episodes Eleventh Doctor

“A Christmas Carol” and “The Snowmen”

It’s downright criminal how good these episodes are. Steven Moffat is often at his best when he’s not feeling compelled to write towards a larger story arc and these two Christmas episodes, especially “A Christmas Carol,” come off as stories that the writer felt a personal desire to tell. That care comes through in the weight that he gives to the characters in these episodes.

Former showrunner Russell T. Davies also did his best work under the same kind of focus (For example, “Turn Left” is a total mess of a plot, but it comes off brilliantly because of the care RTD took with Donna’s story.) but Steven Moffat is possibly the most clever plotter the show has ever had, and when he really cares about a story he’s able to merge the horrifying, the daffy, and the dramatic into a single story that is greater than the sum of its parts. When that happens, it’s utter magic. This is how good Doctor Who can be. This is how good it should be. This is how good ALL television should be. When the show achieves this kind of transcendence, like it does in “A Christmas Carol” and “The Snowmen,” it’s difficult to watch it come down from that.

 

Best Doctor Who episodes Eleventh Doctor

“Hide”

I got the same feeling from “Hide” and although the episodes following it have been entertaining, none have quite reached the zenith that this one did.

I also adore it for being an episode that’s simply impossible to explain, much like the show itself. You just have to watch it, which makes it an experience.

 

Sarah:

Best Doctor Who episodes Eleventh Doctor

“Vincent and the Doctor”

This one seems to divide the fanbase more than I would expect. Sure, it’s a little overly sentimental and a bit predictable and the Krafayis doesn’t make much sense, but I couldn’t care less. This episode is all about the FEELS, and that is perfectly okay. Functionally, it serves as a bit of a break in the immediate aftermath of “Cold Blood,” and gives the Doctor a much needed chance to work through his guilt over not saving Rory—clearly dragging Amy all over the galaxy on a whirlwind tour of vacation spots isn’t doing the trick. So when the Doctor tells Amy that they can’t save everyone, the lesson is for his own benefit as much as hers. This episode also gets major props because van Gogh’s madness isn’t played for laughs. It’s instead very real and terrifying when he suddenly orders the Doctor to leave, and just as heartwrending when he later breaks down at the museum. And that bit where he explains the colors of the sky? I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

 

We could go on! “The Girl Who Waited” was definitely on this list, but we ran out of room. “The Day of the Doctor” is also one of our favorites, but isn’t really an Eleventh Doctor affair. What are your favorite Eleventh Doctor stories?


Emily Asher-Perrin once popped out of a wedding cake but can’t remember how she got in there in the first place. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com and solely responsible for the slow degradation of Doctor Who. (Sorry, guys.)

Chris Lough is the Production Manager at Tor.com and remembers every black day he ever stopped you, Ryan.

Whenever Sarah Tolf sees Tony Curran pop up in other shows or movies, she STILL wants to give “Vincent” all the hugs. Sigh.

13 comments
AdultHuman
1. AdultHuman
I think Vincent and the Doctor is a mostly poor episode, but it has one of the greatest final acts and epilogues. It's also a great use of time travel to fix a great injustice, Vincent in the Museum is one of the happiest crying experiences I've had.
Zayne Forehand
2. ShiningArmor
The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon are probably my two favorite episodes of the Smith era. The grandiose adventure, the banter between the Doctor and the Ponds (The Legs, The Nose, and Mrs. Robinson), and also the Silence, one of the few Doctor Who villains I've found genuinely scary. The scene with Amy in the room at the orphanage where the marks keep appearing and multiplying was terrifying.

Matt Smith is my Doctor so there are only a couple episodes of his run I don't care to rewatch. I'm in the middle of a marathon rewatch now in preparation for the Fall of the Eleventh. I don't want him to go. I am glad Clara is sticking around though because I love her. I didn't think I'd care for any companion after Amy and Rory but she knocked it out of the park in Asylum of the Daleks and I knew I'd warm to her quickly. I just wish we could have had a little more of her and Matt Smith's amazing chemistry.
AdultHuman
3. Mike Pants
I take a lot of heat for liking Victory of the Daleks as much as I do, but it neatly encapsuates everything that is lovely about the series-- ridiculous solutions, creepy reveals, Daleks being menacing bastards-- and it's one of the few times when the Smith Doctor stops being a faffing loon and utterly loses his cool.
Jeremy Goff
4. JeremyM
These were all fantastic choices. I have to say that "The Doctor's Wife" is one my favorite episodes of all time. I don't know how to articulate what I love about it. It's just one of those things I watch whenever I feel like being moved and losing myself for an hour.
AdultHuman
5. GeorgeC
I completely agree with "The Doctor's Wife." I think it is an instant classic in the same way that "Blink" was for David Tennant!
AdultHuman
6. ElizabethB
How could you forget The Doctor's Wife?!?!?! Possibly my favorite Doctor Who episode ever (after Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead) it gives a glimpse of the character that makes the Doctor's madcap adventures all possible- the TARDIS! Neil Gaiman did a tremendous job with the script and Suranne Jones is luminous as Idris/the TARDIS, she more than keeps up with Matt and seeing them interact is magic. And seeing Amy and Rory running around the TARDIS and, with House as the TARDIS, confronting Amy's fear of losing Rory/making him wait for her again, is both creepy and another fascinating window on Amy and Rory's characters. And we got to see Ten's control room again! The Doctor's Wife should *definitely* be on this list. At the top. :-D
Kristen Templet
7. SF_Fangirl
I found Amy's Choice very boring and thought it dragged. I mean, it was obvious that they were in a false future from the beginning so I felt zero tension; the Ponds weren't going to stop travelling with the Doctor - not at that point in their arc.
AdultHuman
8. Dr. Cox
Hmmm . . .
Vincent and the Doctor
The Doctor's Wife
The Eleventh Hour
The Beast Below
Alan Brown
9. AlanBrown
I think my favorite 11th episodes are The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang. The first episode sets things up in grand fashion, and the second throws all the balls in the air at once in a buffet of grand zaniness, with both young and old Amy running around having adventures, lots of monsters, River Song, and a great happy ending with a wedding and dancing.
I liked the Lodger/Closing Time, and especially Vincent and the Doctor, both already mentioned above.
Not mentioned above, but another favorite of mine, was Victory of the Daleks, just because of the laser-equipped Spitfires in space. And Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, because of, well, dinosaurs in space. I guess that is just the little boy in me, liking the 'gee whiz' moments.
And I very much liked Asylum of the Daleks, with its surprising early introduction of Clara.
For all the angst that the regeneration of 10 to 11 created, I have to say that there were far, far more hits than misses in 11's run. And here's hoping that the Christmas special is his best episode yet!
Chris Meadows
10. Robotech_Master
I can't agree about the Christmas Carol episode. It's one of those cases where the plot simply doesn't stand up to fridge logic. There's this girl who's going to, like, die in another day. So the guy seals her up and never opens the crypt again until he has to, effectively, kill her to save all those people.

The Doctor has a fricking time machine and access to all of time and space. Why didn't he just, y'know, take her to some super-hospital-world where they can cure her? Why didn't anybody on the show even think of that? Because that would screw up teh feels, that's why. Bleah.
Matt Ries
11. mattries37315
1) The Doctor's Wife
2) The Snowmen
3) The Eleventh Hour
4) The Lodger/Closing Time
5) Night Terrors

This list might change depending on how The Time of the Doctor plays out and answers some outstanding questions I have on a lot of "big development" episodes under Moffat's reign.
AdultHuman
12. Peter C
This is the 12th comment so all you see are my bushy eyebrows and my angry glare...

That said- Pandorica Opens/Big Bang are the best
AdultHuman
14. verisp
Danny Horn's (as Kazran) performance makes A Christmas Carol. Otherwise, the plot is okay, but not great.

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