That’s all, folks! After what felt like an eternity of waiting, Doctor Who Series 10 has already been and gone. But which episodes were our favourites?
The 2017 season has been quite the rollercoaster for the show. Not only did we see the return of The Twelfth Doctor and Nardole, we were also introduced to plucky new companion Bill Potts. With a ‘soft reboot’ approach and more stripped-back storytelling, Series 10 was Doctor Who back to its basics. The adventures have been exciting and varied, with our heroes fighting a wide array of adversaries. Alien puddles, Emojibots, space zombies, prune-faced Monks. The new monsters have been great additions to the series. For long-time fans, we also got the return of the Mondasian Cybermen, the Ice Warriors, and not one but two Masters! Plus we’ve had plenty of teases of regeneration, ever since Peter Capaldi announced he was leaving in this year’s Christmas special.
But from the dozen episodes we’ve been treated to between April and July, which ones were the best? This year, it’s been especially difficult to choose. Usually the classics stand tall against the others – but it’s been a pretty solid season, week in week out. There were quite a few close calls here. As ever, this list is subjective and you may not completely agree with our choices. But, for our money, here are the Top 5 episodes from Series 10…
5. The Pilot
The first episode of Series 10 is also the first entry on our list. After 14 months off our screens (excluding last year’s Christmas special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio), there was a lot riding on The Pilot. Was Doctor Who still going to be any good after such a long hiatus? How would we react to new companion Bill? And would it make a promising start to Peter Capaldi’s final year in the lead role?
Compared to the more intricate plotlines of previous years, Steven Moffat made a bold move for the start of the new season. One year before we’re due a clean slate anyway, he hits the reset button. We’re essentially back to square one, just as we were in 2005 with Rose. There are a few nods for returning viewers, like the photos of Susan and River, and the callback to Clara’s exit. But if ever there was an episode to use as a jumping on point, this is it. The Pilot set the trend for the first few stories by really honing in on The Doctor and Bill’s relationship. Their student/teacher dynamic was refreshing, and Bill herself a much more relatable companion. Not only did she come across as well-grounded, she’s also great representation for the LGBT audience. Pearl Mackie shines from the get-go.
It’s not completely perfect – the space engine oil isn’t quite the water-tight baddie we were hoping for. The inclusion of the Daleks in the last act (seemingly to canonise the Friend from the Future trailer) also felt a bit forced. But those niggles aside, there were also some truly standout moments, like Bill’s first entrance to the TARDIS. And we’ll never, ever get tired of hearing Peter Capaldi saying “Time and Relative Dimensions in Space”. He’s clearly enjoying it way too much, and we absolutely love it. What a Doctor!
Otherwise known by the equally appropriate title, “Capitalism in Space”. The Doctor is forced to fight against a bunch of intergalactic fat-cats in the fifth episode of the series, with dire consequences for the Time Lord. Jamie Mathieson returns to pen his fourth Twelfth Doctor story, following instant classics like Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline. Mathieson’s scripts are always high in concept, and Oxygen is no different. It’s also scarily easy to believe that, some day in the future, people will charge us for the very air that we breathe.
The Doctor’s recklessness is addressed quite a bit in Series 10, but here it properly blows up in his face. Fed up of guarding the Vault on Earth, The Doctor is itching to get back out there into space. He’s even giving (admittedly fascinating) lectures on it at the university. So he ignores Nardole’s advice, taking both him and Bill off to answer an interstellar distress signal. They find themselves on a space station infested with zombies – and precious oxygen is in limited supply.
What’s especially great about this episode is how space itself is one of the dangers. Usually it’s seen as The Doctor’s plaything, a big sandbox he just whizzes about merrily in. But when Bill is sucked out into the vacuum of space, The Doctor has to take drastic measures to keep her alive. He sacrifices his own wellbeing and exposes himself to the cold dark open. As a Time Lord, he’s just about able to survive, but at the cost of his eyesight. The Doctor is blind, and he can’t magically fix it either… well, until the end of Pyramid, anyway.
Big on ideas, big on satire, and big on drama. Oxygen is a pivotal episode in Series 10, and definitely one we’ll remember.
Up until this point, Series 10 had been a consistently ‘good’ series. Extremis however was the first episode that might truly be considered ‘great’. Steven Moffat’s mid-season offering, and the beginning of the Monk trilogy, was a mind-bending corker. The premise is deliciously enticing: deep in the Vatican, there’s a book called the Veritas that tells a forbidden truth. Anyone who reads it immediately kills themselves afterwards. What could be so shocking a revelation as to cause such mass suicide? And more importantly, will The Doctor dare to read it…?
If there’s one thing to say about Extremis it’s that it’s atmospheric. The scenes in the Vatican library are spooky stuff, a dark and winding labyrinth of mystery. Bill and Nardole’s encounter with CERN towards the end is also pretty unnerving – the effects of the Veritas are felt far and wide. The Doctor’s blindness carries over from Oxygen too, used effectively to trap Capaldi in the dark. He’s weak and he’s vulnerable, and that’s a position we’ve never seen The Doctor in before.
Admittedly, some might not agree with this pick. Part of that may be down to the unceremonious unveiling of Missy in the Vault, but we wager it’ll depend on how you interpret the ending. Sure, it’s basically all a dream. But it’s at least a dream with purpose. We essentially watch Extremis through the (real) Doctor’s eyes: a recording of a computer simulation set up by those meddlesome Monks. A cop-out? Perhaps. But as a foundation for things to come, it provides a strong and intriguing build-up. And if nothing else, there’s always that unforgettable moment when the Pope bursts in and interrupts Bill’s date. Mamma mia!
2. The Doctor Falls
Steven Moffat’s last ever season finale needed to go out with a bang. Not only did it have to wrap up the ongoing Series 10 story arcs, it had to serve as a fitting farewell to a whole load of characters. Thankfully, this 60 minute extravaganza left us satisfied, doing both itself and the rest of the series justice.
There’s a lot going on here, with Missy and The Master imprisoning The Doctor and the Mondasian Cybermen on the rise. The decision to switch up locations to the solar farm seemed questionable at first, but ultimately it works best for what the episode is really trying to accomplish. For anyone going in expecting a full-blown battle royale, you might be in for some disappointment. The Doctor Falls is instead a slower, more character-driven piece that explores The Doctor’s motives and gives everyone a sense of closure. Nardole becomes useful, protecting the helpless children from the oncoming Cybermen. Missy and The Master self-destruct under the pressure of standing with The Doctor. Bill is horrified by her Cyber-conversion and ultimately ends up as a walking talking puddle, zipping round the universe with Heather. Some exits work better than others, but none feel too out of place.
The episode truly belongs to Peter Capaldi though, who steals the show in his final regular outing. He gets some amazing speeches and stays true to himself to the bitter end. This is a Doctor without hope, without witness, and without reward. He knows he’s not going to win this war, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He battles the enemy to his death, eventually shot down by a Mondasian Cybermen in the middle of a forest. But he’s not ready for regeneration yet, and neither are we. One last, nostalgic adventure at Christmas beckons…
1. World Enough and Time
The penultimate episode of Series 10 was easily the best of the lot. Bringing the Vault series arc to a climactic head, The Doctor puts Missy’s rehabilitation to the test. Doing so on a spaceship slowly inching its way out of an enormous black hole probably wasn’t the best idea though. What starts off as a rollicking barrage of meta-humour quickly goes south, in every sense. The Doctor’s rash decision puts Bill in the crossfire and she quite literally gets a stomach full. Or rather, a stomach less, as she’s shot clean through the chest and left for dead. Some creepy surgeons take her away to the bottom of the ship for ‘repairs’ – and that’s when the episode really gets good.
World Enough and Time is excellent on two very different levels – again, quite literally. The Doctor, Missy and Nardole are at the top of the ship where time moves very slowly. Here, we get all the hard science of how gravity affects time in the eye of a black hole. Meanwhile, down below decks where minutes equate to years, Bill finds herself on a horrifying hospital ward. The slow introduction and transformation of the Mondasian Cybermen is properly creepy, and the best the metal monsters have been in the revived show. We’re still having nightmares about the “pain… pain… pain…” scene. Shudder.
But that’s not all! We also get the glorious return of John Simm’s Master, disguised as the strangely hilarious and lovable Mr Razor. He’s having a field day under all those prosthetics, but before long the mask comes off and his evil intentions are revealed. If only we hadn’t known about one (or both) of these big surprises in advance, World Enough and Time might well have been the shocker of the century. But, expected or unexpected, the lead-up to the reveals was undeniably good. We’re certain the cliffhanger will go down as one of the best in modern Doctor Who history.
I’d agree with all of those apart from “The Pilot”, I’d have probably put “Empress of Mars”.