Since it rebooted under Russell T Davies in 2005, the show has gone from strength to strength as the BBC’s flagship sci-fi show with excellent portrayals of the lead character by Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker. Now of course every fan has their favourite Doctor from the modern era, and likely also from the classic era (we’ll save that debate for another day) but in addition to this, most people will also have a favourite episode of the show and story.
With well over a hundred episodes made in the new era of Doctor Who, it’s difficult to pick a best season, let alone a best episode. So you can imagine there will be lots of debate about the top ten you’re about to see. But before you shoot the messenger, we want to explain how the list has been compiled…
Although below (and in the video list, which we recommend you watch below) you will find a ranked list of the best Doctor Who episodes of the modern era, you can’t blame us for the order. In fact we have compiled the list from a fan ranking made on IMDB based on the ratings of thousand of people across every episode. Of course, the majority aren’t always right in these things, and we’re sure that there will be lots of differing opinions on what episodes should (and shouldn’t) have been included.
Now, some people will want to point out that this list doesn’t include classic Doctor Who episodes and stories. That’s correct, it doesn’t. The main reason for this is that by IMDB ranking none of those stories would have made it into the top 10. However, the other reason is that they are listed separately on IMDB, and we will be providing you with another top 10 countdown of classic episodes very soon. Therefore if you’re a fan of Tom Baker and Patrick Troughton – you’ll have to be patient and wait a little longer. Sorry!
Anyway, we have a bit of time to wait until the Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials with David Tennant in 2023, and of course Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson taking us off on new adventures in season 14, so it’s good to look back before we go forward into a bold new world (for some on Disney+).
Right, enough chat, it’s time to take a look at that list …
The Top 10 Best Doctor Who Episodes
10. The Family of Blood
The second of a two-parter first broadcast back in 2007, this episode is adapted from Paul Cornell’s 1995 novel Human Nature (which is the name of the first part of the story. David Tennant plays the lead in this dark and at time scary story as aliens attack an English boarding school and surrounding village as The Family of Blood try to get the watch that contains the essence of the Doctor.
9. Journey’s End
Another second part of a two-parter, this 2008 story is a crossover that featured the characters from The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood as the friends and the companions of the Doctor unite to take on the Time-Lord’s oldest foes in the shape of Davros and Daleks. But not everyone can survive this adventure, can they?
8. The Girl in the Fireplace
First on TV in 2006, this episode is penned by Steven Moffat, who would of course go on to become the showrunner of Doctor Who in 2010 after Russell T Davies. Set in 18th Century France the show follows Madame de Pompadour played by Sophia Myles as androids seek to remove her brain and use it as a replacement part for their spaceship.
Yet another second part of a two-part episode (people like them, it seems), this is the 2006 season finale for season two of the rebooted show. Starring David Tennant and Billie Piper, this show features both the Daleks and the Cybermen in an epic battle to save Earth as the baddies descend upon the planet with less than friendly intentions.
6. Silence in the Library
A 2008 first part (that makes a change) of a two part story, this 2008 story (spoiler alert) also has the second part later on this list. Starring, you guessed it, David Tennant as the Doctor, this episode sees the titular Time-Lord summoned to a huge planet sized library by none other than River Song (played by the excellent Alex Kingston). It turns out they have met before. But what are the Nodes, and why is the library empty… and what does one particular girl know about all of this?
5. Vincent and the Doctor
A Matt Smith episode at last! This well-loved episode from 2010 sees the Doctor interacting with one of the greatest and most troubled artists of them all, Vincent Van Gogh, played with brilliance in the show by Tony Curran. This is a poignant and beautifully put together story which heavily features Karen Gillan as Amy Pond as she and the Doctor attempt to help the artist understand his life and save him from those who are troubling him.
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4. The Day of the Doctor
The show pulled out all the stops for the 50th anniversary special written by Steven Moffat as former Doctors and companions returned for a spectacular episode. Matt Smith, David Tennant, John Hurt, Peter Capaldi and Tom Baker all feature in the episode alongside the return of Billie Piper as Rose. Described as a love letter to Doctor Who, the episode sees an ancient high stakes battle come to a head.
3. Forest of the Dead
We said this second part would be on the list, and with the events of Silence in the Library behind us, this second episode sees the relationship between the Doctor and River Song explored in more detail while Donna (played by Katherine Tate) is involved in the mystery of Doctor Moon, and the mysterious girl that perhaps knows some very important secrets that can help their plight. A 2008 episode, this is from the pen of Steven Moffat.
2. Heaven Sent
The only Peter Capaldi episode on the list, this is regarded as one of the most spectacular single performances by a Doctor Who lead ever to have been made. Imprisoned by his own Time-Lord people, the Doctor is being perused by a shadowy monster and must find a way to escape before it is too late. It shows the very best of Capaldi’s individual acting brilliance as well as having an incredibly compelling storyline.
The Weeping Angels are almost always voted the most scary monster ever to have been introduced to the Doctor Who world, and therefore it is no surprise that this episode that introduces them is always near or top of every list of the best ever episodes. Based on a short story written by Steven Moffat called “What I did on my holidays by Sally Sparrow” Blink sees the Doctor and Martha trapped in 1969, forced to communicate with a young woman, Sally (played by the brilliant Carey Mulligan) and her boyfriend, as they try to save everyone from the Weeping Angels. The most important thing to do when watching this exceptional 2007 episode is, don’t blink!