7 best historical Doctor Who episodes of the modern era

Since its revival in 2005, Doctor Who has continued to captivate audiences with its unique blend of science fiction, adventure, and history. The show’s modern era, helmed by a series of talented showrunners from Russel T Davies and Steven Moffat to Chris Chibnall and featuring a diverse array of Doctors (including the first female Doctor), has produced a wealth of memorable episodes that have not only entertained viewers but also provided them with an engaging window into the past.

Among these episodes are those that take the Doctor and their companions on a journey through time, immersing them in historical events and offering a glimpse into the lives of some of history’s most famous figures. These episodes often blend fact and fiction, using the show’s fantastical elements to explore themes and ideas that resonate with contemporary audiences while providing an intriguing perspective on the past.

In this list, we delve into the seven best historical Doctor Who episodes of the modern era, highlighting the creative storytelling, rich character development, and evocative settings that make these episodes stand out among the show’s extensive catalogue.

From the bustling streets of Elizabethan London to the tumultuous days of the civil rights movement, these episodes transport viewers to pivotal moments in history and showcase the Doctor’s ability to navigate the complexities of human experience across time and space. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the series or a newcomer looking to explore the Doctor’s many adventures, these historical episodes offer a thrilling and thought-provoking journey through time that you won’t soon forget.

“The Shakespeare Code” (Series 3, Episode 2)

In this episode, the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) travel back to Elizabethan England and meet the legendary playwright, William Shakespeare (Dean Lennox Kelly). They work together to unravel the mystery behind the lost play “Love’s Labour’s Won” and defeat the evil Carrionites.

“The Girl in the Fireplace” (Series 2, Episode 4)

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), and Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) find themselves aboard a spaceship in the 51st century with windows to 18th-century France. They meet Madame de Pompadour (Sophia Myles), the mistress of King Louis XV, and try to protect her from the clockwork androids who are after her.

“Rosa” (Series 11, Episode 3)

In this powerful episode, the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions travel to 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, and meet civil rights icon Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson). They work together to ensure Rosa’s actions on the bus that day are not disrupted, thus preserving the course of history.

“Vincent and the Doctor” (Series 5, Episode 10)

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) visit the troubled artist Vincent van Gogh (Tony Curran) in 19th-century France. Together, they investigate a mysterious creature that only Vincent can see, and the Doctor and Amy learn more about the complexities of Vincent’s life and art.

“The Unicorn and the Wasp” (Series 4, Episode 7)

In this Agatha Christie-inspired episode, the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) find themselves at a 1920s English country manor where they meet the famous mystery writer herself (Fenella Woolgar). They join forces to solve a murder mystery involving an extraterrestrial wasp.

“Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror” (Series 12, Episode 4)

The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions meet inventor Nikola Tesla (Goran Višnjić) and his rival, Thomas Edison (Robert Glenister), in early 20th-century New York City. They team up to stop a race of alien scavengers, the Skithra, from stealing Tesla’s work and changing the course of history.

“The Fires of Pompeii” (Series 4, Episode 2)

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) arrive in Pompeii just one day before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. They encounter a family, including a marble merchant played by Peter Capaldi (who would later become the Twelfth Doctor) and are faced with a moral dilemma as they grapple with the impending disaster and an alien threat.