Well, tomorrow it happens. Amidst the Christmas celebrations, presents opening, and food gorging, fans of Doctor Who will get to enjoy the annual Christmas special. And while we Whovians await the special with great anticipation, deep down in the pit of our stomachs, we know the episode will be bittersweet.
Being highly publicised for months now, the Christmas special will see Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor regenerate into Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth. After tomorrow, an era of Doctor Who ends and a new one begins. To mark the occassion, I have listed my ten favorite Matt-era episodes, in no particular order:
1. Closing Time – Series 6, Ep. 12
I know “The Lodger” is the more popular of the two James Corden episodes, but I have a real soft spot for “Closing Time.” Having Craig and The Doctor work together to figure out a Cyberman threat in a department store was comedy gold, and of course, Stormageddon. Being a dad probably has something to do with my liking of this episode, as we are shown the power of a father’s love for his child.
2. Victory of the Daleks – Series 5, Ep. 3
Anyone who knows me personally knows about my love for World War II history, so naturally an episode set in the middle of the London Blitz, complete with a new race of Daleks was awesome to watch. It was unnerving to see the British use Daleks as part of their war effort, and even more unnerving to see the Daleks obey without question. You just KNEW they were faking it…but why? A climactic space dogfight that was just a bit reminiscent of the Star Wars Death Star battle capped off a great episode.
3. The Impossible Astronaut – Series 6, Ep. 1
What? WHAT?? What just happened? Obviously with regenerations being such a media event these days, it was pretty clear that The Doctor wasn’t REALLY murdered on the shores of Lake Silencio…but seriously; what just happened? This was a great episode that gave us more insight into River Song and gave us our first truly meaty look at The Silence.
4. Vincent and the Doctor – Series 5, Ep. 10
One of the few episodes (non-regeneration related) to being a tear to my eye, “Vincent and the Doctor” was an emotional look at the great Vincent Van Gogh and his struggles with his inner demons. While the subplot with the Krafayis was mostly a throw-away, the “enemy” did give Vincent the chance to play action hero as he fended off the creature with an easel. The emotional end of the episode sees The Doctor and Amy bringing Vincent to the present where he gets to see the impact his art had on all future generations to come.
5. The Angels Take Manhattan – Series 7, Ep. 5
The Weeping Angels ended up being one of my favorite new villains in Nu-Who, so the combination of them, 1930s New York, the reappearance of River Song, and a giant Statue of Liberty Angel made for an entertaining viewing. Until the end. I’ll miss Amy and Rory.
6. The Name of the Doctor – Series 7, Ep. 13
Yup. I definitely was NOT expecting that. “The Name of the Doctor” had one of my favorite cliffhanger endings in the show, introducing John Hurt as an unknown previous incarnation of The Doctor. Or was it a future incarnation? Part of the fun of this episode came from the explosion of internet theories for the next few months leading up to the 50th anniversary special. We also get an answer to why Clara Oswald keeps popping up in The Doctor’s timeline, and of course…Strax, Vastra, and Jenny. This beginning of the Trenzalore plotline was a brilliant way to end Series 7 and get us ready for the 50th.
7. Asylum of the Daleks – Series 7, Ep. 1
Oh, Souffle Girl, I would leave my wife for you (not really). This episode features the surprise introduction of the previously announced new companion, played by Jenna Coleman. But wait…was that really who this character was? And of course, any time the Daleks make an appearance, I get giddy.
8. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe – 2011 Christmas Special
I’m not sure where this episode ranks in overall popularity, but it’s one of the few episodes of both classic and new Doctor Who that legitimately make me feel like a kid again. Perhaps it’s the Narnia/Peter Pan feel to the whole episode, with The Doctor playing off the children so wonderfully, or maybe it’s the wonderful performance by Claire Skinner as the children’s recently widowed mother, but there’s just something more “magical” about this episode. Man, becoming a parent really turned me into a big softy…
9. The Day of the Doctor – 50th Anniversary Special
Fifty years of Doctor Who have led up to this episode, which features quite possibly the most epic retcon ever. The Doctor’s actions in the Time War defined his character since the first episode of Nu-Who, and “DOTD” completely changed that, giving the show a possible story arc for the next fifty years (here’s hoping!). We get the wonderful banter between Ten and Eleven, an answer to who John Hurt’s Doctor really was, the return of Billie Piper, a glimpse into the final days of the Time War, ALL…THE…DOCTORS, and a surprise appearance by Peter Capaldi as the next Doctor (well, his eyes, anyway). And of course, a wonderful poignant cameo by Tom Baker. Now, if only they could have CG’d Hurt’s regneration into Eccelston completely…
10. The Eleventh Hour – Series 5, Ep. 1
This is it. This is the episode I tell people to start with if they come up to me asking “I want to start watching Doctor Who…where do I begin?” I say “Start with ‘The Eleventh Hour,’ let that Series 5 montage at the end suck you in, then start with Eccelston’s debut in ‘Rose’ and don’t stop until you’re done.” A newly regenrated Doctor gives us our first taste of Matt Smith, and an epic adventure follows as viewers are introduced to a new era for the show. The crack in the wall, Amelia Pond, and the bow tie…the Matt-era begins right here.
Thanks for a great three seasons, Matt Smith! Now…bring on Capaldi!