I find that quite often in reviewing stories for the blog there are truly blissful moments trapped in not-so-great episodes and it’s a shame that you can’t just rip them out and let them stand in isolation. Now my favourite moments from the New Series (so far) all come from pretty phenomenal episodes on the whole but it’s worth pointing out that there are countless over gems that exist in pretty much every single episode of the series. My choices probably wont match yours (for what is the point of being a fan of this show if you can’t debate somebody’s choices?) and they might not be the obvious ones (someone out there will probably shoot me for not including the first Bad Wolf Bay sequence which whilst gripping and beautifully acted strays a little too far into soap opera territory for me). Anyway, sit back and let’s take a stroll through my personal highlights of the past 8 years worth of Doctor Who… (Where possible I have tried to find the actual clip, if not I have had to find something else that sums up the moment/character)
‘Just this once- everybody lives!' The Doctor Dances (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53CPuFgBK7E) It was this moment when I knew that Steven Moffatt was onto something special with Doctor Who (at least when he is tethered to Russell T Davies). The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances bridges the gap beautifully between the old series and new with so many familiar elements (historical accuracy, a rock solid plot that sees technology from the future affecting the past, cleverly staged monsters that take a recognisable element – gas masks) but with a greater sense of sexuality and domestic drama that is built in to the New Series. The ending convinced me that the latter approach definitely had some real merit as there is a beautiful, tear jerking and distressingly simple revelation that has been spelt out to us throughout the story and yet still comes as a total surprise – that Nancy is the childs mother. Then for the Doctor to use all the elements of the plot so expertly (the nano genes, the zombie horde, the child) to clean up the infection and win the day through a sons love for his mother is just delightful. It should be twee but after everything we have seen the ninth Doctor suffer it is truly uplifting that he should finally get a break on this scale. Eccleston’s performance as he sets the nanogenes off to do their work is mesmerising and for the first time since the series has returned everything comes together to create a moment of pure magic.
‘Take me back!’ The Parting of the Ways (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYy5a7lzFjY) Oh Rose. You were so good in your first season. Why did you have to go and spoil it by sticking around too long. This was easily the pinnacle of her time on the show at the end of her first series where Piper and Eccleston had built up some incredible chemistry and backstory and it felt as if there was no territory that they couldn’t take their characters in. It’s the simplest of gestures – the Doctor sends Rose home rather than forcing to face a Dalek army and potentially losing her. But its how its structured and performed that really strikes home with the Doctor tricking Rose into the TARDIS and not even giving her the choice to lay down her life for him. Piper’s tears as she wrenches at the TARDIS console trying to stop him is the final proof to her critics that she could handle a dramatic part and the sheer mundanity of the council flats that she is confronted with when she flings open the door shows precisely where she has come from and what she doesn’t want to go back to. The message that the Doctor has left for not only feels very right in its sentiment (‘have a fantastic life’) but is peppered with humour that again shows how perfect they were for each other. Its gorgeous.
‘He replaced you with a brand new model…’ School Reunion (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNrF9Lae2RY) Sarah Jane will always be my favourite companion. She was my favourite companion before she returned to the show and made me fall in love with her all over again (and become addicted to her own show). There’s a million reasons why; Elisabeth Sladen’s warm, witty and convincing performances, the sheer spunk of the character, how she drifted from professional journalist to seasoned time traveller, her chemistry with Pertwee, Baker, Tennant and Smith, how she wasn’t above screaming when the need arose, her bravery despite herself…I could go on all day. School Reunion was like a little gift for me (as I’m sure it was for many other fans) and even though it was never going to be a final farewell after such a winning return it was very touching to finally experience a proper goodbye between the Doctor and Sarah after all these years. It might approach Glee territory but when the Doctor hugs her and calls her ‘my Sarah Jane’ he’s basically half the audience that have grown up with the character. The gamut of emotion that that scene puts me through is incredible…the sadness that this might be the final meeting between these two characters, the satisfaction that all those lingering feelings are put to rest as they hold each other, the aching loneliness as the TARDIS vanishes from Sarah’s life and the sheer triumphant punch we she discovers a brand new K.9 waiting for her. That image of the two of them walking through a park towards adventures new would have been the perfect exit for both characters. I’m pleased that it wasn’t the case but it still provides a lovely exit from Doctor Who for Sarah and a springboard for her to begin her life anew in her own series. It leaves me drained, that scene, but in a way that makes my heart sing.
‘Open door fifty!’ The Impossible Planet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEszX2lJV1k) One of several moments on this list that don’t concern the Doctor or his companion at all but demonstrate how the series hasn’t lost its ability to thrill and scare. I remember watching the death of Scooti whilst clutching a pillow so tight in my hands I could been strangling the life out of it. I have always been frightened of permanently grinning faces (its why Robots of Death and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy always make me shiver) and the image of Toby standing in the solar winds with a horrible rictus grin stuck on his face whilst he drags Scooti to her death stayed with me for quite a few sleepless nights. If the Doctor Who production team weren’t sure if they could display the real fear of somebody about to die they had certainly made up their minds by this point because her hysteria as she tries to open the airlock and escape her asphyxiating death is all too realistic. To top it off there is a certain grace and beauty to the image of Scooti flying through the atmosphere and being drawn towards the black hole. Its Doctor Who horror at its finest a scene that really disturbed me.
‘You’re not looking at it…’ Blink (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFKa9tQqzrs). I would like to point out the intricacy of the script, the strength of the direction, how fabulous Sally Sparrow and her companion are…but this all boils down to the fact that it is the scariest set piece that Doctor Who has ever produced. And that is facing some competition! Simon was reduced to a dribbling wreck hiding behind a cushion and I was laughing all the way, the way I do whenever he is terrified over something that cannot hurt him. I can’t think of a time when we have both enjoyed Doctor Who so much together (perhaps the time we watched The Two Doctors…) and I got loads of hugs that night. Pure win.
‘Here…Come…The…Drums!’ The Sound of Drums (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG2w1k1_BZ4) Doctor Who fans are a funny old lot. We like what we like and hate what we hate and no two fans will ever agree 100% on anything (I know, I’ve fallen out with most of them). I’ve heard some fans cry that The Sound of Drums is an affront to Doctor Who, the Master and television in general. Others declare it best thing ever; a bold, dizzying, insane cornucopia of mad ideas, comedy and drama (taking in everything from Little Britain to Spooks). I want to draw your attention to the conclusion of the episode which had me so excited upon its first broadcast I think I watched the episode an average of three times a day for the next seven days! The final set piece has to be seen to be believed with the Master creating a hellish rip in the sky to allow the Toclafane to come pouring through and rain down on the Earth. Voodoo Child rocks on and even the TARDIS starts dancing as paradox machine kicks in and suddenly hell descends upon the Earth. Its utterly, utterly brilliant lunacy and the furthest Davies could take an alien invasion without destroying the show itself (indeed he has to rewind it all later but lets not worry about that now). To cap it off you have the Master laughing his head off as he sends his maltesers of death down to the Earth to murder 10% of the Earth’s population, his disturbed wife hanging on his arm and he’s even misquoting the bible to drive the point home that he is now lording it over the Doctor’s planet. Its insanity but dizzyingly filmed and acted it is also the most climactic moment in the New Series to date and the finest attempt to make the Master a truly cool psychotic. I love it.
‘That’s my Donna!’ Partners in Crime (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_f2o-i_uPs) From the psychotic to the uplifting, this is another sunny delight courtesy of Russell T Davies. How can anybody not love Wilf? Played by an actor who can turn any material into gold but characterised so beautifully as well, he is the final part of the Noble family that made them the perfect NuWho family. The thought of this cheerful old codger trudging up a hill to his allotment to look up at the stars every night and be rewarded with little evidence of the alien activity he seeks is rather lovely. He never gives up hope, little knowing that his granddaughter is living life on the edge and up close to all the things he would love to be able to experience. As a gift to him for his endless patience and kindness to her Donna asks the Doctor to fly the TARDIS above the allotment so he can see that his fantasies are a reality and she is living it for him. And how does he react? In jealousy? In fear for his granddaughter? Oh no. Wilf starts dancing around in his wellies waving up at her and telling her to go out there and have a great time. It’s a gloriously stirring moment, and one that the series recently tried to capture again with Brian (Rory’s dad) eating his sandwiches on the step of the TARDIS but it was nowhere near as effective (whilst being perfectly pleasant in its own right). The difference is what came before, Wilf has been built up so well that the pay off in this final scene just fills you with hope.
‘Just save someone, please…’ The Fires of Pompeii (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbYFIRcycLQ). Coming hot on the heels of the last pick, I knew this series was going to be something very special after two very different but equally magical episodes back to back. Before the climax to The Fires of Pompeii we’ve already experienced the extraordinary moment where Donna refuses to let the Doctor take the burden of killing the people in the City and takes his hands to share the responsibility. And her hysteria on the streets as she tries to warn people to head away from the town. You really feel for her as she learns the hard way at how cruel history can be as she tries to save lives in the ash filled streets and stands there in tears as the world goes to hell. Donna screaming after the Doctor as he leaves, walking past the family they have gotten to know and willing to let them die gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. Its that shocking reminder that history is cruel and the Doctor has obey the rules that was so effective in The Massacre brought up again. But Donna is willing to give fate a good kick in the teeth and she begs for the Doctor to go back and save somebody, reminding him that this is the same fate that befell his people. So much is going on here; justification of the destruction of Gallifrey through its continued rewards, a poke in the eye to all of her critics that said Catherine Tate wasn’t up to the job and Donna making a real impact on the Doctor and beginning of their travels as equals. One of the most devastating climaxes of any Doctor Who story.
‘Not those times don’t you dare…’ Forest of the Dead (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Yssg1FBYg) Two standout moments in the same story and the first belongs to the Doctor and River and the termination of their incredible relationship. The tenth Doctor is so of the ‘I can do anything!’ mould so to see him look so pained and defeated when River takes her life is devastating. We don’t need to see River’s charred corpse because Tennant sells the scene in excruciating silence. Although I didn’t know it at the time, River punching the Doctor’s lights out and sacrificing her life for him proves to be her finest moment in the series. All the time the Doctor has known River he knew that she was going to end up dying in library and yet she only learns that upon her death. The catch with his first meeting with her being her last meeting with him is that he has to live with that knowledge with every subsequent meeting. Its Steven Moffatt’s timey wimey bollocks at its finest, built around the characters so it really makes an impact. Oh and despite the fact that they both have much work left to do on the show neither work quite a well as they do here again. It feels like something really important is happening and the series than goes on to point out that it was.
‘Spoilers…’ Forest of the Dead (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTR40szVsv0) Whilst Turn Left is my favourite Catherine Tate performance, Forest of the Dead is probably her greatest challenge as an actress and she rises to the occasion magnificently. She has to convince in a very short space of time that Donna’s life with Lee and her kids is something that she is willing to cling on to for real life in order for the climax to impact when it is all wrenched away from her. Tate enjoys terrific chemistry with Jason Pitt and amongst all the chilling imagery and freaky edits there is a real warmth shared between them. Few scenes in Doctor Who have disturbed me as much as when Donna’s children are snatched away from her…and that is all down to Tate’s shocked performance. Despite the fact that they are separated throughout the second episode, the few scenes between Tennant and Tate during the climax reveal a chemistry between a Doctor and a companion the likes of which I haven’t seen since Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen. Their interaction is amazing in their final scenes together in this episode, the wild look on the Doctor’s face as he taps his fingers on River’s book is magical, his hand resting on knowledge of the future that would dangerous to read. Donna mutters River’s immortal lines and makes more of a moment out of it than Amy’s daughter ever has.
‘But you told me!’ Turn Left (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cr-eFo88II) Bravely Donna agrees to see the creature that has been hiding on her back and Tate aces the fear and anger, giving a performance of intensity that we aren’t used to on Doctor Who. Its not nail biting because the effect of the creature is terrifying (terrifyingly awful perhaps?) but because Tate sells it so passionately. This is the episode where Donna proves she doesn’t need the Doctor to be exceptional, she can do it all on her own. A companion has never been treated to a vehicle of this kind to prove their mettle before and I am so happy it was Donna (and Tate) that got the chance. Donna’s optimistic speech twists into pure terror, a transition that Tate makes effortlessly. To know that you are going to die is frightening but do go ahead and do what you have to do regards…that takes guts. Proving that she understands how important the Doctor is, Donna commits suicide to make the world a better place. The fortune teller backs away from her, telling her she is so strong and asking what will she be? This is powerful stuff.
‘I don’t want to go back!’ Journey’s End (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E83ZLtYar7s - skip to 7.10 although watch the lot for some quality Donna moments) A terrific moment in a mixed bag episode that sees an incredible companion depart in unforgettable style, just as she deserved to. The thought of Donna losing all of those wonderful adventures and every she has learnt during her time with the Doctor breaks my heart and its as effective here as it was with Jamie and Zoe in The War Games. It’s the only time where the Doctor effectively murders his companion (for the best possible reasons) and the way that Donna begs him not to makes this as uncomfortable as it shattering. She’s come so far and us with her so the audience feels the loss as much as Donna does and the tears shed by Wilf when we realises the situation set me off all over again. When did Doctor Who become a show that could make me cry so often? Journey’s End needs a lot of work to bend it into shape but the last five minutes are about as good as television comes these days.
'Hello Mommy!' The Waters of Mars (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=If960-Qgc_o - this isn’t the scene but its still fantastic) Its not the drama surrounding the Doctor Victorious or the unforgettable suicide of Adelaide Brooke that gets me when watching this incredible story. Its not even the terrifying fatalism that creeps in and excellently realised destruction of the Bowie Base. Although they are all brilliant moments too. No, the scene that really gets under my skin in this story and proves to me that character-wise Russell T Davies is in a different league to Steven Moffatt is the death of Stephi as the water entity starts to make its move. Stephi isn’t even one of the main characters, she doesn’t even have more than a handful of lines but her death scene always gives me goosebumps in a way that few moments in Doctor Who do. It’s the way she calmly accepts her fate, backed into a room away from the others by the water and plays a video message of her children sent to her from Earth. As the water pours down on her she knows she will never get to see them again and she breaks down into near hysteria. Its destabilising to watch, a mother being torn from her children and its an abject lesson in paying attention to the guest characters because the Doctor has barely taken the chance to get to know her. As the water sprays down her face its like a metaphor for her grief. A forgotten character, one victim among many and a death scene that is terrifying in its understatement. A truly adult moment.
‘Mum! Mum!’ The End of Time Part Two I love the curtain call montage of clips for Russell T Davies’ characters at the end of The End of Time Part Two. They wormed their way into my heart and I felt that they deserved a last airing and celebratory farewell. I get if others don’t because it isn’t really what Doctor Who is all about (although it is no more indulgent than the five minute climax to The Green Death) but at the end of era with all the pieces in place it worked for me. However there was one small moment that really, really worked amongst all the gay dating, book signing and Sontaran bashing and that was the silent look between the Doctor and Sarah on Bannerman Road. The work that Tennant and Sladen do here is extraordinary considering they have no dialogue. He is telling her that he is going to die and the next time he sees her he will be changed and she smiles, accepting the situation and giving him a little of her bravery to face what he must. In that moment of quiet acceptance you can feel the weight of history between the Doctor and Sarah and I can’t think of a better tribute or send of to her character in the show. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q-TbzP7Wko&playnext=1&list=PL0D0570BC422F1612&feature=results_video)
‘Hold my hand Doctor’ Vincent and the Doctor (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk2puMYXdEM) Its rare that the post-Davies era manages to get me emotionally like the first four and half series could but I find that when it does it makes even more contact because I’m not expecting it. There are plenty of moments of beauty in Vincent and the Doctor (as you would expect from a script written by Richard Curtis) but being able to see the world through Vincent’s eyes is sheer visual poetry and it will be a long time before the series offers anything that potent again. Even Amy shuts up long enough to enjoy the splendour of the moment and drink in the incredible sight of the stars turning deliriously into paint. A standout episode in series five and a standout moment.
‘Hello. Hello, Doctor…’ The Doctor’s Wife (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CweNdNJIMl8) Still my favourite Moffatt era episode for countless reasons (its dark, twisted, imaginative, funny, clever, emotional and satisfying and a lot of the things the show isn’t on a regular basis anymore) but most importantly for allowing the Doctor and TARDIS to communicate in a way that they haven’t been able to before. There are so many gems of moments it was hard to choose just one (I had to let slide the glorious scene where the Doctor tells the Ship she never took him where he wanted to go and she replied that she always took him where he needed to go) and just for the knowledge that the TARDIS wanted to see the universe so she stole a Time Lord and ran away and the Doctor was the only one mad enough to give it a go this stands out as better than anything else produced under the current production team. The Doctor goes from being devastatingly aggressive in the climax when he orders the Ship to kill the entity that has taken up residence in her body (‘Finish him off girl!’) to the weakest we have ever seen him, tears crawling down his face because he cannot bear to say goodbye to his old Ship. For an old fanboy like me its too much to take and I fall to pieces every time I watch it. Has the word hello ever been so devastating? Suranne Jones was a perfect fit for this part but its Matt Smith that really sparkles here, looking so utterly broken that you have to wonder if he will ever be able to get up again.
‘Don’t let me in…’ The Girl Who Waited (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnZvyuR-X_g) This episode is all about those last few shattering minutes when older Amy watches Rory carrying her younger self into the safety of the TARDIS and wonders if she should follow before the overwhelming urge to escape takes over and she rushes for the shelter of the ship. There could be no better visualisation of the Doctor’s deception than him literally slamming the door in her face. Amy and Rory are on either side of the TARDIS doors railing at the Doctor and almost cruelly he steps aside and makes the choice there’s. The hand at the window is a tear jerking image. Arthur Darvill will absolutely break your heart during this scene – Simon and I were in tears, so was my mum and my mate Emma. I always associate moments of overwhelming emotion with the Davies era but this is one of best examples of the emotive approach to Doctor Who seen in six years. We haven’t heard a male companion rail at the Doctor this powerfully since Steven’s dramatic walk out at the end of The Massacre and Rory’s ‘I do not want to travel with you!’ really strikes a chord because he is usually the quiet one. His allegation that the Doctor is trying to turn him into a version of himself has never carried more weight than at the moment he has to choose which of his Amy’s to save. I love the older Amy’s honesty that she desperately wants to join them in the TARDIS and if Rory opens the door she will step inside without compunction and her brave decision to tell him not to her in for that very reason. That shows some strength of character.
‘Its called marriage…’ The Angels Take Manhattan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmNCgCxLQog) For anybody who has read my reviews they will know that the Amy/Rory relationship really bugs me (mostly the Amy side of it but I think it has been riddled with bad decisions since day one) and so it surprises me to find that one of my favourite moments in the new series comes with an affirmation of their love for each other. I found Amy typically disinterested throughout much of The Angels Take Manhattan and it wasn’t until Amy takes hold of her husbands hand and defiantly states that she wont let the Angels take him that I felt anything for her, for good or for ill. It capitalises on the strongest aspect of her character – her marriage to Rory. To take advantage of the incredible bond that has built between the two characters (by this point most of my complaints have been ironed out…check out my season reviews for series five, six and seven) Steven Moffat has Amy choose to (potentially) sacrifice her life twice over for her husband. Both scenes are unforgettable, exactly the sort of emotional high you would expect from the departure of a long running character but all the more effective because it sees Amy leave the series making an entirely selfless choice and affirming her love for her husband. Frankly I cannot think of a better place to leave her.
So that’s my favourite moments from the New Series…what are yours?