Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Top 50 Doctor Who Adventures

Because I have been accused of late of being a right old curmudgeon and hating everything I listen to/watch/read I thought I would take a departure from the usual reviewing duties and have stab at something I know a lot of people of a geekish persuasion enjoy...lists! This is going to be comprehensive list of my top 50 Doctor Who adventures taking in the classic series, the new series, the audios, the books and the comics. It's time to spread a little love...

The TV Series (Classic)

The Daleks' Masterplan - An epic adventure that plays out with drama, comedy, incredible risk taking, great acting and one of the best ever uses of the Daleks. The final episode is absolutely terrifying.
The Power of the Daleks - Six episodes of pure bliss, showing off the Daleks at their scheming best and playing a fascinating game with the audience over the new Doctor. The tension escalates masterfully.
The War Games - Changing Doctor Who for ever and doing it with absolute class, this whopping ten part adventure fees shorter than some four part stories such is the pace and the enjoyment I get from it. Troughton delivers probably the best ever portrayal of the Doctor and the whole production is given a huge lift by David Maloney's incredible direction. As fresh today as it ever was, especially the revelations.
Inferno - Few Doctor Who stories have scared me as much as this one. Not the Primords, they are a stock Doctor Who monster. No it is the terror of the alternative universe scenes as the regulars realise the futility of their situation and yet strive to escape any way. Episode six might be the most perfect Doctor Who episode to date, skin crawling and unrelenting.
Genesis of the Daleks - Justly praised, we might know the dialogue back to front and inside out but this is still an exquisite script, masterfully delivered by one of the best ensemble casts and delivered with an unusual violent touch by David Maloney. I can't watch this one too often but whenever I do I am blown away. Davros' introduction is unforgettable.
The Seeds of Doom - It's all about how this one is directed. Douglas Camfield is my favourite director to have worked on the show and his swansong is his best work; an atmospheric, pacy, gripping and shocking horror tale that features men being turned into plants and makes it the most terrifying thing ever. Also featuring Tom Baker and Lis Sladen at their most sublime.
Talons of Weng-Chiang - Witty, frightening, atmospheric and packed full of great characters, this is the story to show to a non-fan to prove how good classic Who can be. Robert Holmes' dialogue was never better and you'll be hard pushed to find a better guest cast.
City of Death - Like Talons, a funny story that reaches classic status. Douglas Adams and Graeme Williams produce one of the series' most imaginative scripts and the gorgeous acting and scenery is just a bonus. This one constantly surprises in a way that few Doctor Who stories do.
Enlightenment - I'm surprised I included this and it was a close call between this and Androzani. However this is far more imaginative and reflective, which is far more to my tastes than the guns and bombs of Davison's swansong. Everything I look for in a classic Doctor Who story is here and it looks beautiful too.
Revelation of the Daleks - An atypical story that stands out because of it, Revelation never ceases to amaze me with how far it pushes adult content and humour in a teatime slot. Eric Saward is Holmes' protégé and finally he delivers something that rivals his mentors work. Too many blackly funny and memorable sequences to mention. Astonishing characters.
Ghost Light - The last classic Doctor Who story made, Ghost Light saw them out in style. I wish the McCoy era had been more like this because it seems to be all the things that Cartmel was striving for; a gripping Doctor and fascinating companion, complex storytelling, top notch dialogue and characters and everything stylishly brought to the screen. Hard to fault.

The TV Series (New)

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances - This blew me away on first transmission and it has rarely been bettered since. The period is classily realised, the story manages to genuinely haunt me and the relationship between Eccleston's Doctor, Rose and Jack simply flies off the screen. One of the most satisfying Doctor Who adventures with a climax that always brings me to tears.
Human Nature/The Family of Blood - As complex as characterisation gets in Doctor Who, this is the sort of story the series hasn't dared to tell since. War is examined psychologically and the resulting drama is extremely powerful. David Tennant was never better...and considering how good he is usually that is quite a statement.
The Sound of Drums - I make no apology for this. One of the most perfect 45 minutes of Doctor Who with one glorious scene after another. The final ten minutes are dazzling, climaxing on the massacre of 10% of the Earth's population.
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead - Steven Moffat's masterpiece as far as I'm concerned. He has never bettered this story. I was staring at the screen after Forest of the Dead finished for an age, literally astonished at the intelligent, probing and emotional drama that had just unfolded. Tennant and Tate are simply extraordinary.
Midnight - The scariest Doctor Who story ever in my book. Read my review for why I think so. My buttocks were clenched for a good 30 minutes and I was probably sweating at the end.
Turn Left - For Catherine Tate's standout performance (the best companion performance ever in my book), the perversion of continuity, the jet black tone, the astonishing characterisation, the efforts of Cribbins and King, the shocking ending...the best Doctor Who story to barely feature the Doctor.
The Waters of Mars - Graeme Harper's masterpiece. Gripping throughout climaxing on a shock suicide, it doesn't get any better than this.
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone - Moffat is still on fire here, fresh faced and delivering all the elements that have made his standalone efforts in series 1-4 such a delight. The Angels are treated differently but the imagery surrounding them blew me away.
Vincent & the Doctor - Any story that reduces me to a blubbering wreck like this has got to be doing something right. Simply the finest character drama in Doctor Who ever.
The Doctor's Wife - Gaiman's debut script knocked me over. It's quirky, funny, imaginative and heartbreaking.

Audios (Main Range)

Dr Who & the Pirates - A Doctor Who musical? Surely not? Works on so many levels but primarily because it is the audio that made me laugh the most...and the one which shocked me the most too. An unbelievable turn by Colin Baker, finally being able to bring everything he has to the role.
Jubilee - One of the most substantial audios, a cutting satire on commercialism delivered with razor sharp wit and psychological scares. So good it inspired the return of the Daleks in the new series.
The Wormery - This has a unique atmosphere all of its own, somehow melancholic and hilarious. I never get tired of listening to The Wormery and the dazzling Colin Baker/Katy Manning double act.
LIVE 34 - Using the audio format to its fullest, I was shocked at how good this was on my last listen.
Son of the Dragon - The Dracula myth is brought to audio with a superlative central performance by James Purefoy. History at its most gripping and the best example of the surprisingly thoughtful trio of the fifth Doctor, Peri and Erimem. The passion in the performances really sells this one as a classic.
A Thousand Tiny Wings - Still one of the most haunting, disquieting audios with Sylvester McCoy's best ever performance in the role. A fascinating slice of history, beautifully dramatised and re-introducing one of Doctor Who's most interest guest characters.
A Death in the Family - Everything you have hear about this one is true. Check it out.
The Forth Wall - Some might be surprised to see this one on my list but the more I listen to it the more it, the more I am taken aback by the deeply intelligent things it has to say about writing fictional characters. It's also startlingly creative, boldly characterised and features the shock death of a companion. I adore it.
The Silver Turk - Traditional Doctor Who delivered about as stylishly as it can be.
The Curious Incident of the Doctor in Night-Time - From this years output, Nev Fountain stretches the format of Doctor Who about as far as it can go and says something very profound and touching about autism in the process.


Nightshade - Mark Gatiss' masterpiece. I wish this could make it to the screen, grisly deaths and all.
Just War - For what it puts Bernice through, I will never forget the content of this novel. Trapped within its pages, it is startlingly oppressive.
Eye of Heaven - The scenes written from Leela's point of view are done with such style I could have had the whole book told in that style. A non-linear narrative that satisfies, gorgeous prose, shocking content...Jim Mortimore didn't always get it right but when he did he was rarely bettered.
Festival of Death - A Doctor Who story told backwards with a wealth of great jokes, mood, insane twists and some very poignant moments. The climax is most satisfying.
The Infinity Doctors - Lance Parkin's greatest opus, using a wealth of continuity and expanding upon it with reckless abandon. Some of the best imagery and individual scenes in any of the books and the ultimate expression of the Doctor.
Alien Bodies - It's just glorious, isn't it? Lawrence Miles might be nuttier than squirrel shit but he is still a genius.
Father Time - The most beautifully written Doctor Who book of all, one which puts him in the position of being a father for the first time and makes it a stunning prospect. I've read this more times than I care to remember. The writing is so good in spots it gives me shivers.
The Adventuress of Henrietta Street - Terrifying in content, this is the boldest Doctor Who book and one that may have over stepped the mark for some. I loved it, especially the strength of characterisation and the brutal imagery. Shocking twists that have a profound effect on the Doctor.
The Tomorrow Windows - Ridiculously funny and imaginative, there are more ideas in this book than in any other Doctor Who story. It never stops giving, right up until the last page. Just magnificent.
Prisoner of the Daleks - An NSA in the top ten? Go and read this and tell me different.


The Star Beast - Beep the Meep remains my favourite Doctor Who villain of all time. And Sharon kicks ass too, a black companion years before Martha Jones.
Voyager - Some pages of this comic are pieces of art, not just panels in a comic. I can sit and stare at them for ages. For innovation, this cannot be bettered.
Ground Zero - They wanted the seventh Doctor to depart the comic strip in style. They succeeded. What an ending.
The Glorious Dead - Epic in scope with some insane twists and turns and mind expanding artwork, for me this is the ultimate Master story.
Beautiful Freak - A one issue wonder that shows how devoted the creators of the strip were to the characters of the eighth Doctor and Izzy. God I love that TARDIS in the strip.
The Flood - I first read this in graphic novel form and couldn't believe the scale and striking nature of the storytelling and artwork. Two for two, the strip provided me with my favourite Master story and my favourite Cyberman story.
Time of My Life - Jonny Morris is something of a genius and it is not co-incidence that he has turned up several times on this top 50. Stunning vignettes showing unseen Doctor/Donna adventures, beautifully captured on a page each (check out the bordering) and with a gut wrenching climax.
The Crimson Hand - I adored Majenta and her caustic relationship with the Doctor so I was intrigued enough already when her past finally caught up with her. Dan McDaid saw his companion out in real style, providing a dramatic backdrop to force her to choose where her allegiances finally lie. It says something about the quality of the characterisation of this companion that I wasn't at all sure which way she would jump.
The Professor, the Queen & the Bookshop - A beautiful Christmas tale that left me cooing like a baby.
Planet Bollywood! - I love Bollywood! This quirky, madcap adventure is my personal favourite of the Eleventh Doctor's run because it jettisons the need to be timey wimey and just has a great deal of fun. Colourful, pioneering and very funny.


Michael said...

Awesome, awesome list!! And isn't it fantastic that there are still so many amazing stories to choose from beyond a top 50 :-)

Literate Dead said...

Hey, Enlightenment! Nice to see someone else has that on their favorites list... It may be my personal favorite of the classic era (well, alongside 'Ghost Light' and 'The War Games'). Seriously, seriously underrated; I get so annoyed when I consider that it's the only story Barbara Clegg wrote for the series (though I adored both 'Point of Entry' and 'The Elite' in the Lost Stories, so there was some justice later on!).

Great list! I wouldn't agree with all of them, of course (I'm not a fan of 'The Fourth Wall' or 'The Waters of Mars'), but it's a nice set of unusual choices. And I am always a sucker for a good list!

Anonymous said...

Kinda surprised not to see Spare Parts and Androzani, although these are choices of heart, so I can't fault that.

That said, I am still kind of struck at how much you praise Revelation of the Daleks. I can't stand it, personally - just for that DJ character alone.

Anonymous said...

Surprised not to see Chimes of Midnight, Blink, Spare Parts.
I would have chosen Vegeance on Varos(my fav Colin's TV story) and Two Doctors before Revelation

On the books I only agree with Festival and Windows. I find Henrietta rather dull and dry in the style it's written

Wholehearthly agree with the comics Beautiful freak and Time of my life

That's the beauty of Doctor Who, every fan has his/her own choices and there's plenty to choose from :)

Anonymous said...

and surprised to see any story with the great Lucie Miller in it! tch tch ;) :)

Peakius Baragonius said...

Shocked that you left "The Rapture" out of the audios section... (*sarcasm*)

This is a fantastic list - and I really liked that you chose Enlightenment. While I would say that The Caves of Androzani is still superior in its craft and as a unified work of art, the too-often-overlooked Enlightenment really is just about as good, and far more to my taste as well. Speaking of taste, you perfectly summed up what I love about the Cartmel era in Ghost Light - the difference being that I actually think they *did* achieve all of that in the last two seasons. Nonetheless, you are the only critic who has presented a critique of the McCoy era that I can actually understand and appreciate - so kudos for helping me open my mind a bit :)

I've really gotta get reading some of those later Morris comic strips, especially the Bollywood one!

I'll follow with my own Top 40 list soon.