Steven Moffat’s first full fledged Dalek story is a corker; an action packed epic from start to finish. The Daleks’ Asylum planet for insane Daleks threatens the stability of the Empire and so the devious pepperpotts kidnap the Doctor and his companions, who are in the middle of a messy divorce, to save them. Filled with thrills, chills, beautiful location filming, the surprise early arrival of the incoming companion Jenna-Louise Coleman, which sets up the “Run you clever boy” arc, and finally a tragic twist at the end, Asylum is the best Dalek story since Series 1!
Rory: “So just how much trouble are we in?”
The Doctor: “How much trouble, Mr. Pond? Out of ten? Eleven.”
The series 6 opener was incredibly ambitious. It opened on a two-parter, introduced the villains who had been lurking in the background the previous series, catapulted the show off to America and killed off its lead actor all in one go. Moffat adds another unforgettable creation to his roster with the terrifying Silence.
The Doctor: “I’m your new undercover agent on loan from Scotland Yard. Codename: The Doctor. These are my top operatives: The Legs, The Nose, and Mrs. Robinson.”
While it might not be the most immediately obvious pick, Toby Whithouse’s The God Complex is full to the brim with great ideas, incredible guest stars and good, solid, scares. The idea of an 80s hotel populated by people’s leftover worst fears is terrific and the final scenes wherein The Doctor is forced to break Amy’s faith in him is beautifully played, as is the scene where he decides to finally save Amy and Rory by trying to give them a normal life.
The Doctor: “I can’t save you from this. There’s nothing I can do to stop this. I stole your childhood and now I’ve lead you by the hand to your death. But the worst thing is, I knew. I knew this would happen. This is what always happens. Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored. Look at you. Glorious Pond. The girl who waited for me. I’m not a hero. I really am just a mad man in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are. Amy Williams, it’s time to stop waiting.”
Or on a lighter note:
The Doctor: “OK, this is bad. At the moment I don’t know how bad, but certainly we’re three buses, a long walk, and eight quid in a taxi from good.”
Comedy writer Simon Nye’s pedigree certainly shines through in an episode that’s full of laughs (the sight of Rory battering the possessed elderly never ceases to be funny) but it’s also a great concept. The Tardis crew is trapped by a sinister entity called the Dreamlord (played by the mercurial Toby Jones). Stuck continuously alternating between two lethal situations they must decide which reality is real and which is the dream before it’s too late.
Amy: “Put these on. Both of you.”
Rory: “Oh. A poncho. The biggest crime against fashion since lederhosen.”
Amy: “Ah. Here we go. Ah, my boys, my poncho boys. If we’re going to die, let’s die looking like a Peruvian folk band.”
Tom McCrae pens the ultimate “Amy & Rory” episode as Amy Pond is trapped in a different time-stream on the fun-to-pronounce planet, Apalapucia. Amy waits 36 years before the boys relocate her and is filled with anger and bitterness. A quiet three-hander of an episode builds to an action-packed heart-breaker of an ending. If you aren’t drowning in tears by the very end, you’re as emotionless as a Handbot.
Amy: You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful — and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later they’re as dull as a brick; but then there’s other people. And you meet them and you think, “Not bad, they’re okay,” and when you get to know them … their face just, sort of, becomes them, like their personality’s written all over it, and they just — they turn into something so beautiful. Rory’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever met.
Such is the deftness with which Richard Curtis explored mental illness through the lens of Vincent Van Gogh that the episode was followed by an announcement for a helpline for any viewers who had been affected by the issues raised. Not many popular sci-fi shows can say that. The Doctor and Amy help the famous painter to defeat a monster that only he can see and, in a truly tear-jerking scene, end up showing him that, in the future, his work will be adored.
The Doctor: “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.”
Steven Moffat’s Blink(2007), the first appearance of the Weeping Angels, is often considered the single best episode of Doctor Who so returning to the creatures was always going to be risky. Would he destroy the magic by bringing them back? People needn’t have doubted as he knocks it out of the park by giving us an Aliens to “Blink“‘s Alien. A group of militarized Clerics head to a star-liner which has crashed into a tomb to kill the last surviving Weeping Angel. On hand for the ride is Dr. River Song, the Doctor’s maybe-missus from the future and Iain Glenn’s stoic Father Octavian. You would never know this was Matt Smith’s first production block, so immediately at home he is in his version of the Timelord!
Octavian: “You trust this man?”
River Song: “I absolutely trust him.”
Octavian: “He’s not some kind of madman, then?”
River Song: “I absolutely trust him.”
The Christmas Specials until this point (and arguably after) were normally throwaway, over-the-top ratings grabbers. Not so for Matt Smith’s first festive outing which cleverly reworks the Dickens classic. Michael Gambon is electric as a futuristic miser Kazran Sardick, who refuses to aid the Doctor during a Christmas crisis. The Doctor’s tactic is to rewrite Sardick’s very life to try and make him a better person. Gambon’s reactions, as he literally watches his entire life be reworked, is truly moving and the show has rarely reached such heights of emotional subtlety. It’s not all heavy though! There’s flying sharks and operatic hijinks from Catherine Jenkins to keep things festive!
Sardick: All my life I’ve been called heartless. My other life—my real life. The one you rewrote. Now look at me.
The Doctor: Better a broken heart than no heart at all.
Sardick: Try it. You try it.
Steven Moffat had a huge task ahead of him when he took over Doctor Who. A new Doctor, a new companion, nearly an entirely new production crew and the gigantic shoes of David Tennant and Russell T. Davies to fill. What did he do? Kicked it as far out of the park as a ball could ever be kicked. The Eleventh Hour is simply the best series opener the revived series has ever managed and effortlessly brings us the Eleventh Doctor and his very different world, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, as well as the new ongoing mystery of the cracks in the universe, the still-ongoing arc of the Silence and a brand new sound from Murray Gold. Confident is the only way to describe this masterpiece of a début and cracks in the wall would never look the same again.
Young Amy: I’m not scared!
The Doctor: Course you’re not, you’re not scared of anything! Box falls out of the sky, man falls out of a box, man eats fish custard! And look at you… just sitting there. So you know what I think?
Young Amy: What?
The Doctor: Must be a hell of a scary crack in your wall.
World famous author Neil Gaiman pens this dream of an episode in which the Doctor comes literally face-to-face with his beloved Tardis in human form, beautifully played by Suranne Jones. The episode is a-brim with cracking dialogue, gorgeous Gaimanesque imagery and a heart-breakingly brief insight into the relationship between The Tardis, her Thief and the strays he brings home.
It also features an entirely anonymous Michael Sheen, a return for the Ood, the Eccleston/Tennant Console Room and, for the first time in decades, Tardis corridors!
Idris: Did you ever wonder why I chose you all those years ago?
The Doctor: I chose you. You were unlocked.
Idris: Of course I was. I wanted to see the universe, so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away. And you were the only one mad enough.
A message spreads across time bringing the Doctor to a tomb under Stonehenge where the Pandorica, a prison housing the most terrible being in existence, supposedly lies. But it’s a trap! The Daleks, the Cybermen, the Sontarans, the Autons and just about anyone who ever had a grudge against the Doctor have conspired to prevent the Doctor from destroying the universe; but by doing so, end up destroying the universe (for a bit).
Steven Moffat’s Series 5 finale is just about the best 90 minutes of television you will ever watch. It’s mind-bogglingly timey-wimey, vastly epic (the opening five minutes span Vincent Van Gogh to River Song’s 51st Century prison via Winston Churchill) and, at its core, a love that waits a thousand years. It’s got Romans, Daleks, wedding dancing and the first appearance of the Fez!
The Doctor: “When you wake up, you’ll have a mum and dad, and you won’t even remember me. Well, you’ll remember me a little… I’ll be a story in your head. But that’s OK. We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? Cause it was, you know. It was the best. A daft old man who stole a magic box and ran away. Did I ever tell you that I stole it? Well, I borrowed it. I was always going to take it back. Oh, that box… Amy, you’ll dream about that box. It’ll never leave you, big and little at the same time, brand new and ancient and the bluest blue ever. And the times we had, eh? Would’ve had… Never had. In your dreams, they’ll still be there. The Doctor and Amy Pond, and the days that never came…”