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The Definitive Ranking Of Every Episode On "Doctor Who" Series 9

What a season.

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Now that the Doctor Who Christmas special has wrapped, we can pretty much all agree that series nine has only been, like, one of the best in recent years.

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But not all episodes were created equal so we ranked them according to a complex formula of story, acting and ~*FEELS*~.

BBC / Via

Spoilers, obviously.

13. "Sleep No More"

Mark Gatiss may have been the one with sleep in his eyes when he wrote this episode because the first standalone episode of this season is a befuddled mess. Billed as the first ever Doctor Who found footage episode, Sleep No More was a disappointment both in terms of story and execution. The fact that the events of the episode didn't make sense (and didn't have to) as they were just an elaborate ploy engineered by the Sandmen for world domination seemed a bit of a cop-out, although the high brow Macbeth references and the attempt at meta didn't go unappreciated. To take from the ironically telling words of the Doctor in this episode, "It doesn’t make sense! None of this makes any sense".

12. "Under the Lake"

Not that "Under the Lake" is bad, it's just a bit of a slow burner and its concept too tried and true: ghosts and a base under siege. Thankfully, the supporting characters are fresh and relatable, from the hearing-impaired Cass to real life Doctor Who fangirl/companion material O'Donnell, and the story really picks up in the final few tension-filled minutes, complete with an OMG-worthy cliffhanger. "Under the Lake" isn't great when seen on its own, but perhaps it's not supposed to be; part two wouldn't be as effective without it.

11. "The Husband of River Song"

Usually I'm a big fan of anything written by Steven Moffat, but this is admittedly one of his weaker entries, both overall and in terms of Christmas specials. "The Husband of River Song" enjoys some lighthearted moments – particularly welcome after the tear-inducing final episodes – churning along at a jolly good pace, but the main adventure itself isn't all too exciting. While it's always a joy to see the River Song return to kick some serious ass alongside the Doctor (and this time the actors are closer in age than they have ever been and with some sizzling chemistry, making room for a real starry-eyed romance), Moffat has saved the sparkle for the last few minutes, which pack a ton of emotion and then some. But does this mean this is the last we'll see of River?

10. "The Woman Who Lived"

This episode doesn't perform well when rated simply on its storyline, which is less than stellar. Without much at stake, the romp-like events of "The Woman Who Lived" are difficult to take seriously (although Sam Swift does get bonus points for some serious scene-stealing moments). The meat of the episode, however, lies in the dialogue between Ashildr/Lady Me and the Doctor, who act both as reflection and foils of each other throughout, with a clever reversal of roles that sees the Doctor playing companion to Ashildr/Me's desensitised Doctor. With some telling lines, it's a complex exchange, but for complex characters who have both loved and lost to the ravages of time.

9. "The Girl Who Died"

Just when you thought "The Girl Who Died" couldn't get better, it does. Just wait till you get to the final minutes. Starting out as a fun, action-packed episode that really gives room for Clara and Ashildr to properly shine, the episode takes a surprise turn when Ashildr dies after successfully saving her village. In his anguish, the Doctor – alluding to the events of "The Fires of Pompeii" – realises why he got his face, and in a fit of rage, decides to save the girl because he is accountable to no one. It's brilliant Capaldi, as well as a beautiful subtle parallel to Ten's pivotal moment in "The Waters of Mars".

8. "Before the Flood"

You can't do time travel without doing some of its staples, and "Before the Flood" opens with the Doctor breaking the fourth wall to explain the Bootstrap Paradox, which then proceeds to unfold elegantly throughout the rest of the episode. With equally beautiful cinematography, from the characterisation of the Fisher King to the frightfully fantastic scene of the ghost of Moran dragging an axe behind the oblivious Cass, the episode is lovely in its exploration of the relationship between characters (from Cass and Lunn to Bennett and O'Donnell) and all its wibbly wobbly timey wimey-ness.

7. "Face the Raven"

It's impossible to talk about "Face the Raven" without talking about Clara's "death", so let's get that out of the way: The sudden nature of it was, in some ways, rather effective, but it left us with a sense of unease; it was so underwhelming, so uneventful, so incomplete. There's a lot to be said for (and felt in) the Doctor and Clara's final exchange and Clara's subsequent "death" – it's a powerful scene, serious poetry – but it felt like an afterthought, tacked onto an episode that is unable to stand on its own without said scenes. It's nice to see Rigsy again, as well as Ashildr/Me, and the concept of a trap street is clever enough, but the episode just doesn't cut it, not for Clara, her death and especially not for her send off.

6. "The Witch's Familiar"

All gags and fan service – the only other chair on Skaro, Clara inside a Dalek (See: "Asylum of the Daleks") to our new favourite ship Missy/Clara – aside, the highlight of this episode is undoubtedly the significant exchange between Doctor and Davros; it's very much an exploration of a meeting of the minds, a back and forth of, as the Guardian's Dan Martin put it, "each pil[ing] layers of bluff upon double bluff upon deception and betrayal, that moment when they ditched the poetics and just laughed together...". Although it was all a ruse and Davros could never have been redeemed (at least not yet), surely there was some truth in their heart to hearts, which crackled with a dazzling chemistry. The message of mercy pulses through the episode, reminding us again and again why we love this show so much – it's always filled with hope and optimism, never failing to restore our faith in humanity.

5. "The Zygon Inversion"

Not to be outdone by the first episode of this first-parter, "The Zygon Inversion" elevates the former's social commentary and gives Peter Capaldi his long overdue defining "Doctor moment" with a powerful, moving speech that cuts right to the core of the issues of war and the philosophy of Doctor Who as a whole. Show this episode to your kids, show it to your neighbour, show it to the random guy on the street. This is why we watch Doctor Who, and this is why the show continues to endure – not just because it speaks truth, but because it does so while teaching us important moral lessons and touches on our humanity.

4. The Zygon Invasion

Despite the generally lighthearted nature of this sequel of sorts to the 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor", which sees the return of the Zygons, UNIT and fangirl extraordinaire aka our spirit animal Osgood – the social commentary of this episode was through the roof. The exploration of the repercussion of the Zygon peace treaty is, however, handled deftly and played out wonderfully, with a surprise turn of events ending with a cliffhanger and a really hot evil Clara. The pacing is excellent, providing solid international blockbuster thriller entertainment for the 40 minutes straight.

3. "Hell Bent"

After Clara's death in "Face the Raven" left us all feeling a little dissatisfied, "Hell Bent" finally does New Who's longest-serving companion justice with a moving and beautiful send off worthy of only the Impossible Girl herself. The episode was Moffat through and through, at once as epic as "The End of Time" but as intimate as, say, "The Girl in the Fireplace". Needless to say, "Hell Bent" hit us right in the feels, with its combination of things said, unsaid and endless possibilities (show of hands for a Clara and Ashildr/Me spinoff). The role reversal from Ten and Donna during the memory wipe only made it all the more devastating. I'm not crying; you're crying.

2. "The Magician's Apprentice"

This series' opener, which felt much more like a finale, was way better than all of series eight put together (sorry, not sorry). was one HELL of a way to start off a series, filled with hand mines and Davros and Missy and Clara and Kate Stewart and UNIT and the Doctor SHREDDING a mean guitar solo and those sunglasses and dudes and and SKARO AND IMPORTANT CHARACTER DEATHS AND THE MORAL DILEMMA AND THAT CLIFFHANGER!!! HOW ARE WE STILL ALIVE AFTER THIS EPISODE?!?!?!

1. "Heaven Sent"

"Heaven Sent" takes first place for its sheer bravery and genius. The Doctor is finally given the time to mourn Clara, to say the things he didn't have the time to say – that he was denied the time to say in "Face the Raven" – and even more; the episode really delves into the psyche of the Doctor, touching on his deepest fears as the Veil forces one confession after another out of him in a labyrinthine castle, the Doctor's personal hell. Through his conversations with an imaginary Clara throughout the episode, it's clear just how crucial she had become to the Doctor's life; she grounded him and was his confidant, his best friend, and the episode acknowledges that. Its explorations of the repercussions of Clara's death are just as complex and meaningful as the Doctor and Clara's relationship had been, culminating in an exhilarating final sequence. Capaldi's acting is superb, and Moffat is again at his finest – poetic but clever, sad but beautiful.

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