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The Definitive Ranking Of Every Season 8 Episode Of "Doctor Who"

Capaldi is king.

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12. "Kill the Moon"

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In last place: Peter Harness' debut script, "Kill the Moon." It probably wasn't wise to kick off a list like this with a controversial selection but it's unavoidable here. "Kill the Moon" just really didn't do it for me. The change in dynamic between the Doctor and Clara made for excellent television; the only other story that had Clara reacting against the Doctor and really challenging this new man was "Deep Breath," and after that, her qualms about the Twelfth Doctor were suitably quashed. But as much as I liked the shift in their relationship (it really helped developed the series), I felt it was an overreaction on Clara's part and there could have been a sounder reason for such a momentous shift to occur. However, Hermione Norris was the best guest star of the series, chipping in with a tremendous, haunting performance, and while I disagree with it, Harness' decision to include the risky, "the moon was an egg" twist is admirable. But the spotty science was just all over the map in a way Doctor Who rarely is.

11. "The Caretaker"

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Something that's worth noting is that I've enjoyed every episode of Season 8; there were none I have actively disliked (including "Kill the Moon"). "The Caretaker" was a frothy and engaging fare from traditional Who comedian Gareth Roberts. The script, filled to the gunwales with sparkling one-liners and brilliant gags was a terrific showcase for Peter Capaldi to flex his dry comedy muscles. Capaldi, along with Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson, all deliver fine performances, although that's to be expected. But, for me, Danny Pink was unlikable, and what's worse is that he wasn't written that way. I couldn't give sympathy to a character that manipulated his girlfriend by pressing all the emotional buttons. Healthy relationships don't flourish if one half dishes out ultimatums.

On a more positive note, the design of the Skovox Blitzer, the episode's antagonist, was well done, and the robot itself superbly executed. But the "world at risk" peril felt stapled on for added tension. The PE joke also wore thin very quickly.

10. "Deep Breath"

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When it initially aired, I absolutely adored Peter Capaldi's first time 'round as the Doctor and, in some ways, I still do. "Deep Breath" was a darker, more mature, and genuinely funny adventure. But when you compare it against what followed it, it pales considerably. There's lots of fun to be had and not just from the tired funny man that is Strax. Steven Moffat's script took its time to get to the Doctor, meaning that for a lot of the episode we barely recognized him as a character. With the most dramatic regeneration since the series returned (it's a surprisingly big leap from Matt Smith to Capaldi), it was expected that viewers would take time to warm to what is, undoubtedly, a colder Doctor. Moffat played on these expectations, concentrating primarily on Clara's reaction. Jenna Coleman delivered a stellar performance as Clara matured as a companion (something desperately needed after the dud that was series 7) and Peter Capaldi was expectantly fantastic.

However, the pacing is off for a large part of the episode and it starts to drag. On first watch it's a giddying tour de force that was a perfect debut for the new Doctor. On rewatches, much less so.

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9. "Robot of Sherwood"

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Series 8 was, for me, one of the best of the lot, and while I know others were left cold, I was in the majority. It's been a long time since Doctor Who was this good and especially after the shockingly poor seventh series; I'm taking Series 8 for what it is. "Robot of Sherwood" was the first comedy episode of Peter Capaldi's initial run as the Doctor, and it was a risky move for Moffat to place Mark Gatiss, master of Who pastiche episodes, third in the series. "Robot of Sherwood" was a perfect, funny romp for the Twelfth Doctor in that he was totally hostile to the comedy happening around him. While this formula might not work again, it was wonderful the first time out.

Doctor Who's humorous episodes are always flawed and like "Deep Breath," "Robot of Sherwood" bumped along disjointedly with some weird tonal changes and something of a rushed conclusion, but it marked Peter Capaldi's first chance to properly have a go at comedy as the Doctor. Jenna Coleman had some terrific scenes (see: the banquet sequence), taking over the role of the Time Lord and not for the first time.

8. "Time Heist"

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"Time Heist" was probably the most fun episode of Series 8 that didn't consider itself a comedy episode. Its premise — the Doctor, Clara, and newcomers, cyborg video gamer Psi and shapeshifter Saibra, are tasked with breaking into the most impregnable bank in the galaxy with no clue what they're looting for — was a serious one, but "Time Heist" took a lot from other classic heist films. And what are heist films without a good dose of humour injected? Peter Capaldi shone again (I'll stop saying that now because he is nigh on faultless in every episode) with Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat's joint script delivering oodles of terrific gags. Jenna Coleman took a well-earned backseat for proceedings (after weeks of prominence) and Keeley Hawes sparkled as a wicked, immaculate bank manager.

If you think about the plot too much then you're guaranteed a headache, but "Time Heist" was light, engrossing, well-acted fun, and a clear step up from Thompson's previous offerings. He and Moffat seem like a brilliant double act and I hope that if Stephen Thompson returns, he will write with Moffat again.

7. "In the Forest of the Night"

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Now this was was truly something. More a good something than a bad something, however. Frank Cottrell-Boyce, the man behind Millions, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, and the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony turned his hand to an episode of Doctor Who (it was an inevitable partnership) and produced one of the most atypical episodes to date. "In the Forest of the Night," inspired by the William Blake poem, saw the world inundated with trees seemingly for no reason. Cottrell-Boyce's script steadily revealed the true purpose of the worldwide woods (there's one ridiculously revealing line that I missed on broadcast so it took me a while to work it out while most people simply put two and two together), concentrating more on the child stars. Peter Capaldi had a wonderful patter with Abigail Eames' Maebh, a young girl plagued by an unknown force and Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson were terrific, adding another chapter into the Danny–Clara love saga.

"In the Forest of the Night" was, like "Kill the Moon," one of the divisive episodes of Series 8 and the reason it's much higher than "Kill the Moon" is because "In the Forest of the Night" gives itself entirely over to the fairy tale genre, embracing everything that genre entails, good and bad (including some wonderful albeit unsubtle imagery). "Kill the Moon" took itself seriously, striving for more mature episode but patchy science, strangely unlikeable characters, and an unwarranted argument let it down.

But there's the last scene of "In the Forest of the Night." Somehow I feel it would have made more sense if this Annabelle had turned up on the Arden family's doorstep:

6. "Into the Dalek"

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After "Deep Breath," the Twelfth Doctor needed something challenging and meaty; the first full adventure to showcase his new personality. "Into the Dalek" was just perfect. A keen mixture of "Fantastic Voyage" and Fourth Doctor adventure "The Invisible Enemy," "Into the Dalek" had the Doctor and a freshly romanced Clara venture inside one of Skaro's finest with splendid results (well, that can't be applied to the poor soldiers who are shot when the Dalek takes a stroll).

If there were ever a Doctor Who theme park — dear god, why hasn't someone come up with the idea before? — then the "Into the Dalek" ride would have the longest queue. It's a veritable roller coaster of an episode as the Doctor, Clara, and their "armed babysitters" circumnavigate the Dalek from the eyestalk to the mutant itself. There's a lot going on and returning scribe Phil Ford (aided by Steven Moffat) managed to find space to squeeze in Danny's introduction and a lot of morality-questioning angst for the Doctor. "Am I a good man?" he asks Clara in a thrilling opening sequence. She didn't know and neither did we.

For further research I'd recommend YA author Holly Black's spin on the Twelfth Doctor, Lights Out, a brilliant little adventure chronicling the Doctor's escapades when he was sent in "Deep Breath" to get the coffee he appears with in "Into the Dalek."

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5. "Death in Heaven"

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It was one of the most hotly anticipated finales since David Tennant's three stand-alone series (because Rose dying, the Master, and Davros returning were a heady prospect back in the day), "Death in Heaven" had to wrap up Peter Capaldi's first full series as the Doctor in a bow that would satisfy millions. It didn't, believe it or not, but it was still well received by most viewers and is considered a great finale to sound off the series. Fiendishly good Michelle Gomez managed to make her rendition of the Master so much more than a gimmick with some genuinely hideous moments (the murder of UNIT whiz kid, Osgood was a horrifying sequence and possibly the one time the Master has been abhorred the most out of every incarnation). Peter Capaldi was nothing short of incredible (I promised I wouldn't keep saying it...), particularly in the graveyard scene, and while Clara spent a great deal of this story looking understandably mournful, Jenna Coleman was still excellent. Danny Pink might not have held a special place in my heart but his death was sad because Clara was sad, really — and that's all down to Jenna Coleman. Haunted, teary looks should go down on her CV for the future.

I do have quibbles like the slightly dubious reappearance of the Brigadier in the body of a Cyberman (what I questioned most about this was why Moffat felt it was necessary considering the late, great Nicholas Courtneydied a few years back and the Brigadier's legacy was already honoured in "The Wedding of River Song"?) and Missy's overall plan but, generally, this was a successful and enjoyable finale to round off Capaldi's premiere run.

4. "Mummy on the Orient Express"

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"Mummy on the Orient Express" was Jamie Mathieson's first contribution to Doctor Who and, dare I say, one of the most confident writing debuts the show has had since Neil Gaiman's "The Doctor's Wife." It was a high-octane whydunnit featuring a colourful cast of supporting characters, a brilliant soundtrack from Murray Gold, and cameoing singer Foxes, as well as two rock-solid performances from Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman.

Materialising aboard the interstellar Orient Express for a final hurrah, the Doctor and Clara discover trouble when passengers start to drop dead after screaming and wailing about an invisible mummy. Mathieson takes a leaf out of Steven Moffat's book and gives his monster a visual twist. As the Foretold is only visible to the person about to die, the Doctor has quite a task working out how to save the day.

Some more pluses include minor things like the Doctor offering fellow guests jelly babies from a cigarillo case, Capaldi's uncanny Tom Baker impression, Frank Skinner's appearance as principal engineer, Perkins, and the last scene on the beach. Brilliant stuff.

3. "Dark Water"

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"Dark Water" was dark Who. Properly controversial, grim, unflinching dark Doctor Who. If Mary Whitehouse were alive today then she'd be up in arms against "Dark Water." When poor, old Dr. Chang warned the Doctor and Clara that the next three words, the three words that "aftercare" organisation 3W was founded on, would change their lives irreparably, I had no idea how much of an impact they would have on me. The concept that the dead feel cremation is one of the darkest Doctor Who has ever come up with. And I love it for its boldness.

The key thing "Dark Water" built to was the grand reveal of Missy's true identity but before that we had Clara's emotional turmoil after the death of sweetheart Danny. This, for me, was Jenna Coleman's standout performance of the series: a sheer tour de force. Touching once more on darkness, the volcano scene was the lowest I have ever seen a companion go, although it's not hard to imagine Amy doing the same if Rory were to perish forever (although that did happen albeit in more rushed circumstance). The entire sequence inside the TARDIS after the volcano was, alongside the Doctor's climactic speech in "Flatline," one of the Twelfth Doctor's defining moments.

A complete gem.

2. "Flatline"

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Jamie Mathieson is, potentially, one of the best writers of the new series. He can write thrilling, scary, fan referency (made that one up), but stand-alone, funny, incredible adventures. "Flatline," following on from Mummy on the Orient Express, is just superb. It has the TARDIS shrunken down to tiny proportions and the Doctor trapped inside while Clara acts as the Team TARDIS mouthpiece. Critics have been accusing Doctor Who of being far too Clara centric and "Flatline" was so topical at the time, it felt like Mathieson had foreseen the criticisms and then written it. What a brilliant job it did, proving the naysayers wrong and that Clara is a valid companion, a good Doctor but still not as good as the Time Lord himself. All that bundled into 45 minutes of riveting fun, buoyed by a very witty script (some of the banter between the Doctor and Clara is tear-inducingly good) and a marvellous core premise.

Like "Mummy on the Orient Express," Mathieson's villain is a visual one and here he swaps unseeable mummies for two-dimensional beings from another plane. Christened "the Boneless" later in "Flatline," the creatures never speak but still remain a wholly tangible threat. Clara leads a group of community service workers (one of them, a teen called Rigsy, played by Joivan Wade, acts as her companion and is quite smitten with her) for most of the episode and they're picked off a variety of gruesome ways. Pity the poor policewoman that was sucked into the floor early on, too.

When it first aired, "Flatline" was accused of relying on the get-out-of-jail card that is the sonic screwdriver in the resolution. However, this isn't the case as the Doctor spends the episode constructing a device against the Boneless, which he uses quite dramatically at the end (reciting a marvellous "I am the Doctor" speech to boot).

"Flatline" is Doctor Who at its best: scary, funny, rollicking, enjoyable. My only criticism is that Peter Capaldi's hair falls off (then reappears at the end) when he is shrunken down. Blasted plot holes, I tells ya!

1. Listen

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Steven Moffat is a brave man. For the fourth episode of Peter Capaldi's first run, he decided to be intrepid and experiment. "Listen" was, for all intents and purposes, Moffat testing the boundaries of how far he could take Doctor Who and seeing how different he could make it. "Listen" was a masterpiece, an analysis of fear itself and how urban legends travel down not just generations but mankind itself. Directed with a sure and steady hand by Douglas Mackinnon, "Listen" saw the results of the Doctor's strange scribblings on his chalkboard. From "Deep Breath" to "Robot of Sherwood," he was postulating whether the existence of a creature unseen by any living creature was viable. And rather than revealing the next Weeping Angels or the next Silence, Moffat went for a far more satisfying resolution, which can by summarised by one line alone: "What if the big bad Time Lord doesn't want to admit he's just afraid of the dark?"

I've seen people insist that there is a monster out there and that the show simply didn't want to ruin the appearance of this hidden enemy of the universe, but Moffat's script deliberately reveals the truth behind every vaguely spooky going on. That figure under the bedspread could have been another kid playing a prank on young Rupert Pink? That scraping, hissing noise? Creaky, old pipes. In a world of limitless scienc fiction, Steven Moffat brought Doctor Who crashing back down to reality — and in such style.

After Series 8, it's not long until the thus far untitled Christmas special and, as "Death in Heaven" teased, Santa will be in it, played by Nick Frost. Let the countdown to Christmas begin!

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