Published on January 4th, 2014 | by Nick Kitchen
The 10 Essential Eleventh Doctor Stories!
We’ve already said a very sad goodbye to Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor (can I just say how hard that was? After all, he is my Doctor…I digress). But in times like these, we get the rare opportunity to look back on the outgoing Doctor’s body of work. And without much further ado, we present the 10 Essential Eleventh Doctor stories, in chronological order.
The Eleventh Hour
As debut episodes for each incarnation of the Doctor go, it would be hard pressed to really choose one that was better than Smith’s.
It faced seemingly insurmountable odds; new, young, Doctor, new show runner, new companion. All of these things could have ended disastrously. Fortunately, dear reader, stripping the Time Lord to just a mad man in the box, with sparingly used connections to the previous episode, worked in a fantastic way. The episode not only brought us the first appearance of the Ponds, it also gave us plot beginnings that are still being resolved and were resolved in The Time of the Doctor.
The Beast Below
I’d almost be tempted to let it slip that I think, for a bevy of reasons, this may very well be one of the top 5 stories of Matt Smith’s reign. The Doctor is always at his best when he is placed in a situation where it is nearly impossible to “get it right.” This episode stood in stark contrast to The Eleventh Hour as, very early on in his run, we get a glimpse of the Eleventh Doctor’s wrath (“Nobody human has anything to say to me today!”).
It also reminded us that Doctor needs his companions, as Amy is the one who saves the day in the end.
The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang
Of all the characteristics that define the Eleventh Doctor, his incredible speeches probably rank right at the top of importance and this marks the first of them. This incredible two-part Series 5 finale saw the apparent endings of the “cracks in time and space” plot, and was an action-packed ride featuring a stone Dalek, a plastic Roranicus Pondicus, and the drunk giraffe.
Oh, and the end of the universe.
The Impossible Astronaut/ Day of the Moon
Any episode that begins with an opening where the Doctor apparently dies has to be mentioned. Furthermore, the episodes did so much to set up the major plot lines of the series (the Silents, Madam Kovarian, etc.) that it would be bordering a crime not to mention it.
The Doctor’s Wife
This is one of the more divisive episodes of Smith’s tenure; fans either love it or hate it. Neil Gaiman’s debut Who story finally gives a voice and a body to the Doctor’s most loyal companion, the TARDIS. More than a little hard not to feel a twinge of sadness at the end as Idris says goodbye.
A Good Man Goes To War
Strax, Vastra, Jenny, and Centurion Rory – what’s not to love?
Also, we finally learn who the mysterious River Song is: none other than the daughter of Amy and Rory Pond! As far as big episodes go, this had a little bit of everything. Some fans think that the River Song reveal came a bit too soon, but I would argue that this was the best spot narratively for the reveal.
Asylum of the Daleks
Easily the best of the Dalek stories during the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure. We get the Ponds having a rocky go of it with their marriage, insane Daleks, and the surprise introduction of current companion, Clara Oswald.
Also, this episode marked the beginning of the “blockbuster” motif that Moffat and company employed in each of Series 7’s episodes.
The Angels Take Manhattan
While this is not the strongest of Weeping Angel stories during Smith’s – or Tennant’s for that matter – run, it is probably the more important one to the overarching story of the Eleventh Doctor.
The Ponds grew to be Smith’s defining companions, so much to the point that he actually ended up as part of their family through marriage to River Song. Thus, the story that saw the Ponds’ swansong has to be included on any list of essential episodes for Matt Smith’s incarnation, even if the Statue of Liberty Angel was impossibly able to move through NYC without being seen (just saying).
All of Smith’s Christmas specials have been wonderful, but I’d give the edge to this one in terms of being essential. As the bridge between Series 7.1 and 7.2, the episode gave us a mourning Doctor, having just lost his in-laws to the Weeping Angels. It also saw the return of the Paternoster Gang and the second coming of Clara Oswald.
Oh! And Sir Ian McKellan lending some excellent voice over to the Great Intelligence.
The Name of the Doctor
The Fields of Trenzalore, the Fall of the Eleventh, the question that must never be answered; all teased for three series and we were led to believe that this episode would potentially finally reveal the prophecy and most shockingly, the actual name of the Doctor! Well, we did visit Trenzalore. The Eleventh did sort of fall onto the planet, and the Great Intelligence did ask we what we were led to believe was the question, “Doctor who?” Instead of his name being revealed, we learned that the Doctor had another dark secret – a secret incarnation! One whose crimes were so grave that he lost the right to call himself the Doctor.
Of course, we all know how that played out during the 50th, but that was one heck of a cliffhanger!
Plus, we’ve got to mention that fan-pleasing montage of Clara falling through the Doctor’s time stream.
Honorable Mention: the last 5-10 minutes of The Rings of Akhaten
So this episode was also rather loved or hated; and while I personally loved it, it was not without its flaws. However, the majestic speech given by Smith to the Sun God is enough to forgive any of the episodes sins… just not enough to make the list proper. Besides, how can you make a list for the Eleventh Doctor that ends at 10?