Saturday 30 November 2013

Whovember: Top 5 Eleventh Doctor Episodes

All this month on feeling fuzzier - a film blog is Doctor Who Month. We're running a series of features that list the Top 5 episodes of each Nu-Who Doctor (Nine, Ten and Eleven) as part of the 50th Anniversary festivities. 

Today's Doctor is Matt Smith's eccentric, excitable and yet sometimes quick-tempered Eleventh Doctor. Typically found sporting a tweed jacket, a bowtie ("bowties are cool") and braces, the Eleventh Doctor rushed onto our screens in 2010's The Eleventh Hour; his last outing in the show will be this years Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor.

During his time in the TARDIS, Smith's Doctor faced off against all manner of iconic Who foes; the Weeping Angels, the Cybermen, the Daleks, the Silurians and the Ice Warriors and the Silence alongside companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), River Song (Alex Kingston) and Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman).

So, without further ado, these are my Top 5 Eleventh Doctor episodes. Geronimo!

Honourable mentions: A Good Man Goes to War (S6, E7), The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon (S6, E1 & E2), Amy's Choice (S5, E7), Journey to the Centre of the TARIS (S7, E10). 

5th - The Girl Who Waited (S6, E10)

A touching and heartfelt episode that is surprisingly light on the Doctor, The Girl Who Waited is more about Amy and Rory, and their relationship together.

On the planet Apalapucia, Amy and Rory are separated by an enforced quarantine - Amy is stuck in the quarantined section of the facility and has to live 36 years of her life before the Doctor and Rory find a way to rescue her - for them, only minutes have passed. The older version of Amy has grown to distrust the Doctor and will not aide in their attempts to rescue a younger version of her from the quarantined time-stream.

Something I really like about this episode is the setting; whilst it is obvious that the episode was made on a small budget (indoor sets, reused props), it's great to see that the show doesn't let that kind of restraint get in the way of cracking characterisation. Others may disagree (I know that Amy is a divisive character) but I liked this episode because it chose to focus on her (the same with Amy's Choice in Series 5).

It explored the dynamic between Amy and Rory further, it showed off more of Karen Gillan's fantastic acting ability and also had a cracking ending; the Doctor lies to the older version of Amy and leaves her behind after promising her a way out. Remember, "the Doctor lies". 

4th - Asylum of the Daleks (S7, E1)

A rip-roaring opener to Series 7, Asylum of the Daleks was most certainly a ballsy episode featuring the shows most iconic villains. 

After being lured to the ruins of Skaro, The Doctor is captured by the Daleks and whisked off to their Parliament. Here, the Daleks task them with tracking a signal from the centre of the planet below, the Asylum of the Daleks.

The scale of this episode is really impressive, especially for Doctor Who. Things are also moving along in the Amy/Rory relationship nicely and the Doctor meets Clara for the first time - she would later appear in 'The Snowmen' in one way or another before becoming a series regular by 'The Bells of St. John'. The reveal in which Clara (or Oswin as she was in this episode) is a Dalek caught us all off-guard and hinted at something intriguing about her character for future episodes.

Also, it was great to have the Daleks back after being put on hiatus for Series 6. Having thousands of the Doctors biggest enemies all chant "Doctor Who?" just as the credits roll? Moffat, you cheeking little bastard you.

3rd - The Name of the Doctor (S7, E13)

A brilliant finale with a killer cliffhanger, 'The Name of the Doctor' brought together all of the best things about Smith's duration in the TARIS and compressed them into 50 minutes of brilliance.

First of all, I'm a big fan of the Vastra, Jenny and Strax so bringing them back for another adventure with the Eleventh Doctor was a welcome addition.

More often than not, Doctor Who finale have tended to be grand in scale but disappointing in delivery; think Last of the Time Lords, Journey's End and The End of Time. This time around, the stakes were high but personal and touching at the same time.

The Doctor travels to Trenzalore, the planet on which he is buried to rescue Vastra, Jenny and Strax from the clutches of the Great Intelligence and the Whispermen. The Great Intellgence needs the Doctor to reveal his greatest secret (his name) in order to break into his tomb and alter his time-stream.

There is however a bigger secret the Doctor is holding onto; a mysterious past life that he has tried to forget - the War Doctor (John Hurt). The cliffhanger we are left on was a real cracker, and not the kind that was going to be resolved the following week.

On the whole, this episode was a real corker because of Smith's fantastic acting ability - the tender scene he shares with River (Alex Kingston) as well as the final scene opposite Hurt were brilliant.

2nd - Vincent and the Doctor (S5, E10)

One of the smaller scale and more personal episodes from the Eleventh Doctor's stint, Vincent and the Doctor is one the rare moments when Doctor Who can be emotional and captivating first, and science-fiction adventure second.

The Doctor and Amy travel to France where they meet renowned painter Vincent van Gogh - suffering from a deep depression, van Gogh is also haunted by a mysterious creature that only he can see.

The episode is also bookended by scenes set in present day, at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. It's here that Bill Nighy gives one of the best cameos in the shows history and we are treated to a touching scene where Vincent realises his work is highly renowned in the future.

Criticised upon its release for being too far removed from the science-fiction and adventure elements of Doctor Who, I think this episode is refreshingly different and is one of the better historical episodes the show has produced.

1st - The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (S5, E12 & E13)

A blockbuster in every sense of the word, the Eleventh Doctor's first series finale is bonkers, nonsensical, colourful, energetic, convoluted and chaotic. And is all the better for it.

The Doctor is drawn to Roman Britain in search of the Pandorica, a 'fairytale' object that is said to contain 'the most feared being in all the cosmos'. Only thing is, he doesn't realise the truth; that it is a trap laid by an alliance of his worst enemies who have built the Pandorica to trap him, as they fear he will bring about the end of the universe. 

For me, this double-parter is everything the Eleventh Doctors stint on the show was all about - the fez, the bowtie, the mop, the exploding TARIDS. The cliffhanger at the end of the first part is one of the best the show has ever put together. The Doctor's speech that scares off the thousands of enemy ships is one of my favourite Eleventh Doctor scenes - "Now the question of the hour is, whose got the Pandorica - answer, I do. Next question: whose coming to take it from me?"

The second-half is a convoluted and hard-to-follow thriller that requires several viewings but somehow, it all works. It all gels together to make a wonderfully wacky and entertaining Doctor Who storyline, one that has still yet to resolve - the reason for the TARDIS causing the crack in time will be explored in Smith's final episode on Christmas Day. It's that kind of forward-thinking that sets the Eleventh Doctor's three years on the show apart from anyone else's.

So, there we have it, my Top 5 Eleventh Doctor episodes. It'll be great to see his story come to a conclusion in 'The Time of the Doctor' on Christmas Day. What are your favourite Eleven moments? Let me know in the comments section below!

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