Thursday 7 November 2013

Whovember: Top 5 Ninth Doctor Episodes

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All this month on feeling fuzzier - a film blog is Doctor Who Month. With just a few weeks until the show celebrates 50 years, we're running a series of features that list the Top 5 episodes of each Nu-Who Doctor (Nine, Ten and Eleven). 

Today we're going to kick things off with my first Doctor, Nine. Played by the 'fantastic' Christopher Ecclestone, Nine was the kick-start the show needed; dark, haunted and angry, Ecclestone's Doctor may have only hung around for one season but he made a lasting impression on the show.

So, what are the Top 5 episodes of the Ninth Doctor? Here's my pick...

5th - The Unquiet Dead (S1, E3)

Nine's first journey into the past is a fantastic stand-alone episode that saw the show start to find its feet after many years away from TV screens.

All the ingredients for a quintessential Who episode are here; past historical figures (Charles Dickens), eerie villains (the Gelth) and zombie-like corpses, a gorgeous Victorian setting (Naples, err, I mean Cardiff) and wonderful costumes.

For a show still show getting started again, 'The Unquiet Dead' is a real statement of intent. It says "look, at me, look at what Doctor Who is going to be like! Zombies! Snow! Dickens!". It was a change of pace from the flashier preceding episode, 'The End of the World' and proved that the show could traverse tonal changes well. 

'The Unquiet Dead' is a favourite Nine episode of mine thanks to the Gatiss' dazzling script; "Who's your friend?" Rose inquires. "Charles Dickens" comes Nine's reply. All Rose has to offer is a befuddled "Okay". 

4th - Father's Day (S1, E8)

For me, Father's Day is the episode that made me realise how much I liked Doctor Who

The premise is fairly straight-forward; much like Back to the Future, all kind of time shit hits the fan when Rose and the Doctor travel back to 1984 and accidentally meddle with the lives of Rose's parents.

The ensuing paradox draws the terrifying Reapers, who feed off the temporal energy. As the Reapers begin to consume people ('to sterilise the wound'), the Doctor finds himself stranded without his TARDIS and Rose must make a painful choice to rebalance time.

What makes this episode great is the tender, emotional scenes that Rose and her father share as chaos reins around them. It made Rose more than just a tag-along character and fleshed out her back-story more. Also, the Reapers are seriously good villains! Bring them back Moffat! 

3rd - Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways (S1, E12 & 13)

Episodes 12 and 13 of Nu-Who series 1, this double parter is both Nine's first and last bombastic finale. 

Personally, I find the second half of this finale to be a lot stronger that the first. Don't get me wrong, the final bombshell at the end of 'Bad Wolf' is great, but the corny '21st Century game shows are still around in the future' concept I didn't like.

However, it's the second part, 'The Parting of the Ways' that makes this storyline one of Nine's best. After the Daleks are discovered and Rose is whisked out of their base in the TARDIS, the Dalek fleet begins to converge of Earth. Hundreds of Daleks race towards the space station where the Doctor, Rose and Jack are devising a plan to defeat them; the Doctor decides to save Rose from certain death and traps her in TARDIS before sending her back to 2005.

The resolution at the end is a wonderful conclusion to a season-long story-arc and one of the best finales since the shows revival; big on scale but also close and personal, 'The Parting of the Ways' tied up all the loose ends in a nice little bow before pulling the rug out from underneath our feet once more and having Nine regenerate on us. And a damn good regeneration it is at that. Quick, effective and not overly sombre, Nine bid farewell with a grin on his face and a quip from his lips. What a great way to sign off.

2nd - Dalek (S1, E6)

Reintroducing one of television's most formidable and iconic foes to the show was never going to be an easy task.

Fortunately, 'Dalek' kicks things off in fine form by being the best episode to feature the golden pepper pots since 2005.

Set in 2012, the Doctor and Rose arrive at a secret underground bunker in Utah. The bunker is a museum of old relics and artefacts for millionaire Henry van Statten; The Doctor soon discovers that one of these said artefacts is actually a still living and breathing Dalek, whom is subsequently set loose on the vault after Rose takes pity on it and passes on her own DNA through touch.

A bit like Alien in the execution, Dalek is a great episode of Doctor Who for one simple reason; it made the Daleks a formidable foe for once. As such a common recurring villain, the Daleks are often made out like cartoons than the psychopathic tins of hate they actually are.

There's some great acting from Billie Piper as she instils some sympathy into the Doctor; his hatred for the Daleks uncovers the darker side of his character, something barely hinted at before. All in all, one of the more low-key and personal Dalek episodes that does them justice.

1st - The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

For a twelve-year-old kid watching this for the first time, this double episode freaked me the hell out. And it still does to this day. For a family show, that's saying something.

Set in World War II London, this fantastic two-parter from Steven Moffat sees the Doctor and Rose stalked by a gas-mask clad child whose in search of his mum.

As with any movie or TV show tinged with horror elements, adding kids into the mix is bound to make things 150% creepier. The suspense and eerie sequences set in the abandoned hospital were especially scary - what's more, the episodes are really well written with some great character development moments for both the Doctor and Rose. Throw in some great Star Trek quips and this one of the most memorable Nu-Who story-lines so far.

This episode also introduced us to everyone's favourite pansexual Time Agent, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) who would go on to be the face of adult spin-off, Torchwood.

So there we have it, my favourite Ninth Doctor episodes. Such a shame Ecclestone isn't returning to the show for the 50th Anniversary. What are your favourite Nine moments, possibly outside of the show? Let me know in the comments section below. Stay tuned for more Doctor Who posts throughout Whovember! 

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