The Top 50 “Doctor Who” Episodes

The First Doctor

1. An Unearthly Child

It’s the first ever episode of “Doctor Who,” so of course it’s on the list! It marks the breaking of the TARDIS’ chameleon circuit and shows how the Doctor and Susan were accompanied by the first human companions, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, two of Susan’s schoolteachers. The four end up journeying together to the Stone Age and adventuring there. The episode title, of course, refers to Susan, who appears to be a normal, human teenage girl.

2. The Daleks

Absolutely classic, this second episode shows the introduction of the Doctor’s most nefarious, recurring foes, the Daleks. It also introduced viewers to Thals and the Dalek homeworld of Skaro, and was the first serial to be definitively set in outer space (it was never clarified whether “An Unearthly Child,” was actually set on Stone Age Earth.) After the lukewarm public reception to “An Unearthly Child,” “The Daleks,” was actually the serial that ensured the program’s continuing success and cemented a broadcasting slot for it.

3. The Keys of Marinus

Written by Terry Nation, who previously wrote “The Daleks,” “The Keys of Marinus,” sees the TARDIS travelers on a quest to retrieve the keys to operate the Conscience of Marinus after they’ve been hidden around the planet to keep them out of the hands of the evil Voords. While the Voords aren’t the most well-known monster, they still pack a telepathic punch and serve as the perfect challengers for the Doctor and his companions who do have to fight to retrieve these keys. However, not everything is quite as straightforward as it seems at first…

4. The Celestial Toymaker

A classic episode with a classic villain, “The Celestial Toymaker” is a perfect foil for the oftentimes childish Doctor. It sees the Doctor and his companions face off in what may be the highest stakes of the series yet. Their enemy is an immortal god who enjoys toying with people and holding their lives at stake—inside a realm where he has complete control. It’s also a very cerebral episode, and notorious as almost being the episode to write out William Hartnell. Unfortunately, it is one of the serials on this list that is still missing a portion of its episodes.

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The Second Doctor

5. The Tomb of the Cybermen

Because an archaeological experiment to unearth the lost Tombs of the Cybermen couldn’t possibly be a bad thing. Until the Doctor and his well-meaning, if blundering, archaeological associate discover that two of the members of the party are intent on reviving the Cybermen, naturally, and are forced to attempt to foil their plot. It’s also the first serial with Victoria Wakefield aka Vicki as a proper companion for the Doctor and Jamie McCrimmons.

6. The Invasion

This serial is notable for the introduction of UNIT and the second appearance of the Brigadier (as well as the first time he has the rank of Brigadier). It contains the memorable character of Tobias Vaughn one of many individuals throughout the years who attempts to use the Cybermen for his own ends to conquer Earth and, of course, it’s up to the Doctor to stop them. It’s one of the cleverest cyber team-ups and contains something of a twist ending.

7. The Seeds of Death

The second appearance of the Ice Warriors finds the Doctor and his companions Jamie and Zoe battling them on the Moon in the 21st century. As a person living in the actual 21st century it is highly disappointing that T-mat, a.k.a instant travel, which is portrayed frequently in this episode, isn’t yet available. As for why it’s called “The Seeds of Death,” these special seeds are the Ice Warriors’ plan for an invasion of Earth, using the Moon as a base. Though not the first story to have the Doctor traveling to the Moon, pitting him against the Ice Warriors and their nefarious plan from their moonbase was at the time a novel idea for the Martians.

8. The War Games

The final serial of the Second Doctor, as well as the last produced in black and white, but the first to show Gallifrey. It’s notable in that it crosses Time Lords and several different historical persons from different eras. The Second Doctor and Jamie and Zoe must stop the War Chief’s plan to using kidnapped humans to conquer the galaxy, which inadvertently leads to the Doctor having to face the Council of Gallifrey for his crimes–stealing a TARDIS and running away—and leads to his forced regeneration and his exile on Earth at the Third Doctor.

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The Third Doctor

9. Spearheads from Space

The first serial of the Third Doctor’s exile on Earth as well as the first to see him properly teaming up with UNIT, as well as the introduction of the recurring villain the Nestene Consciousness and its Autons. A very funny episode, it shows the Doctor brilliantly clashing with UNIT and the Brigadier, though introduces his companion Liz Shaw. It also shows the Third Doctor’s much more scientific personality, compared to that of his predecessors, which actually ends up fitting quite well with his new base.

10. Terror of the Autons

The first serial to introduce the legendary Master as well as the Third Doctor’s popular companion Jo Grant. Like the previous series opener, it deals with the Autons and the Nestene Consciousness attempting to take over Earth, this time aided by the Master. An extremely intelligent villain, it’s the continuation of the story of the Nestene from the previous series and the first story of a series long arc which pits the Doctor against the Master, a foe who fans finally could see as the Doctor’s equal.

11. The Daemons

The conclusion of the arc focusing exclusively on the Master brought religious and demonic undertones to the series, despite rigid BBC censoring. Jo and the Doctor go to the English village of Devil’s End and attempt to stop an archaeological dig which some of the locals are convinced will bring about the coming of the Horned One. In true Doctor Who fashion, the Horned One ends up being an alien Daemon, Azal, and we see the Master finally getting into one of his own plots over his head.

12. The Three Doctors

This tenth anniversary special shows the return of William Hartnell (in his final appearance as the First Doctor) and Patrick Troughton. In terms of series wide story it’s important as the serial where the Doctor is finally freed from his exile on Earth, as the Time Lords themselves request the Doctor’s aid to fight Omega, a legend from Gallifrey’s distant past. As for surprises, this story has plenty and it’s nice to finally see a story focused on Time Lords and their own history and villains, rather than conflicts with external aliens.

13. The Time Warrior

The first appearance of one of the most popular companions, Sarah Jane Smith, a nosy investigative reporter who teams up with the Doctor after the departure of Jo Grant at the end of the previous series. She is an unwitting companion at first when the Doctor’s scientific research finds himself and the stowaway Sarah Jane whisked back in time to the Middle Ages where they must defeat a Sontaran plot to take over the Earth. However, Sarah Jane proves her mettle by the end and stays on as what would be one of the longest last recurring companions and the only human companion to have her own spin-off series.

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The Fourth Doctor

14. Terror of the Zygons

The Zygons! Their only appearance thus far, though they are confirmed to return in the 50th Anniversary Special, This serial marks the last appearance of Harry Sullivan as well as the reappearance of UNIT. It plays with the myth of the Loch Ness monster, which, of course, is under alien control by the Zygons and terrorizing Scotland. They plan to take over the Earth, are shapeshifters and in conclusion, are absolutely worthy of the title “Terror of the Zygons.”

15. Pyramids of Mars

Certainly not the first story to take place on Mars but one of the most original. “Pyramids of Mars,” see the Doctor and Sarah Jane fighting a bizarre foe in a Victorian Mansion. The serial mixes Ancient Egyptian mythology and tales of Mars, much to the delight of old-time conspiracy theorists who believe the pyramids were built by or for aliens.

16. The Talons of Weng-Chiang

A fan-favourite serial, the Doctor and Leela end up in Victorian London and find something evil afoot. The story brings together the rather clashing elements of prim and proper Victorian era and spectacularly flashy Chinese stage magicians. Of course, as with most good magician stories, nothing is actually as it seems and it’s up to the Doctor and Leela to unravel the mystery behind a rash of recent disappearances and a few deaths.

17. Horror of Fang Rock

One of the spookiest of the Fourth Doctor stories, the Doctor and Leela accidentally end up at a lighthouse on the island of Fang Rock en route to Brighton. A malfunctioning light piques the Doctor’s curiousity and the two are drawn into a strange plot involving the death of one of the light operators and a vessel that crashes on the island’s shores. The entire plot is dark, and the conflict between Leela’s warrior spirit and the gentlemanly ideals of the lighthouse’s occupants provides much comedic fodder.

18. The Ribos Operation

The first story of the series-long arc featuring the Doctor, K-9 and Romana I recovering the Keys to Time as they’ve been tasked by the White Guardian. Naturally, nothing is as easy as it first sounds as the Doctor and the headstrong Romana butt heads numerous times, though they gradually develop a friendly, working relationship. Of course, fighting a power hungry dictator and trying to save an innocent planet from his machinations does have a way of bringing people together.

19. Logopolis

The final story of the Fourth Doctor sees the introduction of Tegan and the reappearance of Nyssa as a proper companion, as well as the return of the Master attempting to ensnare the Doctor in yet another nefarious plot. This time he wants to use the planet of mathematicians to unravel all life in the universe. It’s quite a brutal storyline that also ends up killing Tegan’s unsuspecting Aunt who has been dragged into the battle between the Doctor and the Master, quite by accident.

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The Fifth Doctor

20. Castrovalva

The first series of the Fifth Doctor, though not the first to be filmed, sees the continuation of the Master’s plans from the previous season. He kidnaps Adric and sets the TARDIS coordinates to crash into the Big Bang. With a newly regenerated Doctor still unstable, it’s up to Nyssa and Tegan to take the reigns and save the day.

21. Kinda

Yet another instance when a companion is plagued by evil, Kinda sees Tegan possessed by the enemy of the Mara who come back to haunt her in future serials. A very Tegan-centered episode, it’s the first to really feature the companion since her introduction at the end of the last season and gives her some more depth. The Mara also make an interesting enemy for the Doctor to fight since it occupies one of his allies, meaning that directly killing it isn’t an option. 

22. Mawdryn Undead

A reappearance of the Brigadier, this serial was the first appearance of the engimatic companion Vislor Turlough and the start of an arc featuring the Black Guardian attempting to exact his revenge on the Doctor using Turlough. However, an interesting aspect that this episode explored is the concept of Time Lord regeneration, which the evil Mawdryn scientists attempt to replicate.

23. The Five Doctors

The 20th anniversary special has the reunion of the first four Doctors and some of their companions, when everyone teams up in the Games of Rassilon on Gallifrey, and attempt to uncover a traitor. It’s always interesting to see how the companions and indeed, how the Doctors themselves react to each other, which provides a great deal of funny scenes in this serial. Of course, this reunion wouldn’t be complete without the reintroduction of the Master, Cybermen, and Daleks, as well as the manipulative and dangerous Rassilon himself.

24. The Caves of Androzani

The final appearance of the Fifth Doctor, it was the first time that a future Doctor also appeared in the serial for the regeneration sequence. The villain of the story, Morgus, also broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience, a first for Doctor Who. The Doctor and Peri find themselves in a brutal android war on the planet Androzani and infected with a deadly toxin, racing against the clock to stop the poison and to avoid both factions of warriors who are out to kill them.

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The Sixth Doctor

25. The Mark of the Rani

The first appearance of the Doctor’s old friend from Gallifrey, the Rani, sees her teaming up with the Master in what is one of the most evil dynamic duos to ever grace a television screen. Set during the Industrial Revolution the stakes are high and Peri and the Doctor must fight these two renegade Time Lords to once again save the Earth. The Rani and the Master give ample reason that one of the rejected titles for this serial was “Too Clever by Far.”

26. Trials of a Time Lord

The epic, series-long story sees the Sixth Doctor put on trial for his crimes against Time, and sees the introduction of many important characters, including the Valeyard and Melanie Bush. It also marks the departure of companion Peri Brown and is the first time that “Doctor Who” hints at a darker future.

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The Seventh Doctor

27. Dragonfire

The last serial of Season 24, it was the final appearance of Mel Bush and Sabalom Glitz and the debut of the Seventh Doctor’s final companion, Ace. Taking place on Iceworld, Mel and the Doctor meet Sabalom and the three, accompanied by waitress Ace, decide to hunt for the Dragonfire treasure of the planet and end up getting more trouble than treasure, as is customary for the Doctor.

28. Remembrance of the Daleks

The first of the darker Seventh Doctor episodes, Remembrance of the Daleks started to take the program in a new direction. The first episode with the Doctor’s new companion, Ace, it was also an homage to the first episode “An Unearthly Child,” leading to Ace and the Doctor’s confrontation with two Dalek factions in Totter’s Yard and Coal Hill School–in 1963, the same year the first episode was broadcast.

29. Silver Nemesis

The Seventh Doctor’s first confrontation with the Cybermen, as well as the 25th anniversary special episode, this episode finds the Doctor and Ace battling multiple threats, including a sorceress, a Neo-Nazi and of course, Cybermen, as a Gallifreyan super-weapon hurtles to Earth in a meteor. There’s also a royal confrontation with Queen Elizabeth II, a prophetic tape-deck and a portrait of Ace from hundreds of years ago. While that may sound like a lot for one anniversary special, the writers, the Doctor and Ace all manage to pull it off brilliantly so the pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly.

30. Battlefield

This episode shows Ace and the Brigadier teaming up to help the Doctor, quite the dynamic duo of companions, and it’s also the Brigadier’s last appearance in “Doctor Who” (though he went on to guest star in “The Sarah Jane Adventures” years later.) With an Arthurian plot featuring The Once and Future King himself, Lady Morgaine, and Mordred in a tiny English village circa 1997, it also stars the Doctor in an unexpected role—as Merlin.

31. The Curse of Fenric

This episode continues on with some of events from the earlier serials “Silver Nemesis,” and “Dragonfire,” and pits the Doctor and Ace up against what may be his most clever foe since The Master. With Norse and Viking undertones, this serial gives a glimpse at some of the Doctor’s earlier, undocumented adventures and also provides more background and depth of character for Ace, as well as continuing the season’s darker tone.

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The Ninth Doctor

32. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances: 

A two part episode taking place in WWII London, the Tenth Doctor and Rose are following a cry from a terrifying child asking everyone, “Are you my Mummy?” The innocence of the question paired with the child’s gas-mask face is a level of creepy that sneaks inside of you. Despite the more-scary-than-usual aspect of the episodes, we also get our first introduction of the pansexual, absolutely fabulous, charm the pants off you Captain Jack Harness. He flirts with Rose, the Doctor, and the aliens.

33. Boom Town

The Ninth Doctor, and his companions, Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness travel to modern-day Cardiff and meet up with Rose’s boyfriend, Mickey. There, they discover that their “enemy,” Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen, is very much alive, if without an easy escape route from Earth, and is willing to rip apart the planet to ensure her freedom.

34. Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways

Separated and with no TARDIS, the Ninth Doctor, Rose, and Jack have to fight for their lives on board the Game Station, but a far more dangerous threat is lurking, just out of sight. The Doctor realises that the entire human race has been blinded to the threat on its doorstep, and Armageddon is fast approaching.

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The Tenth Doctor

35. School Reunion

Deffry Vale High School is haunted by strange, bat-like creatures at night. When the Tenth Doctor investigates, he finds an old friend,Sarah Jane Smith, already working undercover. Also in “School Reunion” we have K-9, a favorite returning character from Classic Who.

36. The Girl in the Fireplace:

It’s always fun to see the Doctor get his flirt on, especially when he’s going up against a pro: Madame de Pompadour. Ten, Rose, and Mickey land on what they thought was ghost spaceship and instead is linked to eighteenth century France. The Doctor pops through the fireplace and into the French court, where de Pompadour is being groomed  by clockwork robots. She’s all fire, heart, and steamy kisses to make the Doctor blush, and you see him more than a bit riveted by her. There’s also a horse on a space ship, which is always a necessary addition.

37. Human Nature/Family of Blood

In England 1913, school teacher John Smith experiences amazing dreams of living an incredible life as a mysterious adventurer called “the Doctor”, fighting monsters and seeing far away worlds. Is this man just a look-a-like of the real Doctor with a psychic link, or could there be another answer for all this? War then comes to England a year early as the terrifying Family hunt for the Tenth Doctor.

38. Blink:

One of the scariest episodes in the “Doctor Who” library, “Blink” features very little of the Doctor, and instead follows Sally Sparrow as she tries to come to terms with how she received a letter and warning from the past about what her future will contain. Angel statues with menacing faces and sharp teeth are after her, and if she dares look away for just a moment, they will steal her life from her. We dare you try look at an angel as anything benevolent ever again.

39. Voyage of the Damned

A spacecraft set on an apocalyptic collision course with Earth, a host of killer robot angelsand an evil severed-headed mastermind—it’s just another Christmas for the Tenth Doctor…

40. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

The Tenth Doctor takes Donna Noble to a planet-sized library in the 51st century. They find it empty of human life, with a final recorded message: “4,022 saved, no survivors.” As an archaeological expedition arrives, lead by the mysterious Professor River Song, they can only give one piece of advice: count the shadows. Then Donna is gone, the Vashta Nerada are out for fresh meat and the Tenth Doctor is running out of options. Can he trust the mysterious Professor River Song, a woman who claims to be from his future? Why would his future self have given her his sonic screwdriver, or tell her his real name? Even if they do work together, can anyone stop the shadows from claiming them all as their next meal?

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The Eleventh Doctor

41. The Eleventh Hour: 

The first episode with Matt Smith, we get introduced to the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond with style. An adorable little ginger girl meets the raggedy Doctor as he crashes into her backyard after regenerating. They bond over fish fingers and custard and set her on the path of waiting for him her whole life. He pops away and shows up twelve years later (whoops!) when she’s all grown up and just as feisty, though arguably with better legs. She spends most of the episode glaring at him and keeping him on her toes while simultaneously being mystified by that he wasn’t all in her head. When the Atraxi come to town to capture Prisoner Zero, he warns them off the planet, walking through visions of all his past faces and announces that this world is protected. Immediately you know exactly who Eleven is—hyper, nerdy (bow ties are cool), and with a core of badass in him.

42. Amy’s Choice:

Throughout the first season we meet Amy, she’s constantly torn between Rory and the Doctor. In this episode we finally see her choose once and for all her beloved Rory, when they are being pulled between two worlds. Once seemingly mundane, where she’s pregnant and living in a dull little village and the other back on the TARDIS with the Doctor. She’s never sure which is real and which is a pretty lie, but ultimately it doesn’t matter, because the only place she’ll ever want to be is where Rory is.

43. Vincent and the Doctor:

Perhaps one of the most beautiful episodes of the reboot, Amy and the Doctor go back and visit a lonely and troubled Vincent Van Gogh. He’s been rejected, he thinks he’s crazy, and at the point of all despair. Monsters aside, Amy offers him friendship, a bit of a flirt, and helps him see the beauty of his own creation. While they cannot save him from his own fate ultimately, a scene where Bill Nighy plays a museum docent and speaks on Van Gogh being perhaps one of the greatest painters of all times, gives Vincent the best gift of all—hope.

44. The Lodger:

Anytime the Doctor has to be normal or fit in, comedy ensues. Worried that something fishy is going on in a London flat, he moves in as a lodger and promptly ruins Craig Owen’s life. He catches the eye of the woman Craig fancies, is better at his job, dominates the local footie match, and generally drives his flatmate around the bend. Meanwhile there’s an alien upstairs eating people and Amy’s still in the TARDIS laughing uproariously at the Doctor. A hilarious one-off that shouldn’t be missed.

45. A Christmas Carol

One of Moffat’s take-offs on the classic Dickens’ tale, follows the curmudgeon Kazran Sardick (played by the fantastic Michael Gambon) as he’s mucking up the world. The Doctor needs him to turn off his fish cloud (yes you heard right) so that the spaceship Rory and Amy are honeymooning on won’t crash. The Doctor goes back in time to help Kazran have a less terrible childhood, helps him fall in love, and then in typical fashion manages to make everything fall to bits. The important thing you need to know is that sharks fly through the air in a Victorian style alien planet.

46. The Doctor’s Wife: 

Written by Neil Gaiman it’s impossible for this episode to go awry, but oh boy does it deliver. The TARDIS comes to life—as a woman. It’s pretty much all of the Doctor’s fantasies come to life. She’s mad as a hatter, argues with him like his sister, chides him like a mother, and loves him like his wife. It’s hilarious, moving, and the scene at the end, when the body is failing her, and she tells the Doctor, she has one thing to say—”Hello, Doctor.” You’ll want to simultaneously weep happy and sad tears.

47. Let’s Kill Hitler:

Amy, Rory, the Doctor and Mel all land in World War II Germany, directly in Hitler’s office and promptly lock him in a closet. Yes, they lock Hitler up, it’s fantastic. Throughout the episode some massive spoilers are revealed, finally giving us  the rest of the back story to River Song  and the elusively missing Melanie Pond from the previous season. Despite the fun title, it’s a critical piece of the sixth series.

48. The Girl Who Waited: 

Amy Pond has always been the girl waiting on the Doctor. In the very first episode we learn that from the time the Raggedy Man showed up when she was a child to when they ran away together, it had been 14 years of her questioning her sanity. Finally she gets her wish and she, Rory, and the Doctor travel the universe together, but what happens when they get separated and she’s forced to grow old without either of them? Amy becomes bitter and hard, aging in this strange resort while time moves normally for the Doctor and Rory. When finally they reach her she’s finally been pushed to the point where she’s waited too long, but Rory’s heart warming speech convinces her that even old and grey, she’ll always choose Rory.

49. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe: 

An incredibly heartwarming Christmas special in between the Doctor faking his death and being Sir Lonely Pants, he sees the true meaning of family. Visiting a new widow making do to make her children’s Christmas special before telling them of their father’s death, her family’s tragedy leads him to a beautiful scene at the end with the Ponds, proving that even when you have all of time and space at your fingertips, family is what holds you together.

50. The Power of 3:

While the seventh season isn’t a favorite, this episode leading up to the farewell to the Ponds shows my favorite trio (Amy/Rory/the Doctor) just hanging out throughout the year while strange things are afoot on Earth. Odd little boxes have popped up all over and the Doctor figures he better hang out until things get worked out. So he moves in with the Ponds and for the first time, he has to adapt to their reality, instead of vice versa. It’s great to see him both out of his element and yet completely at home in the Williams/Pond home.

Bonus! Since the Eighth Doctor’s movie wasn’t that great, here’s a FANTASTIC clip of him in the prequel to “Day of the Doctor, titled “Night of the Doctor.”

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What are your favorite episodes? Tweet us @litdarling.

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