Oh yes, you’ve read the title correctly. We’re actually doing this. Every Tenth Doctor TV adventure, but filed according to astonishment and brilliance rather than chronology.
Now, before we get into it, it’s important to say this – all the Tenth Doctor stories have greatness in them. Some have great moments, some have great monsters, some have great characters, and some have great special effects. The ones at the very top of the list just have more of those elements than the others. It may seem unfair, but look at it this way: every alphabet has a Q. We can’t all be Es and Ses, but every letter is essential – even X.
Note: we’re leaving out “The Day of the Doctor” because it belongs more correctly in the era of the Eleventh Doctor.
So, let’s start at the end. This first lot, while worthy, have monsters or characters or plots (or all three) that didn’t land as well with fans as other stories did.
36. “Love & Monsters”
It’s a Doctor-lite episode – like “Blink” – with a story about a crazy gang of misfits brought together (albeit accidentally) by the mystery of the Doctor. There’s also a people-absorbing alien, and a romantic paving slab.
35. “The Lazarus Experiment”
The Doctor and Martha face off against a man whose desire for eternal youth has catastrophic consequences for everyone around him. Especially him.
34. “Fear Her”
It’s the 2012 Olympics and the Doctor gets to deliver the torch to its final destination in London. Also, something creepy happens with drawings.
33. “Daleks in Manhattan” / “Evolution of the Daleks”
The Doctor and Martha pop over to New York, find some pig-men and then uncover a plot to make human-Dalek hybrids at the top of the Empire State Building.
32. “The Idiot's Lantern”
In which the Queen’s 1953 Coronation is hijacked by a face-stealing rotter in the TV, the Doctor loses his rag when Rose’s features are wiped from her head, and we get to establish Magpie Electricals as the premier Doctor Who brand for consumer durables.
31. “The Impossible Planet” / “The Satan Pit”
Somewhere at the bottom of a huge pit is a creature that looks a lot like the devil and he wants the humans to stop drilling nearby. The Doctor pops in to say hello.
Now we reach the section of totally enjoyable, uncontroversially good Doctor Who. Most people agree these stories are tremendous and will definitely argue about the order in which they appear here.
30. “Planet of the Dead”
A double decker bus is sent through a wormhole to a bleak desert-like planet. The Doctor has an Easter egg and strikes up a friendship with a posh cat-burglar.
29. “The Christmas Invasion”
The Doctor has just regenerated and fallen asleep. Meanwhile, people are being mind-controlled by the Sycorax. The Doctor wakes up and gives them a hand.
28. “Tooth and Claw”
It’s Victorian times. As if to prove it, the Doctor and Rose meet Queen Victoria and then encounter a werewolf. Despite his sterling work in keeping her alive, the Queen takes a dim view of the Doctor and invents Torchwood.
27. “The Sontaran Stratagem” / “The Poison Sky”
A bratty tech upstart sets off a Sontaran invasion. They try to suffocate the Earth using evil satellite navigation systems. Martha Jones is back and a soldier.
In which the Doctor has the sun in his eyes.
25. “The Shakespeare Code”
Martha and the Doctor visit Elizabethan London and fight off witches using magic words written by William Shakespeare.
24. “Army of Ghosts” / “Doomsday”
Earth has been invaded by ghosts, except they are Cybermen. No thanks to Torchwood, the Daleks arrive and the two invaders immediately start squabbling. The Doctor chucks them all into the void and loses Rose in the process.
Cars can fly and you can live in them, which is just as well because traffic is awful and there are monsters on the hard shoulder. Also, the Doctor plays with kittens.
22. “The Fires of Pompeii”
Vesuvius could blow at any minute, and it does, with some help from the Doctor. Donna makes him save someone, and he does. It’s himself from the future (although we don’t know that yet).
21. “New Earth”
The Doctor and Rose go to the year 5,000,000,023 and catch up with Lady Cassandra. She inhabits Rose and snogs the Doctor, who uncovers a plague farm for incurable diseases and then cures everyone by mixing medicine in a bucket.
20. “The Runaway Bride”
Donna Noble’s entire life (and wedding) is a lie perpetrated by a giant spider. The Doctor flushes the spider’s children away.
19. “School Reunion”
Sarah Jane Smith! Back! And K-9! And Giles from Buffy is a headmaster, but that’s less important. Other things happen too.
18. “Voyage of the Damned”
The Titanic is a spaceship doomed to crash into the Earth. The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. Astrid Peth is now stardust.
17. “Partners in Crime”
Donna Noble has been searching for the Doctor while everyone else is turning their excess fat into marshmallow people.
16. “Smith and Jones”
A Judoon platoon on the moon. It’s enough to make a balloon swoon into a spoon, soon.
15. “The Unicorn and the Wasp”
Agatha Christie is about to vanish and we’re about to find out why. Also, the Doctor stimulates cyanide-effected enzimes with anchovies and snogs Donna.
14. “Planet of the Ood”
Aww aren’t the Ood nice? Aren’t they lovely and kind? It would be awful to take advantage of their subservient nature, wouldn’t it? Oh hang on, they’re suddenly furious. Run away!
13. “Rise of the Cybermen” / “The Age of Steel”
Imagine if your airpods tried to take over your entire head, except it was in an alternative dimension and your dad had come back to life. And there were Cybermen. Wake up! You’re Rose Tyler.
12. “The End of Time (Parts 1 and 2)”
The Master is back! The Time Lords are back! Wilf is the Doctor’s new companion. Death comes a-knockin’ (four times) and the Doctor visits everyone he has ever liked. He doesn’t want to go.
11. “The Doctor's Daughter”
There’s a machine that makes people out of people and it makes a girl called Jenny out of the Doctor. He’s tetchy about this, because she’s a soldier, but Time Lord blood is thicker than Time Lord water.
Now we reach the Top 10. Some stories tug at the heart and mind with far greater strength than others. All the good work done to establish David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor has been put to good use in delivering these, 10 of the best Doctor Who stories there have ever been.
10. “The Stolen Earth” / “Journey's End”
Davros is back! He’s making a cosmic necklace out of planets to build a reality gun. The Doctor recruits all of his best recent friends to help sort it out, plus himself in a blue suit – a spare for Rose. Just don’t ask us to talk about what happens to Donna, it’s still too soon.
The Doctor is trapped on a broken transporter with some frightened people and an invisible mind-controlling monster. What could possibly go wrong?
8. “Utopia” / “The Sound of Drums” / “Last of the Time Lords”
The Master is BACK! And so is his next regeneration, who pinches the TARDIS. He becomes the prime minister, brings flying robot balls from the end of time to enslave humanity and locks the Doctor in Tweetie Pie’s cage. Martha Jones fixes everything with the power of prayer.
7. “The Next Doctor”
The Doctor arrives in Victorian London to meet… the Doctor and his companion. They have a TARDIS and a sonic screwdriver and they’re chasing Cybermen, but all is not as it seems.
6. “The Waters of Mars”
In the course of trying to save a Martian base from infiltration by a water monster, the Doctor attempts to re-write history, unveils a particularly dark side and then realizes he’s getting above himself.
5. “The Girl in the Fireplace”
Time travel is a wonderful thing, but if you can’t control when you arrive, you could miss out on something – or someone – precious. Like the Doctor pretending to be drunk, and later jumping through a huge mirror on a horse.
4. “Silence in the Library” / “Forest of the Dead”
Meet the Vashta Nerada. They are tiny, live in shade, and eat packed lunches for lunch and people for dinner. They live in the space library where the Doctor meets River Song, a woman who seems to know an awful lot about him.
3. “Turn Left"
Donna is sent by Rose – and a creepy lady with a back-beetle – to re-choose a fateful moment. Turn one way, and the Doctor dies, pushing the world into turmoil. Turn the other and he lives, but at what cost?
The Doctor is a DVD extra and the Weeping Angels are creeping up on Sally Sparrow who cannot look away for a moment. You will never want to go in a graveyard or look at a statue again.
1. “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood”
A perfect Doctor Who story, and incredibly emotional. The Doctor turns human and hides from an alien family in a school. The human Doctor falls in love. The family send animated scarecrows to attack and the boys – who will soon be off to fight in the First World War – try to mow them down with machine guns. The human Doctor has to choose between a fulfilling life as a human or his old gallivanting ways.
Every action has an emotional cost. Every cost is shown on screen, including the Doctor’s revenge on the family. And this was the story that appeared immediately before “Blink,” which is then followed by “Utopia”. What a show!
What's your favorite Tenth Doctor story?!