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Ranking DOCTOR WHO Series 7 Best to Worst

With the eighth series of Doctor Who so very close to premiering (it’s this Saturday, you dumb idiots), I decided it was time for a refresher on Series 7. I put on “Asylum of the Daleks” and realized it originally aired September 1st, 2012. That’s such a long time ago! This made me think, maybe in two years my opinion of these episodes has changed and I now really dislike ones I liked or really like ones I disliked. Time, if you’ll forgive a cliche that doesn’t exist, makes people change their mind about things. In general, I really enjoyed this series, so attempting to rank them is a bit of a matter of degrees. But, here, ranked by MY PERSONAL OPINION, from best to worst, are all 14 episodes from Doctor Who Series 7. (NOTE: I’m not counting “The Day of the Doctor” or “The Time of the Doctor”) (NOTE NOTE: Spoilers for Series 7, duh)

1. Asylum of the Daleks

One could argue it’s a condemnation for the series that it never got better than the premiere, but I just think it started with a bang. After nearly a year with only “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” for a new episode since the previous series, Steven Moffat needed to come back strong, and boy did he ever, turning in probably the best Dalek story since “Dalek” in 2005. A nut house for Daleks? Already amazing, but the added twist of the “normal” Daleks asking for the Doctor’s help because they’re too afraid of the crazy ones was an exceptionally good one. Plus, and holy crap it’s still an effective moment, Jenna (then Louise) Coleman pops up at the beginning to make me and I’m sure many others also go “Wait, what? I thought she wasn’t coming on the show until way later!” A mystery worth solving about how and why she’s there housed within an episode with scary-for-once Daleks; it’s still my favorite episode of the series.

2. The Name of the Doctor

Start strong, end strong. A fantastic culmination to the Clara mystery and a really effective and affecting way to set up the 50th Anniversary, with Clara split throughout history helping the various different versions of the Doctor overcome the machinations of the Great Intelligence, personified by Richard E. Grant in Victorian garb. This episode also features a wonderful send-off to River Song. I know it’s conceivable for her to come back whenever, but this was such a great farewell that I worry it would cheapen if it she ever came back. I think I watched this one, what, a dozen times?

3. Hide

I love me some horror, and this series provided two really terrific, throwback pieces of Doctor Who horror. I loved this one best for the simple fact that it was set during and took most of its inspiration from the 1970s. Writer Neil Cross was inspired by the works of Nigel Kneale (Quatermass) and probably P.J. Hammond (Sapphire & Steel) to give us an episode in which science and scares mix and ghosts aren’t metaphysical as much as they’re chronological. And yes, there’s a silly ending where a monster wants its monster lover back, but up until then, this is just plan scary as crap, and incredibly effective.

4. The Crimson Horror

The second of those horror episodes, this one is incredibly atypical and that’s why I dig it. Firstly, you get about halfway into the episode before you even see the Doctor; Vastra, Jenny, and Strax take the lead for the bulk of it, and then when we get a really crazy WTF moment in the middle, we flash back to see what the Doctor and Clara were doing that whole time and how it ended up the way it was. Next, it’s got this thread of dark humor that runs throughout, and isn’t shy about sort of having fun with horrific things. The baddie (played with wicked glee by Dame Diana Rigg) is an actual unrepentant bad person and that’s really fresh and exciting to watch. I think this ep is the tiny-red-alien-parasite’s knees.

5. The Snowmen

Having the Christmas special in the middle of a split season is certainly new and different, but having it at once be standalone and yet completely continuing the season and setting up the next chunk is fairly genius. Another Victorian adventure, which here introduces the second of the Clara permutations, this episode has monstrous snow, murderous ice, Ian McKellen’s voice in a dome, and references to a missing 1960s story that was announced as found 9 months later. It’s just a great episode through and through. It’s heartbreaking that we were robbed of Victorian Clara as a companion, but it made for another great twist.

6. The Angels Take Manhattan

Angels Take Manhattan
Saying goodbye to any companion is tough, much less two, much less in a way that makes it so they probably can never come back, much less a way that tells us they aren’t alive anymore in the present. The Angels are a good villain to have for that, because they’re scary and yet don’t have to be characters to get in the way. Essentially, this one’s just another four-hander between the Doctor, Ponds, and River (who is technically also a Pond) and that’s what you want from a touching goodbye. The story isn’t perfect, and jeepers creepers the Angel of Liberty is stupid, but it’s a satisfying and sad ending to some really great companions.

7. The Bells of Saint John

This is an episode that I don’t think has a particularly great plot or gimmick or anything, but it just ranks in the upper half of the series for me because of the interplay between the Doctor and Clara, the first time we’ve spent any time with the original one. She’s bright and warm and excited, but not gullible or too keen. The Doctor has to work to get her to want to travel with him, the way he almost didn’t have to at all with “Snowmen” Clara. It also features a really great simulated single-take shot of the Doctor and Clara running out of the TARDIS and into the cabin of a crashing airplane. Oh, and the Doctor riding a motorcycle across Westminster Bridge. Cool stuff, that.

8. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
I think this one ranks where it does simply because I expected it to be egregiously awful and it ended up being pretty good. With a title like that and a script by Chris “Cyberwoman” Chibnall, the odds were not in its favor. But, once the episode began and we met Rory’s dad and the hastily-assembled TARDIS Team, I was really into it. The Silurian connection was great, and I thought David Bradley was terrific as the nasty, horrible, reprehensible Solomon. The Doctor should have given him the choice not to get killed, but I’m certainly not upset that he went boom at the end. He killed a triceratops for no reason!

9. Cold War

Cold War
I like a LOT about this episode, from the return of the Ice Warriors to the brilliant direction by Douglas Mackinnon, but a lot of it also fell really flat for me, not least of which being the rapid acceleration through the plot and characters being dispatched without anything resembling dramatic effect. A lot of “welp, he’s dead” going on here. Not really much else to say about this one. It’s one I won’t skip when I watch, but it’s definitely just okay.

10. The Power of Three

Power of Three
Here’s another one, sadly also directed by Mackinnon, that I don’t really have anything against, nor do I really have much for; it’s just kind of there. I loved meeting the new UNIT, Kate Stewart, and the fact that they’re based in the Tower of London, but that’s about it. The plot still doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t get the cubes, and the bad guy is pretty forgettable. Still, there’s some great impatient humor from the Doctor and some more fun stuff with Rory’s dad. That’s about all I got.

11. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

We get to go inside the TARDIS and see parts of it we haven’t ever seen before. More stories should take place entirely within the TARDIS; perhaps in the future, though, they’ll not have a dumb plot involving a-hole brothers pretending their youngest brother is a robot when he isn’t. Stupid. Good Clara-Doctor stuff toward the end, though.

12. The Rings of Akhaten

I feel a weird need to defend this one, even though I clearly don’t like it very much either. I think there’s a lot of good ideas in this and the visuals are really striking and the makeup effects used for the various aliens are really impressive. It’s not AWFUL. It’s just not particularly great is all.

Up to this point, even the ones I have problems with are ones I would watch again and have done gladly. These last two, though, are ones I think are legitimately bad and I won’t probably choose to watch again if I can avoid it.

13. A Town Called Mercy

Town Called Mercy
I legitimately adore westerns, and spaghetti westerns specifically, which is why it’s so hard for me to say that I pretty much loathe “A Town Called Mercy.” Nothing to do with the direction, mind you, and I love that they actually went to the Spanish sets where Sergio Leone and others shot their famous Italian shoot-em-ups; I just think this story lacks anything of worth from a narrative function. They set it up like it’s going to be the Doctor defending a guy from a monster, then you find out the guy is actually a worse monster and it becomes a The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly situation, but Toby Whithouse makes it more like The Good, the Justifiably Angry, and the Eventually Repentant. Then it devolves into a rip-off of Three Amigos and a guy commits suicide when his option to run away proves impossible. It’s just so, so crappy.

14. Nightmare in Silver

The Cybermen are back and look awesome, the sets and direction are all pretty, and Matt Smith acts his chin and hair off playing both the Doctor and a Cyber-controller version of himself… and yet, this episode is just bad. BAD bad. Why is it so bad? Unfortunately, it’s a script thing. Neil Gaiman, who wrote many people’s top episode from Series 6, returned to pen this one, but it’s kind of the polar opposite to “The Doctor’s Wife.” It’s messy, it’s cluttered, it’s a little too whimsical for its own good, it loses all tension because of the inclusion of children, and the resolution is really convenient and comes out of nowhere. Despite Warwick Davis’ excellent performance, this is easily my least favorite episode of an otherwise excellent series.

Now, I’m sure I’ve upset many (and maybe even most) of you with my choices, but everybody has opinions and these are mine. Tell me your top and bottom picks in the comments below and we’ll have a nice, respectful discussion about it. Cool beans?

Images: BBC

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  1. 13. The Rings of Akhaten12. The Bells of Saint John11. The Crimson Horror10. Nightmare in Silver9. A Town Called Mercy8. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS7. Cold War6. Hide5. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship4. The Name of the Doctor3. The Power of Three2. The Angels Take Manhattan1. Asylum of the Daleks

  2. Erv79 says:

    I can’t believe “The Name of The Doctor” is number two. The Clara mystery was boring and forced, it needed time to mature. 

  3. I’ve been having a theory about season 7 and Clara since several episodes after she came in… she’s best in Moffat’s head. He really is the writer who created her, and seems to be the one writer who really gets her and writes her well. All the other writers never seemed to understand the whole plot with her so she never seemed to work well in those eps…

  4. I love Ahkatan. Not the best episode but the story and emotion Smith puts in just is amazing. Also the line “can you hear them singing?” Gets me every time 

  5. Unotme says:

    Wow!  I can’t believe NIS is so far down on your list!  It had its flaws but I thought it was a spectacular episode.  I know that opinions are just opinions, but damn that just kind of shocked me.

  6. dubh says:

    I pretty much concur with this ranking, but I must add in defense of Nightmare (just because I LOVE Gaiman and not because I think that episode is good) that it was supposed to be a two-ep story, but Moffat didn’t want to, so Gaiman had to crush all his ideas into one ep.

  7. Henrik says:

    I talked with my god daughter, age 12, about the second half of this series.  She wasn’t very impressed with it, but interestingly, her favourites (Nightmare in Silver and Journey to the Centre) were my least favourites.  And my favourites (Cold War and Crimson Horror) were her least favourite.  We agreed that Akhaten was rubbish.
    Moffat played the “companion as mystery” card twice with Amy.  Clara was such a cypher, we never got to know her as a character. I’m looking forward to just having her as a pal.

  8. Emily Rauch says:

    I am sad that you left Ben Browder out of “A Town Called Mercy.” He makes everything better! 

  9. TJ says:

    Great read, insightful stuff. I wholeheartedly disagree with most of your choices, but that’s the great thing about opinions. We all get to have our own. Thanks for inspiring me to re-watch the series before we get to the premiere. 

  10. Jaleh says:

    Interesting! I’m not sure I could even rank series 7 because it was, in my opinion, a generally awful season. I hate the Rory/Amy divorce storyline…it did nothing for me and really just made me dislike Amy more than I already had. I also really didn’t enjoy Clara’s ‘mystery.’ Although I enjoy Matt Smith, I think his long-term companions are generally annoying and almost become too important to him. If The Doctor could do his whole thing without Rose (who 11s practically forgotten), than he should be able to get over the loss of Amy. I think his pleas for her to stay were entirely selfish. 
    My major problem with this season (as well as Smith’s storyline in general) is that it has rare ties back to his earlier lives. He feels very disconnected from the other regens of The Doctor and he suffers from too many poor stories. 

  11. Christian says:

    The Crimson Horror is the very bottom of my list. Yikes.

  12. I mostly agree, though I think Rings of Akhaten is far, far worse than A Town Called Mercy. Mercy’s far from being one of the best episodes, but Akhaten was pretty much unwatchable (hated the singing). But you were spot on about Nightmare in Silver. I want the Cybermen to be scary again and they were far from it in this. And the inclusion of the kids made it too “Sarah Jane Adventures” for my taste. Please leave those brats at home.

  13. Neel says:

    As far as dumb subplots go I’d say Rory and Amy’s ‘I’m getting a divorce because I can’t have kids’ thing was far more jarring and pointless than what Journey or Nightmare in Silver had.

    Good read, though! I’m going to rewatch some of these now.

  14. I can pretty much relate to your feelings on these episodes. I have watched the end of ‘The Name Of The Doctor’ over and over again. The first time I watched it, I was literally left speechless. I just sat there staring at the screen trying to process what had just happened with John Hurt. I had to rewind it and watch it again a few times to try and wrap my head around it. That was fantastic screenwriting.

    While Nightmare in Silver was a stink bomb, I have re-watched it a few times for one specific reason; Warwick Davis was AMAZING in this episode. He dropped an incredible bit of acting on us. I cannot give him enough kudos for his acting in this episode.

    A Town Called Mercy…. Susan The Horse. That just seemed so arbitrary. You know how when you’re watching something and you’re drawn into the story, then something stupid happens and suddenly you’re lurched out of the story and slapped in the face with ‘This Is Just Something Stupid That Someone Wrote’? That’s how I felt about the Susan The Horse thing. It’s a shame they killed Ben Browder so quickly. I like him and I think he would have played nicely in a Dr Who episode.

  15. Terry says:

    Do we really need “Best to Worst” lists?  Not really a fan of them.  Seems a bit unimaginative, really.  I’d never do one myself, if only because I can’t imagine anyone being interested enough in my opinion on the matter.

    • Amy says:

      My my, aren’t we so very much cooler than everyone else. 

    • Sara Shaffer says:

      But I am interested in your opinion. Maybe your favorite episode is currently my least favorite…maybe the reason for that is something I never would have thought of on my own…maybe that makes me reevaluate my opinions and ways of thinking…maybe I learn something new…maybe I become a better person because of it…isn’t that the point of conversation?