Ten years ago on January 1, 2010, David Tennant bowed out from his role as the Tenth Doctor, leaving an indelible mark on a show that’s never been the same since. That being said, Doctor Who is still as relevant and important today, three incarnations of our favorite Time Lord later. So, we’ve ranked the top ten greatest, post-Tennant episodes of Doctor Who in the one decade since his exit. It’s truly difficult to break down the top ten best, so many fantastic episodes won’t make the cut.
10. “Deep Breath” – (Season 8 – Episode 1)
Coming in at the beginning of the list is “Deep Breath”, the eighth series premiere to Capaldi’s inaugural season as the Twelfth Doctor. We open on Victorian London, as a dinosaur runs rampant. It’s hard to believe “Deep Breath” was the last episode to feature the criminally undervalued Paternoster Gang (who else misses Strax the Sontaran?),
Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor takes on clockwork cyborgs, a throwback of sorts to Moffatt’s creepy season 2 contribution, “The Girl in the Fireplace”. While the quality of Capaldi’s first series, at times, suffered due to poor writing, the eighth series had its moments, and “Deep Breath” has to be one of them.
There’s a touching phone call between Clara and a final cameo appearance from Matt Smith’s former Eleventh Doctor, before the episode closes out with Michelle Gomez’s fleeting appearance as Missy, where she informs the episode’s big bad, the Half-Face Man (who’d died impaled on the spire atop Big Ben) that he’s reached the “Promised Land”.
9. “Ascension of the Cybermen” – (Season 12 – Episode 9)
Throughout most of Moffat’s era, the Cybermen had become a little lackluster, from the godawful “Nightmare in Silver” to the mostly forgettable “Closing Time”. One could argue that they’d been overused on one too many occasions. To prove my point, they’d featured in not one, but two season finales with Capaldi.
Suffice to say, “Ascension of the Cybermen” – a dark reimagining of a future dominated by Cybermen – reinvigorated one of Doctor Who’s most consistent foes. Led by the creepily half-converted cyber-leader Ashad, the last of humanity are scattered among the stars hiding from a fledgling Cyber empire. The episode gets under your skin in a way that makes you think the Cybermen are a force to be reckoned with. Much like Torchwood’s “Cyberwoman” (written by Chibnall) the Broadchurch writer has a gift for taking the story in very different directions.
8. “Cold War” – (Season 7 – Episode 8)
An ice warrior on a soviet submarine. On that pitch alone, I’m sold. While Matt Smith’s seventh season felt weighed down by the monotonous subplot surrounding Clara’s identity, some absolute gems slipped through the net, and a couple of these will appear further down the list.
“Cold War”, meanwhile, penned by BBC Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss, reintroduced an iconic Doctor Who villain long, long overdue to appear in the revived series. At the height of the Cold War, there’s a greater threat than world powers threatening to launch nuclear missiles: Grand Marshal Skaldak.
7. “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone” – (Season 5 – Episodes 4 & 5)
“The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone” puts the Weeping Angels at their true, unnerving best. Moffat’s two-parter in his first season as showrunner exemplified everything that made the Weeping Angels so uniquely menacing the first time around, and yet while the two-parter offered some unnerving moments (Amy counting down and the angel in the TV), the story’s extended two-part format stretched the Quantum-locked creatures to their limit. Sad to say, they’ve never felt menacing since.
6. “The Angels Take Manhattan” – (Season 7 – Episode 5)
Next up, we come to the second Weeping Angel story on this list. The fifth episode of season seven serves as Amy and Rory’s final episode in the show, “The Angels Take Manhattan”. Forgetting any potential plot-holes, the gimmicky Statue Of Liberty/Weeping Angel, Moffatt’s story in 1930’s New York City would bid a fitting and poignant farewell to the couple.
In a tragic twist, Rory is sent back in time by a lone Weeping Angel, and much to the Doctor’s dismay, Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond bids farewell to her Raggedy Man and returns to the past to be with Mr. Pond, rightfully so, despite the Doctor’s heartbreak. While it breaks our hearts, it’s a respectable, emotionally-charged ending the Ponds deserved.
5. “Resolution” – (New Year’s Day Special – 2019)
At the halfway point, we move onto an episode from Jodie Whittaker’s eleventh season, namely 2019’s New Year special, “Resolution”. Save for Tennant’s fourth season two-part finale (featuring Davros and a new Dalek Empire), “Resolution” is likely the next greatest Dalek episode ever produced in Doctor Who.
From Chibnall’s intentionally obscure writing style foreshadowing a seemingly unbeatable enemy, to the Dalek’s hilariously epic showdown with a tank, “Resolution” was a standout hit of Whittaker’s era, while the ‘junkyard chic’ Dalek (to coin the term from Whittaker herself) made you forget about the unappealing storylines involving Ryan’s dad and the poor UNIT joke.
4. “Sleep No More” – (Season 9 – Episode 9)
“Sleep No More” was a riveting, highly chilling single episode thriller that felt it had more to give as the credits rolled. The Le Verrier crew have been wiped out by creatures made of rheum (in other words – the sleep in your eye), and the creatures stalking the halls of the ship have become eerily nicknamed ‘Sandmen’.
From Mark Gatiss’ sinister writing style, the episode’s unique found-footage presentation, to the strong performances from Capaldi, Coleman, and Inside No.9’s Reece Shearsmith, “Sleep No More” was a surprise hit from an otherwise sluggish ninth season.
3. “Vincent and the Doctor” – (Series 5 – Episode 10)
“Vincent and the Doctor” was a heartbreaking tribute to one of the greatest painters that ever lived: Vincent Van Gogh. Set aside the largely forgettable and invisible Krafayis monster, the episode’s highlight came in its closing moments.
In the present day, Vincent is taken to a Van Gogh exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay, and following a passionate speech by the gallery’s art curator, Mr. Black (the wonderful Bill Nighy), Vincent is overcome with emotion. Soundtracked by Athlete’s haunting “Chances”, the episode’s emotional depth has been largely unmatched in future Doctor Who episodes. Vincent returns to 1890, as the Doctor and Amy move on with the terrible knowledge that in a matter of weeks, the tormented artist would take his own life.
2. “Listen” – (Season 8 – Episode 4)
Ever had that fear as a child of a hand grabbing you from under the bed? “Listen”, a Moffat masterclass, explores this very simple fear and executes it brilliantly. In need of Clara’s help, the Doctor is adamant about tracking down a creature that has perfected the ability to hide, and that in some way is connected to the universal fear of a hand reaching out to grab your foot from under your bed.
In a smartly written twist, the TARDIS later lands in a barn on Gallifrey, where a young boy sleeps in bed. Clara hides under the bed to avoid detection from the boy’s parents, who is revealed to be the Doctor as a child. At one point, the Doctor steps from the bed, but to stop him, Clara grabs his ankle, ultimately realizing she’d unwittingly instilled the fear in the Doctor during his childhood.
1. “The Day Of The Doctor” – (50th Anniversary Special – 2013)
Inarguably the pinnacle of Steven Moffat’s run as Doctor Who showrunner, and across the fifty decades since the airing of An Unearthly Child in 1963, the greatest post-Tennant episode has to be “The Day Of The Doctor”, the show’s 50th anniversary special.
Broadcast in over 90 countries worldwide, “The Day Of The Doctor” featured electric performances from the late John Hurt as the “War Doctor”, and David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. The 50th anniversary also welcomed back the shapeshifting Zygons, UNIT, the pomp, circumstance, desperation of the Time Lords in the final days of the Time War, Rose Tyler, (a human interface for the Moment), and the revelation that Gallifrey had not been destroyed during the Time War after all.
Plus, it’d be a crime not to mention Tom Baker’s cameo appearance as the gallery curator, which left many jaws on the floor.
That’s our list for the best post-Tennant episodes! But what are yours? Did we miss any hidden gems? Let us know in the comment section below!