The Doctor Who Modern Era has officially come to an end after David Tennant made his return and Ncuti Gatwa made his arrival in the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary three-part special. Accumulating five Doctors since 2005, the iconic British sci-fi series has captivated audiences with its fresh perspectives, palpable storytelling, and intriguing characters. The Modern era has delivered some truly outstanding episodes, from heart-wrenching farewells with beloved companions to thrilling adventures and defeats of the Daleks and Weeping Angels.
Celebrating the best of the Modern Era, we can observe the evolution of Doctor Who over the years and the impact it has had on science fiction television. Doctor Who has captured the hearts of fans worldwide, transcending age barriers. With the advent of New Who, let’s embark on a journey to examine the 10 best episodes from the Modern Era, delving into the moments that shaped each Doctor and contributed to the show’s status as a cultural phenomenon.
10. “Vincent and the Doctor” (Season 5, Episode 10)
Coming in as the 10th best Doctor Who episode of the Modern Era is “Vincent and the Doctor.” The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and his widely adored companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) travel to 19th-century France to meet the renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh (Tony Curran). The Doctor and Amy discover that Van Gogh is being followed by unseen monsters that only he can see, feeding off his inner critical emotions.
While the pair and the artist investigate, they form a unique bond leading to the Doctor discovering Van Gogh’s struggles with mental health and the impact they have on his artistic brilliance. “Vincent and the Doctor” explores themes of depression and the healing power of friendship as the Doctor and Amy take Van Gogh to the future to show him the impact his work has had and the legacy it has left on the field of art.
9. “The Day of the Doctor” (50th Anniversary Special)
The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary, “The Day of the Doctor,” welcomes the Eleventh Doctor and companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) as they stumble upon a Zygon plot to invade Earth. The stakes intensify when the War Doctor (John Hurt) resurfaces accompanied by a mysterious force, and the Eleventh Doctor grapples with the weight of regret from his past actions. Confronting a moral dilemma, the Doctors unite across time to combat the impending threat. Together, they navigate their history, revisit Gallifrey, and seek a solution that challenges the very core of Time Lord’s existence.
David Tennant‘s reprisal of the Tenth Doctor in “The Day of the Doctor” captivated Doctor Who fans with a spectacular performance. The episode effortlessly embodies the wit, charm, and emotional depth of all the doctors previously seen.
8. “The Eleventh Hour” (Season 5, Episode 1)
After the Doctor crash-lands the TARDIS in the quiet English village of Leadworth, an alien criminal known as Prisoner Zero escapes, causing a crack in time that threatens the entire universe. “The Eleventh Hour” commences Matt Smith’s era as the Doctor, and whilst recovering from his recent regeneration, he teams up with Amy Pond to track down the dangerous prisoner.
While continuing their investigation, they uncover the connection between the crack in time and a mysterious fissure in Amy’s wall that has persisted since her childhood. As time runs out to save the universe, the Doctor and Amy race against the clock to close the cracks and send Prisoner Zero back to where he belongs. “The Eleventh Hour” not only sets the stage for Matt Smith’s thrilling adventures but also sets up an ongoing narrative and threat throughout Season 5.
7. “Listen” (Season 8, Episode 4)
The ultimate eerie episode of Doctor Who is “Listen.” In the heart of time and space, the Doctor and Clara Oswald find themselves in the middle of a mystery that transcends the boundaries of reality as the Doctor becomes obsessed with a mysterious phenomenon that haunts the world.
The Doctor and Clara, convinced that there is an entity hiding in plain sight, embark on a journey to uncover the truth. As they travel to different eras of time, they discover that the entity is echoing their fears and insecurities. The episode forces the Doctor to grapple with his uncertainties and personal demons. With a climactic turn of events, “Listen” leaves viewers contemplating the thin line between reality and imagination.
6. “World Enough and Time”/”The Doctor Falls” (Season 10, Episodes 11 & 12)
Peter Capaldi‘s unforgettable era as the Doctor comes to an end in the “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls” two-part episode. After the TARDIS lands on a spaceship at the edge of a black hole, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) gets shot by a blue humanoid alien and is sent to a lower level of the ship for medical attention, where time passes much slower.
After Bill awakens, she finds her body partially turned into Cyberman. Meanwhile, the Master (John Simm) makes his return as he is revealed to be posing as “Mr Razor” and has been manipulating events to help the Cybermen in their plan. Missy (Michelle Gomez) must decide between helping her future self (the Master) and the Doctor, resulting in an intense battle between the Doctor and the Cybermen. The Doctor ends up wounded and alone in a snow landscape, while his future incarnation begins to emerge.
5. “The End of Time” Parts 1 & 2 (Season 4, Episodes 17 & 18)
The two-part Christmas Doctor Who special, “The End of Time,” showcases the Tenth Doctor (Tennant) as he grapples with the inevitability of his regeneration. Unfolding through an ancient prophecy, the narrative institutes the return of the Time Lords and the Master. The Master’s resurrection sets off a chain of events leading to the imminent end of time. As the Doctor confronts his past and engages in a battle with the Time Lord High Council, his companion Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) plays a pivotal role, deploying every effort to save the Doctor.
Through emotional farewells and a heart-wrenching sacrifice, this two-part special marks the conclusion of the Tenth Doctor’s era. The goodbye becomes even more touching for fans because of Tennant’s ability to effortlessly transition between lighthearted moments and intense, dramatic scenes, showcasing his mastery in the role and leaving an indelible mark on the series.
4. “Waters of Mars” (Season 4, Episode 16)
Everybody loves a good infection-filled episode and “The Waters of Mars” is not one to miss. This Doctor Who episode follows Tenth Doctor after he lands on Mars in the year 2059, stumbling upon a research base in dire straits. The water on the Red Planet turns malevolent, seizing control of the crew and morphing them into horrifying entities.
Realizing he’s in the midst of a fixed point in time that challenges the very laws of the universe, the Doctor, despite ominous warnings, decides to intervene, driven by a determination to reshape history. “The Waters of Mars” earns its place as one of the leading Doctor Who episodes due to Tennant’s masterful performance, high production values, and impressive cinematography and special effects that brought the creepy monsters to life whilst creating a suspenseful atmosphere.
3. “Heaven Sent” (Season 9, Episode 11)
“Heaven Sent” features the Twelfth Doctor as he finds himself alone in a mysterious castle with seemingly no way out. As he explores the castle, he discovers that it is constantly changing, with rooms that shift and reset. The Doctor realizes that he is being hunted by the Veil, but the only way to escape is to torch the heart of the castle. However, every time the Doctor dies, he returns to the beginning, forcing him to relive the scenario repeatedly with no memory of the last.
As the Doctor struggles with the endless cycle, he reflects on his past decisions, delving into his inner psyche and revealing the burden of the many lives he has lost. “Heaven Sent” is celebrated for its unique narrative structure, intense character exploration, and Peter Capaldi’s memorable performance, making it an extraordinary episode in the Doctor Who series.
2. “Silence in the Library”/“Forest of the Dead” (Season 4, Episodes 8 & 9)
In the gripping tale of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead,” the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) find themselves within the mysterious Library, a colossal archive housing every written work in existence. However, the unsettling silence conceals a dreadful enigma — the Vashta Nerada, microscopic shadow-dwelling creatures with lethal predatory tendencies.
Amidst the ensuing chaos, the Doctor encounters River Song (Alex Kingston), a woman intricately connected to him. Unveiling the Library’s true nature, it becomes a sanctuary where past visitors are preserved in a digital afterlife to escape imminent doom. As time ticks away, sacrifices are made, and a poignant and thrilling climax exposes the Vashta Nerada’s true power. Fans widely regard “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” as standout episodes in Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor.
1. “The Stolen Earth”/“Journey’s End” (Season 4, Episodes 12 & 13)
Taking its place as the number one Doctor Who episode of the Modern Era is the two-parter, “The Stole Earth”/“Journey’s End.” The Season 4 finale brings together some favourite companions — Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), Donna Noble (Tate), and Martha Jones (Freeman Agyeman) — as they battle against the Daleks alongside the Doctor. Led by the spiteful Davros (Julian Bleach), the Daleks have abducted Earth and 26 other planets in hopes of creating a reality-threatening weapon against the universe.
The Tenth Doctor, Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) face the ultimate showdown filled with sorrowful farewells and unbeatable action. As the fate of reality rests in the Doctor’s hands, he must make sacrifices, parting ways with his cherished companion Donna and undertaking the emotionally challenging responsibility of erasing her memories.
Ncuti Gatwa Returns As ’Doctor Who’s Fourteenth Doctor in May
The Doctor Who Modern Era has delivered a wide range of spectacular episodes that have left an undeniable mark on the hearts of fans worldwide, while still welcoming newcomers into the beloved sci-fi series. From the Ninth Doctor’s (Christopher Eccleston) journey in “Rose” to the Thirteenth Doctor’s (Jodie Whittaker) last adventure in “The Power of the Doctor,” each episode stands as a testament to the show’s enduring creativity and storytelling prowess.
As we reflect on the exceptional and breathtaking storytelling, performances, and moments, it is evident that the show’s appeal lies in its ability to blend science fiction with heartfelt moments of human drama. Doctor Who returns in May, with the beginning of Ncuti Gatwa‘s era as the Fourteenth Doctor.
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