Top 5 Best Doctor Who Episodes (Classic)
By James Amos
It’s now under two weeks to go before Doctor Who’s big day, so with the 50th almost upon us, I’ve decided to count down Doctor Who’s top five best episodes. Of course, it would be unfair to merge both New Who and Classic Who together into one countdown as the way of storytelling and the drama in itself has changed so drastically over the many years. Instead, I’ll start with the Classic era, and in the next part I’ll move on to the revival. Classic Who has some blooming good episodes, and it’s absolutely clear as to why the show has reached its 50th year still on out television screens. In this article I’ll be stating which episodes, in my own opinion, are the very best the show has given us.
5. The Green Death
This one may shock a few. As far as I’m aware, The Green Death isn’t often thought of when considering what the best Who stories are. For me, this is a fun yet dark romp with a heartbreaking ending which has everything that makes Doctor Who so great. “That one with the giant maggots?” I hear you say? Absolutely. What other show could give us an adventure with giant maggots which is meant to be taken seriously? Not only this, but the episode contains some great acting, and actually pretty nifty ideas.
This is Jo Grant’s final episode, my personal favourite companion. It is fairly obvious from the point she has fallen for Jones what was going to happen; and the Doctor is very much aware throughout the story too. When the inevitable comes and Jo decides to leave the Doctor for Jones, it makes for compelling and heartbreaking viewing. To this day it remains, in my opinion, the best companion exit ever. Another reason as to why this story has gained its pass into my top five.
4. The Tenth Planet
This is the story that changed everything for Doctor Who. Not only was it the first appearance of the Cybermen, a design that remains to this day my favourite, but it also introduced the concept of regeneration. Hartnell had to leave and the producers could have just replaced him with another actor with no explanation, they could have even carried on with another character, but instead they thought outside the box. The idea of regeneration is inspired, and it truly makes the show utterly unique. Not only this, but they introduced it in a fantastic episode.
I believe that the Cybermen here are more frightening than any designs that we’ve seen since. The faces, the mouths, the human hands and the voice make these creatures truly horrific. It’s a shame that these days Cybermen are nothing more than robots with stompy feet (still) and no brains or wit. In this episode, the Cybermen are just horrendously powerful humans. I think it is fitting that the Doctor’s first regeneration was in an episode with the Cybermen, and I hope writers in the future look back at these episodes when penning a Cyberman script, it’s a marvellous story which thoroughly deserves its spot in my top five.
3. The Tomb of the Cybermen
Yet another Cyberman story, and this one gets the bronze in this countdown. Tomb of the Cybermen is widely considered amongst the fan-base as the best Cyberman story ever told, and I would whole heartedly agree with that. It is a masterpiece of television, and well before its time. One thing that makes it so great is the long wait the script writers give the audience before any Cybermen are actually introduced. All we get to see is ominous paintings of them on the wall, this is rather masterful storytelling, the paintings are just there as a constant reminder that they’re coming.
Troughton also flourishes as an actor in this story, this and the War Games for me are his best work as the Second Doctor. Also, the Cybermen are yet again portrayed as truly frightening beings, even though they don’t actually do a lot in the story. The episodes flow very nicely and rather swiftly compared to other Who episodes during that time; the pacing is spot on. All in all, it’s a story which is a must see for anyone wanting to get into the Classic series.
2. Genesis of the Daleks
This is the story which was almost impossible to choose a place for in this list, yet in the end it had to settle with the silver medal. Genesis of the Daleks truly is a gem, it is the best Dalek/Davros story without a shred of a doubt in my mind. I’ve placed this at number two not only because the Daleks are nearly everyone’s favourite monsters, but because the script is just perfect. There’s twists and turns and pure danger for both the Doctor and his companions, it really is a thrill to watch.
Davros is introduced for the first time in this story, a mastermind with the hand that created the Daleks. We see that, although he’s completely bonkers, he’s a true match for the Doctor, and an enemy that will live on all the way to the revived show. Whilst watching this, you never get bored and never check your watch, it really is perfect. Unfortunately, however, it narrowly misses out on the top spot.
That spot is taken, and by none other than a Pertwee classic. Inferno takes place both in our world and a parallel world, and not a nice one either. The script is mad, dark and just altogether brilliant. This was when Doctor Who script writing was in its heyday, and it completely shows in this story. Not only that, but the acting from everyone involved is excellent, especially from the late Nicholas Courtney. I can’t really put it into words as to why I feel this episode is so great, but I suppose it’s because the script has literally everything piled into it, whilst the pacing of the story remains smooth and consistent.
All in all, Inferno holds it’s place as Number 1 in my books simply because it is a flawless and unique story. We’ve had many Dalek episodes and many Cybermen episodes, but we’ve not had many of episodes like this. It’s an idea that has been fully utilised and realised, making for compelling viewing and unforgettable television.
Next Time: Part 2 counts down the top 5 New Who stories.