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Doctor Who: The Best of the Best

There were some surprises here, most of all the surprise that more people voted than in the previous poll. Myself, I find it much easier to decide which story I like least than which I like most; perhaps I am unusual in that regard.

Anyway, as before, going in order of decreasing consensus by Doctor.

Ninth Doctor: The runaway winner - by a far greater margin than for any other Doctor - was Steven Moffat's The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances with 43 votes out of 63 (including mine). A very long way behind came Dalek with 7 votes, then Father's Day with 5, Rose and Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways with two each, and Boom Town with one. (And three saying they were all brill.) This basically isn't surprising, though the margin of victory perhaps is.

Father's Day thus establishes itself also as the most polarising Who story ever, coming third in the vote for Best Of Nine and joint third in the vote for Worst Of Nine; apart from the special case of the TV movie, it was the only one to get four or more votes in both polls.

Fifth Doctor: The Caves of Androzani has a pretty commanding lead, with 18 votes out of 47 (including mine). In joint second place, though a long way behind with 4 each, are Kinda, Earthshock and The Five Doctors, with Castrovalva, The Visitation, Black Orchid and Enlightenment on two each and a vote for each of Arc of Infinity, Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, Warriors of the Deep, Frontios, Resurrection of the Daleks and Planet of Fire. And two saying they were all great. Again, I can't say I am surprised by this outcome.

Kinda turns out to be another polarising story, joint second in the poll for Best Of Five and third in the poll for Worst Of Five. Black Orchid also scored notably in both. It is notable that the Worst of Five poll produced the most decisive result, and the Best Of Five the second most decisive. When they got it right in those days, they got it right; and when they got it wrong, they got it wrong.

First Doctor: The Dalek Invasion of Earth, with 16 votes out of 48; more than twice as many as the second placed story, The Aztecs which got 7 and The Daleks with 4. Three votes go to both The Romans and (my own choice) The Daleks' Master Plan, with two each to An Unearthly Child, The Edge of Destruction, The Keys of Marinus and The Time Meddler and single votes for Marco Polo , The Chase, The Myth Makers, The War Machines and The Tenth Planet (and also for each of the "all great"/"all terrible" options). I can understand the winner, which is the best of the surviving longer First Doctor stories; but I really think that if you like The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and are prepared to submit to the tyranny of the audio format, you will love The Daleks' Master Plan; I know I did.

Interestingly An Unearthly Child got two votes in both polls. You either like it or you don't (though I question whether any of those who voted it as Worst Of One had actually seen The Chase). I cannot quite believe that anyone voted for The Chase as Best Of One who has seen any other First Doctor story (bar The Sensorites).

Sixth Doctor: Revelation of the Daleks is the winner here with 14 votes out of 43. There is then a fairly neat gradation: The Two Doctors gets 7, The Mark of the Rani 6, Vengeance on Varos 4, Mindwarp 3 (including mine), and, rather incredibly, two votes go to each of Timelash (the winner for the Worst Of Six poll) and The Ultimate Foe. Four hated 'em all, one loved 'em all.

I don't really understand this, to be honest. Neither of the top two stories seems to me at all special, except that they are not quite as bad as the worst of the Six era. I stand by my own choice of Mindwarp as the most interesting and innovative Six story.

Seventh Doctor: Remebrance of the Daleks squeaks it over my own choice, The Curse of Fenric, by 13 to 12 (out of a total of 47). Incredibly, Battlefield came third with 6, then Dragonfire, The Happiness Patrol, Ghost Light and Survival with three, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy with two and Paradise Towers with one. (Likewise one for "All terrible".)

As with the Worst Of Seven poll, I find these results utterly incomprehensible; how anyone can rate the cheap and shoddy Remembrance and rambling Battlefield over the masterful Fenric and subtle Ghost Light is beyond me.

Fourth Doctor: Genesis of the Daleks is narrowly ahead of City of Death by 13 vote to 11 (out of 49); and in fairness, it is a tough call. Some way behind are The Talons of Weng-Chiang with 6, The Robots of Death with four, and Pyramids of Mars and (my own choice) The Deadly Assassin with three; scattered individual votes for The Ark in Space, The Android Invasion, The Brain of Morbius, The Masque of Mandragora, Image of the Fendahl, State of Decay and Warriors' Gate, with two for "all great".

With slight reservations for a couple of the last group, these stories are all fantastic. Terry Nation becomes the first of two writers to win two of these polls.

Second Doctor: The Mind Robber has it with 11 votes out of 46. It is followed, in neat descent, by The Tomb of the Cybermen (8), The Invasion (7), The War Games (5), The Evil of the Daleks (4), The Highlanders (3) and (as qatsi points out) The Web of Fear (2) with scattered votes for The Faceless Ones, The Ice Warriors and The Wheel in Space. (And two for "all good", and one for "all bad".) Although my own vote was for The War Games, all the top five picks are memorably excellent. I am a bit surprised by the popularity of The Highlanders.

Third Doctor: Inferno is well ahead of the opposition, with 11 votes out of 48, more than twice as man as its nearest rivals, Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Dæmons which both got five. They are followed by The Three Doctors and The Green Death with four each, Terror of the Autons and The Claws of Axos with three, Spearhead from Space, The Mind of Evil, Invasion of the Dinosaurs and Planet of the Spiders with two each, and single votes for The Ambassadors of Death, Day of the Daleks, my own eccentric choice The Curse of Peladon, The Sea Devils and Frontier in Space. Uniquely, nobody went for either the "all great" or "all terrible" options. My own tastes are clearly well out of whack with the rest of fandom here.

Tenth Doctor: It is not surprising that Blink, my own choice, won with 14 votes out of 62, giving Steven Moffat his second victory (and thus level with Terry Nation). I was surprised, though, not just by its relatively low score - this was the least decisive of the nine serious contests - but by the following placings: Human Nature / The Family of Blood with 11, The Fires of Pompeii with 7, The Girl in the Fireplace with 5, and Midnight with 4. The two most recent season finales, Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords, and Turn Left / The Stolen Earth / Journey's End each got three, with two for two-parters The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, Army of Ghosts / Doomsday and Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead and individual votes for the Children in Need Special (which I suspect is an error for Time Crash), Love & Monsters, The Shakespeare Code, Time Crash in its own right, The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky and The Unicorn and the Wasp, with three diehards insisting they were all good. There were a couple of odd omissions - was nobody as impressed with School Reunion or The Doctor's Daughter as I was? And I am struck by the convincing lead of The Fires of Pompeii over Midnight, which I would have put the other way round. But chacun a son goût.

Eighth Doctor: 10 out of 54 of you voted for the TV movie. The other 44, including I should say myself, thought it was a stupid question.

So that's it. Thanks for playing, and I shall probably do the same this time next year or thereabouts.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 17th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
prepared to submit to the tyranny of the audio format, you will love The Daleks' Master Plan;

Loose Canon has actually done a very good recon of this story. It's quite impressive, and is one of the few recons that, while watching, I didn't feel like I was watching a recon.

Although we did agree on The Romans and Pyramids of Mars.

Edited at 2008-07-17 09:47 pm (UTC)
Jul. 17th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
Interesting set of results, particularly on 10. The S3 and S4 finales were let down by one episode each, IMHO - "Last of the Time Lords" had suckage, as did "The Stolen Earth".

Had "Turn Left" been up there on its own it may have taken my vote from "Blink". Which is weird, because Tennant is the Doctor, he's better than Tom or Jon now, and yet two "Doctor lite" episodes have been my favourites so far.

Maybe I'm just turning into a not-so-closet Catherine Tate fan though ;)
Jul. 17th, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC)
I also thought Turn Left was brill. I would have voted for it had it been separate.
Jul. 17th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
Ooh I'm interested in this statement - "Which is weird, because Tennant is the Doctor, he's better than Tom or Jon now, and yet two "Doctor lite" episodes have been my favourites so far."

Because I know a lot of people who've said that but I've never understood why a particular Doctor over the others. No disrespect of your opinion intended.
Jul. 17th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
What gets me about David Tennant's performance is that he's a young guy, looks younger, and yet more so than anyone else who's ever played the role when he turns on the gravitas he is utterly credible as someone who's 900-odd years old, the last survivor of his race and the ultimate genocide.

For me, Tennant won the rights to the Definitive Doctor tag in School Reunion. His confrontation with Anthony Stewart Head could've been as hammy as all hell. But the way it was underplayed - "You only get one chance" - carried all the weight in the world. "You just wither and die" to Lis Sladen was also utterly commanding. From there on I was a believer.
Jul. 19th, 2008 03:23 am (UTC)
"Turn Left" was severely disappointing. I thought it was the first sight of the return of one of the Doctor's greatest enemies, and instead it's apparently a one-shot newbie.

But it was billions of times better than "Blink".
Jul. 17th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
I have a distinct feeling that there's a certain element of "oooh, Daleks, when we were kids we used to hide behind the sofa" boosting Revelation and Remembrance. They were nothing special, really, were they?
Jul. 17th, 2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
I think Revelation is a really interesting piece. It is far and away the best directed of Colin Baker's stories (Graeme Harper at the helm) - the supporting roles demonstrated that perhaps Saward had taken something from his involvement with Robert Holmes and Androzani. The characters are grotesques - Jobel, Takis, Lilt, the mutant, the DJ. He pairs off characters in Holmes type double acts. The acting is pretty good (I except Jenny Tomasin as Tasambeker - although her role is so off kilter I can only imagine that this was a carefully thought out choice as to her performance). Clive Swift in particular is great, and Trevor Cooper is always worth watching. Also, finally after all the bickering between the Doctor and Peri we see signs that they like each other. The source, The Loved One, is worth ripping off - and the whole concept of Necros and the industry around it demonstrates rather more world building than we usually see in Saward script edited stories (I exclude the sublime Kinda, and both of Philip Martin's scripts - the latter because Martin was a proper writer).

I voted for Revelation over Mindwarp (my second favourite) because I think it is a more complete story and it does not get let down by a big pink heart indicating everything ended happily ever after - Mindwarp is proper post-modern Who but let down by the direction (did the director realise that it was an elaborate joke by Philip Martin on the format of the show) and the casting of Ryecart and Blessed against type, which sometimes comes off, but here didn't for me. If Ryecart had been Yrcanos and Blessed the mad scientist then it would have worked better for me. I agree though that Mindwarp is a stand-out script in the Colin Baker era.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 18th, 2008 01:01 pm (UTC)
I voted for Fenric, but I have a lot of time for Remembrance. At the time it was astonishing. Remember that exactly a year previously we'd been watching Time and the Rani. To have, in place of that, this dense, literate, somewhat grown-up, *fast* story that seemed to have something to say... it was a real game-changer. And it's full of moments! The Dalek climbs the stairs! The Special Weapons Dalek! I haven't rewatched it since I first saw it, so I may be misremembering how good it is. But I do remember it as great.
Jul. 18th, 2008 05:40 am (UTC)
One word will suffice:


Whilst I feel they sometimes get overplayed as the 'Ultimate Menace' the Daleks, up to the Tom Baker era were scary as a child - chilling as a adult.

Jul. 17th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
The Curse of Peladon is your favourite Pertwee = you don't like Pertwee.
Jul. 17th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC)
Ahh, but when you get a four-part Doctor Who made about what amounts to Your Job, you don't grumble... ;)

Sadly they never made "Doctor Who and the Principal Engineers Of Slight Disillusionment" for me ;)
Jul. 18th, 2008 05:36 am (UTC)
O pweez!

Alpha Centauri makes that story. Good-guy Ice Warrorssss too!
Jul. 18th, 2008 07:41 am (UTC)
I'm not saying it's bad! I'm just saying it's so far from the usual style of Pertwee stories that, if it's your favourite Pertwee, you're basically out of sympathy with the whole Pertwee approach.
Jul. 18th, 2008 09:43 am (UTC)
I see.

Then I guess I'm out of sympathy with the Pertwee approach - even though he's my second favourite Doctor, just a nose behind Tom Baker.

That said - I love the Ice Warriors(ssss...) and Alpha Centauri - so maybe I'm in sympathy with Pertwee - but mad.
Jul. 17th, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC)
I cannot quite believe that anyone voted for The Chase as Best Of One who has seen any other First Doctor story (bar The Sensorites).

I didn't vote for The Chase, but I saw it last week and just adored it. Fun almost all the way through.

I find these results utterly incomprehensible; how anyone can rate the cheap and shoddy Remembrance and rambling Battlefield over the masterful Fenric and subtle Ghost Light is beyond me.

Different type of fen, dude. I adore Battlefield to bits: yes, it's rambly and disjointed and has no discernable, working plot, but it has excellent characters and Ancelyn and Bambera and the Brig and UNIT and Ace with Excalibur and her girlfriend of the week - so many truly awesome things. (Of course, I still haven't got to Fenric; I enjoyed Ghost Light but thought it too self-consciously weird to make a lasting impact on me the way all the characters in Battlefield did).

Tenth and Ninth Doctors still had the issue of the groupings - Turn Left is probably my favourite Tenth Doctor ep, but not as a trio; The Doctor Dances is probably my favourite Ninth Doctor ep, but I wasn't crazy about The Empty Child.

I think the best way to explain the disconnect you see is the Fifth Doctor one - sure, Caves of Androzani was a very good story, very well constructed and we enjoyed it a lot, but if I wanted to rewatch any Five-era while I'm still going forward in seeing new eps (I have 51 to go!), I'd pick The Black Orchid, hands down, any day. It's cute, it's funny, it really works for me. :)

Edited at 2008-07-17 10:42 pm (UTC)
Jul. 17th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
School Reunion and The Doctor's Daughter were great but Blink outweighs them (by a smidge). Truthfully, it's easier for me to list the, say, 6 worst Tenth Doctor episodes than 1 best.

Then again, I felt stupid answering these polls because I haven't seen hardly any classic Who (and absolutely zero Six). :)
Jul. 17th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
I have to admit my vote for Revalations is all due to when I first watched it and that first moment of absolute horror when I can't remember her name goes looking for her father in the Necropolis and you get *exactly* what the Daleks are up to. As Loveandgarbage says, the rest of the characters are grotesques but wonderfully done.

School Reunion has a couple of good scenes, and it's solid and well made but that's about it. It's nothing special. Same thing for the Doctor's Daughter but even more so.
Jul. 17th, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC)
See above - School Reunion had a couple of utterly defining lines, and a touching reunion scene, but it started off as a rather silly, nay, rubbish episode. And I do hope the Doctor never uses the word 'correctamundo' again.
Jul. 18th, 2008 05:30 am (UTC)
I'm with you on the Seventh Doctor results.

We've just started the 'The Dalek's Masterplan' on our chronological adventure through time and space, and so far so good (although it's going to have to work really hard to beat 'The Myth Makers', which I adored).

Here, have a Hartnell/Masterplan icon. (The line reminds me of your LJ bio.)

Jul. 19th, 2008 08:15 am (UTC)
Ooh, thank you for the icon!
Jul. 18th, 2008 05:42 am (UTC)
Whilst I voted for Genesis as my fave Fourth Doctor episode, I'm surprised Pyramids of Mars only got 3 votes.
Jul. 18th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)
First Doctor: The Dalek Invasion of Earth, with 16 votes out of 48;


I like tDIoE, don't get me wrong - the good bits can be very good indeed. But the rubbish bits are pretty rubbish, and it's slow-paced even by Terry Nation's standards. I'm amazed that anyone would put the story as a whole ahead of The Daleks Master Plan, The Massacre, The Myth Makers, The Time Meddler, The Aztecs or The Romans, to name but six.
Jul. 18th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
I know it all goes to show that there are many different kinds of fen, but I am surprised that 'Axos' comes off better than 'Spearhead from Space'!
Jul. 18th, 2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
For the sake of completeness, there were a couple of votes for The Web of Fear under no. 2.

Edited at 2008-07-18 05:44 pm (UTC)
Jul. 19th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)
What's clear is...


1) Everything's Better With Daleks!

2) Apparently people are viewing completely different episodes of Doc 10 under the same titles, because there is NO BLOODY WAY that anyone watching the same "Blink" and "Human Nature/"Family of Blood" as I did could possibly vote them as "best" in anything (unless they were comparing it with "Star Trek:Voyager" episodes).

3) I know people who DETEST "The Doctor's Daughter"; one comment was "Oh, the Adventures of Mary Sue. This isn't what I watch Doctor Who for."
Jul. 19th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)
Re: 2
This is an oft notice problem for all media. There was a fantastic meme that went round were you described how you viewed the show and it was really interesting how different people viewed the same programme. For instance Season 2 of Doctor Who for me was the 'whoever this is, it isn't the Doctor I know' show, whereas other people seemed to really enjoy it.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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