It’s weird times for us all at the moment and what better way to spend this lockdown period than watching some Who. Now that classic and modern Who is available across BritBox and Netflix (as well as those of you with your physical collections) it’s never been easier to access the show.
I’ve rounded up the five best stories from the team which are in no particular order, just a bunch of stories we happen to love. Bookmark this page or pop back when you need more inspiration. Here we go…
Kinda is Doctor Who at its most inventive and original, it’s the finest story of Peter Davison’s era and one of the very best that 1980’s Who has to offer. It takes place in a literal paradise, albeit one that’s staged in a BBC recording studio on a shoestring budget. What finer location to be transported to during lockdown? Right? Well, sort of.
No Doctor Who story captures the chilling effects of isolation, toxic masculinity and the fragility of mental health like this one. Simon Rouse’s layered portrayal of the increasingly unhinged Hindle veers beautifully from chin jutting, teeth-gnashing insanity to cowering vulnerability. Although if all that sounds a bit much to deal with in the current climate, then rest assured that Kinda is ultimately a story about finding inner peace in the face of internal struggle – something we could all use a bit of right now.
Invasion of the Dinosaurs
Let’s face it, as reasons for a city-wide lockdown go, dinosaurs are much more fun than a deadly, incredibly virulent flu. The early scenes of the Doctor and Sarah investigating the deserted streets of central London are incredibly eerie and lend the story an atmosphere of mounting dread. If you throw yourself into that, you absolutely forgive the shortcomings when it comes to the titular reptiles. It’s also an early example of the show doing proper character arcs – Mike Yates’ decision is clearly rooted in his experiences during The Green Death where he sees first-hand the damaging effect that humanity has wrought on the environment.
This unfairly maligned Pertwee 6-parter deals with themes that are still incredibly relevant today, Operation Golden Age is essentially a more murderous prototype for Extinction Rebellion. The only thing that hasn’t aged so well is the laughably outdated idea that Londoners would stay indoors during a lockdown.
Delta and the Bannermen
I get it, it’s really disappointing that your holiday has been cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation. However, it could be far worse – you could be dodging murderous aliens in 1950’s Barry Island like the ill-fated tourists in this underrated McCoy adventure!
Sure, Delta and the Bannermen is campy, cheesy and has a frankly staggering cast of characters that border on the unwieldy but it’s incredibly endearing in its whimsy. I love a dark, manipulative 7th Doctor as much as the next person, but it’s refreshing and slightly incongruous to see him cutting about Butlins, noodling on an electric guitar and offering an awkwardly affectionate shoulder to cry on to heartbroken Ray. This is light, throwaway fluff and a perfect bit of Doctor Who to raise a smile – Ken Dodd’s in it for goodness sake!
Partners in Crime
Friendship is such an important part of human existence, and it’s going to be hard not to be able to hang out with our friends for the next few months. So why not hang out with best friends the 10th Doctor and Donna instead?
Partners in Crime is another light and fluffy Doctor Who story that may not set the world alight but it lights up a corner of your living room and your heart for 45 glorious minutes. This is Russell T Davies, David Tennant and Catherine Tate at the height of their powers – a daft, deliriously paced sci-fi critique of weight-loss fads that incorporates laugh-out-loud physical comedy, an action sequence involving a window cleaner’s cradle and some genuine pathos. I defy anyone to not have glistening eyes and a lump in their throat when the Doctor and Donna wave at Wilf. Here in lockdown, I’m waving right back at them.
The Three Doctors
This very first multi-Doctor story is the very definition of a warm bath Doctor Who. A serialised drama equivalent of slipping your feet into a comfy pair of slippers after a long day working from your improvised office-cum-dining table.
Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton’s bickering rivalry is hilarious and has never been bettered, Nicholas Courtney is endearingly flustered and perplexed and Katy Manning is, as ever, an utter delight. It’s testament to the writing of Bob Baker and Dave Martin that something as monumental as uniting the Doctors against a threat from Timelord history feels so cosy, accessible and broadly entertaining. Indeed, Omega appeals to us all as a stark warning to keep your head during self-isolation. Stay safe, everyone.
The Curse of Peladon
This story is a real favourite for me the kind of story that feels very traditional in a way in an era of soldiers and alien invasions. It’s great seeing the Ice Warriors in colour with that marvellous hissing before they speak. Inverting it and making them the goodies too is a nice twist. There’s quite a lightness in the script with Jo and the Doctor which is nice but there is one bit where he tells he to be ‘ Just do as I say there’s a good girl’ where I might have told him off!
King Peladon obviously fancies Princess Josephine from the off and I quite like his conflicted king role. There are Hepash and Torbis flighting for the Kings attention, Alpha Centauri like a dizzy aunt and its a murder mystery.I quite enjoy the politics of it all as it makes a change from aliens invading. The fight is great to watch too. Good ol’ Terry Walsh
The Robots of Death
Robots of Death zips along very nicely as a whodunnit the enclosed environment of the ship allows the human crew to be really interesting characters each with their own gripes and paranoid thoughts. This tension within the crew mimics the pressure of the ship moving through the sandstorm. And then you have the dialogue. It is quite tightly scripted and I really enjoy some of the lines.
The Doctor: “You know, you’re a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.”
The Commander about D84: “He’s a D class. Dumb. He cant talk.”
Leela “Has anyone told him that?.”
Tom’s voice and tall gait really give him authority in this story.
The script repeats words and sentences closely together many times which is a clever device to emphasise the differences supposed between fallible man & the logical machine & claustrophobic nature of the robots. My favourite line is D84 ‘ I heard a cry’ Doctor ‘ That was me’ over and over.:)And then there are the ‘creepy mechanical men’. D84 almost feels quite human and is quite wonderful. The others with their beautiful faces and calm voices are a lie especially SV7. They are logical machines without mercy.
Peter Davison has settled into his Doctor in this story and is enthusiastic and curious. I also love his testing of Tegan in the TARDIS about Manussa and the Sumaran Empire as he leans in staring. A Tegan heavy story highlighting Janet Fielding is a decent actress. She shows some range here such as when she thinks she is six years old and her hiding from the fortune teller and then her relish and turns to evil look with the shock and fear on the fortune tellers face is a great scene in the story.
Martin Clunes is the star guest and does a brilliant portrayal of the spoilt brat bored of his position and life as the Federator’s son, alongside Colette O Neill as his mother Tanha who has knows she has spoilt him too much. I like the mystery in the story and the idea of Snakedancers and Dojjen. Peter Davison handles a snake too.
The Ribos Operation
I do love this story. Cyril Luckham’s White Guardian seems deceptively casual with his garden chair/umbrella and Creme de Menthe! The ultimatum the Doctor is given really leaves him with no choice but to complete the tasks which remind me of the beginning of Genesis of the Daleks. This is the kind of story where if I want to just relax with Doctor Who I could put it on and enjoy.
It’s a character piece not necessarily an action one but I find it quite satisfying. Robert Holmes does work hard to give us believable characters. Ian Cuthbertson just steals the scenes as Garron. I like the general humour in this story as it doesn’t overpower the script. Mary Tamm gets a strong start as Romana and I love her and the Doctor’s banter at the start. Binro is great. very moving.
The Unicorn and the Wasp
I love a good whodunnit and if there was one story with the 10th Doctor and Donna that is a fun watch it is this story by Gareth Roberts. The 1920’s period is again a familiar environment and Gareth Roberts plays up the genre with humour including Agatha Christie and as many of her book references as he can. Catherine Tate is given the chance to flex her comedy credentials and the back and forth between her and David Tennant playing detective as Agatha has a crisis of confidence is a true joy.
The highlight is David Tennant being poisoned and trying to detox with ginger beer, walnuts and anchovies which shows how versatile he is with comedy. It’s a charming love letter to Agatha Christie and makes me laugh. Sidecar anyone?
For me, The Daemons has always been a great Doctor Who story, and I would say its one of my favourite Doctor Who stories of all time because it gave me a great final memory of my late father. My father had a brain tumour and on the day he collapsed and fell into a coma, we watched this story in the morning. He remembered everything, Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, UNIT, the cars which he always loved and he remembered who I was for the first time in months.
But for you dear, reader, The Daemons is an example of how a great Doctor Who story should be written and told. The script from Guy Leopold, also known as Barry Letts, is a love letter to the old hammer-horror movies with a distant location, dodgy locals and a mysterious power awakening. Visually it looks stunning as well, despite the well-known location problems of rapidly changing weather.
The cast is top form too, Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning are always excellent as the Third Doctor and Jo Grant and the whole UNIT family, including Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin and John Levine are having a ball. The guest cast is fantastic too, Damaris Hayman as local White-Witch Olive Hawthorne, Stephen Thorne as the Daemon himself-Azal and Roger Delgado as the Master are all joys to watch.
The Daemons is a feel-good story in between the evil villagers, giant demons, the Master being evil and the obvious shades of The Wicker Man. The whole cast is clearly having a ball, and you can clearly see how much they enjoyed working together. And if you’ve got the DVD there are some great extras on there to also enjoy!
The Horror of Fang Rock
You might notice a pattern here, as a horror fan, Horror of Fang Rock is a great example of how to tell a scary Doctor Who adventure. Director Paddy Russell makes the most of the small sets and Terrance Dicks proves a master at telling a hauntingly good story. What makes Horror of Fang Rock even more enjoyable is that it is the first story to be told after Philip Hinchcliffe stepped down as producer. For a time known for the scariest Doctor Who stories of all time and Graham Williams was known for steering the show more towards comedy, it goes to show how enduring Doctor Who and horror can be with the first story of his era being one of the scariest of all time.
Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are on fire in this script and you wouldn’t know that they didn’t get on behind the scenes. Leela is one of my favourite companions and gets a number of comedic moments, where she doesn’t understand Victorian ethics and goes to undress in front of a man and later when she slaps a woman across the face because her racket is annoying her. Tom Baker also clearly relishes the script and the chance to get play the Doctor is perhaps one of the darkest stories of all-time where every guest character dies gruesomely.
If you like dark and scary Doctor Who stories then, Horror of Fang Rock is for you!
The Androids of Tara
Everything from the fantastic performances to the bubbly script from David Fisher is enjoyable when it comes to The Androids of Tara. From the stunning sunny location at Leeds Castle to the fairy-tale feel of the whole piece, this story wears its campiness on its sleeve for everyone to see and works all the better for it. Sure, it can get a little bogged down in all its android-doppelgangers plot but it’s even more enjoyable seeing the cast getting to play evil versions of their characters.
Also, highly enjoyable is Mary Tamm’s performance as the first incarnation of Romana. There is something about her pairing with Tom Baker that brings out the best of their acting chops. I think it’s the way Tamm plays the sarcasm, dry wit and genuine disbelief at the situation they find themselves in that adds the icing on this cake!
The Androids of Tara won’t fail to make you smile, even the Taran Wood Beast looks sweet and cuddly!
This one is perhaps the biggest surprise given how so many people give it a bad rep, but it’s enjoyable. It’s a breather-episode, placed between The Visitation and the fateful Earthshock, and gives the characters and in turn, the main cast, a chance to let their hair down and have some fun. What really makes it is watching the DVD with the main-cast commentary playing and hearing their thoughts on the story. But I think they’ve missed something, because it’s supposed to be a slower-paced outing, allowing Sarah Sutton to have her turn in these adventures.
Peter Davison’s first series suffered like Jodie Whittaker’s with too many companions but unlike Whittaker’s era so far, Davison’s had episodes where each companion got time to shine. Black Orchid is Nyssa’s. And the main cast works so well together. Give Black Orchid a go and you might be surprised by how enjoyable this story really is!
The Curse of Fenric
This final slot was a close winner between Curse of Fenric and Revelation of the Daleks but Curse won because of how much the Haemovores terrified me when I was younger. Fenric boasts some really unsettling scenes and if you are up-to-date on you’re Dracula and Vampire knowledge, you’ll really enjoy this one. You’ll also really enjoy this one if you are a horror fan.
It’s a shame that the BBC cancelled Doctor Who when it did because Curse of Fenric proves how good it was getting again, from impressive monster designs, great performances from the entire cast, stunning location work and a fantastic script from Ian Briggs, there are now three different ways to enjoy this story. We’ve got the transmission version, the DVD special edition version and the recently re-released VHS/Blu-Ray version.
Curse of Fenric is a story I shouldn’t like, given how much seeing things from WW2 gives me anxiety. But I love it. It’s another story that shows you how great Doctor Who can be when it’s written well and has some love thrown its way. I’m always surprised it isn’t on these kinds of lists more often. The only thing that lets it down are the Halloween costume-rubber fingernails the Vampires have, but the terrifying performances from all the baddies more than make up for it! You’ll be in for a scary hour-and-a-half with Curse, but you’ll be more than glad you stuck around to see it!
It’s a damn shame we never got to see more of Eccleston past one series. What we did get however is some fantastic stories and Dalek is a great example of that. The first time seeing the moving dustbins since Remembrance of the Daleks in Series 25 was a great experience and this story takes on a different and needed approach.
Gone are the concepts of old where you’d see a Dalek army, this time around it’s a lone Dalek and this somehow makes it more menacing than ever. The performance from Eccleston in this one is amazing and the story culminates with an emotional punch you don’t see coming.
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Talking of Series 25, it gave us two belters, Remembrance and this one, affectionately known simply as “Greatest Show”. McCoy was definitely settling into his role after having a series under his belt. Couple this with the show wanting to move into a darker and more mysterious direction for the Doctor and you have some great Who unfolding.
Few people like creepy clowns and these guys are no exception. The heavy use of location shoots give it some scale and the script is both funny and sharp. Some of McCoy’s best here.
The Eleventh Hour
It’s always exciting to see a new Doctor do their thing fresh after a regeneration and Matt Smith exploded on to our screen and ushered in the Moffat era of Who. To say he hit the ground running is an understatement. His performance is so solid, quirky and funny that you’d think he’d been playing the Doctor for years already.
When you throw in a decent introduction to the new companions you’re all set for a cracking watch. This also introduces Murray Gold’s “I am the Doctor” track which is one of my fav’s (although admittedly played to death throughout Matt’s era) and always gets me in the mood for Who.
Pyramids of Mars
This was one of the first classic Who stories I watched when I jumped with both feet into the show. I was blown away by the performances and overall story. It’s one that builds with intensity and serves up a foe actually worthy of the Doctor. Sutekh is wonderful, over the top and one I’d love to see make a return.
This story also has some that great old school Who design which sticks around. The eery looking mummies stalking the grounds, the Egyptian decor and vibe around the Scarman’s estate, Sutekh’s mask… it’s all here. Oh, and did I mention the performances? Amazing.
If you’ve listened to the podcast for any length of time you’ll know that the Russell T Davies era is my favourite of modern Who. The quality of character creation and development is so good and this story is an embodiment of that. It’s one of those simple scripts and productions that almost feels like you’re watching a play rather than a TV show. The premise of being trapped in a stranded vehicle with an invisible alien threat is great Who already but when the story gets turned upside down and the entity starts to possess the travellers along with the Doctor it’s intriguing and scary in spades.
It’s the mind games that really sell this one. The alien (again, invisible which makes it even scarier) has been written to manipulate and turn people against each other, playing them off each on and other’s fears and paranoia. Like many great Who stories, it’s the wonderful script and performances that make this one a real treat.
There you have it, our top five lists of Who to get stuck into and let’s be honest, this is great Who regardless of whether we’re on lockdown. Whether you’ve seen these or not, let us know your favourite stories in the comments below.