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30 Best Doctor Who Episodes Ranked

"Doctor Who" launched in 1962 and quickly became a cultural phenomenon and a British institution. Running for decades, it swapped out its lead actor repeatedly with William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, and Tom Baker filling out the role of the titular Doctor into the early '80s. Its popularity waned into that decade, and the series was canceled before the 1990s dawned.

More than a decade and a half later, writer Russell T Davies revived the series with an all-new Ninth Doctor in 2005, modernizing the franchise and turning a light-hearted family adventure series into one of the biggest must-see shows of the new millennium. Since 2005, BBC has produced more than 13 series of "Doctor Who." Whether you're a newcomer or just thinking of rewatching some old favorites, you may not know where to begin. 

We've compiled a ranked list of the 30 best episodes, with help from IMDb. Which one comes out on top? Scroll on to find out.

30. The Eleventh Hour

The fourth series premiere, "The Eleventh Hour" saw the debut of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, who arrives on Earth in a broken TARDIS and suffering after effects from a traumatic regeneration. In the English village of Leadworth, the Doctor meets a little girl named Amelia, and the two bond before he must depart to fix his ship. Upon his return, he finds Amelia is all grown up and now called Amy Pond, and living in a house that's become home to a vicious psychic creature — an interstellar criminal dubbed "Prisoner Zero." 

On the run, the monster's pursuers the Atraxi threaten to destroy the Earth if he doesn't surrender. Without his TARDIS, and his sonic screwdriver damaged, the Doctor must rely on his new companion Amy to track down Prisoner Zero and prevent the annihilation of the planet. 

29. Day Of The Moon

The second half of a two part story that began with "The Impossible Astronaut," the sixth series episode "Day Of The Moon" sends the Doctor, River, Amy, Rory, and an American Secret Service agent Canton Delaware III in 1969. The mission? Attempt to hold back an alien invasion by a race called The Silence. But disturbing new information reveals that the Silence aren't trying to invade — they already have. Furthermore, they have been a part of Earth's history for hundreds of years, controlling worldwide events for their own ends. 

As the Doctor works on a plan to expose the Silence and drive them off of Earth, Amy and Canton work to uncover the secret of the mysterious little girl in space suit who seems to have extraordinary powers. 

28. Turn Left

"Turn Left" focuses almost entirely on the Doctor's companion Donna Noble, who visits an alien fortune teller who allows her to go back and make different choices — creating an alternate timeline where she never met the Doctor. When she's not there to help him in their first meeting seen in "The Runaway Bride," the Doctor dies in his encounter with the Empress of Racnoss. Without the Doctor to protect the Earth there are disastrous consequences, including the deaths of a number of key figures in "Doctor Who" lore.

In some ways "Turn Left" is a "Doctor Who" version of "It's A Wonderful Life," as Donna learns not just how important she is to the Doctor, but the impact her presence in his life has had on the world. Notable for featuring the surprise return of Rose Tyler, the former companion gives Donna a mysterious message that called back to past stories.

27. The End Of Time, Part Two

David Tennant closed out his three series run as the Tenth Doctor in "The End Of Time, Part Two." An epic conclusion in every sense of the word, the episode includes several surprising revelations. In the revived show's first look at the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey, we visit the world as it is trapped outside of time. There, the Time Lord Council fear that the Doctor may use a devastating weapon to end the Time War, and hatch a plan to pit the Master against him by creating billions of copies of the Doctor's rival.

In his final bow, Tennant also revisits his past companions in a touching look back at his tenure in the role. His final line as the Doctor has since become iconic, with "I don't want to go" becoming a heartfelt slogan for Whovians everywhere.

26. The Impossible Astronaut

Summoned to Utah, Amy, Rory, and River Song meet up the Doctor, who offers to take them to space in 1969, in the episode "The Impossible Astronaut." Before they go, they stop for a picnic by Lake Silencio, where they witness an astronaut in full regalia emerge from the water and murder the Doctor. 

While mourning the death of the Doctor, the surviving trio meet at the diner and discover another version the Doctor, one from before he had died on the lakeside. Without telling the Doctor about his death, the group travels back to Washington, D.C. in 1969. There, they must work with Richard Nixon and Secret Service Agent Canton Delaware III to thwart an invasion by The Silence — a race of hideous aliens who can only be remembered while being observed.

25. Listen

The Twelfth Doctor and Clara find their lives intertwined in the eighth series episode "Listen." While Clara is dealing with relationship troubles with Danny, the Doctor asks for her help in exploring the theoretical concept of a creature with the perfect ability to hide. He believes such a creature could be the source of the universal fear of the dark, having had similar experiences as a child.

As the pair begin their experiment, they inadvertently travel back to Danny's childhood, where Clara is forced to hide from the younger version of her boyfriend. The Doctor, meanwhile, believes he's found the entity he had theorized — but before Clara can help him prove its existence, she'll find herself playing a vital role in the Doctor's past.

24. Human Nature

"Human Nature" opens with the Doctor and Martha Jones on the run from a group of beings called The Family of Blood. The aliens want the Doctor so they can feed off of his life energy in a bid to extend their lives, and are relentless in their pursuit. In a last ditch effort to prevent that from happening, the Doctor decides to evade their detection by taking on the persona of a human called John Smith in 1913 England.

Shedding his Time Lord identity, he puts his memories and essence into a timepiece for safekeeping, with a plan to have Martha revive him once The Family of Blood have died out. But when a young boy forms a link to the timepiece, and the Family of Blood track the Doctor down, Martha's only choice may be to revive the Doctor earlier than planned.

23. The Doctor's Wife

In a high concept standalone episode written by celebrated comic book scribe Neil Gaiman, "The Doctor's Wife" has the Doctor, Amy, and Rory lured to a junk planet in a dimension outside of time. Unbeknownst to the Doctor, he was drawn there by an entity called House who feeds off of the energy of the TARDIS, and has killed a number of Time Lords before. 

But before the Doctor or his companions realize what's happening, the ship's matrix is removed and placed into the body of a woman called Idris. Now a humanoid, the TARDIS joins the Doctor and his companions in a fight to stop the villainous House from leaving the confines of his pocket universe.

22. The Stolen Earth

In the first ever "Doctor Who" franchise crossover, "The Stolen Earth" saw Sarah Jane and Jack Harkness pop up to help the Doctor and Donna deal with the Daleks. Beginning with the Doctor and Donna returning to Earth, they find the planet missing, and after contacting the interstellar authorities, discover that it's not the only one.

Tracking the planets to an inter-universal rift called the Medusa Cascade, they find Earth and are greeted by the Doctor's old enemy Davros, who had been thought lost during the Time War. Davros has plans to use the missing planets to power a devastating doomsday weapon. To stop him, the Doctor will need to call in help from some old friends.

21. The Name Of The Doctor

Leading up to the 50th Anniversary special, "The Name Of The Doctor" concluded the sixth series with a story that wrapped up companion Clara's two-series long arc as the so-called Impossible Girl. Audiences would finally get answers to the questions surrounding the young companion, who had appeared in multiple places and times in The Doctor's life. When hunted by the Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant in a stellar guest performance), The Doctor must finally travel to the one place he never should: Trenzalore, his final resting place — where his body is buried somewhere in time.

There, he must sacrifice himself to save the universe. With the help of River Song, Clara will make a fateful choice that will change the Doctor forever, and reveal his greatest secret. With multiple twists, and several major reveals, it was the perfect episode to wrap up the year and leave fans desperately aching for the follow-up anniversary special.

20. The Angels Take Manhattan

"The Angels Take Manhattan" was the mid-season swan song for companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams, the beloved couple that had accompanied the Eleventh Doctor since his debut two and a half seasons before. In an episode that's told as part crime noir thriller, the trio head to 1930s New York City and join River Song, who'd sent the Doctor a message in the form of a pulp novel about a female detective named Melony Malone.

But when they arrive they find the Angels have infested New York, with the Statue of Liberty revealed to being one of the massive quantum locked beings. And when Amy's plan to stop the Angels goes wrong and Rory is lost, the only solution may be to say goodbye to the Doctor forever.

19. The Empty Child

In one of the show's creepiest episodes "The Empty Child," a strange object crashes to Earth during the London Blitz. After an injured boy named Jamie begins exhibiting strange powers, a bizarre plague begins to afflict patients at a nearby hospital. The victims all begin to grow gas masks on their faces and become zombified drones who ask "are you my mommy?"

The episode not only boasted a suitably weird mystery that turned up the intensity for the revived "Doctor Who," but introduced Jack Harkness, a fan-favorite companion in the flamboyant time traveling adventurer. It also featured what would become one of the scariest children in television history. It also proved that showrunner Russell T Davies wasn't afraid to take the franchise to new, scarier places, just one of the many ways he changed "Doctor Who" forever.

18. The Doctor Falls

"The Doctor Falls" was the 12th series finale and sequel to "World Enough And Time," capping off what would be Peter Capaldi's final full season on "Doctor Who" (though he would regenerate in the Christmas episode that followed). With the discovery that Bill Potts has become one of the first Mondasian Cybermen, and that the Master and Missy have joined forces, the Doctor struggles to fight off his own regeneration so he might still save the day.

In a devastating climax, Bill is reverted to her human form after fighting through her Cyberman programming to defend the Doctor. Saved not by the Doctor, but by Heather — her old friend who had been transformed into a bizarre entity in "The Pilot" — who alters her similarly, she leaves to explore the galaxy in an ending that left the door open for her return in "Twice Upon A Time."

17. The Parting Of The Ways

"The Parting Of The Ways" is the final appearance of Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, capping off what proved to be a triumphant return of the franchise to television. Though the actor's departure had leaked well ahead of its airing (via BBC) his exit was no less dramatic or heartbreaking. In the episode, the Doctor discovers that the leader of the Daleks hadn't in fact perished in the Time War, and was hiding on Earth all along.

We then learn that the Dalek Emperor was using human DNA to create more Daleks and has replenished his race, and that the death of the Doctor's people at the end of the Time War was all for nothing. But when a daring plan to stop the Emperor and destroy every last Dalek threatens to cost Rose her life, the Doctor steps in to save her ... and it may mean sacrificing himself in the process.

16. Midnight

The series four episode "Midnight" go on a vacation of sorts, with a trip to a planet that's saturated in radiation. A resort world, visitors stay in skybound leisure palaces from which they could enjoy stunning views of the glacier-covered diamond landscape. While on a shuttle bus to visit the Sapphire Waterfall, however, their trip takes a deadly detour when a mysterious creature attacks their tour group. 

The Doctor believes the monster might not have sinister motives and could simply be lost or confused, and tries to communicate with it. But the passengers' paranoia takes hold when the being begins possessing passengers in an attempt to lure them to their deaths. The Doctor himself takes a more central role in the episode, and the story's claustrophobic tone adds an element of tension that helps it earn its place on this list.

15. The Pandorica Opens

In "The Pandorica Opens," River Song gets a call from an old friend, and is given clues to an ancient mystery surrounding the TARDIS exploding. She calls on the Doctor and tells him about a relic called the Pandorica, said to house the most dangerous creature in the universe — and it's opening soon. Certain that the Pandorica has something to do with the prophesied destruction of the TARDIS, she takes him to Stonehenge in the year 102 AD. 

There, the Doctor and River discover Rory — thought erased from existence –  in the form of a Roman centurion. But when an alliance of the Doctor's greatest enemies converge on them intent on capturing the Doctor, it soon becomes clear that the creature within the Pandorica is not some unfathomable cosmic being ... but the Doctor himself.

14. The Big Bang

The final episode of the 13th series and the direct continuation of "The Pandorica Opens," "The Big Bang" closed out the year on an explosive, timey wimey note that will leave your head spinning even if you manage to keep up. Opening in a bizarre alternate reality where a young Amy Pond dreams of stars that don't exist, we discover that the timestream — and all of reality — are fracturing thanks to the destruction of the TARDIS. 

But when the young Amy finds her way into a museum containing the Pandorica, it opens to reveal not the Doctor as expected, but the adult Amy Pond. What follows is a mind-bending adventure that takes the Doctor racing around time to set things right. The story that changes the course of the series, and turns Rory from mild-mannered boyfriend into "the Last Centurion."

13. A Good Man Goes To War

A landmark episode in the story of River Song, and the series as a whole "A Good Man Goes To War" sparked a fundamental shift in the series when the Doctor's mysterious time traveling girlfriend finally revealed her true identity. It also starts the Doctor off a new adventure in its wake that would last the rest of the 2012 series. It begins with Amy and her baby having been abducted by Madame Kovarian, and preparing a trap for the Doctor at Demon's Run.

Rory travels the galaxy gathering his own forces to help them in their fight, calling in favors from those who owe the Doctor. It all leads up to a climactic confrontation between the Silence, the headless monks, and the Doctor, along with his own allies the Silurians and Judoon, to save Amy and her newborn child. Featuring one of the most shocking twists in "Doctor Who" history, it also marks the first appearance of recurring characters Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. 

12. The Doctor Dances

The second half of the story that began with the fan-favorite "The Empty Child," the conclusion "The Doctor Dances" begins with the Doctor, Rose, and Jack Harkness trapped in a hospital during the Blitz, surrounded by patients whose faces have become hideous gas masks. As the faceless monstrosities cry out for their mommies in a droll monotone, Jamie — the first victim of a plague that has malformed the patients — continues to grow stronger and threatens them all. 

To find a cure for the epidemic, The Doctor must return to the site of the crashed alien ship and unravel an interstellar mystery before the Empty Child virus engulfs all of London and beyond. Equal parts exhilarating and horrifying, "The Doctor Dances" gave us one of the Doctor's greatest lines and perhaps Eccleston's finest moment, when he saves the day and shouts exuberantly that "Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!"

11. The Family Of Blood

"The Family Of Blood" is the second part of a story begun in "Human Nature," and proves to be even better than part one. The episode finds the titular Doctor still believing himself to be a man called John Smith. It's part of his plot to hide himself from the Family, who are still searching for him so they might steal his Time Lord immortality. As a schoolteacher in 1913, "Smith" has no idea what's going on, but to defeat the Family, he'll need to have his essence restored to him. 

Unfortunately, the timepiece that contains the Doctor's life force is within the possession of the Family of Blood, and it's up to Martha to get it back. One of the better episodes of David Tennant's run, and of the best that embraces horror and the supernatural, it's a suitably creepy story that makes it perfect for an October rewatch.

10. Journey's End

"Journey's End" was the Series 4 finale, and the second part of the story that began with "The Stolen Earth." It was also a crossover with the two other "Doctor Who" franchise series, "Torchwood" and "The Sarah Jane Adventures." Notable for being the final appearance of all of the Doctor's previous companions, the Doctor once more works with Rose, Mickey, Jack Harkness, and Martha Jones, and also loses Donna Noble.

The episode sees Davros and the Daleks threatening to unleash a Reality Bomb that will wipe out all of reality in every possible universe. With the help of former companions, the Doctor finds a way to stop Davros, but leaves Donna's life in danger. To save her, The Doctor may have to do the one thing he has never been able bring himself to do ... say goodbye to her.

9. World Enough And Time

Part one of the Series 12 finale, "World Enough And Time" had the Twelfth Doctor, his companions Bill Potts and Nardole — along with his rival Missy, who's now a reluctant ally — responding to a distress call from a massive colony ship that has become trapped near a black hole. Onboard, they find crew member Jorj, who seems paranoid that they are not people and shoots Bill through the chest. Before the Doctor can save her, Bill's body is taken away by figures who claim they can revive her on the lower decks of the ship.

But the Doctor and crew discover that due to their proximity to the black hole, time moves much faster on the lower decks, so over a year has already passed for Bill, who is stuck in a bizarre kind of hospital with an unusual companion. A tragic episode with multiple shocking reveals, it features not just the origin of the Cybermen, but two incarnations of The Master.

8. The Girl In The Fireplace

Set in 18th century France, "The Girl In The Fireplace" sees the Doctor coming upon an abandoned alien vessel in the 51st century. The ship equipped with a series of unusual time windows: Portals that lead to different points in the life of Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV. Visiting the young woman, the Doctor discovers a race of androids that are monitoring her life through the windows, and who had destroyed the ship's crew. They now believe that Madame de Pompadour may be the key to restoring their damaged ship.

A fun Victorian adventure, the episode has the Doctor teaming up with animal companion Arthur (an 18th century horse) in his fight to save the Madame. In an episode that introduced a new romantic interest for the Doctor, the story closes with him missing his chance to find love again.

7. Doomsday

In the Series 2 finale "Doomsday," longtime companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) would make her exit from the show in a much publicized affair (via BBC). Showrunner Russell T Davies stepped in to personally pen the story. It involves the Daleks and Cybermen, who both arrived on Earth at the conclusion of the previous episode, "Army of Ghosts." The episode has the two robotic races at war with one another, and the fate of Earth hanging in the balance. 

After fans had their hearts ripped out just a year earlier with the loss of Christopher Eccleston's Doctor, they were once again emotionally wrought with the heartbreaking ending to Rose Tyler's story as the Doctor's one true love and companion. But in classic fashion, when one door closes, another opens, as comedienne Catherine Tate makes a debut as new companion Donna Noble in the final scene.

6. Vincent And The Doctor

Investigating an unusual figure found hidden in the work of Vincent van Gogh, the Twelfth Doctor, Amy and Rory travel back to 19th century France. There they meet the artist himself, whose madness lets him to see a devilish creature that is invisible to everyone else, even the Doctor. Upon meeting Van Gogh, they find a man haunted not by madness, but by loneliness — who is sadly misunderstood in his own time.

Though in many ways a typical "Doctor Who" adventure, "Vincent And The Doctor" is also a tear-jerking character drama that explores the sadness and isolation of one of history's greatest artists. A stirring performance by guest star Tony Curran ("Defiance") makes this one of the most touching episodes of "Doctor Who," with a finale that won't leave a dry eye in the house.

5. Silence In The Library

"Silence In The Library" begins with the Doctor receiving a cryptic call for assistance. When he arrives at an ancient interstellar library that's since been mysteriously abandoned, he's met by a team of cosmic archeologists led by a woman named Professor River Song. The Doctor is confused when Song claims to be an old friend, but it's soon discovered that she too is a time traveler, and may be an acquaintance is from his future. 

Meanwhile, the Doctor learns that the library has been invaded by a species of sentient shadows called the Vashta Nerada, which are claiming the lives of the team. In a parallel story, a young girl is having dreams of the library — but when companion Donna gets trapped inside her world, it's up to The Doctor to stop the Vashta Nerada and get everyone out alive, all while unsure if he can trust the enigmatic Professor Song.

4. The Day Of The Doctor

In the monumental 50th Anniversary episode "The Day Of The Doctor," The Eleventh Doctor discovers more clues to the whereabouts of the Time Lords, and comes face to face with not one, but two different past versions of himself. One is a previously unseen version that eschewed his selfless ways to become The War Doctor, a mighty soldier in the Dalek/Time Lord Time War. The episode at long last shows the Time War itself, and how The War Doctor would be faced with the fateful choice to end the war once and for all by triggering an ancient but powerful fail-safe device called The Moment. 

Activating the device would save countless lives, but annihilate the entire Time Lord Race. The Doctor now has two future versions of himself to help him decide. The rare special to exceed fans' expectations, it added legendary actor John Hurt to the franchise and saw the return of Tenth Doctor David Tennant and his companion played by Billie Piper. Fourth Doctor Tom Baker also made his long-awaited return to the role in the episode's final moments in one of the finest multi-doctor stories in "Doctor Who" history.

3. The Forest Of The Dead

Series 3's "The Forest Of The Dead" was the second part of the story begun in "Silence In The Library." It sees the Doctor and River Song attempting to fight off the Vashta Nerada and save the expedition from their clutches. While Donna is trapped inside a virtual world seeking answers to the mystery of a strange innocent girl and her therapist, Dr. Moon, the Doctor attempts to put together the puzzle of River Song. Is she really an old friend of a future version of himself, or is it is all some kind of deception? 

With one of the most emotional endings of any episode before or since, it would serve as a jumping off point for an entire multi-series arch that would begin the following year when writer Steven Moffat would take over as showrunner. Remarkably, the episode becomes even more impactful when watched years later, after River's story is unfolded over the following decade of stories.

2. Heaven Sent

"Heaven Sent" is essentially a one man play, with Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi monologuing brilliantly throughout the episode — showcasing just how brilliant and underrated Capaldi was as the Doctor. The episode finds the Doctor trapped in gothic castle by the Time Lords, and chased by a mysterious cloaked figure called The Veil. As he explores the castle, the Doctor finds many strange relics of previous inhabitants, and realizes they are clues left to help him escape.

But in one final room, the Doctor discovers a wall of pure Azbantium — a substance harder than diamond — and he begins to scratch away at it with his fingers in the hopes of boring through to his escape. But to make his way out, it may mean scratching away for more than four billion years.

1. Blink

The highest rated episode of the revived "Doctor Who" series, "Blink" is centered on a young woman named Sally Sparrow who discovers an old abandoned manor littered with strange angel statues. Her best friend goes missing at the manor, only to wind up almost 100 years in the past, and a strange video message is discovered buried in a variety of old store-bought movies from none other than the Doctor.

The Doctor warns the viewer about the Angels, who are actually a dangerous and malevolent alien race disguised as statues. They cannot move if observed, and their touch will displace you from time. A simple but effectively mind-blowing thriller with a fantastic riddle at its core, "Blink" is perhaps writer Steven Moffat's biggest contribution to the franchise. The episode introduced one of the Doctor's most infamous foes and coined the pop culture term 'timey wimey.'