The Inverse Ranking

The 60 Best Doctor Who Episodes of All Time, Ranked

Personally, we think that’s a hell of a show.

Dewey Saunders/Inverse; BBC One
Doctor Who Week

Sixty years is a long time for any TV show to be on the air. For a show to deliver quality episodes over the course of six decades is basically a miracle. But Doctor Who, the BBC’s long-running TV series, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, has managed to make great sci-fi TV across the decades.

Since the premiere of the very first serial, “An Unearthly Child,” on Nov. 23, 1963, Doctor Who has tested the limits of what sci-fi TV can achieve — and shown just how much can be done with tin foil, a plunger, and a dream.

Inverse has taken the daunting task of ranking the top 60 episodes of Doctor Who. We’ve included the best and most ambitious episodes since the 2005 revival, or NuWho, as well as the multi-part serials of the show’s Classic Who era. So come along with us on this time-bending adventure through the past 60 years (with hopefully many more years to come). Allons-y!

60. “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit”

BBC

The Doctor fights the Devil on a planet orbiting a black hole — you won’t get a better elevator pitch than that. But “The Impossible Planet” two-parter is more than a family-friendly riff on Event Horizon; this claustrophobic space adventure is a barnburner that finds time to muse on spirituality and religion while delivering some extra-spooky possession scenes and one of the best new monsters of Doctor Who. — Hoai-Tran Bui

59. “The Mind Robber”

BBC

The Doctor battles the Master in a world in which fictional characters and myths are real. But wait a minute, this isn’t the Time Lord renegade the Master, but The Master of the Land. If this episode was remade now, we’d learn that The Master of the Land was just a weird Time Lord called the “Author.” But this episode exists in the wild early days of Who canon and that’s why it’s beautiful and wacky. — Ryan Britt

58. “The Five Doctors”

BBC

“The Five Doctors” is The Avengers of Doctor Who, if Tony Stark was recast and Steve Rogers only appeared in clips from a previous movie. The crossover adventure is done in perfect Classic Who fashion, hitting all the hallmarks in one adventure, even though the 1st Doctor, William Hartnell, had died and was recast and the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, declined to participate. That just adds to its ramshackle charm. — Dais Johnston

57. “The Daleks”

BBC

Appropriately, the Doctor’s most formidable enemy appeared very early — in the second serial of the show. Forever changing the direction of Doctor Who, Terry Nation’s “The Daleks” firmly revealed that William Hartnell’s irascible 1st Doctor was, indeed, a hero. It all starts here! — Ryan Britt

56. “Planet of the Spiders”

BBC

Iconic Doctors tend to go out on top, and the 3rd Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is no exception. His last story features Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) getting a giant bug on her back, a motif borrowed 34 years later for the beloved Donna Noble episode “Turn Left.” An essential regeneration episode for an essential Doctor. — Ryan Britt

55. “The War Games”

BBC

Neil Gaiman claims that this 2nd Doctor (Patrick Troughton) episode was among one of his earliest inspirations. Featuring an epic plot, and a lot of Time Lore lore, this episode set the standard for the way Who commented on war and redefined the Doctor’s relationship with the Time Lords forever. — Ryan Britt

54. “Vampires of Venice”

BBC

The hilarious comments about “fish from space” combined with the glorious moment when the Doctor demands that his enemies “tell me the whole plan!” this episode is packed to the... gills with nonstop fun. This episode is also the first moment where the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) brings Rory (Arthur Darvill) along for the ride with his bride-to-be Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). That dynamic alone makes the entire episode fantastic. — Ryan Britt

53. “Rosa”

BBC

It’s often forgotten that Doctor Who was supposed to be an educational show first and a sci-fi show second, but every so often you get an episode that reminds you. “Rosa” is the platonic ideal of this. Doctor Who broaching the topic of race, especially the American civil rights movement, seems like a recipe for ham-fisted preachiness, but with the lived experience of companion Ryan (Tosin Cole) and a delicate balance of sci-fi and history, even the touchiest themes get explored with a deft touch. — Dais Johnston

52. “Asylum of the Daleks”

BBC

“Asylum of the Daleks” was the first glance viewers had of a brand-new companion, Clara. But in a strange, metatextual twist, she’s introduced as Oswin, a happy-go-lucky soufflé baker who just happens to be caught up in a Dalek plot. Jenna Coleman’s immediate charisma and the episode’s terrifying twist and “Dalek reset” more than make up for the weakest moment — the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it separation of Amy and Rory. — Dais Johnston

51. “Gridlock”

BBC

Despite his reputation for campy high jinks, Russell T. Davies is perhaps one of the most cynical Doctor Who writers, frequently depicting humanity as doomed to repeat its mistakes. “Gridlock” is the perfect marriage of both of Davies’ comedic and cynical tendencies: a weird sci-fi episode about a planet perpetually stuck in traffic, through which the Doctor must navigate cat people, nudists, and killer crabs. But all of this is a thin veneer for the tragic fate that humanity has dealt itself. — Hoai-Tran Bui

50. “Fugitive of the Judoon”

BBC

This episode was our first inkling that Season 12 would be something different entirely. “Fugitive of the Judoon,” the fifth episode of the season, had the title, position, and setting (Gloucester) for a standard monster-of-the-week episode. Instead, this random episode managed to pull off huge reveal after huge reveal, from John Barrowman’s return as Capt. Jack Harkness and Jo Martin’s introduction as Ruth Clayton, aka The Doctor. — Dais Johnston

49. “Amy’s Choice”

BBC

Two dreams: One is real, the other’s fake. But the Doctor, Amy, and Rory must figure out which one to survive. A dream episode framed as a two-pronged mystery, “Amy’s Choice” is where the Doctor-Amy-Rory trio really solidified their chemistry, while introducing to us the best Doctor Who villain to never return in Toby Jones’ sinister Dream Lord. — Hoai-Tran Bui

48. “Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords”

BBC

Season 3 is when Doctor Who realized it could deliver season finales that actually had ramifications. There’s an entire year in between these two episodes where The Master, in the form of Prime Minister Harold Saxon, has ruled over the Earth introducing it to an alien species known as the Toclafane. There are grandfather paradoxes, callbacks, and the Doctor’s most underrated companion, Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), making a decision for herself — each the shot in the arm the show needed to grow to new heights. — Dais Johnston

47. “The Unicorn and the Wasp”

BBC

When the 10th Doctor (David Tennant), Donna (Catherine Tate), and Agatha Christie (Fenella Woolgar) end up in a whodunit episode, the only thing that makes the proceeding even more fun is the presence of a massive alien wasp. Come for the hilarious 1920s romp, but stay for some of the funniest David Tennant-Catherine Tate comedy in the entire show. — Ryan Britt

46. “Extremis/The Pyramid at the End of the World/The Lie of the Land”

BBC

Also known as the “Monks Trilogy,” the “Extremis” three-parter is a surprisingly bleak, epic adventure that tests the limits of 12th Doctor’s companions, Bill (Pearl Mackie, proving herself the heart of Season 10) and Nardole (Matt Lucas), but significantly tests Peter Capaldi’s Doctor himself. Still blind from the events of a previous episode, the Doctor is forced to rely on his ingenuity and the help of his friends to avert the Monks’ invasion of Earth, but shockingly, he fails. “The Monks Trilogy” deals with consequences in fascinating ways, maintaining the tragic victories that characterize the 12th Doctor’s entire era. — Hoai-Tran Bui

45. “It Takes You Away”

BBC

A gently surreal episode of Doctor Who, “It Takes You Away” does suffer from a chopped-up final product that left the episode’s monster on the cutting room floor, but this desolate Scandinavian noir makes up for it in mood and in its trippy meditations on grief and life. Visually sparse but emotionally dense, “It Takes You Away” gave us a glimpse of the intensely humanistic hero Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor could’ve been. — Hoai-Tran Bui

44. “The Haunting of Villa Diodati”

If you’re going to have the Doctor visit Mary Shelley on the night she comes up with Frankenstein, you’d better make it a moody, Gothic thriller. Better yet, you better introduce Doctor Who’s own representative Frankenstein’s monster, the “lone Cyberman” Ashad, a cruel and evil villain who makes the iconic Doctor Who monster scary for the first time in decades. — Hoai-Tran Bui

43. “Twice Upon a Time”

BBC

The coda to the 12th Doctor’s swan song would inevitably feel deflating, but Steven Moffat squeezes a little more magic out of Peter Capaldi’s last Christmas special. “Twice Upon a Time” is a surprise 12th Doctor and 1st Doctor (David Bradley, taking on the role after the Adventure in Space and Time TV movie) crossover, as the two go on one last adventure on the eve of both of their regenerations. It’s a funny and bittersweet time-tripping story that allows the 12th Doctor to show off his rock star swagger while musing on just how far the Doctor has come. — Hoai-Tran Bui

42. “The Curse of Fenric”

BBC

If you only watch one 7th Doctor story, this is the one. Sylvester McCoy alternates between hilarious and darkly dangerous, while Sophie Aldred’s Ace truly feels like the Doctor’s partner in crime. Sometimes, we think of the Doctor as a master strategist. This episode proves why. — Ryan Britt

41. “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”

BBC

As Shakespeare said, “Journeys end with lovers meeting,” but for every meeting in the Season 4 two-part finale, there’s a goodbye. There are happy moments (the TARDIS being piloted by multiple pilots as intended, The DoctorDonna), sad moments (Donna having her memory erased, the beach farewell with Rose), and, because it’s Doctor Who, baffling moments (Martha is married to Mickey now, I guess). — Dais Johnston

40. “Day of the Daleks”

BBC

Funnily enough, very few classic Who episodes are actually about the paradoxes and pitfalls of time travel. Not so with “Day of the Daleks,” a pivotal 3rd Doctor story that, at times, feels like a precursor to the temporal storytelling stakes of the first two Terminator movies. X-Men comic book writer John Byrne even admitted to accidentally stealing from this Who serial for his famous Days of Future Past Marvel time travel story. — Ryan Britt

39. “The End of Time”

BBC

It simply does not get more epic than “The End of Time.” The two-part special sent off David Tennant in the only way it could: by pulling out all the stops and leaning hard on the nostalgia. The Time Lords are back, The Master is back, and the best sci-fi trope ever gets employed: an ominous prophecy that reads “he will knock four times.” The conclusion is a farewell tour for the 10th Doctor that had us all bawling. Little did we know he would be back before we knew it. — Dais Johnston

38. “World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls”

BBC

The rare hard sci-fi episode of Doctor Who, “World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls” explores the time-bending weirdness that can befall a spaceship falling into a black hole, telling a riveting adventure across two differently paced time streams. But it’s when the two-parter settles into its grim climax that the episode begins to transcend all other Who. It boils down to the Doctor’s whole ethos, and the 12th Doctor’s whole tragic fate, in the most magnificent speech of Capaldi’s entire run: “I do what I do, because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind. It’s just that. Just kind.” — Hoai-Tran Bui

37. “The Timeless Children”

BBC

This episode, which rewrote the entire history of The Doctor as we know it, was so controversial that the BBC actually had to issue a statement. But it does what Doctor Who is best at: It took huge swings to create a blank slate for viewers. It’s still unclear how this retcon will inform the future, but even the most controversial episodes still exhibit the flexibility and unpredictability of the show. — Dais Johnston

36. “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”

BBC

A dark, frightening adventure, that, in classic Who form, ends with an abundance of hope. William Hartnell’s most timelessly beautiful speech as the Doctor comes from this episode: “One day I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.” — Ryan Britt

35. “Rings of Akhaten”

BBC

Some of Doctor Who’s best episodes come when The Doctor takes a step back and lets the story become a character study of the companion. Clara gets that treatment in this episode, built around the intriguing concept of an alien society where currency isn’t based on an item’s monetary value but sentimental value. Even though this episode, filmed entirely in-studio, can be seen as a cost-saving filler episode, Clara’s story makes it a touching tribute to young love and lost potential. — Dais Johnston

34. “Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”

BBC

The Doctor’s two biggest enemies, the Daleks and the Cybermen, both invade Earth in this two-parter that brings a parallel Earth front and center. While the plot is thrilling, this episode will always be remembered for its final scene, the goodbye between Rose Tyler and The Doctor as Rose is forced to live in the parallel Earth to save the world. — Dais Johnston

33. “Oxygen”

BBC

Since the beginning of the 1960s, Doctor Who has been written by progressives concerned with social injustice. What “Oxygen” does is take criticism of late-stage capitalism to a kind of Black Mirror level. What if workers were basically paid in oxygen? It seems nuts at first, but as the episode unfolds, the inherent realism in the basic premise gets more and more chilling. Bonus points for an utterly unforgettable twist ending. — Ryan Britt

32. “A Good Man Goes to War”

BBC

“The only water in the forest is the river.” Steven Moffat is at his Moffat-iest in this midseason finale that follows up on the cliffhanger that Amy isn’t actually Amy: Her avatar has been traveling with Rory and the Doctor while her real form has been held hostage to give birth to her daughter, Melody. This episode is the pinnacle of convoluted lore, combining translation issues, secret identities, headless monks, and even a creepy poem. What’s not to love? — Dais Johnston

31. “The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon”

BBC

An Apollo astronaut emerging from a lake. A monster that looks like it stepped out of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. An abandoned orphanage covered in graffiti ordering visitors to get out now. The brilliance of “The Impossible Astronaut” two-parter can be summed up by its images, and those images were rad as hell. A moody, epic mystery box that came to characterize Moffat’s twisty era, the divisive Season 6 may never have lived up to the promise of these episodes, but it was cool while it lasted. — Hoai-Tran Bui

30. “A Christmas Carol”

BBC

A sci-fi riff on the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol” is also one of the best screen adaptations of the story. Michael Gambon is terrific as the cruel Scrooge of the episode, which sees the Doctor take on the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future — in the most timey-wimey way possible, of course. Zippy, funny, and lovely in equal measure, “A Christmas Carol” is the platonic ideal of a Doctor Who Christmas special. — Hoai-Tran Bui

29. “Demons of the Punjab”

BBC

A standout in Jodie Whittaker’s first season, we find the 13th Doctor and Yaz (Mandip Gill) caught up in the historical events of the partition of India in 1947. One of Who’s must-touching family episodes also contains a great twist about the titular “demons.” It’s not an evil plot after all! — Ryan Britt

28. “Mummy on the Orient Express”

BBC

When the 12th Doctor and Clara land on a space-bound train modeled after the Orient Express for “one last hurrah,” they find themselves facing off against a terrifying mummy that picks off the passengers one by one. “Mummy on the Orient Express” is a surprisingly breezy episode for one that unpacks the Doctor’s greatest flaws, before revealing what kind of hero the Doctor really is. — Hoai-Tran Bui

27. “The Angels Take Manhattan”

BBC

Amy Pond and Rory Williams were a testament to how a healthy marriage can survive while traveling through time, but every journey must end. For them, the final straw was one last Weeping Angel encounter in a graveyard, forcing Amy to say goodbye to the man who was her best friend all her life. It’s a fitting end to a companion whom we’d grown to be attached to for the longest. — Dais Johnston

26. “Hell Bent”

BBC

As the sequel to “Heaven Sent,” this episode was never going to be able to top its elegant, brilliant predecessor. And yet, you’ve never seen Peter Capaldi’s Doctor more multifaceted than in “Hell Bent.” Ultimately a bittersweet character piece about the Doctor and Clara (Jenna Coleman), this return to Gallifrey is full of heartache, revelations, and a sense of completion. — Ryan Britt

25. “The Lodger”

BBC

First of all, content warning for James Corden. Before Carpool Karaoke, he was Craig, an unlucky-in-love office worker who takes on the Doctor as a roommate while he’s stranded on Earth. It’s an adorable little slice-of-life story that allows Corden to be the straight man to the Doctor’s goofy antics, like if Doctor Who did a Love, Actually send-up. — Dais Johnston

24. “Rose”

BBC

As far as reboots go, it’s hard to imagine a better one than “Rose,” which took the classic Doctor Who model and turned it into a sci-fi monster of the week show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The real magic of “Rose” is Rose herself — Billie Piper’s wide-eyed wonder and chemistry with Christopher Eccleston made her the poster child of a new Doctor Who golden age. — Dais Johnston

23. “Turn Left”

BBC

“Turn Left” may as well be titled “It’s a Wonderful Regeneration,” as it explores an alternate world where Donna Noble never met the Doctor and he died during the events of “Runaway Bride,” when they first met. The dystopia the world falls to is fascinating to watch, fitting in observations of fascism in between alternate-reality high jinks. — Dais Johnston

22. “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone”

BBC

How do you bring back a monster that had only previously worked in a small, self-contained horror story? You make it a blockbuster spectacle. Steven Moffat has cited James Cameron’s Aliens as inspiration for the second appearance of the Weeping Angels, in an episode that turns these Lovecraftian entities into sadistic killers battling the Doctor in a cavernous tomb. And it works. — Hoai-Tran Bui

21. “The Caves of Androzani”

BBC

If David Tennant fans want to know why Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor was his favorite, look no further than this moody serial. As the end of the sunny Davison era, “Caves of Androzani” feels grimmer than you might imagine. But both the light and existential dark of Doctor Who is all contained right here. — Ryan Britt

20. “Dalek”

BBC

“Dalek” has the formidable task of introducing to a new generation the Doctor’s greatest enemy, but it all works thanks to Eccleston’s explosive performance and an inspired Terminator-esque makeover for the show’s most ridiculous monster. A tight, action-packed episode that unveils the Doctor’s new tragic backstory, while making the Daleks scary for the first time in decades. — Hoai-Tran Bui

19. “The Fires of Pompeii”

BBC

“The Fires of Pompeii” is one of the most influential episodes of Doctor Who, not for the plot but for the cast. Peter Capaldi, best known as the 12th Doctor, plays an Ancient Roman patriarch. Karen Gillan, best known as Amy Pond, plays a mystical cult member. But this episode is a masterclass in one of the series’ most tenuous conceits: that sometimes, a moment is fixed in time and you end up in Pompeii on Volcano Day, unable to change anything. — Dais Johnston

18. “The Girl in the Fireplace”

BBC

Basically, the episode that solidified Steven Moffat as one of the great modern writers of Doctor Who. From the first moment, in which Madame de Pompadour calls for the Doctor’s help, to the final revelation of what the clockwork robots really want, this episode is flawless modern Who. And yes, especially that part where the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) pretends to be drunk. — Ryan Britt

17. “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”

BBC

The opening to this story is a microcosm of what makes this show great. The Doctor, seeing a ship fall from space, ducks into a music hall and asks if anyone’s seen anything fall from the sky. It’s only when he’s met with laughter that he realizes he’s in 1941 during the height of The Blitz. This touching tale of childhood in wartime is simultaneously one of the most heartwarming and terrifying stories. Four words: “Are you my mummy?” — Dais Johnston

16. “Human Nature/Family of Blood”

BBC

The monsters are secondary to the fascinating ethical dilemma “Human Nature/Family of Blood” presents: Is a human being real if he’s just a collection of false memories? Featuring one of David Tennant’s best performances, this two-parter endears us so quickly to its period drama setting that when the Doctor Who sci-fi finally enters the story, it feels as tragic as John Smith’s fate. — Hoai-Tran Bui

15. “The Doctor’s Wife”

BBC

Penned by genre legend Neil Gaiman, “The Doctor’s Wife” is a grungy, creepy, and wildly entertaining piece of sci-fi storytelling. The episode, which sees the Doctor’s TARDIS rendered flesh, acts as Gaiman’s love letter to the show while evoking the author’s uniquely weird, weirdly sexy, and ultimately touching narrative style. — Hoai-Tran Bui

14. “City of Death”

The Doctor and Romana in Paris.

Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Douglas Adams, Doctor Who’s script editor in 1979 (what we’d now call a showrunner), published his beloved novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on the same week that “City of Death” first aired. (Talk about a fixed moment in time!) Tom Baker and Lalla Ward have never been funnier, hanging out in Paris is sublime, and the nefarious presence of future Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and James Bond supervillain Julian Glover makes the whole thing legit. The 4th Doctor calls this adventure “table wine,” but this is a priceless vintage. — Ryan Britt

13. “Father’s Day”

BBC

The greatest 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) episode of all time is also the smallest. With one episode, Doctor Who topped the Back to the Future trope of meeting your parents when they were around your age. Don’t fear the reapers, this is one of the sweetest and smartest Who episodes ever. — Ryan Britt

12. “The Eleventh Hour”

BBC

The best introductory episode of a new Doctor, “The Eleventh Hour” is the kind of mile-a-minute caper that would come to define the Steven Moffat-Matt Smith era of the show. Briskly paced and thoroughly enchanting, “The Eleventh Hour” fizzles with energy and humor, while making us fall in love instantly with Smith’s gangly, Peter-Pan-inspired hero. — Hoai-Tran Bui

11. “The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang”

BBC

Say what you will about the Moffat era, but the man knew how to write a monologue. This two-part finale wrapped up the ongoing “crack in space in time” plotline with a massive “rebooting the universe” strategy that gave Matt Smith the opportunity to deliver a face-melting thesis statement to all the Doctor’s enemies. If only we found out what happened to the ducks in the duck pond. — Dais Johnston

10. “Listen”

BBC

One of the most haunting episodes of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor run also contains one of the most shocking, and tender, twist endings. While “Listen” initially seems to be about the Doctor’s obsession with an unseen, perpetually hidden lifeform, the story turns into something much more emotional and real. An instant classic that is truly bigger on the inside. — Ryan Britt

9. “Midnight”

BBC

Doctor Who does its best Stephen King with “Midnight,” an episode where the Doctor fights an unseen monster that possesses a passenger, causing her to repeat every word the others say. Despite its blowhard stock characters and claustrophobic setting, “Midnight” is one of Doctor Who’s most terrifying hours, and Davies’ most sparse and tensely staged script. — Hoai-Tran Bui

8. “The Day of the Doctor”

BBC

Steven Moffat pulled off a bit of a miracle with “The Day of the Doctor,” the 50th-anniversary special that saw the 10th and 11th Doctors meeting a newly invented Doctor played by John Hurt. But despite its big ambitions (the Time War onscreen for the first time!) and obligations to the show (Tom Baker’s cameo!), “The Day of the Doctor” manages to be a rip-roaring, fully satisfying adventure all of its own. — Hoai-Tran Bui

7. “The Waters of Mars”

BBC

What happens when the fun-loving Doctor goes too far? With “The Waters of Mars,” David Tennant proves his Doctor was a hero on the edge of becoming a villain, depending on who was watching. This brilliant twist of perspective is a high point in Tennant’s era, and Lindsay Duncan’s guest performance as Adelaide Brooke brings the Doctor down to Mars. — Ryan Britt

6. “Genesis of the Daleks”

BBC

If there’s one Doctor Who episode that can top Star Trek in terms of presenting a massive moral quandary with impossible stakes, it’s this one. Not only does “Genesis of the Daleks,” give us Davros for the first time, it pushes the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) to the limit of what he can do versus what he should do. The mythology of Doctor Who was forever changed by this story, but its heart was made stronger in the process. — Ryan Britt

5. “Vincent and the Doctor”

BBC

Of all the “The Doctor meets a historical figure” stories, none reach the highs and lows of “Vincent and the Doctor,” where our heroes travel back in time to investigate a monster only Vincent van Gogh’s unique artistic vision can see. In one of the most tear-jerking scenes ever broadcast on TV, the duo brings Vincent (Tony Curran) back to the present to see how his legacy affects the world. It’s the perfect standalone historical time-travel episode.— Dais Johnston

4. “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”

BBC

“Hey, who turned out the lights?!” Moffat turns another primal fear (why are we afraid of the dark?) into one of the show’s most terrifying monsters with the shadow-dwelling Vashta Nerada. But the “Silence in the Library” two-parter doesn’t excel just because of its spooky, abstract monsters; it’s the episode’s dealings with transhumanism and star-crossed love (along with the introduction of Alex Kingston’s scene-stealing River Song) that elevate it to one of the show’s greatest achievements. — Hoai-Tran Bui

3. “The Girl Who Waited”

BBC

Amy Pond’s moniker becomes all too literal in this episode that sees Karen Gillan donning prosthetics to play an older version of herself. It’s the perfect encapsulation of what a companion-focused episode should be: a portrait of the human will to survive — even against creepy blank-faced Handbots — and how love means sacrifice. Even though it was made on a lower budget, this episode takes Amy from a spunky companion to a heroine of her own making (and unmaking). — Dais Johnston

2. “Blink”

BBC

Inventing a new Doctor Who monster is hard. But this unforgettable Steven Moffat episode forced us all to fear old statues everywhere. A flawless episode with a pristine presentation of paradox at its core, “Blink” makes time-travel fiction look easy. The guest cast is perfect, especially Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow. Also, no other episode on this list created an instantly popular and enduring Doctor Who catchphrase: wibbly wobbly timey wimey! — Ryan Britt

1. “Heaven Sent”

BBC

One of the most powerful meditations on grief to ever hit the small screen, and Moffat’s finest achievement, “Heaven Sent” is not only a masterpiece by Doctor Who standards, it’s an all-time great hour of TV. Peter Capaldi delivers a blistering one-man performance as the Doctor, who finds himself trapped alone in a labyrinthine castle, relentlessly pursued by a shrouded creature that can kill him by touch. A surreal, mind-bending piece of television that plays like a sci-fi Sisyphean tragedy, “Heaven Sent” is a testament to the resilience of our hero, and of the pervasive, creeping power of grief. — Hoai-Tran Bui

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