On June 18, 2005, the first season (or “series,” if you want to be properly British about it) of the modern relaunch of
“The Girl in the Fireplace”
My favorite episodes of
The time warp portals serve as an early peek into the “Timey Wimey” nature of time—built upon in the next season’s “Blink”—and set up the destiny of Madam du Pompadore at the episode’s end. As an added bonus, “Fireplace” serves as one of the few adventures where Mickey gets bumped up from the earthbound (ex-) boyfriend into full-fledged, traveling-in-the-TARDIS companion. On top of all of that, Tennant’s Doctor leaps through a mirror on a horse, like the swashbuckling hero icing on the creepy, heartbreaking cake.
“The Impossible Planet” / “The Satan Pit”
In this two-parter from David Tennant’s first season, the Doctor and Rose Tyler end up trapped on a base along with its human crew, who are exploring the blackhole they’re orbiting. But strange things start to happen as they drill further into the crust of the planet to find the source of the gravity funnel that’s keeping it stable. This marks the first time we’re introduced to the Ood, the obedient, peaceful race whom the humans make subservient and whom the Beast trapped within in the core possesses. There’s plenty for Doctor/Rose shippers to swoon over, as they discuss how being stranded together forever (with a mortgage payment even!) might not be so bad.
The episode deals with some major existential questions, as the Beast claims to be what some people on Earth would call the devil. It’s a solid story all around, boasting a strong guest cast and compelling mystery, but it’s the climax that seals it for me. As the Doctor contemplates whether destroying the creature (who he has determined to be a fraud) will mean sacrificing Rose, he proves to the Beast that its power pales in comparison to hers. “I’ve seen fake gods and bad gods and demi-gods and would-be gods, and out of all that, out of that whole pantheon, if I believe in one thing, just one thing…I believe in her.”
“The Shakespeare Code”
For an episode written at the eleventh hour when another fell through, “Midnight” might well be the best, darkest, and most emblematic episode of the David Tennant era. Without Donna to buffer him, the Tenth Doctor shows all of his sides, from the boyishly exuberant to the exceedingly pompous. We never know what the creature is or what it wants, but we know how easily it can wear down a group of people. Fear through paranoia, distrust, and scapegoating. It was a ferocious episode in 2008 and it’s just as upsetting today. And Tennant shows the full range of his acting ability, to devastating results.
“The Stolen Earth” / “Journey’s End”
This two-part season finale is the Whoniverse’s version of
There’s a lot of unexpected plot twists and strong character moments for all as The Doctor reckons with his influence on others. It sets the Tenth Doctor up for his final episodes as Russell T. Davies finished the first chapter on the revived series. I will never get over Donna’s heartbreaking ending, but the scene where everyone celebrates and pilots the TARDIS together is still one of my favorite
Honorable Mention: “Time Crash”
Filmed for the Children in Need special in 2007, “Time Crash” features the meeting of Tennant’s Doctor and (his future father-in-law) Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor. Though not an official part of the season, the short explains the reason the Titanic was able to collide with the TARDIS at the end of “Last of the Time Lords” following the departure of Martha Jones. Seeing Tennant, a lifelong