Doctor Who made its strange and surreal TV debut back in 1963, and the greatest sci-fi series of all-time is still going strong. The show is heading into yet another era with its first full-time Black Doctor at the helm of the TARDIS and showrunner Russell T Davies, who gloriously revived the show in 2005, back for fresh adventures. There have been thirteen seasons of Doctor Who with hundreds of episodes and several specials documenting the Doctor’s time and space adventures. Some seasons were stellar and rank among the best, with a combination of clever adventures, arcs with satisfying payoffs, brilliant writing, satisfying twists, epic Doctor monologues, and a solid TARDIS team while other seasons of Doctor Who fumbled in one or more of those areas.
So, let’s do something chaotic and fun (and not really that serious, so don’t attack me) in honor of the show’s enduring legacy. Here are all the seasons of modern-era Doctor Who so far, ranked from worst the best.
13. Doctor Who Season 7 (2012-2013)
This is one of the most chaotic seasons of modern Doctor Who, and that’s not a compliment, hence it being ranked at the bottom. There are some serious consistency issues on every level, from episodic quality to overall tone. Season seven is split into two parts that bids farewell to fan favorites Amy and Rory before introducing the (initially) mysterious Clara. In theory, it seems like a fine way to bridge the Doctor’s transition to a new traveling relationship. In practice, it is disjoined and awkward. The season doesn’t capture that “perfect bowl of sci-fi spaghetti” feel that the show frequently does so well.
Instead, it’s more like a TikTok concoction of random foods shaken together. There are a lot of half-baked ideas splattered against the walls and plot threads falling out of the bowl. Many of the mini-arcs, like the Impossible Girl, are a flash in the pan before the show sprints forward. A great redeeming factor, however, is the undeniable chemistry between Clara and Eleven. Watching them form a connection born from curiosity is a delight, a bright spot in the muddle that makes this Doctor Who seasons rank low among the rest.
12. Doctor Who Season 6 (2011)
Amy, Rory, and the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures continue in season six. Doctor Who often thrives on twists and mystery; however, this season’s many threads are a little too convoluted with an underwhelming ending. There is some fun along the way, thanks to pockets of ambitious storytelling and much-needed character development for Amy. The acting is sharp, and the visuals are more stunning than they’d been up until that point. Moments like the TARDIS coming to human form and the Doctor’s incredible monologue in “A Good Man Goes to War” balance out some of the missing emotional heft that normally anchors the series.
11 . Doctor Who Season 8 (2014)
Twelve and Clara’s first full season together gives us a few sparks of joy. The gift that is Michelle Gomez’s Missy, a moon that’s actually an egg, and an overall darker tone to match a more serious Doctor were all highlights of this season. However, everything about the Danny/Clara dynamic including his character arc, a handful of meh episodes, and the beginning of the “Clara is sooo Doctor-like” push from Doctor Who is why this season is ranked down quite a few notches.
10. Doctor Who Season 11 (2018)
Doctor Who wiped its slate clean once again with a completely new era. Chris Chibnall took the helm and gave us our most diverse TARDIS team yet, including the show’s first full-time Doctor, Ryan, a Black man companion, and Yaz, a South Asian companion. Jodie’s first season as the Doctor starts off strong with a few misses in the middle and a lackluster finale, but her charm, and burgeoning relationship with her “fam” balances things out.
9. Doctor Who Season 9 (2015)
This is the season when Capaldi’s Doctor truly comes to life. There are some great episodes here, including a fun Christmas special, “The Husbands of River Song,” and the sublime “Heaven Sent/Hell Bent” duo. The exit of Clara is a strong farewell, only for the show to reverse it for an alternative that upends the weight of her final choice. All of that goodness almost makes us forget the horrors of “Sleep No More.” Almost. A few too many two-parters aside, Capaldi’s performance can make any fan forgive some of its glaring issues.
8. Doctor Who Season 13 (2021)
Yes, I will be in the minority by ranking this season of Doctor Who so high up, and that’s okay. In fact, I wasn’t wild about Flux upon first watch. But, after revisiting Jodie Whittaker’s very short final season, it comes together quite well despite all the external challenges the cast and crew faced. And, to be honest, this season is her standout performance as the Thirteenth Doctor. The concept of a season-long story arc filled with cliffhangers is quite ambitious and, though it gets messy at times, it comes together for an explosive finale. There are some pitfalls here, specifically how it sometimes feels like things are happening to Thirteen versus her being the driving force and agent of action. I think we can all agree that Thirteen deserved better overall, but the Flux gave us some fun along the way.
7. Doctor Who Season 12 (2020)
Jodie Whittaker gets into the groove of being lucky number 13 in this season. Doctor Who’s twelfth season boasts perhaps the best episode of her run (and a standout in the series overall), “The Haunting of Villa Diodati.” A few of the stories are ambitious and fun, including a couple of historical romps as well as futuristic adventures. We see some familiar faces (perhaps one too many), including the return of Jack Harkness and Cyber folks. And who can forget the epic reveal of Ruth as the Fugitive Doctor? However, the Timeless Child revelation, while bold, felt convoluted and wholly unnecessary, leading to a disappointing finale. Yaz rises to the occasion (and Thasmin really begins to thrive) but Ryan and Graham are sidelined at times. A mixed bag, indeed. And that’s why it’s ranked firmly in the middle of the modern Doctor Who seasons.
6. Doctor Who Season 2 (2006)
Season two sticks in people’s minds as the show’s most popular pairing—Ten and Rose—begin their journey here. While they can be wholly annoying as a unit, the chemistry between Piper and Tennant is undeniable. When Rose and Ten aren’t touting themselves as superior/unstoppable and instead getting down to saving-the-planet business, they are really great together. There are great episodes in this season, like “The Girl in the Fireplace” and the tear-jerker “Doomsday.” But there are also some stinkers like “Fear Her.” A shining moment is Sarah Jane Smith’s return in “School Reunion,” even though the Sarah Jane vs. Rose moments induced many an eye roll. Overall, Doctor Who season two is a satisfying watch and will likely always be ranked high on any given list.
5. Doctor Who Season 3 (2007)
The Doctor’s frustrating underappreciation for Martha Jones’ brilliance and her unrequited love for him is a sore spot for many fans. But season three is pretty consistent with good storytelling. There’s the delightful opener “Smith and Jones” and the Doctor/companion-lite stunner “Blink,” which is easily one of the show’s best offerings of all-time. As the show’s first full-time Black companion, there is a fair share of fumbling how Martha is handled, from her family’s enslavement to historical stories where she’s treated poorly. However, Martha is a solid companion who travels with the Doctor yet never loses herself in the process. Martha Jones’ recognition and utilization of her strengths/value (as a companion and in general), her singlehandedly saving the whole world sans the Doctor, and her pitch-perfect exit are what put this season higher on the list.
4. Doctor Who Season 10 (2017)
Peter Capaldi’s final season as the Doctor is undoubtedly his best. Season ten has a variety of mostly solid stories (save for the Monks trilogy) with great pacing. Bill Potts is a delightful breath of fresh air and charm. The show returns the Doctor/companion relationship to a teacher/student dynamic that fits their personalities perfectly. We also get more Missy along with some multi-master action as Capaldi’s time draws to an end. However, this season of Doctor Who is not without its major drawbacks, leaving it out of the top three slots of our ranking. Specifically, we’re thinking about the choices made with Bill Potts at the end. Turning her into a Cyberperson was bad enough. But the following attempt to skirt the “kill the gays” trope by making her a watery entity who lives on with Heather, a person she barely knows, was straight-up terrible.
3. Doctor Who Season 5 (2010)
Showrunner Steven Moffat had the inevitable task of carrying the torch following Davies’ exit. Would he be able to keep the Doctor Who machine running after the ever-popular Tenth Doctor’s era? The answer to that is a resounding yes, thanks to the secret weapon known as Matt Smith. He instantly charms as the Eleventh Doctor, quickly forming a bond with Karen Gillian’s Amy Pond. She’s a fun companion with spunk and charm despite being underdeveloped. Doctor Who season five managed to successfully reboot the show once again, giving it a new air of creative spark. Heavy hitters like “Vincent and the Doctor” and two-parter “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone” stick in fans’ minds to this day.
2. Doctor Who Season 1 (2005)
The season that began it all! Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper’s Ninth Doctor and Rose ushered in a new era of fans with the show’s 2005 revival. Sadly, their time together only spanned this season. However, the show did a great job of bridging the gap between this era and its Classic era roots, bringing back well-known villains and lore and, at times, a very campy vibe. Longer serials were traded for standalone episodes and two-parters, giving fans an antagonist of the week.
Doctor Who’s triumphant return also gave us a new take on the Doctor. The show left behind the flashier looks of the past for Nine’s dark clothing and leather jackets. Eccleston’s Doctor is a man broken by his mistakes and in desperate need of companionship and camaraderie. He finds both unexpectedly in Rose and their friendship is incredibly lovely. While many later fell for Rose and Ten, her dynamic with Nine captures the heartstrings in a satisfying way. Travels to the past and the future and the clever Bad Wolf arc build the strong foundation that the show continues to build on today.
1. Doctor Who Season 4 (2008)
And now, we’ve come to the end of our modern-era Doctor Who season rankings. And that leaves us with the best season of new Doctor Who, season four. Season four expertly weaves together all of the elements that make for supreme Doctor Who content. David Tennant and Catherine Tate are a sublime TARDIS team from the moment they meet. This platonic duo consistently challenge and elevate each other, becoming better because they met. The episodes are all total knockouts, ranging from sprightly historical adventures like “The Unicorn and the Wasp” to the Avengers: Endgame-style finale that assembles all the greats of Russell T Davies era.
The season ebbs and flows from gut-busting humor to heart-wrenching sadness, the latter showing up heavily in the introduction of River Song, the Tenth Doctor’s farewell, and Donna Noble’s controversial exit. This season still holds up brilliantly more than 15 years after its original run, and that’s why it takes the top spot.