10. THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI (1984) Doctor Who’s most beloved writer, Robert Holmes, was lured back to the series after a six year absence and gave us the best story of the 1980’s. Added to that, Graeme Harper’s direction raised it to the level of an action blockbuster (on a low budget!). The cliffhangers are fantastic too. Peter Davison couldn’t have asked for a better send off.
9. THE WEB OF FEAR (1968) A wonderfully strange and eerie helping of 60s Who, as the army do battle with Yetis in the London Underground. The ultimate isolated base-under-attack story, with a striking sense of fear and claustrophobia in some impressively realised underground sets. An important story for Who, presenting the template of all earth-based UNIT stories which followed and the introduction of perhaps the series most loved character after The Doctor, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (here only a Colonel). And thanks to the recent discovery, this story is now an almost complete audio-visual experience!
8. THE ROBOTS OF DEATH (1977) An excellent Agatha Christie-style whodunnit on a sandminer with murderous art deco service robots. This serial nods to the works of Isaac Asimov and continues the high quality in writing and production of Tom Baker’s first three seasons as The Doctor. And the robots designs are magnificent - sinister and beautiful at the same time.
7. TERROR OF THE AUTONS (1971) After the more serious approach of the previous season, Series 8 opens with this mad and colourful story which returned the series to a more fantastical mode (something hinted by the comic strip Radio Times cover). Killer toy trolls, lethal plastic daffodils and suffocating chairs are some of the things the Third Doctor must contend with in his first onscreen encounter with The Master (the always wonderful Roger Delgado). And Autons dressed as policemen lead to questions of appropriateness being raised in parliament.
6. THE SEEDS OF DOOM (1976) The first two episodes shamelessly rip off The Thing From Another World; the last four episodes take the series into new horrific areas of graphic body horror. As a whole, this is the most enjoyable Who 6 parter and the one I return to more than any other. Reuniting the dream team that gave us Terror of the Zygons (writer Robert Banks Stewart, director Douglas Camfield, music by Geoffrey Burgon) and of course Baker and Sladen at the height of their Doctor/Sarah-Jane relationship, it doesn’t get much better than The Seeds of Doom. Except for these five …
5. THE DAEMONS (1971) Probably the best encapsulation of the Pertwee years, with all the staples of that era present and correct: Jo, The Brigadier and UNIT, The Master, Bessie, a southern english countryside location and the Third Doctor desperatley trying to stick up for the human race against an alien menace - in this case a Devil-like ancient being and a living stone gargoyle. Inspired by Dennis Wheatley and the trend for folk horror in the early 70s, The Daemons best captures the kind of fantasy horror that could only have emerged from British film and TV in the 60s/70s. “Chap with the wings - five rounds rapid!”
4. TERROR OF THE ZYGONS (1975) West Sussex doubles for the Scottish highlands in this gloriously timeless story, encompassing pretty much everything you could want from a sci-fi action serial. High on atmosphere, mystery and excitement, and featuring one of the series’ best realised monsters (the slimy Zygons and their organic spaceship) and one of the worst! (the ‘good when it’s stop-motion but bad when it’s a hand puppet’ Loch Ness dwelling Skarasen) Like a televisual Brigadoon, this is a magical concoction of location, fantasy and adventure, captured in time, but thankfully available to revisit at any time.
3. INFERNO (1970) A drilling project is mining deeper into the earth’s crust than ever before and The Doctor slips into a parallel universe to witness it’s terrifying outcome. The noise of the drill hangs over the story like an ominous harbinger of doom, and the tension is cranked up across seven episodes to maximum dramatic effect. The cliffhangers are amongst the scariest the series every achieved and director Douglas Camfield (responsible for four stories in this top 10) injects a gritty and stylish feel to all of it. The accumulation of Series 7, where the show experimented with it’s format more than it has before or since, Inferno works superbly as political allegory, thrilling action adventure and speculative science fiction.
2. CITY OF DEATH (1979) The influence of Douglas Adams as writer and script editor on Doctor Who in the late 70s (the exact same time he was writing the first Hitch-Hiker’s Guide) is unmistakable: the series had some of it’s most ambitious sci-fi concepts but also it’s highest levels of comedy, notable in Tom Baker’s performance. And yet these years were amongst the most inconsistent in quality and yielded few classic stories - with the notable exception of this masterpiece, where all the elements of comedy-drama, fantasy, sci-fi and kitsch fell together perfectly (and almost by chance given that it was a hasty rewrite from Adams and producer Graham Williams under a pseudonym). With location filming in Paris, guest cameos from John Cleese and Eleanor Bron, Julian Glover as the suave villain, and a neat explanation for the creation of life on earth, this story feels like it’s something very special. And it is.
1. PYRAMIDS OF MARS (1975) One of the first Doctor Who stories I watched, thanks to some early 90’s repeats, this one ensured that I would be devoted to the series from that point on. And whilst I’ve loved exploring the 200+ other stories, none of them have quite compared to the thrill of watching Pyramids Of Mars for the first time. Everything about the story is so perfectly judged. A small cast trapped behind a force shield in a 1911 country mansion, hunted down by killer robot Mummies. The threat of the world ending never felt so palpable in the series than here, thanks in large part to the sterling and committed performances of Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen, THE golden pairing of Doctor and companion. Writing, acting and production combining to the very best effect - television doesn’t get much better than this.