30 Days of Doctor Who: Day 02 - What is your favorite episode and why?
If we’re talking about Classic Who, my answer is an easy and, frankly, rather obvious one. City of Death has been by favorite Classic serial since I first saw it nearly a year ago and remains my favorite, even though I have seen many other amazing serials since then and plan to watch many more in the future. My love for this story is due in part, I’ll admit, to the fact that it features my favorite couple in the Whoniverse, The Doctor (in this case, the Fourth) and Romanadvoratrelundar. I’ve written essays in the past on why I adore them so much, so I won’t go into it here, but City of Death certainly showcases their relationship in a truly lovely way. When people ask why I’m constantly going on about how “married” the two of them were, I point them in the direction of this serial. To my mind at least, the Paris trip was their first “official date”.
But my shipping aside, I think most Classic fans would agree that this is one of the best stories Classic Who has to offer (and that’s saying something!). Written in part by the brilliant Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy fame, the serial possesses just about every trait that makes Classic Who so wonderful and only minimal amounts of the things that turn certain Whovians away from the pre-revival years. The plot is exciting, and yet fun and easy to follow. The villain is scary, and yet still campy….he’s covered in a green fishing net! It never gets boring, but there are nice light moments too. Duggan is hilarious (and would have made a great companion!). Romana is adorable and brilliant simultaneously. Four is in top form as the deliberately bumbling genius. Even The Scarf seems lovelier than usual in this serial! Plus, there is some great on-location filming in Paris, something that was fairly rare in Classic Who. But, fear not! The endearingly campy soundstage still makes an appearance near the end!
Basically, City of Death is perfect. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Now…if you ask me what my favorite New Who episode is, I might take a little longer to respond. There is at LEAST one episode in every season that I could spend several pages gushing over in minute detail. Until quite recently, I considered The Christmas Invasion to be at the top of my list. Aside from being adorable, hilarious, light-hearted, and forever entertaining, that was the episode that introduced me to Ten, my favorite of the New Who incarnations, and solidified my obsession with this unbelievable show. I still love that Christmas special dearly, but in the last few months, another brilliantly written story has become not only my favorite New Who episode, but one of my favorite episodes of anything ever. In case you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about Neil Gaiman’s The Doctor’s Wife.
It’s funny, because when the title of this episode was first announced, I was among those that panicked. The Doctor’s WIFE?!? Oh, they’d better not be marrying him off to River Song. If they have him accidentally marry some alien, I’ll be disappointed. If they tell us about his wife on Gallifrey, I’ll cry for hours! IF THEY BRING UP ROMANA AND CONFIRM THAT SHE IS DEAD, I WILL GO ON A RAMPAGE.
Thankfully, all of those fears turned out to be not only unfounded, but ridiculous. Neil Gaiman’s answer to “Who is The Doctor’s Wife?” turned out to be far more obvious and far more beautiful than any of us ever imagined. The TARDIS. Of course. Of course. She’s always been there, always has, and always will. Even if they can’t usually communicate in a “normal” way, their love is undeniable. Gaiman truly proved that he is one of the most gifted writers of our time. The script reads more like an award-winning stageplay than a midseason episode of a family television show. The imagery is stunning. The references, both subtle and overt, to this show’s long history had me literally jumping for joy. It brought me and every Whovian I know to tears. For a long time, I have fantasized of a writer for Doctor Who who might be able to combine Russel T. Davies’ depth of emotion and Steven Moffat’s masterful plot-weaving and find a happy median between the two extremes. Then, I thought, this show would be completely perfect, and the fandom would quit fighting over styles and preferences. Neil Gaiman achieved that. I do not know a single person who disliked The Doctor’s Wife. I’ve never seen anyone argue over it. The only thing I’m unhappy about is that Neil Gaiman is far too busy with his own work to ever become headwriter.
In summary, for those who have chosen to scroll past this block of text, Neil Gaiman is to New Who what Douglas Adams was to Classic. City of Death and The Doctor’s Wife for all of the awards.