Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Doctor Who is almost back! Doctor Who is almost back! The long-running British science fiction show returns on Saturday for its second season with Matt Smith in the lead role, and having seen the first two episodes, I can happily report that it’s as good as ever. But if you’re wanting to get even more in the mood for the show’s return, here are ten episodes you should dial up on Netflix Instant to prepare yourself.
Sadly, Netflix Instant doesn’t have the fifth season (Matt Smith’s first) yet, otherwise I’d be pulling fairly extensively from that list (If nothing else, “The Eleventh Hour” and “Amy’s Choice” would be making appearances). But these ten episodes below still will get you in the mood for this Saturday’s enjoyable “The Impossible Astronaut”…
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
The first season of the reboot can look, from today’s vantage point, a bit uncertain… A little bit cheesy, a little bit cheap. But none of that can detract from the spookiness of kids with gasmasks asking if you’re their mummy. Current showrunner Steven Moffat’s first episodes of the show, and a fine example of the just-disturbing-enough creations he’d come up with.
As if this wasn’t a poignant enough episode already, this week’s sad death of Elisabeth Sladen really adds an extra layer of melancholy to this story of companions left behind when the Doctor moves on. While Russell T Davies could fall into lazy sentimentality every now and again, when he got it right, he really got it right.
The Idiot’s Lantern
I love episodes where the show surrounds itself with genuine historical events – One reason why the opening of the new season was such a hit with me, says he as a teaser and not a spoiler – and so this tale of the early days of television just before a royal coronation is just fine with me. It’s kind of sad that Who isn’t doing a royal wedding episode this year, come to think of it…
Another Moffat-written scary episode, and one of the show’s best “Doctor-lite” episodes to date – helped considerably by future-Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan as the luminous Sally Sparrow. Oh, if only we could get her back on the show again…
Human Nature/The Family of Blood
What makes the Doctor more than a man, and is it a bad thing for him to wish he could be one forever? The third season of the revamp produced some of the best episodes of the show, and Paul Cornell’s two-parter is some of the best of those, in my opinion, (literally) humanizing the Doctor and laying the groundwork for a season finale reveal worth the wait.
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
Even more Moffat – I like his episodes! So sue me! – and more scary monsters, but these episodes earn their place here for the introduction of Dr. River Song as much as anything else. The Doctor’s time-traveling love looks set to play an important part in the new season, so it’s time – no pun intended – to revisit everything we know about her.
A controversial opinion: Amy and Rory aside, Donna may be my favorite of the recent companions. And this episode, where circumstances create an alternate universe where Donna never met the Doctor, and disaster ensues, is all her, even if Rose tries to upstage her at the end. I’m a sucker for alternate timeline stories, and this is one of the few that Who has ever attempted. How could I resist?