The first episode of a series of any TV show has to do a lot. It has to grab the audiences attention and make them want to commit to watching the rest of the series. It wants to introduce new elements, a sense of mystery and intrigue, but not let anyone who’s not in the know totally bamboozled and alienated from wanting to watch the show again.
Which Episode 1 will be the opener to my Ultimate Series? Let’s find out…
This round consists of:
Rose vs New Earth vs Smith and Jones vs Partners In Crime vs
Planet of The Dead vs The Eleventh Hour vs
The Impossible Astronaut vs Asylum of the Daleks vs Deep Breath vs
The Magician’s Apprentice.
The reason that Planet of The Dead is in this mix is because I wanted to include the run of specials to mark the end of David Tennant’s tenure of being the Doctor, so I split the specials throughout the series, at the beginning, middle and end.
The way that this series will work is that I will put each episode through a number of criteria and last episode standing will win. These criteria will change depending on whereabouts in the series the episodes are; for example, this episode will need to be a good jumping on point for new viewers as it’s the start of the series, and Episode 8 won’t need to fit that criteria. Let’s get started.
First of all, the first episode has to be a good jumping on point, like I stated above, as a new series should always be an acceptable place for any new viewers to start without being too alienated from what the show’s about. For me, the majority of these episodes fill this criteria however, a few don’t. It’s with a heavy heart that I have to eliminate Planet of The Dead, Asylum of the Daleks and The Magician’s Apprentice. This is in no way saying that I don’t enjoy these episodes, it’s just that Planet of The Dead requires you to have a grasp on who David Tennant’s Doctor is more than other series, Asylum of the Daleks requires viewers to understand the relationship between Amy and Rory to enjoy the episode as much as possible and The Magician’s Apprentice requires people to understand the majority of the main cast, especially Missy, Clara and UNIT. I remember watching The Magician’s Apprentice with someone who had never seen any Doctor Who before, and it discouraged them from watching Doctor Who ever again.
After eliminating those three episodes we’re left with a fight that looks like this:
Rose vs New Earth vs Smith and Jones vs Partners In Crime vs The Eleventh Hour vs The Impossible Astronaut vs Deep Breath.
The next criteria for me has to be the peril. Doctor Who engages the viewer by putting the Doctor, his companions and any other supporting cast in some sort of danger. If Episode 1 of a series was just the Doctor and his companions on a beach enjoying a sunny day, I predict that the ratings would crash. For me, some monsters in the opening episodes have been a little lacklustre, and I am trying to think of Episode 1 purely as a good jumping on point for a new viewer. I really thought the Autons were a great monster to bring back as the Series 1 opening villain in Rose, as it proved to audiences that it was the same show from 1963 and just a continuation; the fact that the villains were hidden in plain sight is a great idea as it leads viewers to have a slight unrest in their day to day lives. As much as it pains me to say it, the Catkind, the Infected and Cassandra weren’t as perilous as they could be, and their demises were easily achieved, so I have to eliminate New Earth. I know that the Judoon aren’t really the villain in Smith and Jones but they bring a great sense of menace and they look visually interesting. The peril in Series 4’s opener, Partners in Crime were literally adorable pieces of fat. Sure, they could disintegrate a person, but the episode seemed too comical to take any of the peril seriously, so I have to eliminate Partners In Crime. Whilst the Atraxi and Prisoner 0 weren’t the best enemies for a series opener, there was certainly a lot of peril. This newly regenerated Doctor had to save the world without his TARDIS or his Sonic Screwdriver and had to rely purely on his intellect and wits to stop the Earth from being incinerated; what’s more is the fact that he has to accomplish this in a little over twenty minutes makes this truly suspenseful. The Impossible Astronaut was a tour de force for peril, we see the Doctor, Amy, Rory, River and a mysterious stranger called Canton summoned to Lake Silencio in Utah, where they witness the Doctor’s death at the hands of the Impossible Astronaut. For me, this is the perfect example of peril in an episode, and even though it could be slightly too timey-wimey for the casual viewer to understand, I feel like they would have the basic concept understood. Finally Deep Breath acts more of a murder mystery of an episode, with the majority of the episode being dedicated to Clara, Jenny, Madame Vastra and Strax trying to find the Doctor whilst the Doctor is trying to find out who murdered a dinosaur. Even though it has a good sense of peril in parts, for me Deep Breath is more of a character piece, so therefore it has to be eliminated.
After eliminating another three episodes, we’re left with:
Rose vs Smith and Jones vs The Eleventh Hour vs The Impossible Astronaut.
The third criteria I have for a successful series opener is the chemistry between the lead characters. For me, I want to see the leads have a lot of chemistry, whether it be good or bad, I want them to make me emotionally invest in everyone involved. Personally, that didn’t happen to me at all in Smith and Jones. Martha is too infatuated with the Doctor for no real reason; not only that, but the Doctor is extremely reluctant to let Martha travel with him in the TARDIS. It seems like Martha is desperately trying to force herself onto the Doctor and he feels pressurised into taking her for a journey. If the Doctor doesn’t initially want to spend time with Martha, why would the viewer?
This means that in my final round, we have:
Rose vs The Eleventh Hour vs The Impossible Astronaut.
As I have no other real criteria for these three to decide a winner, I decided to look at the pros and cons of each of the three episodes. Starting with Rose, I feel like it’s a great starting point for anyone to get into Doctor Who, there’s a new Doctor and new companion, but there is some rubbish, forced, childish humour that could push some fans away, for example Mickey being eaten by a bin. The Eleventh Hour is a fun romp for the younger audience, with an absolutely bonkers new incarnation of the Doctor, but the monster is ultimately forgettable. Finally, The Impossible Astronaut has a huge scale, being shot in America gave the episode a fresh feel compared to the other two, it started a mystery that would keep viewers engaged, my only concern is that it could go over the heads of some of the younger viewers.
I have however, come to a decision, and the winner of being Episode 1 in The Ultimate Series is…
The Impossible Astronaut
That means The Ultimate Series currently looks like this:
The Impossible Astronaut